Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023


This paper presents a text-based analysis of the communicative functions of the simple past and pluperfect tenses of English, and offers a pedagogical approach to assist learners in acquiring them. Following a functional, usage-based linguistics perspective, the analysis holds that the simple past expresses Time PAST, while the pluperfect expresses Time PAST, BEFORE. Thus only the latter tense signals a speaker's subjective creation of a linkage in time. The understanding of these meanings can enhance an English language teacher's effectiveness in the classroom (as in selecting texts and activities) and a language user's effectiveness in communication. A classroom-based pedagogical application using Form-Focused Instruction (an approach which integrates grammatical awareness with communication) is provided as illustration.


Thanks especially to Dr. Joseph Davis, without whom this paper could not have been written, to Dr. Alan Huffman, Dr. Eduardo Ho-Fernandez, Aaron Liebman, Dr. Ellen Contini-Morava, Kelli Hesseltine, and Dr. Radmila Gorup, for much helpful commentary and advice, and to the Columbia School Linguistic Society for the financial and academic support.



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