Got this question:
Hi Julian! What a great voice! Your accent is very clear! I like this video a lot! My question: on a daily basis, when doing ordinary activities (like running errands, doing chores…) how many tenses do you think native speakers of English use to communicate? Thanks!
This is a good question.
And something I talk about in my book a lot regarding words (Which Oscar will know, since he’s already read it).
First off, a quick clarification:
English only has three tenses: Past, present and future (technically only two in the grammatical sense).
But these combine with the four “aspects” (simple, progressive, perfect, and perfect progressive) to make a total of twelve categories.
It probably won’t surprise you that native speakers don’t use these evenly.
Far from it.
Multiple research studies looked at the frequency of these 12 categories, and the findings are pretty much unanimous for both written and spoken English.
The simple present is always the most common at about 60~70% of verbs, then the simple past at about 20% (so a combined 80~90%).
Here’s a simple graph I made:
This is just rough.
But you get the idea.
So basically we can say that native speakers use the simple forms 80% of the time, then the present forms… and from there it’s all down hill.
… that doesn’t mean people never use the other grammatical tenses.
They certainly do.
Next week I will have been doing the EES programme for 3 years.
When you need the future perfect progressive, well, you need it.
No matter how rare it is relatively speaking.
But the point is, the way speakers actually use the tenses is clearly extremely imbalanced. And so the approach you take to learning the patterns of language (including tenses) needs to take this into account.
This is where what I call…
“Example Based Learning” comes in.
I talk about this in detail in Master English FAST in chapter 6 and also in the talk I gave a few weeks ago.
The recording of which you will get free if you pre-order MEF now.
Will have been a language punk for 10 years soon.
P.S. Talking about Master English FAST…
The books are due to arrive at my house one week today. And I plan to have them in the post the next day (we’ve already prepared the envelopes ready to ship!).
Which means you’re almost out of time to pre-order the book and get the talk I gave included free.
Here’s the place to order.