Relative tenses

ans7

Member
Vietnamese
So I've read about absolute tenses and relative tenses and there are some questions that I want to be answered:

-She said she had done her homework.

So according to the rule, "said" is an absolute tense and "had done" is a relative tense, which is an anterior action to "said"

Another example:

-She said she would do her homework.

Again, "said" is an absolute tense and "would do" is a relative tense, which this time is an posterior action to "said"

-She said she was fine.

This time, "said" and "was" are simultaneous actions.

Now on to my question:

In this example:

-She was doing her homework when they came in.

("Was doing" is an absolute tense, "came" is a relative tense.)

What is "came" to "was doing"? Is it anterior, posterior or are they simultaneous? Please answer in the shortest way you can think of.
 
  • grassy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Is it anterior, posterior or are they simultaneous?
    These terms are not sufficient to describe the temporal relationship between the two tenses in your sentence. "Was doing her homework" is progressive and that's it. We don't know when it started and/or when it ended. The action was in progress when "they" came in.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    In one sense, the past continuous ("she had done her homework) and the the future in the past ("she would do her homework") are always relative tenses (except for the past perfect being used to indicate completion of an action); they require an external time reference in the way that the past tense does not.

    The past tense is also often used in a relative sense, meaning at the same time as or later than the previous action, but you are right that in a dependent clause (a "that-clause") it generally means at the same time as the main verb, and I don't think it is ever used for an action that takes place later than the main verb.

    "When" imposes a different relationship between the two clauses; both share a common time reference. In your case, both clauses are in the past tense, so they are simultaneous actions, but "simultaneous actions" covers a range of possibilities. In this particular example, she was doing her homework before they came in. Perhaps she stopped when they came it. Perhaps she continued.

    In a different situation, it could be the other way round. "We left when they arrived" could mean that we were leaving just as they were arriving, or it could mean that they arrived and then, a short time later but so short a time that it is not worth mentioning, we left. It might (but does not necessarily) imply that we left because they arrived.
     

    ans7

    Member
    Vietnamese
    could you tell me where the center of deixis is in the clause:

    “She was doing her homework” when they came in.

    Is it the whole time that she was doing her homework or just a point inside that time?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    could you tell me where the center of deixis is in the clause:

    “She was doing her homework” when they came in.

    Is it the whole time that she was doing her homework or just a point inside that time?
    "When they came in" is either a point or a shorter interval within the time of doing. This is what defines the progressive aspect of forms like "was doing".
     

    ans7

    Member
    Vietnamese
    "When they came in" is either a point or a shorter interval within the time of doing. This is what defines the progressive aspect of forms like "was doing".
    Yeah I know, I'm just asking where the reference point is, the whole time that she was doing her homework or just a point inside that time?
     
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