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Associate Professor Luiza KRAFT, PhD

Consider the following examples:
(1) What is a destroyer?
(2) How does the military dictionary describe the keel?
(3) How has the Navy developed throughout the history?

1. Questions to which we can reply by ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are called Yes/No

questions. They have a form of be or an auxiliary (e.g. can, must, have, do, did,
would, etc.) before the subject, and are followed by the main verb in the form
required by each tense, i.e., the short infinitive, the – ing form or the Past Participle.

a. Is the officer in the operations area?
b. Can this new recruit read the map?
c. Are the humanitarian aid convoys going to leave?
d. Has the recon detachment debriefed yet?

2. Wh-questions start by a question word or wh-word (e.g. where, who,

what, etc.) which goes before be or the auxiliary.

a. Where is the checkpoint located?
b. What did the metal detector probe?
c. Where has the peacekeeping mission established its support

3. If the question word is the subject or part of the subject, then the word
order is the same as in a statement.
a. Who used deadly force against civilian vehicles?
b. What happened during the air strike?
c. Which of the factions will attempt to surrender?
d. How many casualties are you expecting?

4. Who is for people. What is for things. Which is used for both people and
things to express a choice.

a. What responsibilities does the unit commander have?
b. Who is responsible for all movement of personnel and supplies?
c. Which clothes do Navy recruits wear when they are off duty?

5. Here are examples of other wh-questions:

a. Where was your section halted?
b. When did the ambush start?
c. Why did the NGO convoy truck break down?
d. Whose patrol has been moving in a heavily populated area since
e. How long has the CJTF been in that area of operations?
f. How many civilians will be displaced in the next few days?

1. We use the Simple Past Tense to talk about a completed action in the
past. We often use it with time expressions like yesterday, in 1998, last week, 5
years ago, in questions starting by When…?, etc.

A: When did World War II start?
B: It started about 60 years ago, in 1939 and didn’t end till 1945.

2. The Simple Past is common in story telling, debriefing and when we are
informing people about past events or relating past experience.
The platoon left the camp early on Friday morning and marched, without
stopping, to the riot area. It took about 6 hours to get there. After they crossed
the bridge, they stopped in a small deserted village, and had some water...

3. The Simple Past is often used with references to finished periods and
moments of time.
My parents lived in Japan for three years, and then they went to live in

4. We also use this tense to talk about repeated events or habits in the past.
When George was young, he always walked to school and jogged every
morning before breakfast.

5. We use the Past Progressive Tense to talk about actions and events
happening around a particular time in the past and to give background
They were traveling to different places for their postings, like Turkey
and Portugal.

6. These two tenses are often used together. The Past Simple and the Past
Progressive are linked by as, when and while.
One day, while I was patrolling the area with my platoon, I came across
a booby trap.

When discussing / narrating past events, you may sometimes have to

decide whether to use the Simple Past or the Present Perfect tense.

Simple Past example:

(i) I did my work yesterday.
(ii) A suicide car bomb attack carried out by the BLA on 28 July 2004 in
Capella killed 18, including 4 foreign energy workers.
The Simple Past (did / killed) indicates that a situation or activity started
and ended at a specific time in the past (yesterday / on 28 July 2004).

Present Perfect example:

(i) I have already done my work.
(ii) Bombs planted in public buildings, government facilities and
commercial centers have caused widespread damage and scores of

The Present Perfect is a verb phrase made up of the present form of the
auxiliary have (i.e., has or have) and a past participle (the third form of the verb)1.
It indicates or gives the idea that something happened (or didn’t happen, e.g., I
haven’t done my work yet.) at some indefinite time in the past. When it happened
is of no consequence.
If a specific time is indicated (yesterday), the Simple Past is used. However,
when no specific time in the past is indicated (the work is done, but it does not
say when it was done), the Present Perfect is used.

The Present Perfect Tense with time expressions for and since
When the Present Perfect is used with for or since, a situation or activity is
indicated which started in the past and continues to the present. For indicates
duration, and since indicates a specific time.
The general has been here for almost an hour.
For almost and hour indicates a duration of time beginning at an indefinite
point in the past and continuing up to the present.
The general has been here since 09:00.
Since 09:00 indicates a time beginning at a specific point in the past and
continuing up to the present.

Remember the following main points about the Present Perfect:

1. We use the Present Perfect Simple to talk about an incomplete action
or event which started in the past at an indefinite time and continues up to the
present. We often use for and since with it.

I have had the same position in the company HQ for 10 months, since

2. We also use it to talk about actions or experiences in the past without

saying when they actually happened (in other words, the time is not important).
We often use ever and never with it.

Have you ever been posted away?

3. We use the Present Perfect Simple to refer to an action which happened

in the past and has an impact on the present. We often use already, yet, up to now
and its synonyms with it.
So far I have attended many development courses and have received 2
medals for distinguished service in the Land Forces.
4. We use the Present Perfect Progressive to talk about an action or event
which started in the past at indefinite time and continues in the present. This tense
emphasizes that the activity or event is still in progress. It can also show the
speaker’s annoyance or disagreement to the action or event.
(i) A: What have you been doing since you got here?
B: Well, I have been sorting out correspondence.
(ii) Where have you been? I have been staying here in the rain, waiting
for you to show up!

1. When discussing future events, we use will to express facts, to give

instructions and to talk about scheduled events. We also use it to make
predictions, often with an adverb of probability to say how sure we are of the

(i) There will be neither ground services, nor any refueling
available on the ground.
(ii) All flights will avoid the runway and will use the taxiways
for emergency takeoffs and landings.
(iii) Weather information suggests that daytime temperatures in
the assembly area will probably reach zero degrees at noon.

Grammar Note: In contemporary English we use will for spontaneous

offers and decisions (the so-called WILL - FUTURE or Future Simple), going
to for decisions made before the moment of speaking (i.e., GOING TO -
FUTURE) and the Present Progressive for arrangements.
2. We use the Future Progressive to talk about an action which starts at a
certain, specified time in the future and continues over a period of time.

You will be launching at zero four hundred Zulu tomorrow
morning, July 23rd.

This grammar unit is a review of the most common modals used with verbs
in simple tenses.
A modal is an auxiliary verb that functions with a main verb and carries
a special meaning or function. Modals are used with the short infinitive of the

The main communicative functions of the modal auxiliaries followed by a

Present Infinitive, i.e., the short Infinitive of the verb, are:
a. To express ability: use Can; the negative of can is cannot (can’t).
The USS Enterprise (Big E), the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in
the world, can travel at speeds over 60 km/h.
The new recruits cannot march well in formation, but will quickly learn.

b. To give and request permission: Can and may are used. May is
usually used in formal situations; can is informal. May not is more emphatic than
Pvt Gregory: May I take leave on Friday, sir?
Capt David: No, you may not.

c. To make polite requests: Would, could, and will when used with "you"
are all used. All have about the same meaning, except for could, which carries a
slight meaning of possibility. (Do you want to do this? Is it possible for you to do
this?) Please is often used.
Maj Thompson: Sergeant, could you get Captain Adams on the line?
Sgt Mattis: Yes, sir. I will do it right now.
Would you please remind the major that the briefing on the mission
training plan (MTP) will be held at 1400?
a. To express possibility (maybe, perhaps): use may and might. May
expresses more certainty than might.

Since a lieutenant usually does not have free access to his brigade
commander, a proper chain of command may give him a better perspective of his
Some of these products may currently be under development.
The system increases the ability of the Alliance to prepare for, and respond
to, the full range of crises that the Alliance might be required to face.

e. To express probability or inference: use must. Must can also be

followed by be+Ving (Progressive Infinitive), to express an inference about an
action in progress.
The captain is not here today; he must be ill.
The soldiers are not in their office. They must be training in the field.
f. To give advice, make recommendations, or remind someone of
something important: should, ought to, and had better are used. For questions
and negatives, we usually use should or had better.
FPGs should guide a planner in drafting the annex to an operational plan
for a specific functional area.
Hadn’t you better complete the report today?

NOTE 1: Had better implies that, if the advice or recommendation is not

followed, the outcome might be a bad one.
The clouds look very grey. You had better take your umbrella. (=
otherwise, you may get wet to the bone).

NOTE 2: Should and ought to are also used to express expectation.

Finish putting the meeting room in order. The general should be here any
The meeting ought to start on time.

g. To express obligation and necessity: must and have to are used. Must
(obligation) has a stronger meaning than have to (necessity) and refers mostly to
laws and regulations. Had to is used for both the past of must and have to, with
no difference in meaning or modal function:
Complementary Planning Tools are other essential documents which
planners must consult.
Capt Paulson has to attend the mission briefing at 0900 this morning.
Capt Paulson had to attend the mission briefing yesterday.

h. To express prohibition: must not stresses that something is not

allowed or is against the law or regulations. It can also be used as a warning.
The unit’s planning procedures must not be long; they must be as brief
and to the point as possible.

i. To express lack of necessity: not have to shows that something is not

necessary or required.
Military personnel on base don’t have to wear their uniforms when they
are off duty.
To summarize:

Talking about the past

Many modal auxiliaries can be used with the Perfect Infinitive (have + V
Past Participle) to express the speaker’s attitude about the past.

a. Deduction in the past to express certainty:

Use must have + the Past Participle of the verb when you are sure something
in the past is true as a logical conclusion based on the known facts.
Cooper must have brought the bomb without anyone seeing this.
b. Possibility in the past:
Use may have / might have or could have + Past Participle when you think
something in the past is possible.
Cooper might have escaped to Mexico, also he may have died or he could
have stayed in the mountains.

Use the negative forms may not have/ might not have when you think
something possibly did NOT happen in the past.
The thief may / might not have spent all the money he had stolen.

c. Impossibility in the past:

Use the negative forms can’t have or couldn’t have + Past Participle when
you are sure something in the past is NOT true.
Cooper can’t / couldn’t have spent all the money because some of it was found

d. Advisability after the fact:

Use should / shouldn’t have or ought / oughtn’t have + Past Participle to
talk about unreal situations, different from what actually happened.
This communicative function implies regret, criticism and advisability after
the event happened.
I shouldn’t have become a doctor. (but I did!) It’s too much work.
I should have phoned Sue. (but I didn’t!)
You ought to have brought a spare set of keys. (but you didn’t!)

i. Real Conditions

Certain conditional clauses express something that may or will actually

come to pass. Real conditions are those which presently exist, are probable, or
are likely to happen. The Simple Present, the Present Progressive, or the Present
Perfect tense is used in the if-clause, and the Future tense, a modal, or the
imperative form of the verb is used in the main, or result, clause:
If + Verb Simple Present, Present Progressive, Present Perfect +… Will/Can/May/Must +
Verb short Infinitive

If you go to the "J" area, you may find Capt Adams.

If you haven’t found Capt Adams, check in the "J" area.
If you are looking for Capt Adams, you can find him in the "J" area.
If you haven’t found Capt Adams yet, you probably will meet him
ii. Unreal Conditions
Unreal or contrary-to-fact conditions are those that are impossible,
improbable, or not likely to happen. They can belong to either the present or
the past.
a. Present Unreal Conditions

We use the unreal present conditional to refer to unreal, or hypothetical,

situations. The verb form in the if-clause is in the Simple Past tense, except for
the verb be. Were, not was, is used with singular nouns and I, he, she, and it.
The verb form in the main, or result, clause is would or a modal + the main verb
in the short Infinitive:
If + Verb Simple Past, Past Progressive +… Would/Could/Might + Verb short Infinitive
If I were you, I would take the leadership course.
Could or might may be used instead of would with a slight difference in
meaning. Could expresses ability or possibility, but does not include desire or
willingness. Would indicates the desire to do something. Might indicates a slight
He would probably feel better if he exercised regularly.
If you left for the border now, you could be there in two hours.
Petty Officer Mills would answer the phone if he were at his desk.
If it weren’t raining, we could jog for exercise.
To put it briefly, remember that:

b. Past Unreal Conditions

Looking back at past times, we know whether events really occurred or
not. By using conditional sentences, we can still talk about events that did not
For the past unreal condition, the verb in the if-clause is in the Past Perfect
tense. The verb in the main clause is in the Perfect Conditional form:
If + Verb Past Perfect+… Would/Could/Might + Have + Verb IIIrd form

I didn’t know there was diving practice last night. I would have been there
if I had known about it.
If Sgt Redford had left at 0900, he might have been there by now.

Knowledge of prepositions is very important in maritime English in order

to describe location or give direction in navigation.
Depending on context, many prepositions can have several different
meanings. It is often possible for more than one preposition to be used correctly
in a phrase.

The prepositional phrase, an important element of English sentences,

consists of a preposition and its object. The object of a preposition is a noun or
noun equivalent, such as a pronoun, and its modifiers.
Establish an outpost at this point on the ridge line.
At this point and on the ridge line are prepositional phrases.
In the example, point is the object of the preposition at and ridge is the
object of the preposition on.

Here is a list of some common single-word prepositions:

about above across

after against along
among around at
before behind below
beneath beside besides
between beyond by
despite down during
for from in
into like near
of off on
out over since
through throughout till
to toward towards
under until up
upon with within

Some other prepositions are compound.

out of in the event of
Chart of Place and Direction
Sometimes, it helps to visualize the meanings of words. The circle which
follows illustrates place-direction prepositions:

The military writing style stresses the use of the active voice. The use of
the active voice in writing is usually better than the use of the passive voice. There
are three important reasons for that:
1. The active voice is direct, forceful, and easy to understand. By
contrast, the passive voice can be vague, evasive, and hard to
2. The active voice is more conversational than the passive voice.
(We normally speak in the active voice.)
3. Sentences in the active voice are shorter than sentences in the
passive voice.
Nevertheless, you will often find the passive voice used in military
publications and may be tempted to use it. The purposes for studying the passive
voice in this grammar unit are to enable you to understand passive constructions
and to encourage you to use the active voice when appropriate.

Active versus Passive Voice

The difference between the active voice and the passive one is a matter of
emphasis. You need to differentiate whether you want to emphasize the doer or
the receiver of the action. If you emphasize the doer, the sentence is active. If
you emphasize the receiver, the sentence is passive. In an active sentence, the
doer of the action is at the beginning of the sentence. In a passive sentence, the
doer is at the end and the receiver of the action is at the beginning.
Active: Doer + Verb + Receiver
The captain + issued + the order.
Passive: Receiver + Verb + Doer
The order + was issued + by the captain.
The passive sentence above could also read, "The order was issued," and
still be grammatically correct. However, the listener/reader would not know who
sent the message. The active voice forces the listener/reader to include this
You can recognize a passive sentence by its verb structure. A passive
sentence always has a verb phrase containing a form of the verb to be and the
past participle (the third form) of an action verb.
If a modal auxiliary (will, must, should, can, etc.) accompanies the main
verb in the active voice, the modal is attached to the be- verb when the sentence
is changed to the passive voice. For example, We should type all letters.  All
letters should be typed.
If the main verb is in a progressive or perfect tense in the active voice,
the auxiliary verbs be and have are added to the be-verb when sentences are
changed to the passive voice.
They are processing the soldiers.  The soldiers are being processed.
We have checked the barracks.  The barracks have been checked.

The second part is always the main verb in the third form (Past Participle):
To Be + Past Participle:
I am + required by my commander to attend the class.
He was + instructed by his captain to attend every briefing.
They have been + given the exams by their instructors.
The material will be + required by this agency.
The staff could not be + notified by the commander.

The preposition by often appears in the sentence that is passive. It is a

possible clue to the use of passive voice in writing, since it can introduce the doer
at the end of the sentence.
Example: The tests are given weekly by the teachers.

Active Voice Military Writing

The use of the active voice in writing is preferable to the use of the passive
voice for three reasons. It is more direct, more forceful, and easier to understand. It
makes your writing sound more like speech. It is also shorter.
There are two more reasons why the military prefers using active voice in
writing. First, when writing reports, we need to stress who did what, so the active
voice is better. Imagine reading these reports:
Weak: The M16 rifles were stolen from the bivouac site.
The operation plan (OPLAN) was submitted late.
What else do you want to know? Who did it. So, writing in the active form
and including the doer up front is stronger.
Strong: A six-foot tall middle-aged man with brown hair stole the M16s.
CPT Jones submitted the operation plan (OPLAN) late.
Second, when writing orders, we should emphasize who must do what. So
the active voice is preferable here, too.
Weak: Hill 424 must be attacked at 0430 (No doer mentioned.)
Strong: Company Q will attack Hill 424 at 0430.
Weak: The motor pool must be policed by 1800. (No doer.)
Strong: SSG Doe's section must police the motor pool by 1800.

In sum, active voice in writing is the voice of authority. It is clear, concise,

and to the point. There is no evasion and no hiding of responsibility.

A. Phrasal verbs consist of a verb + adverb/preposition. They are often

verbs of action/movement.
The commandos blew up the bridge. (to blow up = to make something
Harriers take off vertically. (to take off = to go into the air)
The carrier battle group will take over the primary defensive capabilities
for the group. (to take over = to assume)

B. The basic meaning of the verb changes when it is part of a phrase.

Let me carry that suitcase for you.
Carry on with your work. (= to continue)
Let’s put the containers in the hull.
Never put off your tasks. (= to delay)
The convoy made efforts to reach the harbor in time.
The smugglers couldn’t make off with the drugs as their boat was
intercepted by the Coast Guard. (= to leave quickly)

C. The object pronoun of the phrasal verb comes usually between the main
verb and the adverb/preposition.
I don’t have the information you need at the moment, but I’ll look it up for
My boots had holes in them so I threw them away.
D. Some phrasal verbs have three parts. Examples:
I’m really looking forward to the Mediterranean cruise on the training
The insurgents made away with the weapon cases.

Kraft, Luiza. Naval Forces Operations. Bucureşti, Editura Universităţii Naţionale

de Apărare „Carol I”, 2009.
Kraft, Luiza. English for Maritime Operations, Bucureşti, Editura Universităţii
Naţionale de Apărare „Carol I”, 2015.