I am curious why there is no plural for past/future tense.


present tense - He hurts himself while cutting the fruits.

past tense - He hurt himself while cutting the fruits.

future tense - He might hurt himself while cutting the fruits.

  • The only plural in any of those sentences, "fruits," is plural in all three tenses, so . . . – curious-proofreader Jun 22 '16 at 15:32

Saying that "verbs are singular for past and future tense" or "there is no plural for past/future tense" is a very awkward, unintuitive way of putting this. The verb form in English for second person never conjugates for number, but I would not say that "you all are" uses a singular verb with a plural meaning.

I would say instead that the singular and plural forms are identical for verbs in the past and future tense, or in the second person; another way to think of it is that there is no singular/plural distinction at all for verb forms in these categories.

In fact, though, there is one verb that has separate singular and plural past-tense forms: "to be," which has I, he, she, it was but we, you, they were.

As for "why"... it's just how the various forms have evolved. Historically, a lot of suffixes have been lost from English words, which caused a lot of inflectional forms that were once distinct to fall together in the modern language.

The future tense example is actually not an isolated occurrence; the verb will falls into the more general category of "modal auxiliaries," which all lack inflection for number. Other modal verbs are would, can, could, shall, should, must.

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Hurts is third person singular present simple. The form is hurt for all other persons and number in this tense. This is the only person that has a different form. This applies to using has rather than have in such third person singular conjugations as present perfect (He has hurt), present perfect continuous (He has been hurting himself).

Other than that, only the verb to be has different forms. In the past tense, there is only the choice of was and were depending on person and mood.

There is no future tense conjugation in English. We have different ways of taking about future time. These include using modals (usually will) and to be going to. The latter conjugates just like to be, so they are going to hurt themselves is a third person plural construction that refers to future time. Modal verbs such as will and might do not change forms for person or number.

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