Daily Archives: January 12, 2016

Teaching the Tenses

Today’s Feature Post is by CANE regular Ruth Breindel, who shares a PowerPoint that she uses to help students understand tense.

I have found that some students don’t understand time – how the various tenses interact with each other.  Here is one way I show them, using a PowerPoint of a Christmas tree – see tree tenses here!
How to use this:

  1. After you have explained and explained and explained how the tenses relate, and they still don’t get it, show them the slides.
  2. They are arranged so that the time sequence is: Pluperfect, Perfect, Imperfect, Present, Future and Future Perfect.  Note too that the tenses are not put in a straight line, but in a “swoop” down and up.  For some unknown reason, this does help some students to understand the relationship better.
  3. With the first presentation of each tense, there is a time assigned to it, so students get the idea of the passage of time.
  4. The future perfect, being an “unreal” tense, is shown last, as an amalgam of the future and the perfect.  Personally, I tell my students that they may never use the future perfect in a sentence, because I’ve found that they will translate the perfect (amaverunt – they loved) as the future perfect (they will have loved) just because they are so enamoured of the future perfect!  I think this is because the “erunt” ending on the perfect looks just too much like the future.  I’d rather have them wrong 1% of the time by using the perfect for the future perfect, than wrong 99% of the time by using the future perfect for the perfect!
  5. I tried to inject some humor into this, too:
  • the imperfect has a broken ornament, making it “imperfect”
  • the present tense is a present under the tree

Feel free to modify this – add color, or Latin, or whatever!