Prof Chen divides the world's languages into two groups, depending on how they treat the concept of time.
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If your language separates the future and the present in its grammar, that seems to lead you to slightly disassociate the future from the present”
Keith Chen Yale University
Strong future-time reference languages (strong FTR) require their speakers to use a different tense when speaking of the future. Weak future-time reference (weak FTR) languages do not.
"If I wanted to explain to an English-speaking colleague why I can't attend a meeting later today, I could not say 'I go to a seminar', English grammar would oblige me to say 'I will go, am going, or have to go to a seminar'.
"If, on the other hand, I were speaking Mandarin, it would be quite natural for me to omit any marker of future time and say 'I go listen seminar' since the context leaves little room for misunderstanding," says Prof Chen.
Even within European languages there are clear grammatical differences in the way they treat future events, he says.
"In English you have to say 'it will rain tomorrow' while in German you can say 'morgen regnet es' - it rains tomorrow."