In grammar, tense is a category that expresses time reference. Tenses are usually manifested by the use of specific forms of verbs, particularly in their conjugation patterns. The main tenses found in many languages include the past, present, and future. Some languages have only two distinct tenses, such as past and nonpast, or future and nonfuture. There are also tenseless languages, like most of the Chinese languages, though they can possess a future and nonfuture system typical of Sino-Tibetan languages. In recent work Maria Bittner and Judith Tonhauser have described the different ways in which tenseless languages nonetheless mark time. On the other hand, some languages make finer tense distinctions, such as remote vs recent past, or near vs remote future.
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