A Song with Relative Clauses: (#4) Present Simple Tense, Present Continuous Tense, Present Perfect Continuous Tense.

Crocodile

Why is this crocodile in the music video? I don’t know! What do YOU think?

 

          Songs are often short stories about a singer’s life. They usually use every-day language to describe the past, present, and/or future and so are valuable learning tools for students of English. The following song, Counting Stars, by One Republic is one such example. I’m not sure what they are singing about, but we can still examine some of the lines in the song and work out why those tenses have been used. (If you are interested in reading opinions on the meaning of this song, check out this site:)http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107859452557/)

* I suggest that, before you look at the Relative Clauses in the song, you refer to my post on Relative Clauses dated  July 24, 2013

** Grammar used in the song is explained below the lyrics.

Grammar is highlighted in these colours:    Present Perfect Continuous Tense Present Simple Tense       Present Continuous Tense     Relative Clauses

Here is a link to the Youtube video:  Song: Counting Stars by One Republic

[Chorus]
Lately I’
ve been, I’ve been losing sleep,
Dreaming about the things that we could be.
But baby I’
ve been, I’ve been praying hard;
Said no more counting dollars.
We’ll be counting stars.
Yeah, we’ll be counting stars.

[Verse 1]
I
see this life like a swinging vinecounting_stars-1894
Swing my heart across the line.
In my face
is flashing signs.
Seek it out and ye shall find.
Old, but I’
m not that old.
Young, but I’
m not that bold.
And I
don’t think the world is sold.
I’
m just doing what we’re told.

I feel something so right but (I’m)
doing the wrong thing.
I
feel something so wrong but (I’m)
doing the right thing.
I could lie, could lie, could lie.
Everything
that kills me makes me feel alive.

Ryan-Tedder-OneRepublic-onerepublic-9923009-500-404

Ryan Tedder from ONE REPUBLIC

[Chorus] x 2

[Verse 2]
I
feel the love and I feel it burn,
Down this river every turn.
Hope
is a four letter word.
Make that money.
Watch it burn.
Old, but I’
m not that old.
Young, but I’
m not that bold.
And I
don’t think the world is sold.
I’
m just doing what we’re told.                           

And I feel something so wrong but (I’m)
doing the right thing.
I could lie, could lie, could lie.
Everything
that drowns me makes me want to fly.

[Chorus] x 2

[Bridge 4x:]
Take that money.
Watch it burn.
Sink in the river the lessons I learned.

Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.

[Chorus] x 2

[Outro 4x:]
Take that money.
Watch it burn.
Sink in the river the lessons I learned.

 

* Present Perfect Continuous Tense

The song begins with Ryan Tedder singing “Lately I’ve been losing sleep.” This is a great introduction to his story. He uses Present Perfect Continuous Tense (have been losing) to describe an action that started in the past and has continued up to now. He has “… been dreaming about the things that we could be.” He has “… been praying hard”. It’s because of these recent actions that he is thinking about his life now and in the future.

These actions started in the past, but Past Simple Tense cannot be used because Past Simple Tense is only used for actions that started in the past and finished in the past. However, the losing sleep, the dreaming, and the praying, have not finished. To give information about the past and the present in one clause, we use Present Perfect Tense, or (as in this song) Present Perfect Continuous Tense when we want to make it clear that the action has been continuous and will probably continue.

* Present Simple Tense  * Present Continuous Tense

The singer describes his life. He uses Present Simple Tense because he is telling us about how things are, their state. He tells us how he feels, he gives opinions, and he gives advice:

       I see this life …

       … I’m not that old.

       I don’t think the world is sold.

       I feel something so wrong …

       Take that money.

       Watch it burn.

He uses Present Continuous Tense : I’m just doing what we’re told, because it’s an action in progress now,  at this time in his life. This is also true when he  sings that he’s “doing the wrong thing” and that he’s “doing the right thing“.

* Relative Clauses

I see this life like a swinging vine.

I’ve been dreaming about the things that we could be.

Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.

Everything that drowns me makes me want to fly.

Sink in the river the lessons I learned.

** Refer to my post on Relative Clauses date  Posted on July 24, 2013

The Relative Clauses in the song relate, or refer to, “the things” he is dreaming about; “everything” and “the lessons”. Take out the Relative Clause and an Independent Clause remains:

I see this life.

       I’ve been dreaming about the things.

       Everything makes me feel alive.

       Everything makes me want to fly.

       Sink in the river the lessons. (This sentence has unusual word order. This often happens in songs because the song-writer needs to fit the rhythm of the song. In normal spoken language, you would say: Sink the lessons in the river./Sink the lessons I’ve learned in the river.)

The Relative Clauses are included because they relate to, or define something in the Independent Clause. They are vital for meaning.

– He doesn’t just see “life”, but life which is “like a swinging vine“.

– He hasn’t just been dreaming about “things”, but “things that we could be”.

– “Everything” doesn’t make him feel alive”; only “Everything that kills me”.

-“Everything” doesn’t make him want to fly”, only “Everything that drowns me”.

– He’s not suggesting that ALL lessons should “sink in the river”, just “the lessons I learned”.

Because the Relative Clauses define something and can’t be left out without changing the meaning, we call them DEFINING Relative Clauses.

For more information on Relative Clauses, refer to my post on Relative Clauses date  Posted on July 24, 2013 The post features a song by SHAKIRA containing Relative Clauses.  Another post links you to a song by SHANIA TWAIN containing Relative Clauses.

 I hope that you enjoy this wonderful song. The music is dynamic, the singer’s voice is fantastic and the language is colourful and powerful. Listen and learn and have fun!

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This entry was posted in Grammar, Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Songs and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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