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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

Modern Descendants of Latin            391
made up of a participle and a helper verb Modern Romance languages
have at least four simple tenses, the present, fatfutwe^ and two which
refer to the past, the imperfect and perfect (ptpast definite} It is possible,
most of all in French, to lighten the heavy burden of learning such
flexional wealth, by resorting to turns which may not be specially
recommended by grammar books, but are in harmony with common
usage. For everyday French conversation or correspondence it is usually
sufficient to know the present tense form, the imperfect, infinitive,
present and past participle of an ordinary verb, the present and im-
perfect of etre and avoir., together with the present of the irregular
helpers aller (to go)* and venir (to come) Of all tenses the present
stands first in importance. Apart from expressing what its name im-
plies, it serves in situations analogous to the show opens to-morrow., and
may legitimately and effectively be used in narrative, eg f arrive a
deux heures du matm> et qi?est-ce que je decouvre? Elle est marie,, raide
morte (I arrive at two in the morning, and what do I discover? She is
dead, stone dead). For the more immediate future conversational French
habitually uses aller + infinitive (Spanish ir a + infinitive), which re-
duces flexion to a bare minimum and tallies with English be going to
+ infinitive, e g French je vats teUphoner? Spanish voy a telephones To
indicate the immediate past> as in / have just swallowed a tooth (i e
have just + past participle) French and Spanish have their own ex-
pressions The French one is vernr de + infinitive, the Spanish acabar
de + infinitive, e g he has just gone out — il went de sortir = acaba
de sahr
In everyday speech French people always use a compound tense
form to express what is more remote, e g. I met him yesterday —je
Vai rencontrS her. This construction is made up of the past participle
and the p/esent tense of avoir (or etre> if the verb is reflexive or signifies
motion) This roundabout way of saying / came, I saw, I loved looms
as large in French conversation as does the present, and the English
student of French will be wise to use it liberally The beginner must also
acquaint himself with the so-called imperfect This tense implies
customary, repetitive, or continuous past action in contrast to a com-
pleted process. Thus it is always right to use the imperfect when we
can substitute used to + infinitive for the simple past of an English
* The conjugation of ALLER like that of etre, is built up from several verbs
Two of them, one of which is derived from Latin vadere, the other from
ambtdares form the present tense3 eg */ va (he goes), nous allons (we go) The
thirdj which is the Latin vre> occurs in the future and the conditional, e g fir on
(I shall go)