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If it is a message from another time, from a distant star, why has it been put there ? A possible answer comes soon afterwards, when the first light of the sun touches the object. It then sends out a powerful radio signal, aimed exactly at Saturn.

Why do we use here Present Simple instead of Future Simple?

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  • Woul you tell us more about the sentence? However, simple present and present progressive can also refer to the future. – Cardinal Aug 14 '16 at 12:44
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    Can you please provide a link to the place where you have seen this sentence, so that we have a bit more information about the context? – JavaLatte Aug 14 '16 at 12:45
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    @JavaLatte: Sounds like it's from 2001: A Space Odyssey. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 18 '16 at 22:50
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If it is a message from another time, from a distant star, why has it been put there? A possible answer comes soon afterwards, when the first light of the sun touches the object. It then sends out a powerful radio signal, aimed exactly at Saturn.

In order to understand this it is easier to rephrase the sentence to:

Soon after we've asked the question we see that the first light of the sun touches the object and it sends out a powerful radio signal, aimed exactly at Saturn. So that is why it has been put there.

As we see "afterwards" here means: after the time mentioned.

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This is a story describing events that happened in the past, but it is written in a narrative style called Historic Present, where the present tense is used to describe past events.

Here is part of a more typical story that is written in the past:

I told him very gently, and afterwards he was very ashamed. Excalibur: a novel of Arthur

Two things happen in this sentence: first, "I told him", and then "he was very ashamed". Afterwards indicates that the second event occurred after the first event. Note that both events occurred in the past, and so are in simple past.

If we adopt the narrative style of the passage you quoted, where present tense is used to describe past events, it will look like this:

I tell him very gently, and afterwards he is very ashamed.

Both events still occurred in the past, but are now described in present tense, and afterwards places the second event firmly after the first event.

In your passage, the second event is "It then sends out a powerful radio signal, aimed exactly at Saturn." The first event is not described in the passage that you quoted, but is probably in a preceding paragraph.

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