The Basics of Tenses
The Simple Tenses
THE PROGRESSIVE TENSES
THE PERFECT TENSES
THE PERFECT PROGRESSIVE TENSES
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The Second Basic Concept

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Aspect

Okay, this is the tricky one. Probably the reason why it so tricky is that many other languages simply don’t have it! So when you start learning this in English, it can seem very confusing.

So what’s an ASPECT?

An aspect is a point of view, a way to look at something.

In grammar, an aspect is a way to change the verb in order to show additional information about it.

This additional information tells us whether the action is complete or ongoing (in progress).

For example:

In the sentence “I eat apples,” the verb “eat” has a simple form.

Meaning, it only shows us the time of the action. It doesn’t give us any additional information.

Compare it with the following sentence:

“I am eating an apple.”

Now, here the verb form “am eating” does not only show us the time of the action, but it also gives us an additional piece of information. It tells us that the action is currently in progress, it is not finished yet.

In other words, it emphasizes the fact that the action is continuing as we speak.

Compare it with the following sentence:

“I have eaten an apple.”

Here the verb form “have eaten” does not only show us the time of the action, but it also gives us an additional piece of information. It tells us that the action is already complete, it is no longer in progress.

In other words, it emphasizes the fact that the action is finished.

Take a look at the following table:

ActionVerb Form (=Tense)SentenceTimeAspectMeaning
to eateatI eat an apple.PresentSimpleIt simply tells the time. It doesn’t emphasize anything.
to eatam eatingI am eating an apple.PresentProgressiveIt gives the time AND emphasizes the fact that the action is in progress.
to eathave eatenI have eaten an apple.PresentPerfectIt gives the time  AND emphasizes the fact that the action is finished.

So you see, these 3 sentences have:

  • The same ACTION (eating) 
  • The same TIME (the present) 
  • But different ASPECTS, meaning different things we want to emphasize. 

So we get 3 different TENSES!

These tenses are:

  • Simple Present
  • Present Progressive
  • Present Perfect

Note that for each tense we change the basic verb in a different way:

  • eat
  • am eating
  • have eaten

This example was for the present, but obviously it’s the same with the past and the future.

Take a look at the following table:

Aspect/TimePastPresentFuture
SimpleSimple PastSimple PresentSimple Future
ProgressivePast ProgressivePresent ProgressiveFuture Progressive
PerfectPast PerfectPresent PerfectFuture Perfect

In the above table TIME and ASPECT combine to create the different English tenses.

Watch the following video (you can change it to full screen):

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