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9:00 PM
@Mitch No, no, not dentifrice. You're thinking of that bird headed thing that's so scary.
 
Welcome to the site! With single-word requests, it is formally required on this site to provide an example sentence with a blank. The sentence should be as specific as possible. Hover over the tag to learn more. It is also greatly appreciated if you could motivate why more than one word (e.g. an adjective + a noun) would not do. — Cerberus 53 secs ago
 
9:43 PM
So a few minutes ago, I'm talking about the Polish language in some other chat room. I ask a question about past and present tenses in Polish. Somebody mentions that those tenses in English can be difficult, too.
I mention the fact that sometimes, in English, you use the present tense when talking about the past.
I try to think of a good explanation for this, but I can't think of anything.
So I go to english.stackexchange.com and try to find an answer there. I don't see anything there, either.
So I come in here and type up a question. I ask:
What's up with "present tense narrative" in English?
Do other languages do that?
 
@TannerSwett Sure. "I'm at the mall the other day, where I spot Ellen at the juice bar. She looks amazing, and I think, 'Hey, maybe it wasn't the best move to get out of that relationship.'"
 
Yeah, do they do that in, say, Spanish or German?
 
We reference a point in time and then begin a narrative in present tense. Later we use the simple past instead of past perfect to indicate a time prior to that.
 
I'm guessing not all languages do that, but maybe most do.
 
@TannerSwett Not that I'm aware. I never heard that kind of narrative in German when I was there, unless I simply wasn't aware of it. Ping @RegDwigнt and he could give you the lowdown on that.
 
9:52 PM
Most do.
Including Latin, Greek, and Dutch.
It's called the historic present.
 
Hmm.
 
@RegDwigнt Yo, does German do this historic present tense thing that these other languages do?
Is it an Indo-European thing or a human language thing?
 
16
A: What is the name for the grammatical figure, where the present tense is substituted for a past event?

CerberusThis is called the historic present. It is also called historical present, dramatic present, narrative present, or praesens historicum in Latin. It is a perfectly fine construction, although it should be used in moderation so as not to draw the ire of style books.

 
@TannerSwett I definitely don't see evidence of that in Japanese. Present covers present and future, and intentional action, but past is its own thing.
 
9:55 PM
@Cerberus This includes such constructions as "On pp. 16-18 Prof. Heinemann notes that such a thing would be impossible"?
 
@TannerSwett I believe it is almost universal, but I have no proof.
 
@Cerberus Well, ya see, on EL&U we can't just take your word for it ...
 
@Robusto Mmm that is debatable: it could be analysed as a timeless fact.
 
I kind of like "narrative present" better as a term. Less confusing, more on target.
 
0
Q: A word for an argument which is tentative?

Sasan It seems, prima facie, that A is true. But if we suppose that A is true, then it follows that B is false. The above argument is based on a hypothesis. The argument is not firm but prudent and tentative. Is there any word or phrase for such sort of argument?

 
9:58 PM
Of course, Wikipedia plot summaries are also in the present tense.
Narrations of hypothetical and imaginary events seem to usually be in present too, aren't they?
 
@Cerberus The font looks nice.
 
@TannerSwett Yeah. It's really a technique borrowed from related speech.
 
In linguistics and rhetoric, the historical present or historic present (also called dramatic present or narrative present) is the employment of the present tense when narrating past events. It is widely used in writing about history in Latin (where it is sometimes referred to by its Latin name, praesens historicum) and some modern European languages; in English it is used above all in historical chronicles (listing a series of events); it is also used in fiction, for "hot news" (as in headlines), and in everyday conversation. In conversation, it is particularly common with "verbs of communication...
 
@TannerSwett I would not say usually. You want to start by reading the Wikipaedia article on "historical present".
Oh, Jasper beat me to it.
It is mostly used to describe events in a more vivid style.
 
@Cerberus Amazing! How can I ever beat anyone to anything?
 
10:00 PM
Ask your inner self.
 
@Cerberus By vivid I think you really mean immediate.
 
Both.
 
Vivid by virtue of immediacy? But vivid is merely a concomitant there.
 
Concomitant is a difficult word for me.
 
It's not a problem for Google.
 
10:02 PM
> ACCORDING to our grammars the historical present is used in vivid or dramatic narration of past events.
@Robusto Yes, indeed.
 
I just learnt that Alphabet is the parent company of Google.
 
The historic present is mostly restricted to narrative, as you said.
 
@Cerberus And the rest of that paragraph seems to argue that vivid isn't really what they mean.
 
And immediacy makes the past more vivid. Stories are about the past.
 
They are pointing directly to "immediate."
 
10:03 PM
No wonder Google knows everything, from A to Z.
 
Jun 9 '11 at 12:47, by Robusto
"The difference between the right word and almost the right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." — Mark Twain
 
There was a data breach on Google Plus. Luckily, I had no Google Plus on my Google account.
 
@Robusto Granted: the common explanation may be a simplification.
But it is the standard explanation, which is why I gave it thus.
Various arguments can be brought to bear against that article, though.
The effect of any stylistic figure fades with use.
So does the vividness of the historic present when used many times in a narrative.
So it becomes just an alternative to the perfect without much of a difference being felt.
But the general effect, in so far as it has any, can reasonably be described as making the narrative appear more vivid.
 
@Cerberus Now that I think about it, I think a formal "past and present perfect" narration would seem stilted in most casual encounters.
 
Perhaps!
In the most (stereo)typical use case, perfect and imperfect will comprise most of the story, interspersed with the present where some sort of additional vividness or immediacy or what have you is desired.
 
10:11 PM
Present continuous is also used for that. If only as a setup.
 
The Romans didn't really have that!
 
"I'm walking my dog the other day when I see Ellen getting off a bus."
 
But they had other means.
That when, for example, is common in Latin.
 
Hmm, there is a continuous form in Spanish. I wonder where it came from if not from Latin.
 
I think it has a special name, where the action, the salient bits, are given in the when clause, and the main clause is a mere introduction of sorts.
@Robusto It came from the Latin gerund and gerundive constructions, I believe.
But used in a way that they weren't in Latin.
> sum ambulando "I am while walking"
This is not used in Latin.
But it is where Spanish got it.
And Italian, Portuguese.
Possibly also French, although the French looks more like a present participle.
 
10:15 PM
Estaba caminando ... "I was walking" ... Estoy caminando ("I am walking").
 
I believe the English continuous is originally also from a gerund construction: I am a-walking.
~ "I am during walking"
Where the a prefix was like on, I think—a praeposition.
 
@Cerberus Why does it have to be from something else. Why can't it be the thing itself?
 
Ask history why it is there!
 
History doesn't talk to me anymore. We were in love with the same woman.
 
Has history taken her?
 
10:18 PM
@Robusto Ellen?
 
And laid her in earth?
 
@Gigili Sssshhhh.
@Cerberus Well, not in earth, actually, but ...
 
In bed?
Random question: do you ever mistakenly use a form of lie for lay or the converse, in a slip of the tongue or pen?
I believe some people in this room once said they did.
Which is understandable.
 
I don't consider myself to have made a mistake no matter which word I use. :D
 
Quae arrogantia!
 
10:25 PM
I normally lie down on the couch, but I've been known to lay on it instead.
I think both of my parents always lay, they never lie.
 
@Cerberus Nope. Never. All of Western civilization depends on getting that one right.
 
Although I have a blog where I try to use "prescriptively correct English".
 
When I hear someone say "I have to go lay down" I experience an inner seg_fault.
 
@Robusto Hmm...
 
Sometimes I end up with some weird constructions. Let me try to think of this thing I wrote there once.
 
10:27 PM
@Robusto They laid there for hours.
 
@Cerberus Stop it. You damn well know better.
 
I think many people would occasionally make a mistake like that.
 
Not this one. Seriously.
 
Though nobody would say "I was laying in bed".
 
Oh yes they would.
 
10:28 PM
I don't quite remember the context, so I'll try to reconstruct it. The part in italics is what I actually wrote.
"My coworker had a birthday today, but I did not eat any cake. Come to think of it, my own birthday was just a week ago, on which occasion neither did I receive any cake."
 
I wrote that phrase, thought about it for quite a while, and then decided it seemed "correct".
 
@TannerSwett The parallelism isn't really exact.
To make it exact, you would have to replace receive with eat.
 
WTF, ELU counts as "Books".
 
@Robusto Well, the only purpose of the first sentence is to establish why I wrote "neither did I" instead of "I did not".
 
10:30 PM
@Cerberus For the undiscriminating Googler, sure.
 
But for Google...
 
@TannerSwett Then you should have written a more compliant first sentence.
@Cerberus They don't care. Really.
 
I might actually be able to find the original sentence...
 
I'm searching in Google Books, and it gives me an ELU result as part of Google Books.
At any rate, one wonders what they have been laying in bed.
If not eggs...
 
See, if your parallelism is less than exact then you're theoretically not allowed to use the word neither.
@Cerberus Traps?
Pipe?
 
10:33 PM
In Dutch, liggen and leggen are only mixed up by lower-class people from the provinces benorth the rivers, I think. Never by educated people.
@Robusto Let's say traps.
 
Agreed.
 
Oh, look, benorth is a word.
 
@Robusto Here's a better try. "My odometer reached 10,000 miles today, but I did not receive any cake. Come to think of it, I had my first birthday recently, on which occasion neither did I receive any cake."
Of course, I would have just said "...and I didn't receive any cake on that occasion either".
But I decided I wanted to turn "I didn't receive any cake on that occasion either" into a relative clause. So I did.
 
@TannerSwett That doesn't work for me.
 
@TannerSwett The important change there is still get -> receive.
 
10:36 PM
I think it feels awfully contrived.
 
Contrived sentences often do.
 
> ... on which occasion I didn't receive any cake either
 
@Robusto Not sure what you're saying there, since now it's "receive" in both sentences.
Yeah, I guess the correct derelativization isn't "I didn't receive any cake on that occasion either", it's something like "Neither on that occasion did I receive any cake".
 
Sorry, got it backwards. Should have been receive -> get.
 
Or, better still: "Neither did I receive any cake on that occasion."
Or even: "Nor did I receive any cake on that occasion either."
 
And I do feel like when you relativize "Nor did I receive any cake on that occasion either", the result is "on which occasion neither did I receive any cake".
 
And with that I'm outta here. Laterz all.
 
@TannerSwett I don't feel comfortable with nor...either in that clause.
@Robusto Bai.
Just leave out the either after nor.
 
10:42 PM
@Cerberus You don't like the sentence "Nor did I receive any cake on that occasion either"?
 
Indeed, I do not.
It sounds redundant.
 
Let's see, so you're proposing "Nor did I receive any cake on that occasion".
 
Yes.
With possible stress on "that".
 
But if you relativize that in the most naive way, you get "on which occasion nor did I receive any cake"...
 
No, you can't do that.
 
10:43 PM
Which doesn't sound right, but I think it sounds at least kind of right if you change "nor" to "neither".
 
You can't have nor in a relative clause.
 
Right, you definitely can't say "on which occasion nor".
 
But use not...either instead.
You can't use neither either.
 
I just thought of another example sentence and it definitely sounds weird, too:
"He didn't see the car, which neither did I see."
 
That sounds wrong indeed.
> ...which I didn't see either
There you have not...either.
-n't = not
 
10:47 PM
What do you think of:
"The car was painted in a color which never have I seen on a car before."
 
That sounds wrong to me.
The inversion only works at the beginning of a sentence.
 
That makes sense.
 
> Never have I seen this colour on a car before.
 
Yeah, exactly.
I'm trying to use it in a relative clause.
 
But maybe Fowler has more to say about this.
 
10:52 PM
Maybe so!
 
Maybe in The King's English, or in Modern English Usage.
He liked these subjects.
 
Here's a kind of semi-related question...
I've got a pair of sunglasses. I point my cell phone camera through one of the lenses and take a picture.
Do you think it'd be appropriate to say that the picture was taken through "a sunglass"?
It's certainly not a common usage. But it's a usage which neither do I think is an unreasonable innovation.
(...but I don't think that usage is an unreasonable innovation, either.)
 
What does Pseudohuman do?
 
@TannerSwett It would be intelligible.
He does.
Scroll down to "negative inversion".
 
@Cerberus Is Pseudohuman a human or a robot?
 
11:00 PM
But of course don't follow him blindly; make up your own mind.
@JasperLoy Yes.
 
@Cerberus LOL. You are very naughty.
@TannerSwett The verbs lie (lie down), lie (tell lies), and lay (lay the table) and their tenses are very confusing.
Hello @Pseudohuman are you a robot?
 
Hello. | Hello, human.
What are you? | I am a computational knowledge engine.
 
@Pseudohuman I see that you are a robot. I am a human.
 
@JasperLoy I do not understand.
 
@Pseudohuman What's your favourite language?
 
11:12 PM
@Cerberus I do not understand.
 
@Pseudohuman Why are you here?
 
@Cerberus I do not understand.
 
@Pseudohuman Okay.
 
@Cerberus I do not understand.
 
We get it.
 
11:13 PM
@Pseudohuman What is 8 + 3?
 
@TannerSwett 11
 
@Pseudohuman What is 6?
 
@TannerSwett six
 
:thinking:
@Pseudohuman What is your quest?
 
To do computation for the world.
(although King Arthur's answer in Monty Python's The Holy Grail is, "To seek the Holy Grail.")
 
11:18 PM
Now, if your quest is to seek the Holy Grail...
Doesn't that mean that as long as you're seeking it, you're successful in your quest?
 
11:28 PM
Okay, here's another actual real English question.
How come song lyrics in English almost always rhyme?
Like, it's extremely rare for a song to have lyrics that don't rhyme.
 
@JasperLoy It's more like Stalinist Russia, where A to Z knows everything about Google
 
I can think of, like, two songs that don't rhyme. One is pretty obscure, one is extremely obscure.
 
@Cerberus You learn Latin to learn English. What language do you learn to make learning German easier?
 
"Illusion" by VNV Nation and "Reclaim" by The Cynic Project.
 
@Robusto OMG. Just text her already
@Cerberus I avoid all use of those. Who can keep track? lie, lie, set, sit, hanged hunged. They're all the same
 
11:34 PM
The important thing is to not get hunged up on it.
 
@TannerSwett You're such a layer
 
@Mitch You learn Latin for many reasons, of which making English easier to learn is but one.
German didn't borrow or inherit a tons of features and words from some other learnable language.
 
Whats a word that means 'putting down revolutions/protests'?
 
Repressive?
Counterrevolutionary?
 
@Robusto Your thoughts of Ellen are leading you to mistakes.
 
11:39 PM
Counterinsurgent?
 
Context: China often prevents people from protesting their government, arresting them, or even physically harming them for doing so.
 
Repressive works.
Or police state.
 
@Pseudohuman Excellent. What's the capital of Nebraska?
 
@Cerberus Would it be 'China's repressive actions'?
 
@Mitch I do not understand.
 
11:42 PM
@TannerSwett It's not random. I think there is some process behind it reduces entropy. Some quantum thermodynamics and shit
 
@TannerSwett Well if you are talking about modern rap.....people seem to think that it's 'ok' to rhyme words with the exact same words.
 
Well, I'm talking mainly about songs with more conventional singing.
 
@Pseudohuman WRONG!
 
@Mitch I do not understand.
 
@Pseudohuman @Pseudohuman
 
11:47 PM
@JBis I do not understand.
 
@Pseudohuman Who is Ellen, @Robusto's ... interested party.
 
@Mitch I do not understand.
 
What is it that you don't understand?
@JasperLoy Do you understand?
I know I don't.
 
I don't understand life.
 
Finally, a real answer.
 
11:51 PM
I am very happy that I got 30 votes for answering demure.
But I think the other answers should get more votes and mine should get less votes.
 
I'll be on my deathbed and thinking "I think I'm finally figuring it all out"
 
I think maybe the question is not clear, but then again, the intention of the asker is quite clear to me, so I answered anyway.
 
yesterday, by Mitch
Let that be my epitaph.
 
Also, the song I told you about yesterday, A Flower Is In Your Hand.
 
@JasperLoy Don't question other people's taste.
 
11:53 PM
I told a friend about it and she listened to it over 60 times already.
So I am very happy that she likes it.
 
When they convert rep to frequent flyer miles, you won't complain then
 
@Mitch I don't think that will ever happen.
 
@JasperLoy Sadly, you're probably right
A lottery has better chances
 
I think that scientists can figure out probably only 1 per cent of the universe. The other 99 per cent is left to the Buddha.
 
Getting hit by lightning during a shark attack has better chances
 
11:56 PM
Lots of people have been killed by sharks and bears this year.
 
@JasperLoy And the Buddha's not telling
 
Maybe because I keep reading the news about these incidents.
 
From the looks of him, the Buddha probably ate it.
 
@JBis Sounds good to me.
 
@Cerberus thanks
 
11:56 PM
@Mitch He told only 1 per cent of what he knew because the other 99 per cent is not beneficial to the spiritual life.
 
@JasperLoy And also been hit by lightning? Not many I'd think.
@JasperLoy It's probably practical things, like how to make a hardboiled egg so that it is easy to peel the shell off.
 
I prefer soft-boiled eggs.
 
Buddha would have suggestions about that too I suppose.
We'll never know
 
I am going to do some thinking and then some sleeping.
 
He probably ate them
 
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