Easy English Grammar

What You Never Knew About English Verbs: A New Way of Looking at Grammar

English Verbs: A New Way of Looking at Grammar

Note: This post is mostly aimed at teachers of English.

However, I think that if you’re a confident learner of English, you can easily enjoy this post and, most importantly, it can really give you a stronger and deeper understanding of how English works.

Whoever you are, I hope you’re ready. We’re in for quite a ride.

A ride that will involve vandalising a museum … Hope you like that sort of thing!

Quick — answer this question:

Why do we use the past simple tense?

Did you say, “Er … to talk about the past, obviously”?

Well, you’re right.

But also wrong!

How do you explain sentences like:

“I wish I knew.”

or

“What was your name again?”

But … but … these sentences aren’t about the past! What’s going on?

And what about “will”? That’s for the future, right?

Well, what about:

“Where’s Henrik?”
“It’s after 9, so he’ll be in bed now with a cup of hot chocolate reading the Financial Times.”

or

“The dog’s eating corn flakes again? Yeah — he’ll do that.”

OK, these are just exceptions, right?

Well, if these rules have exceptions, they’re not really rules then, are they?

So what are the rules for these tenses?

Let’s get to the bottom of this!

102 Little Drawings eBook

How Verbs Work

I’m going to take you on a journey today (a 5,000-word journey).

Although the stories in it are mine, the journey itself isn’t.

Earlier this year, I read a book that blew my mind.

Here it is — The English Verb by Michael Lewis:

Michael Lewis: The English Verb - book cover

It left me thinking about English verbs in a completely different way.

So what does the book say about English verbs?

Well, here’s how I see it.

We can divide English verbs into three categories:

  1. Pure forms — These are facts. Nothing more, nothing less.
  2. Aspect forms — These add an extra layer of meaning related to time to a sentence.
  3. Modal forms — These add personal judgement to a sentence.

Forming a sentence is like cooking.

Pure forms, aspect forms, modals

Sometimes we just want a simple tomato soup — the facts.

Sometimes we want tomato soup with some other ingredients, like onions — time.

And sometimes we might also want to add spices to it (with or without the onions) — these represent judgement.

Let’s check them all out one by one.

Pure Forms

Pure forms, facts

Let’s start with the tomato — or the “pure forms.”

I’m calling them “pure” because they are objective facts.

When we use these forms, we don’t add any extra meaning.

There are two of these: the present simple and the past simple.

The present simple (or looking at the vase in the museum)

stick figure looking at precious vase

What it’s called at school:

The present simple

How it’s described at school:

“The present simple is used for things that happen on a regular basis or things that are true all the time.”

But what about …

“I now pronounce you man and wife.”
“We were just sitting around playing backgammon when Tyler suddenly walks in and starts shouting at us!”
Get out!”
“The show starts at seven.”
“Then I mix the vinegar into the salad, and I add four slices of avocado.”
“Chapter four: Our hero meets his enemy and plays golf with him.”

OK. Try thinking about it this way:

Imagine being in a museum.

You’re looking into a glass case at an old artefact. Let’s imagine it’s an old vase with some sort of pattern on the side … maybe with giraffes on it.

stick figure looking at vase in museum

You have no real connection with the vase. You’re not really affecting it in any way, and it’s not really affecting you.

It’s just … there. Existing. No more. No less.

It was there long before you were born and will probably be there long after you leave this Earth.

If you walk out of the museum, it’ll still be there.

That’s how I imagine the present simple.

The present simple is totally pure.

When we use it, we are simply expressing an objective fact — no opinions and no interpretations.

When we use this form of the verb, we express something as:

  • a timeless, objective fact,
  • complete and undivided, and
  • immediate rather than remote.

OK. So let’s see how that works with the examples:

➤ “Wood floats on water.”

This is a simple, objective fact, right?

It’s not related to any particular time, so it’s timeless.

It’s also binary — it’s either true or it isn’t. There’s no grey area. So it’s complete and undivided.

It also doesn’t depend on you.

You can say, “Wood floats on water.” But even if you didn’t say it, or if you never existed, it would still be true.

➤ “I now pronounce you man and wife.”

This is the sort of thing that a priest says at a wedding, right?

But why doesn’t he say, “I’m now pronouncing you man and wife”?

When we use words like “pronounce,” “declare,” “announce” and “promise,” we’re both saying something and doing it at the same time — the saying is the doing … if you know what I mean.

As we’ll see later, when we use the present continuous — “I’m now pronouncing …” — we signal that what we’re saying is temporary.

But that’s no good, right? You’re getting married! You want it to last forever!

You want the words that the priest says to be timeless.

When we use the present simple, (“I now pronounce you …”) it feels more real and more objective.

That’s also why we say, “I promise that I didn’t steal the rabbit,” instead of “I’m promising I didn’t steal the rabbit.”

Or, “I declare this swimming pool officially open!”

➤ “We were just sitting around playing backgammon, when Tyler suddenly walks in and starts shouting at us!”

The present simple is also immediate and not remote.

When we use the past simple, it’s very remote. We put a distance between ourselves and the events we’re describing.

This is fine, especially when we’re telling a story.

But sometimes we want to make the events in our stories feel more real — more immediate.

That’s when we switch from the past simple to the present simple.

It really brings the story to life.

➤ “Get out!”

This is an order, isn’t it?

There’s no question about when to get out.

The answer is “Now, of course!”

It’s immediate, timeless and objective.

As a result, it’s difficult to argue with.

But please don’t get out. Stay! We have a lot of things to talk about!

➤ “The show starts at seven.”

We sometimes use the present simple to describe scheduled events in the future.

It makes them feel more objective and more complete. As a result, they feel more certain and less likely to change.

The vase in the museum doesn’t affect your life, and what you do doesn’t really affect the vase.

And in the same way, when you say, “The game starts in half an hour,” you’re expressing the fact that you have no control over this.

If you disappeared from the face of the Earth, or if you hadn’t even been born, the game would still start at seven.

➤ “Then I mix the vinegar into the salad, and I add four slices of avocado.”

You’re cooking!

But even better than that, you’re showing me how to cook!

These are instructions, right?

If you’re showing me how to do something, you’re not just showing me that you can do it — you’re also showing me that I can do it, too.

You want me to know that whatever you’re doing, it’ll be the same when I do it.

In fact, you want me to know that it doesn’t matter who does it or when they do it.

That’s when the present simple is useful — because it’s objective and timeless.

➤ “Chapter four: Our hero meets his enemy and plays golf with him.”

Back in the 19th century, instead of just saying “chapter one,” “chapter two,” etc., a lot of book chapters would also describe what happens in each chapter.

And the writer would (almost) always use the present simple.

This has two effects.

Because it’s objective and undivided, it gives the description an element of authority. You can’t argue with it.

Also, much like the story about Tyler shouting at us, it’s immediate. This means that it feels closer and more real, making it more interesting and exciting.

Here’s my favourite one from Dickens’ Oliver Twist:

“Chapter 27 atones for the unpoliteness of a former chapter; which deserted a lady, most unceremoniously”

The past simple (or looking at the vase from far away)

What it’s called at school:

The past simple

How it’s described at school:

“We use the past simple to describe single events that happened in the past.”

But what about …

“Thanks for booking an appointment with us. What was your name, again?”
“I’d tell you if I knew.”
“He said he was Brad Pitt.”
“I wish I knew.”
“Take a jacket. It could snow later.”

OK. Try thinking about it this way:

Remember that vase in the museum?

stick figure looking at vase in museum

It’s objective. It’s not really related to us. We can see it, but we’re not part of its life.

Well. Imagine that vase, but this time it’s really far away.

stick figure looking at vase from distance

This is how I imagine the past simple.

But as we’ve seen, we don’t just use it for the past.

When we use this form we express something as:

  • An objective fact
  • Complete and undivided
  • Remote and somehow far away from us

As you can see, it’s just like the present simple but further away.

“But what does ‘further away’ mean?” I can hear you ask.

Good question.

We use the remote form to express things that are further away in various ways.

The most common, of course, is when something’s further away in time.

That’s when we use it to talk about the past:

“I made a lot of new friends at the giraffe conference last week.”

But there’s more!

Let’s look at the examples one by one.

➤ “Thanks for booking an appointment with us. What was your name, again?”

Things can be further away in other ways, too.

Sometimes we use the past simple to make things more polite — and being polite is all about putting a respectful distance between the speaker and the listener.

For example, when we’re asking for information from someone, especially information that might be a little sensitive like names, phone numbers, email addresses, credit card numbers and favourite type of giraffe, then sometimes it’s good to use the past simple.

It puts a little distance between us and the information we’re asking for.

The same thing happens with requests.

That’s why “Could you pass the salt?” sounds a bit more polite than “Can you pass the salt?”

➤ “I’d tell you if I knew.”

Back in the very early days of Clark and Miller, I wrote a post about “if” sentences.

In the post, I wrote about how we “push the grammar to the past” when something becomes less certain or less real.

That’s also why we use the remote form after “I wish”:

“I wish I knew. But I don’t.”

When we do this, we’re expressing a distance between what we’re saying and reality.

The same thing also happens when we’re making guesses or speculating … when we’re not sure if it’s happened or if it’s going to happen:

➤ “Take a jacket. It could snow later.”

We don’t know for sure if it’s going to snow or not, right?

So we soften our prediction with the past form.

That’s also why we say, “He could’ve left before the film finished,” and not “He can have left before the film finished.”

➤ “He said he was Brad Pitt.”

Well, he said it, right?

I’m not responsible if this isn’t true.

As you can see, we can use the remote form to distance ourselves from responsibility.

Usually with phrases like “He said …” or “I think that …” or “I’d imagine that …” or even “I was led to believe that …”

Aspect Forms

Aspect Forms: Time

OK. So those were the “pure forms” of the verb — the tomatoes in our tomato soup.

But sometimes we want to add an extra dimension of meaning.

Sometimes we want to express some sort of time frame.

That’s when the onions are useful.

Well, I say onions — I really mean the “aspect forms.”

When we use the “pure forms,” we’re simply stating a fact — something that isn’t connected to us.

We can’t affect the vase, and it can’t affect us.

There’s no interaction.

But that’s no fun, is it?

So how about — and let’s be open-minded about this — how about we smash the security glass …

stick figure breaking glass case in museum

… take out the vase …

stick figure steals vase in museum

… attach it to a remote-controlled truck and drive it around the museum.

stick figure remote control car with vase in museum

You now can affect the vase!

You can make it go faster, so that it flashes by briefly, or slower, so that we experience it for longer.

You can make it go forwards or backwards.

It’s still a vase, but you’re giving it mobility — you’re adding a sense of dimension to its life.

We can also do this with language.

The language we use can make things feel shorter or longer. It can also make us look forward or backwards.

In language terms, this is called aspect — and it’s great fun.

When we use the “pure forms,” we’re just stating facts.

When we add aspect, we don’t change the facts of a sentence, but we change how it feels in relation to time.

Let’s look at some examples.

The continuous aspect (or driving the vase around the museum)

stick figure remote control car with vase in museum

What it’s called at school:

The continuous tense

How it’s described at school:

“The present continuous is for actions that are happening now.”
“The past continuous is for long actions in the past.”
“The future continuous is for long actions in the future.”

So is there a difference between …

“I live in Burkina Faso” and “I’m living in Burkina Faso”?
“We’d been waiting for about an hour” and “We’d waited for about an hour”?
“I’ve been learning Somali” and “I’ve learned Somali”?
“They’re leaving tomorrow. Finally!” and “They leave tomorrow. Finally!”?
“I’m understanding it now”* and “I understand it now”?
*Technically not correct — you’ll see why later.

OK. Try thinking about it this way:

When we use the continuous sentences, we’re not changing the meaning of the sentence — we’re changing how it feels in terms of time.

The continuous form feels more temporary.

It refers to time, but not real time — psychological time.

We use it to draw attention to how the events we’re talking about are limited and incomplete in some way.

I always imagine it as something right in the middle of two events:

Continuous timeline

We use it to introduce this sense of limitation — to put walls in time to mark a beginning and an end.

When we use this form we express:

  • A psychological interpretation of time
  • An incomplete action
  • Something happening in a limited period of time

OK, let’s look at the examples above.

➤ “I live in Burkina Faso” and “I’m living in Burkina Faso”

These basically have the same meaning, right?

So what’s the difference?

Well, normally, when we talk about where we live, we just say, “I live in Burkina Faso,” (if you live in Burkina Faso, of course).

The present simple — a timeless fact.

But sometimes we want to send a signal to the person we’re speaking to.

Maybe we want to say, “Yeah — I live in Burkina Faso now, but I’m not sure if I’m going to be there forever. It doesn’t totally feel like home, and I’m thinking of moving to Mali next year. You know, for the music.”

So we need to add a sense of limited time to our sentence.

That’s when we’d use the continuous: “I’m living in Burkina Faso.”

Boom! The same fact, but with a temporary feeling.

➤ “We’d been waiting for about an hour” and “We’d waited for about an hour”

What’s the difference?

Well — in both cases, you waited for an hour, which is far too long. You should complain.

Back in the distant past (well, in 2017), I wrote a post about how “we’d waited …” feels like you’re in a helicopter looking down at a forest.

Man in a helicopter looking down on a forest

The forest represents what you did (the waiting).

You’re looking down at it, and you see it all together — one indivisible thing.

I also wrote about how “We’d been waiting …” feels more like being inside the forest.

Man in a forest

It puts you in the middle of the action.

That’s because, by adding the continuous into the mix, you’re emphasising the incompleteness of the action.

It’s the psychological interpretation of time that makes that hour of waiting seem slower and unending, even if it does, at some point, end.

➤ “I’ve been learning Somali” and “I’ve learned Somali”

This is similar to the helicopter and forest example.

You’ve learned Somali? Then congratulations!

It feels finished … complete.

You’ve been learning Somali? How interesting! How’s it going? Can you swear at taxi drivers yet?

The continuous feels incomplete. There’s more to learn! You’re still on the journey.

The journey out of the forest.

➤ “They’re leaving tomorrow. Finally!”

OK, so I said that they don’t teach you this in school.

But I was wrong — they totally teach you this in school.

It’s usually presented as “present continuous for future plans.”

But have you ever stopped to think about why we use the present continuous for the future?

Do you remember how we looked at the continuous as a limited period of time?

Continuous timeline

So we have a clear beginning and a clear end, right?

This makes sense when you consider the beginning as the point in time when we made the plan and the end as the time when we actually carry out our plan.

Here’s how I picture it:

stick figure on timeline with plans

When we’re talking about our plan, we imagine ourselves as being right in the middle of the plan — in the middle of a limited and incomplete action.

➤ “I’m understanding it now”* and “I understand it now”

Aha! You might recognise this issue.

Stative verbs!

The verbs that never (well, almost never) take the continuous form.

Why?

Because these actions are indivisible — you can’t make them longer or shorter, and you can’t place a limit on them, so they’re also timeless.

That’s why!

The perfect aspect (or driving the vase in reverse)

stick figure with remote control car backwards

What it’s called at school:

The perfect tenses (past perfect, present perfect, future perfect)

How it’s described at school:

“We use the past perfect to describe actions that happened before a point in the past.”
“We use the present perfect to describe actions that started in the past and are still happening now.”
“We use the future perfect to describe an action that will be completed before a time in the future.”

OK. Try thinking about it this way:

Wow — all those complicated explanations!

OK, to be fair, they’re actually all true.

But there’s a much simpler way of looking at it.

Also, those examples don’t include other ways we use the perfect, like “I like having written” and “He must’ve gone out — his shoes are gone.”

So let’s forget about thinking about the small differences between the past perfect and the present perfect and the future perfect and so on.

Instead, let’s just look at what the perfect does in general.

Remember when you went mad, stuck the vase to the remote-control truck and started driving it around the museum?

stick figure remote control car with vase in museum

You took a fact (the vase) and you started moving it in a certain direction (with the remote-control truck).

When driving a vase around a museum on a remote-control truck, it’s sometimes fun to hit the “reverse” lever, right?

stick figure remote control car in reverse with vase in museum

And that’s exactly what the perfect form does.

It’s all about looking back from a certain point in time.

Let’s look at some examples:

➤ “Have you visited Burj Khalifa?”

OK. So remember how we looked at how the remote form (or “past simple”) was like looking at the vase far away?

stick figure looking at vase from distance

Well, once we’ve put the vase on that remote-control truck, we are now linked to the vase — through magic!

No, not really. We’re linked via electronic radio signals or something. I don’t know how remote controls work …

So it doesn’t matter how far away the vase is — we’re still connected to it.

stick figure with remote control car connection

When we use the perfect forms, we’re looking back, but keeping a connection.

So if we’re using the present perfect, we’re looking back from now.

Have you visited Burj Khalifa?

That’s why “Have you visited Burj Khalifa?” is more about your experience now. Once you’ve answered this question, we can decide how to continue the conversation.

That’s why “Wow! You’ve shaved your hair off!” is more about your status now — not the experience of cutting your hair.

That’s also why “I’ve been waiting here for ages!” is more about how annoyed you are now — not so much the experience of waiting.

Also, you should totally complain. No one should wait for that long.

➤ “I’d already seen him when you arrived.”

OK. So we keep a connection with the present by using the present perfect.

So it makes sense that if we’re talking about the past, we can do exactly the same thing, right?

And we can — when we want to look back from a point in the past, we use the perfect again. But this time it’s the past perfect:

I'd already see him when you arrived.

There’s really no difference. You’re just looking back somehow.

➤ “I’ll have seen him when you arrive.”

And of course, if you’re talking about the future — it’s exactly the same:

I'll have seen him when you arrive.

There’s no real reason to imagine these as different concepts.

All we need to know is that we’re looking back from some point in time.

OK. But what if the time isn’t specified?

Good question …

➤ “They must have had to wait.”

We’ll look at modal verbs (like “must”) in a bit.

But in this case (with “must”) we’re using the perfect to look back with speculation:

They must have had to wait.

It’s basically how we can push modal verbs into the past.

➤ “I like having written.”

OK — we’ve got two verbs in this sentence, right?

So when are we looking back from?

In this case, the first verb (“like”) is in the present simple — it’s timeless.

So we’re looking back at any time when we’ve written from the time of liking.

I like having written.

It doesn’t matter when the first verb (“like”) happens — the main thing is that we’re looking back from it.

So we can make it past: “I liked having written.”

Or future: “I’m going to like having written.”

It doesn’t matter — we’re looking back from whenever that verb is.

“Going to” for the future (or driving the vase forward)

What it’s called at school:

“Going to for the future”

How it’s described at school:

“We use ‘going to’ for things we plan to do in the future.”

But what about …

“I was gonna tell you yesterday, but we were interrupted.”
“I was gonna tell you tomorrow, but since you’re here, I’ll tell you now.”
“I’ve been going to tell you for ages.”
“They must be going to build the bridge here.”

OK. Try thinking about it this way:

So, the perfect form is a way of looking back from a certain point in time, right?

And that’s a bit like driving the vase on the remote control in reverse but still keeping a connection to where we are:

Have you visited Burj Khalifa?

“Going to” works in exactly the same way, but instead of looking back from where we are, we’re looking forward:

stick figure remote control car with vase in museum

It’s really that simple.

There are two basic reasons for using “going to”:

  1. To look forward from a point in time
  2. To show that we have evidence leading up to the event

Let’s look at some examples:

➤ “I’m going to do it.”

OK — “going to” is about looking forward.

But how is it different from the present continuous?

Good question.

Take a look at these sentences:

  • “I’m doing it!”
  • “I’m going to do it!”

What’s the difference?

Well, in terms of meaning, the answer is … nothing. There’s no difference.

They’re both making a statement about the future.

But they both signal something different about how you feel about the situation.

When we use the continuous (“I’m doing it!”), we’re showing that we’ve already made a plan:

stick figure on timeline with plans

We’re in the middle of the plan. It’s all sorted out — we can relax.

But “going to” is much more connected to now.

When we have our vase on a remote-control truck, it’s passing us fast and we need to think quickly about where it’s going to go next.

stick figure remote control car with vase in museum

Sure — we definitely need to look forward and decide where we’re going.

But we also need to look back and ask ourselves some questions:

How fast is it going? Which direction is it coming from? Is it going straight or is it turning a corner?

We take the events that lead up to now, look at them, and then make a decision about where to go next.

And that’s how “going to” works — it’s all about making a decision or a prediction about what happens next based on what’s happened up until now.

"Going to" timeline

That’s why we say things like, “I’m going to sneeze” (because I can feel it right now).

Or “It’s going to rain” (because … look at those massive dark clouds!).

Or “What are we going to do now?” (because, although there’s no plan, we need to make a decision based on what’s happened so far).

➤ “I was gonna tell you yesterday, but we were interrupted.”

So, when we use “going to,” we’re basically talking about an informed decision.

Maybe the decision was made in the past about the past:

I was going to tell you yesterday, but we were interrupted.

➤ “I was gonna tell you tomorrow, but since you’re here, I’ll tell you now.”

Sometimes the decision was made in the past about the future.

I was going to tell you tomorrow, but since you're here, I'll tell you now.

➤ “I’ve been going to tell you for ages.”

“Going to” is all about potential!

When you use “going to,” you’re not making a statement about the future.

You’re making a statement about how the future looks from now.

These plans don’t exist in the future — they exist now (“I’m going to get out of here”) or even in the past (“I was going to buy him a drink”).

Or — in this case — over a period of time.

I've been going to tell you for ages.

➤ “They must be going to build the bridge here.”

Sometimes they don’t exist in time at all.

And that’s fine.

It’s all about looking forward.

Modal Forms

Judgement modals

OK.

So we can make a basic tomato soup with the “pure” forms of the verb.

We can make it more interesting with onions by controlling the time elements of a sentence.

Finally, we can put some spices in the soup!

This is when things get really interesting …

What it’s called at school:

Modal verbs

How it’s described at school:

To be fair, each modal verb (“will,” “would,” “can,” “could,” “must,” “should,” “may,” “might”) is taught differently at school.

And that’s fair enough.

They all have rather different meanings.

We don’t need to go into detail here.

I mean, you know the difference between “can” and “must,” right?

But they all have something in common …

OK. Try thinking about it this way:

So, let’s recap a little.

When we use the “pure form” of a verb — present simple or past simple — we’re just stating a fact. We’re not making any judgement about time.

It’s like looking at a vase in a museum.

stick figure looking at vase in museum

When we use one of the “aspect forms,” like the perfect or the continuous, we start to add our own interpretation about time — maybe the length of time or the direction of time.

That’s the remote-control truck:

stick figure remote control car with vase in museum

So what about modals?

Well, if using the “pure form” is like looking at a vase in the museum without really interacting with it at all, and using an “aspect form” is like driving the vase around the museum on a remote-control truck, then using modals is like getting a pen out, and writing on the vase about how you feel:

Stick figure with the word "happy"

In other words, non-modal sentences are about the people and things in the sentence.

“Jasmine loves cats” is just about Jasmine and cats.

But if you say, “Jasmine must love cats,” it’s about Jasmine, cats and … you.

The word “must” has introduced your personal attitude into the sentence.

Your attitude about this might change over time, so modals are completely related to the time of speaking.

Just like when you wrote your feelings on that vase.

So, the meaning of each modal is completely different, but they all:

  • Can only appear once in a clause (You can’t say, “I can must give him the keys back.”)
  • Are about the SPEAKER of the sentence as well as the “characters” in it
  • Are completely connected to the time of speaking.

So let’s look at some examples that show how this works:

➤ “I must see Patricia before she leaves” vs. “I have to see Patricia before she leaves”

The difference?

Well, as we discussed, “must” is a modal, so it’s about the speaker’s interpretation.

There’s no one pointing a gun at her and demanding that she sees Patricia.

But with “have to,” there’s a sense of external obligation.

Maybe Patricia’s the boss and has told her to come to her office.

Or maybe she’s a visiting aunt, and there’s a sort of external moral obligation.

We can say that “must” means “I assert that it’s necessary that …” while “have to” simply means, “It is necessary that …”

➤ “Congwei can finish the report himself” vs. “Congwei is able to finish the report himself”

Again — it’s all about personal interpretation.

“Can” means, “I assert that it’s possible that,” while “is able to” means, “it’s possible that…”

See what happened there?

➤ “They’ll definitely come” vs. “They’re definitely going to come.”

Remember this:

stick figure remote control car with vase in museum

When we’re talking about the future with “going to,” we’re both looking behind us, to see how we got to now, and in front of us, to make a decision or prediction about what’s going to happen next.

“They’re definitely going to come” suggests that we’ve looked at evidence, both behind and in front of us.

“Will” is very similar, but we’re not looking behind us, and we’re not looking at evidence.

We’re going on our feelings, instead — we’re completely in the “now.”

“They’ll definitely come” tells us about how we feel.

Stick figure will come

But there’s more!

Back in February last year, I wrote a post about all the different ways we can use “will.”

But if we want to put it simply, we can say this:

When we use “will,” we’re saying, “Based on the present situation and my personal view of what I’m talking about, it is true that …”

Or to put it simply, “This is how I feel the world works right now.”

That’s why we can use “will” when we’ve basically calculated something:

“Where’s Henrik?”
“It’s after 9, so he’ll be in bed now with a cup of hot chocolate reading the Financial Times.”

or

“The dog’s eating corn flakes again? Yeah — he’ll do that.”

In both these sentences, we’re just saying, “This is how I feel the world works right now.”


OK!

If you made it this far, then you are a true warrior! Good work!

Let’s recap everything:

We have the “pure forms” of the verb.

These are a bit like looking at a vase in the museum.

They’re objective and don’t have any relation to the speaker.

We have the “aspect forms” of the verb.

These are like taking the vase on a journey around the museum on a remote-control truck.

They’re still facts, but we’re controlling how they work with time.

And we have the modals.

They’re like writing how you feel on the vase.

They immediately include the speaker’s attitude or feeling about the sentence.

Here’s how I look at it:

Facts, Time, Judgement

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