previous page EnglishCafe Top following page

1.2.2. The usage which is parallel to the historical present
As mentioned above, the historical present means the speaker recalls the event as if it were present, but the present tense used for the past event is not restricted with it, this phenomenon is seen with the reporting verbs.

These are "tell", "say", "answer" and "hear" etc., and express the past event. This means it is still true in the present. See the following examples.

a. Joan tells me you're getting a new car.
b. The ten o'clock news says that it's going to be cold.
(Two examples are Leech:1971a, p.7)

In (21a), Joan's utterance is obviously the past, but it is still true in the present. (21b) is the same, ten o'clock news is also the past, but this weather news is still true in the present and we will expect it at the same time. this is also parallel to the present tense which means the speaker treats the event as the present. See the following figure.


The above expresses the two examples of (21), and then the subordinate clauses are the noun clauses, therefore it needs two time line. (If the subordinate clause is the adverb clause , only the main clause is represented.)
If (21a) is taken as the sample, the main clause of "Joan tells me" is parallel to the upper line and the subordinate clause is parallel to the lower line.

Now, the lower line of the subordinate clause is the future expression, because the events of the subordinate clause are the future and E is put at the future. This is not explained now but in the chapter 4.

The lower line does not have S, because the speaker is the same person. The time relationship is represented with the dotted line.

The upper line puts E on the past because of the past event. But it is still true in the present and then (E) is also put at the present as the imaginative event. M is put at the present since the speaker's mind in it.
It is equivalent to the historical present, but the meaning is not the same.

Time feeling

a. I hear you're going to America.
b. They tell me Mary passed the exam.

The above is the same. In (23a), the plan to America is true in the present. In (23b), the past tense is used in the subordinate clause, but the result of the passing is true.

We take (22) again as (24) below.


The upper line is not the same meaning of the historical present. But the time representation is the same and the present tense is also used.
Thus, this usage can also be seen as a kind of the historical present.

Time feeling

previous page EnglishCafe Top following page

Copyright (c) EnglishCafe : Unapproved printing of the text and figure in this site is forbidden.