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Challenges and Principles of Teaching Tenses and Conditionals

Challenges and Principles of Teaching Tenses and Conditionals | ITTT | TEFL Blog

In the early lessons of the course, I was able to better understand the components of the sentence, and the knowledge about word types was expanded. It includes a definite article, adjective, noun, verb, preposition, adverb, conjunction, gerund, personal pronoun.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Phuong P. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.


In unit 4, we have started talking about tenses in English. I looked at the four present tenses; the present simple, present continuous (sometimes called the present progressive), present perfect and present perfect continuous. Summary, the tense system is probably the area of the English language that causes students (and often teachers) the greatest amount of difficulty.

Continue to unit 6, the course shows past tenses. As we all know, The system and structure of past tenses are not too different from present tenses, except that past tenses are related to past periods. We should begin to see certain similarities in usage and form emerging. Some of the rules we should be able to notice at this stage are:

All continuous forms feature some form of the verb 'to be' plus the 'ing' form of the verb. If the verb 'to be' is in the present, it will be the present continuous. If the verb 'to be' is in the past, it will be the past continuous. Later on, we will see the same principles apply to future tenses.

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All perfect forms feature some form of the verb 'to have' and the past participle form of the verb. If the verb 'to have' is in the present, it will be the present perfect. If the verb 'to have' is in the past, it will be the past perfect. Later on, we will see the same principles apply to future tenses. All perfect continuous forms feature some form of the verb 'to have', plus 'been', plus the 'ing' form of the verb. If the verb 'to have' is in the present, it will be the present perfect continuous. If the verb 'to have' is in the past, it will be the past perfect continuous. Later on, we will see the same principles apply to future tenses.

After reading and assimilating the more detailed information contained in this unit, please complete the accompanying worksheet.

In unit 8 refers to future tenses. The future is one of the most complex areas of the English language. So many different tenses and ideas can be used with future historic. The seven most common are as follows (not in any order of frequency): * The future simple * The future continuous * The future perfect * The future perfect continuous * Be going + infinitive * The present simple * The present continuous

There are normally several forms available for what you want to say but forms 5 and 7 are the most frequently used. Please also note that tenses 6 and 7 above are normally used as present tenses, but also have future applications.

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Conditionals are sentences containing 'if' (or similar expressions such as 'when') which refer to past, present, and future possibilities. There are two clauses, the 'if' clause and the main clause, and either can come in the first part of a conditional sentence.

For example: If I had the money, I would go to a picnic with my family. The 'if' clause contains the condition that has to be satisfied before the action or state in the main clause can be realized. We can also think of the main clause as expressing the consequence. In the above example, the condition of my having enough money has to be satisfied before I can go to a picnic with my family. By going to a picnic with my family is the consequence.

The five main conditionals are as follows:

Zero Conditional Form : if/when + present tense, present tense Usage: It refers to actions and facts that are irrefutable. You can use 'if' or 'when' with no change in meaning. When you boil water, you get steam. (Condition: boiled water; consequence: steam) Water turns to ice if you freeze it. (Condition: freeze water; consequence: ice)

First Conditional Form: if + present simple, will ('will' can be replaced by a modal verb. E.g. may, might, can, should, must) Usage: This talks about a 'real' situation in the future that is possible, probable, or even certain, once the condition has been satisfied. If he studies hard, he will pass the exam. (Condition: hard study; certain consequence: passing the exam) She might buy it if she has enough money. ( Condition: having enough money; possible consequence: buying it)

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Second Conditional Form: if + past simple, would/could/might + base form (When the verb 'to be' is used in the if-clause it can be 'If I was' or 'If I were'. The latter is more formal.) Usage: Communicates a present or future 'unreal', hypothetical situation that is presently not true and is unlikely ever to be true. If I won the lottery, I would travel the world. If I had a time machine, I could go back to the dark ages

Third Conditional Form : if + past perfect, would/could/might + have + past participle. Usage: Refers to a hypothetical past action (or non-action) and the hypothetical past consequence/result. As the 'action' was purely hypothetical, the condition could never have been satisfied, and subsequently, the consequence is or was impossible. If I had practiced the piano, I would have been better. (but I didn't practice the piano!) She would have been angry if she had seen me. (but she didn't see me!)

Mixed Conditional We sometimes combine a second conditional clause with a third conditional clause. This is most commonly formed as follows: If + past perfect, would + base form If I had listened to him, I would be in serious trouble now. (I didn't listen to him, so I'm not in trouble!) This mix refers to a hypothetical past action or state, and the hypothetical present consequence. Many other mixes, though not so common, are possible Consider the problems that may arise from past tenses being used in the second conditional when it refers to the future (as it always does) along with the complex structures and you have the basis for endless mistakes with conditionals. Many students find it quite difficult to see the difference in usage between the 1st and 2nd conditionals. Similar problems can arise with 3rd and mixed conditionals The final knowledge of grammar that impressed me after taking this course was modal auxiliary verbs and the passive voice in detail, as well as a brief overview of phrasal verbs and relative clauses.

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