Business communication and the role of correct tense application

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By Goke Ilesanmi

When we talk about any form of verbal communication, the issue of tenses is very important because tense is any of the verb forms relating time to action. This time is basically divided into past, present and future. There is actually a problem when we cannot accurately relate time to action and use the appropriate tenses in a given business situation.


Tense and aspect

Aspect refers to the verb form, which relates activities to the passage of time. In a way, aspect is a restatement of tense. According to the dictionary, there is an aspectual difference between “I saw him cross the road” and  “I saw him crossing the road”. What this means is that “cross” used in the first sentence is a simple past tense though without “-ed”. Verbs used in this form are called bare infinitive, that is, infinitive without the preposition “to”. And being an infinitive, “cross” does not need “-ed” to show past.

It is an intrinsic or implicit past. In the second sentence, “crossing” is a present  participle, an -ing form of the verb. At the notional level, the first sentence means that the first person saw the other person complete the action. That is why “cross” is used. But in the second sentence, “crossing” is used to show that the first person only saw the action halfway, he did not see the end of the action of crossing the road by the other person.


Simple Present Tense

This tense refers to habitual or permanent actions, e.g. “I read every day”; “I go to the office every day”, etc. The third person singular pronouns (that is, “He”, “She”, “It”) take verb-“s” when used in the simple present tense, e.g. “He/She/It eats every day”. So it is not the case that it is a plural {pro}noun that uses a verb that has an “s” .

Note: “It”, a pronoun that is used for inanimate objects and non-human creatures, is grouped with third person singular pronouns because it is also used for a baby or child, especially when the sex is unknown, e.g. “This is Bola’s baby, what sex is it?” If you use “He” or “She” in place of “It”, then you do not need to ask about the sex of the baby again since you have already made a conclusion about it.

It is said that the verbs used with the third person singular pronouns take an “s”, but we still hear the expression “God bless you”, despite the fact that the noun “God” is equal to a third person singular pronoun. The reason for not using “Blesses” is that this expression is an elliptical or cut-off one. So at the deep-structure level, what we have is “May God bless you”. But the modal auxiliary verb “May” disappears at the surface-structure level.

The simple present tense is also used in (football) commentary. It can be used to express certainty in the future time, e.g. “The plane lands in Nigeria tomorrow morning”; “The president arrives the country next week”, etc. The simple present tense is used in place of present continuous tense when an automatic verb describing reflex or involuntary action is involved. Let us explain this area. There are some verbs that are basically not used in the continuous or progressive form. These verbs describe automatic or reflex actions. They are mostly verbs of perception, feeling or sense. So instead of using the progressive or continuous tense form of these verbs, it is the simple present tense that is used, e.g. “I hear what you are saying” (or “I can hear what you are saying”), not “I am hearing what you are saying” or “He is hearing what you are saying”. You also say “I see a snake there, it is looking at me”, not “I am seeing a snake there, it is looking at me” or “He is seeing a snake there, it is looking at him”.

Note that we cannot control what we SEE unless we close our eyes, but we can only control the direction at which we are LOOKING, so “Looking” is NOT a reflex action.

However, we can have some of these automatic verbs in the verbal-noun form technically called Gerund, e.g. “Seeing is believing”; “Sense of seeing”, “Sense of hearing”, “Sense of smelling”, etc. The verbs here are used as nouns; that is why they are called Verbal Nouns.

But what is being emphasised here is that they are not usually used in the progressive or continuous-tense form (that is, combination of a primary auxiliary verb such as “Is” or “Are” and present participle or –ing form of the verb such as “Seeing”, “Hearing”, etc., to form “Is seeing” or “Is hearing”. Other verbs that are not usually used in the continuous or progressive form are “smell”, “remember”, “recollect”, “forget”, “know”, “understand”, etc.


Simple Past Tense

This is used for expressing an action that took place before the present time, e.g. “I went to school yesterday”; “I saw him in the morning”, etc.


Present Continuous Tense

Structurally, this tense is formed through combination of any of the auxiliary verbs or verb “to be” (is, am, are, etc) and the present participle (-ing) form of the verb involved. This tense is used for expressing actions taking place at the present time, e.g. “I am writing”; “They are singing”; “She is laughing”, etc. It is equally used with other forms of present tense in sport commentary. However, it is not commonly used in the real-life situation for actions that are shortlived, that is, actions that are not happening gradually, but start and end quickly, e.g. fall, drop, break, etc.

But this tense can be used for the short-lived actions if they are happening repeatedly. By extension, this tense is equally not always used for involuntary actions as already said. That is, actions that are not within the range of our control. The present continuous tense is also employed to express futurity, e.g. “We are going there tomorrow”.

To be continued

PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details. Till we meet on Monday.

GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.

Tel: 08055068773; 08187499425

Email: gokeiles2010@gmail.com

Website: www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng




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