[b-hebrew] tense

Michael Abernathy mabernathy at conwaycorp.net
Sat Dec 8 22:16:59 EST 2012

I'm probably getting in on this a bit late but I wanted to check a 
college grammar before commenting.  We generally think of the present 
tense in English as describing things happening in the present time, but 
the Harbrage College Handbook describes several other uses:
Habitual action: "Maureen uses common sense."
Universal or timeless truth: "Blind innocence sees no evil."
Historical present: "In 1939 Hitler attacks Poland."
Literary present: "Conrad writes about what he sees in the human heart."
Present form used with an adverb to denote the future: "Winter begins 
next week."
Progressive form denoting past, present and probably future: "I am 
learning from my mistakes."

Karl commented on the "normal grammaticalization of tense in English."  
I'm beginning to think it isn't as normal as we have been taught.
A simple present can be used to denote present action but with many 
verbs that would be the exception.
For example, "I see what you mean by that remark," denotes present action.
But I can't imagine anyone thinking, "I shop at Macy's," means the 
speaker is presently shopping.
In fact, it would be often considered poor grammar to use the simple 
present to refer to present action.
If I heard someone say, "I eat supper,"  and he wasn't a caveman I would 
understand that he was describing his usual actions.
The same would be true if he said, "I jog," "I play golf," "I work at 
Berkley," etc.
I suspect that we are oversimplifying how the ancients use Hebrew when 
we focus on aspect or tense.

Michael Abernathy

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