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International Crises and Verb Forms

International Crises and Verb Forms
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An international crisis – the invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine – has been one of the top stories in the news in recent days.

In today’s report, we will explore some of the language that is often used during such crises. You will learn about verb forms, including the simple present, present continuous, and present perfect continuous.

Live reporting

Live reporting plays an important part in the news coverage of international crises. Reporters generally discuss events that are ongoing, events that happened in the recent past, and events that are likely to happen in the near future.

Let’s listen to a VOA news report and explore some of the verb forms.

We are here reporting from the train station in the capital of Ukraine, the city of Kyiv. It’s a quiet morning here after several days of violence...

We understand that Russia and Ukrainian officials will be speaking today, and in the meantime many families are using this brief time of quietness to try to get out.

Notice that the reporter used several different verb forms.

The report began with the present continuous verb form. The reporter said, “We are here reporting...” because the action of reporting is ongoing.

The next sentence used the simple form of the verb be: “It is a quiet morning here...”

In this case, the reporter uses the simple present form to describe the general state or mood in the area at the present time. Then the reporter uses an interesting verb: understand. She says, “We understand...”

This term is common in reporting. But it has a slightly different meaning from what you might expect.

In this case, “understand” means to think or believe something based on what you have heard, read, or seen.

“Understand” is a stative verb: a verb that describes a state. It is used in its simple form. That is why the reporter said “we understand” instead of something like, “we are understanding.”

The reporter then uses the future continuous, as in “Russian and Ukrainian officials will be speaking today...”

In this case, the future verb form suggests that the activity will take place at some point later in the day and will last for some amount of time – perhaps a long time, perhaps a short amount of time.

Present perfect continuous

During crises, speeches or talks by politicians or experts might include some different verb forms or language than what a live reporter might use.

Let’s listen to a few words from President Joe Biden’s speech regarding the invasion of Ukraine.

For weeks, we have been warning that this would happen, and now it’s unfolding largely as we predicted.

In this case, President Biden used the present perfect continuous, as in “we have been warning...”

This suggests that the action began at some point in the past and continues up to or near the present moment in time.

Because the action began at an unclear time, English speakers sometimes use a time expression along with the verb form.

Biden, for example, gives a general sense of time by using the words “For weeks.”

The same structure of time expression + present perfect continuous appears in all kinds of discussions about crises. For example, you might hear or read something like:

“For years, experts have been expecting...”


“For months, officials have been discussing...”

Closing thoughts

The next time that you watch the news during a crisis, pay careful attention to the verb forms that speakers use. Ask yourself why the speaker used that verb form instead of another.

This process will improve your understanding of the news. It also will help you understand verb forms when speaking in everyday situations or when reading.

I’m John Russell.

John Russell wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

present continuous – n. (grammar) a verb tense that is used to refer to an action or a state that is continuing to happen; it consists of a form of the verb "be" followed by the main verb's present participle.

present perfect continuous – n. (grammar) a verb form that is formed with has/have been and a present participle

meantime – n. during the time before something happens or before a specified period ends

unfold – v. to happen as time passes