October 7th, 2005


userinfo senji
2005/10/07 19:01:00 - A tense situation…
"I have become French!"

What tense is "have become"?

For that matter, what tense is "become" in "I become French"?
Current Mood: [mood icon] confused
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Entry Tags: words

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userinfo enismirdal
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2005/10/07 19:12:53
Well, in German and French at least, "to become" is a perfectly acceptable verb in its own right: werden and devenir. So I guess it's probably reasonable to say "to become" is an ordinary, if irregular, verb in English too. It was certainly held up by my language teacher as one of the verbs that in every known language is always irregular (the others being to have and to be).

"have become" would therefore be a perfect tense like "have played" or "have eaten".
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userinfo vyvyan
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2005/10/07 19:48:50
It was certainly held up by my language teacher as one of the verbs that in every known language is always irregular (the others being to have and to be).

I think this is an exaggeration. Some languages don't vary the forms of any of their verbs, so there is no scope for morphological irregularity (e.g. Mandarin Chinese); some languages don't have a verb "to be" or "to have" (e.g. some Celtic languages represent the relation of possession through constructions which can be translated as "there is to/with me (noun phrase)").
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userinfo king_of_wrong
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2005/10/08 13:57:36
some languages don't have a verb "to be"

And some have several. Spanish has one for permanent (ser) and one for temporary (estar) attributes. For existential usages of "to be", Japanese has one for inanimate (aru) and one for animate (iru).
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userinfo pm215
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2005/10/07 23:53:30

'to become' is a perfectly fine regular verb in Japanese [naru] (and there is no 'to have' and the work done by English 'to be' is split over three to five different verbs). So your rule is more of a tendency than anything else. The irregular verbs in Japanese number about ten, dividing into two groups:

Verbs used all the time: [kuru:to come], [suru:to do], [aru:to be/exist(non-animate)], [iku:to go], [kureru:to give(recipient must be you or your in-group)]. Of these the first two are totally irregular and the other three deviate from the regular-verb pattern only in one form.

Verbs used in formal polite speech: [kudasaru:polite-form of kureru], [ossharu:to speak], [nasaru:to do], [irassharu:to go/come/be], [gozaru:to exist, be] -- these deviate from regularity only slightly.

So my pet theory is that the irregular verbs are firstly the ones where everybody knows the irregularities and there's no temptation to just assume a verb you don't know is regular, and secondly the ones where the lord would take your head off with a sword if you got the inflection wrong...

There's one irregular adjective -- [ii:good].

Sorry -- you seem to have tripped my 'bore people with basic Japanese grammar' tendency.

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userinfo king_of_wrong
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2005/10/08 14:05:06
Sorry -- you seem to have tripped my 'bore people with basic Japanese grammar' tendency.

Heh :)
Well, I'll join in as well and hope it starts seeming normal...

I'd guess that the irregularity of iku and ii are related. Both are common enough to be irregular anyway, but iita as the plain-past of iku and ii da as adjective + plain copula only vary in whether the t/d is voiced, which is difficult to manage when voicing the vowels around them. (Also, confusing "I'm going" and "It's good" is rarely going to be ideal)
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userinfo pm215
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2005/10/08 15:00:04

Nice theory, except that unless I'm confused nobody says ii da. ii desu, ii n da, or just plain ii, but you don't need the plain form copula with adjectives...

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userinfo aldabra
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2005/10/07 19:23:43
"Have become" is perfect, "become" is present.

Cf "I have turned green"; "I turn green."
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userinfo requiem_17_23
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2005/10/07 19:27:36
First one - first person past perfect singular. Cf. "I have done French!"

Second one - first-person present indicative singular. Cf. "I do French".


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userinfo vyvyan
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2005/10/07 19:44:39
Depends which terminology you want. In the terminology of the grammar course I currently teach, the tense of the verb phrase "have become" is present ("have" rather than "had"), and the aspect is perfect (HAVE + -ed participle, rather than simple/unmarked "become(s)" or progressive: BE + -ing participle). In the second question, "become" is present tense ("become" vs. "became") but simple/unmarked aspect. Neither tense nor aspect corresponds directly to the situation of events in time, but markers of both can be contribute to such a representation (along with e.g. choice of lexical verb, explicit references to times such as "just (now)" or "on Tuesday").
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userinfo cartesiandaemon
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2005/10/07 23:50:32
Does "I have become french" mean something different to "I became french" except by emphasising different parts of the sentence?
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userinfo bellinghman
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2005/10/08 01:18:41
"I have become" - you are in the new state.

"I became" - you changed state.

"I became French and then, on encountering Steak Tartare, I became English again" makes perfect sense. Substitute "I have become" and it ceases to do so.
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userinfo vyvyan
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2005/10/08 08:26:29
Mostly, the present perfect construction (HAVE + -ed participle) is used to describe an event or state which took place or began in the past, but which still has relevance in the present. The simple past tense typically describes an event or state in the past, without any implication of present relevance. This distinction works for "become" quite well:

I became French in 1985 when I married Pierre. (Implies: I may or may not still be French.)
I have become French since we last met. (Implies: I am currently French.)

It would sound quite odd to use "have become" in the first example - in particular, one can't normally use adverbials which locate an event at a specific point in time (in 1985), when using the present perfect. It would sound slightly strange to use "became" in the second example, if the speaker still was French at the time of the dialogue, and indeed corpus studies show that "become" is one of the most commonly used verbs with present perfect aspect (rather than simple past).

(There are other functions for the present perfect and simple past constructions, and certain lexical verb types, where the distinction I made above may not entirely hold; however, I think it works well enough for the example under discussion!)
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userinfo ankaret
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2005/10/08 10:12:50
I can't think of any sentence that would involve 'I have become French' that doesn't have 'Mon Dieu!' at the beginning of it.

Also, I don't know whether it's ai devenu or suis devenu and it's bugging me - I think it's suis devenu but that could just be me carrying English sentence structure over into French.
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userinfo senji
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2005/10/08 23:37:41
That made me (literally) laugh out loud when I saw it in my INBOX.

The context I imagined for the sentence was a trash Spy novel in which they're trying to pursuade the (ex-pat) hero to betray his new country.
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userinfo king_of_wrong
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2005/10/08 14:06:30
What about "I am become French"?
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userinfo mobbsy
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2005/10/08 18:27:27
...destroyer of snails
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A tense situation… - Squaring the circle...

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