Today's focus is on the verb tenses used in reports.
DENISE: Today we're looking at our new widget plant being built at Southside. I've asked Barbara to report on progress and bring us up to date and up to speed. Barbara?
BARBARA: Thanks Denise. I'll just outline the process we've been through, identify some problems, and give you an estimate on completion time and the outcome financially.
JOHN: Is it good news or bad news?
BARBARA: Bear with me. Now, if you recall, after a feasibility study, we put the project out to tender eighteen months ago, and selected Ezybuild as our project manager.
Work commenced about fifteen months ago, and it's been progressing to schedule until recently.
DENISE: What's the problem?
BARBARA: Unfortunately there are three: Firstly, there's been a delay in materials - specifically steel because of industrial issues at the suppliers. Secondly, we've lost days due to the weather. And finally, there's been a resulting cost blowout.
JOHN: So what are we going to do?
BARBARA: Well, they've managed to get another supplier now. I suggested moving the completion date back. That way, there's no penalty, and they agreed to re-deploy their workers until building can start again.
JOHN: Smart thinking.
BARBARA: We've been waiting for the rain to stop - but we can't control the weather!
DENISE: And the cost?
BARBARA: At this stage, just a small overage. But I'll be watching it very closely over the next few months. With no more delays, we're expecting to complete the project just one month behind schedule.
DENISE: Good work Barbara.
Today's episode is a focussed meeting with a specific purpose. Barbara has been asked to report on the progress of a project. Our focus today is on the verb tenses she uses to report. Firstly, let's look at how Denise asks for Barbara's report.
Denise says 'Today we're looking at our new widget plant'.
She uses the present continuous tense.
'We're looking' or 'We are looking' - because she's telling them what they are doing, and what they are going to do at the meeting now.
She doesn't use the simple present 'we look', because that is used for regular actions.
Then she says 'I've asked Barbara to report'.
She uses the present perfect tense: 'I have asked' because she asked Barbara to report before the meeting, and Baraba is about to give her report.
We'll look more at present perfect later.
And she wants Barbara to bring them 'up to date' and 'up to speed'.
These are common expressions - to bring someone 'up to date' is to tell them what has happened up to the present. And to bring someone 'up to speed' is to make sure they know all the relevant facts.
How does Barbara respond?
She says 'I'll just outline the process…"
She uses the future tense: I will, because she's talking about something she's going to do in the next few minutes. Notice that the 'will' is not repeated, but it applies to all three of the things she says she is going to do.
Let's see how Barbara reports on progress.
Because Barbara is describing events in the past, she uses the simple past tense.
We put the project out to tender.
We selected Ezybuild as the project manager.
These events happened in the past, and they are finished.
Again we see the simple past in the phrase: Work commenced about fifteen months ago. The work started at a particular time in the past. But look at the next phrase: "It's been progressing to schedule"
When we look at continuous events - things that happen over a period of time, we use a continuous tense. The work started in the past, and it has continued until the present. This is called the present perfect continuous tense. 'It's' here is short for 'It has'. Try some other examples with Barbara.
Work's been going on since last year.
We've been monitoring progress continuously.
I've been checking the work regularly.
Now let's look at how Barbara describes the three problems.
Notice the verb tense Barbara uses.
There's been a delay; 'we've lost days'; 'there's been a cost blowout.'
These are all present perfect verbs, using 'has' or 'have'.
'There has been',
'we have lost.'
Present perfect tense is used to describe events which began in the past and are still true now.
In business it can be important to use the correct verb tense - using the wrong one can change the meaning - for example, if Barbara said 'There was a delay' - it means this delay happened in the past, and there is no delay now.
If she says 'there is a delay', she means that delay is still happening - they are still losing time.
But if she says 'there has been a delay', she means the delay started in the past and has continued up until the present. But as we'll see - she is now fixing the problem.
Let's look at the verb tenses here...
'They've managed to get another supplier.' They managed to get another supplier in the past, and that supplier is still now supplying the materials.
I suggested moving the completion date back. She suggested it at a particular time in the past.
There's no penalty. There is no penalty now.
They agreed to redeploy their workers - they agreed at a particular time in the past. Redeployed means they were sent to work somewhere else.
Look now at the last part of the scene.
Here we see some examples of continuous tenses to help meaning.
We've been waiting - we have been waiting for the rain to stop, and we are still waiting.
I'll be watching - I will be watching in the future over a long time.
We're expecting - we are expecting at the moment, and we will continue to expect in the future.
Notice also how Denise asks a question.
She says 'and the cost?' The upward inflection in her voice - 'and the cost?' tells us this is a question, although it's not a complete sentence. The complete sentence would be - 'What will it cost?' In spoken English, this is very common.
Practise some examples with Denise.
And the cost?
And the result?
And the reason?
Today we looked at reporting back. Remember, first summarise what you are going to report on. We also focussed on the different verb tenses, which help exact meaning.
That's all we have time for today, so I hope we'll be seeing you next time for The Business of English.