Verbal Aspect

The Meaning of Verbal Aspect

Verbal aspect (also verb aspect) is a grammatical category that establishes whether the action denoted by the verb

  • is completed,
  • is developing while the subject speaks,
  • begins or is performed frequently.

It characterizes the way in which a verbOpens in new window portrays its own action.

In English, verbal aspect has no external markers, but the endings, with the combination of the auxiliary verbsOpens in new window, help us to determine whether the action is completed or not.

The action can be progressive, it can also be completed, as well as completed with progressive effects.

Forms of Verbal Aspects

English language has four different verbal aspects, namely:

  1. simple,
  2. perfect,
  3. progressive (continuous), and
  4. perfect (continuous) progressive.

1.     Simple Aspect

The simple aspect is the default aspect; it is radically the same in all the moods. It does not communicate any flow of time about the verbal action, simply that it happened.

For Example:
  • Jessica eats

2.     Perfect Aspect

The perfect aspect shows an action that happened in the past, but the impact of that action is still relevant at the time of writing or speaking.

For Example:
  • Jessica has eaten

3.     Progressive Aspect

The progressive aspect illustrates the verbal action as continuous or progressive.

For Example:
  • Jessica is eating

4.     Perfect Progressive Aspect

The perfect progressive aspect uniquely portrays the verbal action as continuous or progress, but not necessarily at the time of speaking or writing, as:

For Example:
  • Jessica has been eating

Although all these might be a little nuanced, but do not get flinched. The chart below is provided as a proactive measure to put things under control. This chart shows how tense and aspect intersect in the indicative mood. Hopefully it should help make things a lot easier.

Simple AspectPerfective AspectProgressive AspectPerfect Progressive
Present TenseShe eatsShe has eatenShe is eatingShe has been eating
Past TenseShe ateShe had eatenShe was eatingShe had been eating
Future TenseShe will eatShe will have eatenShe will be eatingShe will have eaten