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12/29/2017

Peculiarities of Aspect in English

The concept of aspect is often conflated and mixed up with the concept of tense. Although English largely separates tense and aspect formally, its aspects (neutral, progressive, perfect and progressive perfect) do not correspond very closely to the distinction of perfective vs. imperfective that is common in most other languages. [8]
The division between aspect and tense in English is not really strict. For example, you can either say – “Have you eaten yet?” as well as – “Did you eat yet?” The second form is frequently used in the USA, though it is not grammatically correct, but it still can be applied.

There are two different types of aspect – lexical and grammatical. The aspect expressed formally is called grammatical aspect. Lexical aspect usually is not marked formally. They are given by the situation itself, not by the forms of the verbs. Lexical or situation aspect is called Aktionsart.

One of the factors in situation aspect is telicity. Telicity is an ability of the verbs to possess the natural endpoint. For these verbs there a time when the process or the action is completely finished. For instance, the verb to eat implies that the object of the action will some time be totally eaten. The other factor in situation aspect is duration.

In some languages, aspect and time are easily distinguished. The tenses can be expressed with the help of direct modifications of verbs. The verbs may be further modified by the progressive aspect, the perfect aspect, or both. Each tense is named according to its combination of aspects and time.

The progressive aspect is expressed with the help of the auxiliary verb to be and the Participle I of the main verb. The perfect aspect is recognizable by the auxiliary to have and the Participle II of the main verb.

Here is the list of aspects which correspond with the tenses.

For the present tense:

Present Simple (not progressive, not perfect): “I do”

Present Progressive (progressive, not perfect): “I am doing”

Present Perfect (not progressive, perfect): “I have done”

Present Perfect Progressive (progressive, perfect): “I have been doing”

For the past tense:

Past Simple (not progressive, not perfect): “I did”

Past Progressive (progressive, not perfect): “I was doing”

Past Perfect (not progressive, perfect): “I had done”

Past Perfect Progressive (progressive, perfect): “I had been doing”

For the future tense:

Future Simple (not progressive, not perfect): “I shall do”

Future Progressive (progressive, not perfect): “I shall be doing”

Future Perfect (not progressive, perfect): “I shall have done”

Future Perfect Progressive (progressive, perfect): “I shall have been doing”

Another aspect that exists in English, but is no longer productive, is the frequentative, or multiple. It expresses continuously repeated action; it is ignored from most discussions of English linguistics, as it suggests itself only by Scandinavian suffixes no longer heard independently from the words to which they are affixed (e.g., “chatter” for “chat”, “crackle” for “crack”, etc.).

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