will

Over the years, I have created a number of lessons and worksheets based on pop songs. My selection of songs tends to be oh so last century, but there are a few from this one. One of the textbooks I am using had a section on will for ‘future tense’.* I found Youtube clips for a number of songs, starting with We will rock you and made a ‘fill the gaps’ worksheet. For songs with multiple occurrences of will, I listed the following verbs in random order at the top for the students to select from. For songs with only one occurrence,  I left a gap for them to fill in, either by predicting (which they got better at doing as the lesson progressed) or by listening (or in some cases looking at the title of the Youtube video).

As I was playing the songs, I got thinking about what comes after the following verb in each case. English grammar allows a number of elements to follow any verb (and, equally, precludes others). Four of the songs had occurrences of will be. be is the most flexible (and therefore the most common) English verb, and can be followed by more elements than any other (I have counted eight).

Those occurrences were:
1) If I should stay, I’ll only be in your way. (I will always love you)
2) I will be right here waiting for you.
3) She will be loved.
4) Remember I’ll always be true. (All my loving)

In 1) and 4) be is the main verb, and must be followed by a complement. In 1) the complement is a prepositional phrase answering the questions ‘where?’. In 4) it is an adjective answering the question ‘what?’. In 2), it is the ‘continuous auxiliary’, which must be followed by a verb in ‘-ing’ form (here, waiting). (There are actually two elements. right here, by itself, has to be a complement in the form of an adverbial phrase, answering the question ‘where’. But waiting has to be part of the verb string, and therefore more essential; right here becomes ‘extra information’.) In 3), be is the ‘passive auxiliary’, which must be followed by a verb in passive participle form (here, loved). She will be loved means Someone will love her (probably me).

Once in Australia, a student said ‘I can’t believe you make grammar out of pop song’. I said ‘I make grammar out of everything!’.

*Strictly speaking, English does not have a ‘future tense’, but it is convenient to refer to it as such.

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