Grammar Got Run Over By a Reindeer

death of grammar

Several people sent this to me — but so far, I haven’t been able to work out how this makes any sense grammatically. And if it doesn’t, of course, it’s less a punchline than just word soup.

Can any language mavins help out here?


  1. From :

    You might have heard of the imperfect tense before – you might even use it in your own language. In Spanish, it’s the difference between “estuve” and “estaba.” In French, it’s the difference between “je mange” and “je mangeais.”
    In fact, many languages have some form of the imperfect tense built into their grammar, some in more subtle ways than others. English is no exception to this, for even though it is not necessarily considered to be a standard tense, there actually many ways that the imperfect tense in English can be expressed.
    The imperfect tense is a combination of the past tense and a continuous or repeating aspect. Oftentimes, this includes a sense of incompletion in the verb, but not always. In English, there are a few ways to make a verb imperfect. One of them is the utilize what is called the past progressive tense. For example:

  2. It’s … kind of misleading. And kind of pointless. It’s refering to the phrase “Next year I will have been” which I *think* is acceptable as a “future imperfect”. It’s not about Scrooge dying within 12 months or being the christmas of next year as it first seems. It’s about what he is *now*. In a year he will have been what he is now.

  3. Woozy says:

    “Next year I will have been” which I *think* is acceptable as a “future imperfect”.

    Not quite. As I said in comment #1, it’s exactly a “future perfect”. Perfect is different from imperfect, of course.

    I assume he was just trying to get even more of a grammar nerd flavor by saying “future imperfect”. But as I say in comment #2 and only partly retract in comment #3 (if you are able to read it, sorry about that), English does not really have an imperfect as a conjugation form — though there are ways of expressing the imperfective, e.g. with a continuous or “progressive” conjugation.

    So a past imperfect for English would be expressed as a (present) perfect continuous form — “have been going” — or even as a past perfect continuous form — “had been going” — and a future imperfective would be a future perfect continuous — “will have been doing”.

  4. ” Death he’s grammatically incorrect?”

    Although there are similarities, ghost of christmas yet to come and death are not the same (well, one might be a subset of the other).

    GCYTC didn’t talk though….

  5. I think he’s saying that, since he will continue on as Ghost of Christmas Future, then, in retrospect, it will become clear that, at this point, he actually had already started an ongoing continual existence.

    However, as other people have said, this doesn’t actually make him future continuous. But that merely means that the Ghost of Christmas Future isn’t as good at grammar as he thinks he is. And given that, if I remember the story, that Ghost doesn’t even speak, there’s no reason to suspect he actually IS a grammar maven in the first place.

  6. I took it as (aside from any actual grammar meaning) “If I show you the future, and you change things, my prediction will no longer be correct”

  7. m5rammy, that’s better than any of the other interpretations I’ve seen or thought of. So I don’t know why I think it’s not what Coverly had in mind.

  8. If an English teacher is discovered to have had illicit affairs long ago, you might say that her imperfect past makes her future tense.

  9. — I had a strange dream. I was transformed into a circus bigtop. Then again I became a Plains teepee.

    — Aha, that shows the problem clearly — you’re two tents.

  10. OT, but it seems to me that Ghost of Christmas Present should be entirely made of discarded wrapping paper and unused gift receipts.

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