Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Did You See What You Saw?


Once again I find it necessary to teach you something you should have learned in elementary school! When you should have been conjugating verbs, you were busy making cootie catchers. Your poor teacher did her best, but you were watching the clock trying to figure out how long it was until recess.
analog clock

Now here you are, a grown adult, going around talking like you've never been to school in your life. Interestingly enough, this seems to be a problem in speaking but not in writing. At least I can't think of a time when I've seen the problem. Mostly it's a problem you hear.

Let's start with a pop quiz. Fill in the blank with "saw" or "seen." Answers at the end of the post.
1. I ______ you at the store yesterday.
2. I have ______ that movie three times.
3. That old car has ______ better days.
4. You should have ______ Michael trying to get that pretty girl's attention.
5. She ______ him, but she had her nose so high she could have drowned in a rainstorm. (This saying brought to you by My Hillbilly.)
girl with mean expression
Source


Okay, let's start with the basics. Verbs show action. You knew that much, right? Good. The verb tense tells when the action occurred: past, present, or future.Verbs take on different forms to show different tenses. Listing those different forms is called conjugating the verb. Here's the abbreviated version:


Present Tense                    Past Tense                        Future Tense
I walk                                   I walked                           I will walk    
You walk                             You walked                      You will walk
He walks                              He walked                       He will walk

girls walking with suitcase
Everybody's walking!

There are three more tenses you might have forgotten about. Your high school English teacher taught you these, but there was this cutie sitting next to you, and you were worried about how your hair looked, so you couldn't be expected to actually learn grammar. (I'm rolling my eyes here, you know.)

These are the perfect tenses. They are the forms we use with the helping verbs, have, has, or had:


Present Perfect                 Past Perfect                         Future Perfect
I have walked                    I had walked                             I will have walked
You have walked               You had walked                     You will have walked
He has walked                  He had walked               He will have walked

So far so good, right? Walk is a regular verb, and regular verbs are easy. You just add -ed to the end to get the past tense or the perfect tenses. Simple.

The problem comes along when we get to the irregular verbs. Irregular verbs just give you fits because they don't follow any rules.  They seem to form the past tense and perfect tenses any ol' way they want to. Nevertheless, each irregular verb does have a correct past tense and past participle. (The past participle is what we call the form we use in the perfect tenses.)

So  now we finally get to saw and seen. We start with the verb "to see." Saw is the past tense, and seen is the past participle. We use saw by itself. We use seen with the helping verbs have, has, or had. We never use "seen" without a helping verb!  Let's conjugate the verb "to see."


Present Tense                    Past Tense                        Future Tense
I see                                     I saw                               I will see
You see                              You saw                            You will see
He sees                              He saw                              He will see


Present Perfect                 Past Perfect                         Future Perfect
I have seen                         I had seen                             I will have seen
You have seen                    You had seen                        You will have seen
He has seen                        He had seen                 He will have seen

So what does all this mean? It means you have to quit going around saying things like, "I seen Margie yesterday"!  It is incorrect to say, "Have you saw that three-legged dog running around here?" You are doing it exactly backward, and you must stop! You're giving me a headache!!


To make this easier for you, I'm giving you a link to a Partial List of Irregular Verbs. You may keep it for your very own. Use it when you're not sure you're correct. Oh, go ahead and use it when you are sure you're correct because you're probably wrong anyway. Just use it. Here's a little sample:


Present Tense
Past Tense
Past Participle
Use with have/has/had
arise
arose
arisen
awake
awoke
awoken
(be) is, am, are
was, were
been
become
became
become
begin
began
begun
blow
blew
blown
break
broke
broken
bring
brought
brought


Alrighty, let's correct that pop quiz.


1. I saw you at the store yesterday.
2. I have seen that movie three times.
3. That old car has seen better days.
4. You should have seen Michael trying to get that pretty girl's attention.
5. She saw him, but she had her nose so high she could have drowned in a rainstorm.
 How did you do? I'm sure you did very well, because my readers are the very smartest readers around. You know I was really writing to all those other people. The ones who don't.....ummm..... wait.  If they don't read this, how will we fix them?

Okay. Go out there and get your friends to read this! The ones who need it. You know who they are. In the meantime, leave a comment. Was this easy to understand? Do I need to explain anything more clearly? And what should I tackle next? We all know there's a lot of grammar out there that needs fixin'!


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