How many tenses in your language?

Hi. I have always found the correct use of the English tenses particularly difficult and that’s why I thought it might be a good idea to compare our mother tongue in terms of their tenses. How many tenses are there in your mother tongue? In German, there is simple present, simple past, present perfect, past perfect, future I and future II so that’s 6 in total (at least that’s what I think).
How many tenses are there in English?

There is only 1 in mine.

Hi cooliegirly,

You are Chinese, aren’t you?

We’re the people who don’t know what tenses are! :mrgreen:

So do you express activities on different time levels? I guess you use time indicators such as yesterday, tomorrow, next year etc.?

It’s really hard to explain.

In my language (Russian) there are only three tenses - Past, Present and Future. And two voices - Passive and Active.

If I am not mistaken, in Latin language there were (are?) 26 tenses!

Hi Sidle Jinks. You say your mother tongue is Russian but you are from Ukraine. If not mistaken (to use your phrase ;-)) your president speaks Ukrainian, doesn’t he? What is the language situation in Ukraine now?

Yes, you are absolutely right. Both the Ukrainians and the Russians live in Ukraine. Although the official language is Ukrainian. However, people born when the Soviet Union existed and whose parents lived in Crimea (I also live in Crimea, Sevastopol) mainly speak Russian. And Sevastopol was the base of the Russian Navy, therefore almost all people in Sevastopol speak Russian. I think that about 50% of Ukrainian people speak Russian: Western Ukraine mainly speaks Ukrainian whereas both Central and Eastern Ukraine, and Crimea as well, speak Russian.

And another thing about Ukraine: when it was the part of the Soviet Union, it was the Ukraine. Having become independent, it is Ukraine, without the.

In the German speaking world the two Klitschko brothers are the most popular Ukrainians I guess. By the way, there website is in four languages :wink: Ah, then there was that pop group who one the Euro Vision Song Contest last year, what was their name again? So the Klitschko brothers also speak Russian not Ukrainian as their mother tongue? If Ukrainian is the official language in Ukraine now what happens to the Russian speakers? Do they have to learn Ukrainian?

Since Ukrainian is the official language, everyone who lives in Ukraine is adviced to know it :slight_smile: However, Russian is almost the official language - our Russian-speaking deputies want to make Russian be the second official language. Anyway, it’s OK if you speak Russian - both languages are alike that’s why we easily understand each other!

Yes, Russian and Ukranian are really alike and that’s even funny when I read something written in Ukranian on the packet of juice and I understand practically everything. That’s amazing!
And an off topic-somebody told me that it’s possible to use THE Ukrania now… Is it still so or have they chaged this tendency already?!


Well, this is from WikiPedia (

This answers your question :slight_smile:

I agree. English speakers sometimes use present tense to express future events, etc… For example:

The bus is arriving in ten minutes.

In this example, the verb ‘is arriving’ is in present tense (present progressive) but the event is not yet happening.

Hello everybody!

It seems to me that not only English speakers do. In Russian/Ukrainian we also use Present Tense (actually, we have no such subdivisions as Simple, Progressive, Perfect, Perfect Progressive though it’s imaginable and (almost) all Russian tenses can be brought into line with the English ones :slight_smile: ) when talking about the events that will have place in future (especially in the nearest future). Or when describing a (possible) sequence of events to take place in future.

I think (though I am not sure) that this feature is peculiar to almost every language to a greater or a lesser extent.

There are 17 tenses in Spanish (as in French) with two options in two of the tenses. On top of that, and as opposed to English, each tense has six different conjugations, according to the subject pronoun – that’s why we don’t have to use these pronouns if we don’t want to.

Why couldn’t they have made it as simple as the good old and wise Chinese?

I think white Americans create new tenses too. I have a tape recording of a business man by the name of Kevin Trudeau and he uses the phrase ‘they still would have went’ instead of ‘they still would have gone.’


This construction I would have went is very common in Scottish English.


Hi Alan,

This is very interesting. Would you classify this construction as correct English? I mean after all it’s a different kind of condictional from the standard version we are being taught by our English teachers?

Hi Spearhead,

That’s a huge question asking me if I think it’s correct English! All I can say is it’s common in Scottish English in a slang way. I wouldn’t use it and I wouldn’t recommend it under the heading of standard English but then I think you have to allow that there are variations of English all over the world.