A student of mine told me that he had found a mistake in the lyrics of the national anthem of the United Kingdom. He said the name of this anthem, God Save the Queen, had a missing -s after the verb save. The subject, God, is singular in the third person, therefore the verb should be conjugated to agree with the subject accordingly.
When we learn English verbs, we usually spend a lot of time remembering when to use a certain tense A, and then when to use another tense B. However, few of us pay attention to when we should not use a tense A or a tense B. When we see “I’m loving you,” or “I have preferred this job” (note that it is different from “I would have preferred this job“), we say we should probably use the present simple in the first sentence, and the past simple in the second, instead of the present continuous and the past perfect respectively. But why not?
In Tense and Tensibility, we discussed the need and implication of having tense. In essence, tense gives us information on when an event or action takes place. However, the meaning of what we commonly call ‘tense’ in English is actually quite fluid. A ‘tense’, or a tense form, oftens gives much more information than merely the temporal location of an action. We are going to look into this matter, dissect the structure of the verbal phrase and discuss these other dimensions of verbal information.
Anyone who has tried to learn a foreign language in school can tell that in a typical language course, much of the time is actually spent on learning how to use verbs. In the case of English, learning how to use the different tenses is a particularly important task, and a unique challenge to speakers of Chinese, which is a practically tenseless language.
I very like it.
It may sound somewhat weird to native ears, but a lot of my Chinese students produce sentences like this one. What is weird here is simple. First, the adverb “very” seems to be misplaced. It should either be moved to the end of the sentence, or be replaced with another adverb like “really”. Second, if it is moved to the end, it cannot simply stand there alone but requires another word “much” to follow, as in:
I like it very much.
As usual, this can easily be discarded as an error in grammar, but what is more interesting is the cause of this error.