Present Tense in 'We Didn’t Start the Fire'

17 August 2023

The band Fallout Boy recently released a version of the song, We Didn't Start the Fire. The song was first released in 1989 by the singer/songwriter Billy Joel.

Joel's song was about notable events and people in the United States and throughout the world from the years 1948, when Joel was born, to 1989.

More than 30 years have passed since then. Now, Fallout Boy remade the song to include events from 1989 to 2023. Joel's song was in chronological order, meaning the events are presented in the order in which they took place. Fallout Boy's version is not chronological.

Everyday Grammar: Present Tense in
Everyday Grammar: Present Tense in "We Didn't Start the Fire"

Another difference between the two is Fallout Boy's remake uses more full sentences. Both songs are mainly lists of people, places and events that many Americans are likely to remember.

In today's Everyday Grammar, we will explore some of the different ways that the present tense is used in the song and some additional grammar points.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

habit – n. something a person does regularly in a repeated way

consonant – n. a speech sound (such as /p/, /d/, or /s/) that is made by partly or completely stopping the flow of air breathed out from the mouth

extinct – adj. describing a species that no longer exists

informal – adj. suited for ordinary or everyday use

contraction –n. a shortened form of a word

passive voice n. a way of writing or speaking that uses passive verbs where the subject receives the action of a verb

impeach – v. to charge (a public official) with a crime done while in office

transitive verb – n. a verb that takes a direct object

refer to –v. (phrasal) to talk about or mention something

dramatic – adj. striking in appearance or effect