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GRAMMATICAL SYNONYMY IN ENGLISH-MEANS OF EXPRESSING FUTURE TIME
Sâmbătă, 08 Mai 2010 00:00

STUDY CASE: GRAMMATICAL SYNONYMY IN ENGLISH-MEANS OF EXPRESSING FUTURE TIME

 

Prof. Simona Pisoi

C.N. Carol I, Craiova

 

 

SUMMARY

Apart from antonyms, i.e. senses opposed to each other (wrong and right), and hyponymy: sense of one word included in the sense of the other (triumph as hyponym of success, profound as hyponym of deep), semantic relations between words also include the relation of synonymy, the importance of synonymy being universally approved, as the problem of the equivalence of meaning sets the core for the study of a language. The present work aims to give a more detailed account on what grammatical synonymy is and how it is represented in English. It is by no means easy to treat all such possible instances (as English is very rich and diversified in this sense), but the current study is interested mainly in the grammatical synonymy regarding the verbal field and in terms of Standard International English (Standard American English has been deliberately left out, since vast differences occur between the two of them). Grammatical synonymy is very well represented in the domain of the verbal group, not to disregard that it occurs also in the case of the nouns, pronouns, comparison of adjectives, etc.; but, it is essentially revealed by the verbal group.

 

Key words: grammatical synonymy, future simple, future continuous, present simple, present continuous, be going to

 

Grammatical synonymy (widely developed in contemporary English), i.e.  synonymy of grammatical forms, can in no way be neglected. It has acquired an important role, because the idea of style relies on the possibility of synonymy, which allows one to say the same thing in different ways, i.e. in different styles. Certain forms are usually employed in colloquial style, other in formal style or in written form, not to mention that two synonymous grammatical forms facilitate the avoidance of repetition and, therefore, a more carefully shaped result. For example different modal auxiliaries are said to have the same meaning. In May/Can I ring again?, can and may are both used to ask the addressee's 'permission' to perform a specific action. In Students must vacate their rooms by the end of week 9, must expresses 'obligation,' as would have shall or should. This point raises the important issue of grammatical synonymy (Can different forms really convey the same meaning?)

Simple present is used to report something about the future (falls in the category of predictions). Although present simple indicates present time, it is also used to express future time reference (plans and predictions) carried out in the future but which exist in the present; predictions based on what it can be seen now obviously have a connection with the present- we can see the development of a future event, part of which exists ‘now’. The Simple present is usually associated with fixed, definite schedules or timetable (talking about facts that are true to everyone).

The next train to Athens leaves at 3pm.

The bus leaves at four.
The new shop opens next week.

Present continuous is used for future events resulting from a present plan, programme, or arrangement; it expresses an action which will take place in the near future. Like be going to, this construction (especially when there is no time adverbial) often suggests near future:

We’re inviting several people to a party/ We’re going to invite several people to a party.

We’re having fish for dinner/ We’re going to have fish for dinner.

We are leaving tomorrow/ We are going to leave tomorrow (this is our present plan).

The Smiths are leaving/ The Smiths are going to leave (soon).

But note that the time must be mentioned, or have been mentioned, as otherwise there may be confusion between present and future; the presence of an adverbial can exclude the more usual sense of a form and a future adverbial will overrule the durational sense of the progressive:

He’s getting his reward tomorrow.

They’re arriving on Thursday next.               

As mentioned before, the present continuous can express a definite arrangement in the near future:

I'm meeting the chairman tomorrow morning (more than just a plan – something has already been arranged; I can say that after having established a meeting with his secretary).

He is seeing his dentist tomorrow (an appointment).

I’m seeing Aida next month (I have bought the tickets already).

It is used to express spontaneous decisions (announcing decisions at the time of making them; no previous plan). So, for unpremeditated actions or intentions we must use will (normally contracted to `ll)[1]:

I'm thirsty. I'll drink a glass of water.

I'll see the manager about it tomorrow.

I'll have a large Scotch, please.

Don't bother about a taxi, I'll drive you home.

The phone is ringing.  I'll answer it.

Can somebody help me? ~ I will.

Will-future can also express predictions (expressing own opinions about future happenings; forecasts): I think the world will still be here in 1000 years or formal announcements (in formal texts: newspapers, etc.): Next week Mr. Miles will give a talk on this topic.

            It serves to express actions which will take place at a specified time, or to signal the beginning of an action. (If, on the other hand, one wishes to describe an action which is in the process of occurring, it is the future progressive which will be used to express it.)

Be going to future expresses the subject's intention to perform a certain future action. The intention is always premeditated and there is usually also the idea that some preparation for the action has already been made (a plan is announced after it has been decided; no active steps taken yet).

She’s going to look for a new job next year.

I am going to have a large Scotch.

I am going to have my own way.

I am not going to be imposed upon.

I am going to make a pizza (before saying that, I sought all the ingredients in the fridge and decided to cook).

            Actions expressed by the be going to form are therefore usually considered very likely to be performed, though there is not the same idea of definite future arrangement that we get from the present continuous.

The be going to form can express the speaker's feeling of certainty. The time is usually not mentioned, but the action is expected to happen in the near or immediate future:

Look at these grey clouds! There’s going to be rain (here, there is prediction based on evidence, after interpreting signs).

She’s going to have a baby.

I think I’m going to be sick (future result of present cause, imminence).

Will and be going to can be used to talk about decisions and predictions. Let us consider decisions first: Will is used to talk about decisions which are made at the moment of speaking or writing (the decision is made in our head and immediately expressed using will); going to is used to express decisions which are made before the moment of speaking or writing (they are often called ‘plans’ or ‘intentions’).

Very often we can use either the be going to form or will + infinitive, but there are differences between them, as a result of which there are occasions when only one of them is possible.

Going to is a kind of present tense, as mentioned before, so one can use it when it is wanted to talk about a future situation that is already connected to the present, e.g. because there is present evidence, or because a plan is already in motion: 

I think it’s going to rain – I just felt a drop.

They’re going to retire to the country – they’ve already bought a little cottage.

In other cases, where there is no implicit or explicit connection to the present, will is used:

The concert will be over by midnight.

I’ll light the barbecue.

The chief difference is: the be going to form always implies a premeditated intention, and often an intention and plan; while will + infinitive implies intention alone, and this intention is usually, though not necessarily, unpremeditated, spontaneous, unplanned. When we are expressing an intention or decision, we use will if we are making the decision as we speak; we use going to if we have already made the decision.

If, therefore, preparations for the act have been made, we must make use of be going to:

Can you give me a hand? ~ No, sorry. I’m going to bath the baby.

            If the intention is clearly unpremeditated, we must use will:

Can you give me a hand? ~ OK. I’ll light the barbecue.

           When the intention is neither clearly premeditated nor clearly unpremeditated, either be going to or will may be used:

I will/ am going to make that trip one day.

I won't/ am not going to tell you the secret because it does not concern you.

            But note that will is the best way of expressing premeditation, when it is stressed:

I 'will come to your party (with stress on will). This means 'I definitely intend to come to your party'.

 

            Future progressive on the other hand serves to express an action which will be in the process of occurring. It can be used to add temporary meaning of the progressive to the future meaning of will construction (Don’t call her at 7 o’clock, she’ll be eating dinner), but it can also be used in a special way to refer to a future event which will take place ‘as a matter of course’ (When will you be moving, the train will be arriving soon). The construction is particularly useful for avoiding the suggestion of intention in the simple will construction, and can therefore be more ‘polite’.

At this time tomorrow I'll be driving through France.
I'll be thinking of you while you're doing your exam.

This tense is also used in a similar way to the present tenses, to refer to fixed or decided events, but not always with the idea of personal intention:

I'll be doing more teaching next year.
I'll be calling for you at about 10.
The train will be making a special stop at Preston.

Let us consider the following example: I will be helping Mary tomorrow.

            This does not imply that the speaker has arranged with to help Mary or that he wishes to help her. It merely states that this action will happen. The future continuous used in this way is somewhat similar to the present continuous, but differs from it in the following points.

          The present continuous tense implies a deliberate future action. The future continuous tense usually implies an action which will occur in the normal course of events. It is therefore less definite and more casual than the present continuous:

I am seeing Tom tomorrow.

I'll be seeing Tom tomorrow.

          The first implies that the speaker has deliberately arranged the meeting, but the second implies that Tom and the speaker will meet in the ordinary course of events (perhaps they work together).

          This difference is not always very important, however, and very often either tense can be used. We can say:

He'll be taking/ is taking his exam next week.

He won't be coming/ isn't coming to the party.

          The present continuous can only be used with a definite time and for the near future, while the future continuous can be used with or without a definite time and for the near or distant future. We can say:

I am meeting him tomorrow, but

I'll be meeting him tomorrow/next year/some time (or without a time expression at all).

            According to Leviţchi (1970:114) the use of the future continuous as synonym of the future indefinite implies sometimes the idea of parallel actions, as in the following examples:

We shall be having supper in about twenty minutes (so, please do not leave). Or

He will be coming to see us again soon (therefore, do not bother to send him the book he left here).

CONCLUSIONS

 

There are various means of expressing the idea of futurity in English; among them, future tense simple indicates only that the action takes place in the future, but it does not indicate if in the near future or later. Be going to future is used to express a future action close to the speaking moment or a future action which will take place because of a present intention. A future action planned at a present moment is usually expressed by the present tense continuous whereas a definite future action which will take place according to a schedule or a previous established program is expressed by the present simple tense.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Collins, Peter and Hollo, Carmela English Grammar, Palgrave, New York

Declerck, R. (1991) Tense in English: its structure and use in discourse, Routledge, London, 2000

Giorgi, Alessandra and Fabio Pianesi Tense and Aspect: From semantics to morphosyntax, Oxford Studies in Comparative Syntax, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997

Gurr, A. "The Future is Not What It Was", Modern English Teacher, Macmillan, London, 1994

Leviţchi, Leon Limba engleză contemporană. Morfologie. Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică, Bucureşti, 1970

Thompson, A.J. and Martinet, A.V. A Practical English Grammar, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1997

 


[1] Thomson & Martinet (1997:181): "But note that if after his decision the speaker mentions the action again, he will not use will, but be going to or the present continuous (be going to is always possible; the present continuous has a more restricted use)".

 

Ultima actualizare în Duminică, 09 Mai 2010 16:35
 

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