Sandbox/Verbs

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Verbs in English

A little page I put together as place for me and Ranskaldan to continue our discussion/chart of English Verbs

Open any grammar book, and you'll find terms like "Present Perfect", "Past Perfect", and other such names ripped directly from Latin. But such terms rarely describe actual English constructions well. What exactly is so present-day about the Present Continuous "I'll be going tomorrow"? What is so long and past about the Past Tense "If I were rich"? To explain such irregularities, grammar books go into "exceptions". But the exceptions are the rules. Here is the result of brainstorming of new rules that fit English just fine.

Major changes:

  1. The total purge of the word "perfect". "Perfect" is used to describe singular events. The English "perfect" tenses are actually anteriors.
  2. Restructured the future-of-past and conditional structures once and for all.
  3. The present and past systems mirror each other extremely well. The only thing sticking out, the "future perfect" tenses, are becoming archaic - an example of natural regularization.

INDICATIVE

PAST NARRATIVE

past anterior - "I had done" "I do" occurs in the past
past anterior progressive - "I had been doing" "I do" progresses in the past

past perfective - "I did" "I do" occurs
past progressive - "I was doing" "I do" progresses
past factual - "I did" "I do" is a given fact
past habitual - "I did" "I do" occurs often and repetitively

past anticipative - "I was doing" "I do" occurs in an anticipated future

past immediative - "I was going to do" "I do" occurs in an immediate future
past immediative progressive - "I was going to be doing" "I do" progresses in an immediate future

past posterior - "I would do" in past narrative "I do" occurs in an uncertain future
past posterior progressive - "I would be doing" in past narrative "I do" progresses in an uncertain future

PRESENT NARRATIVE

present anterior - "I have done" "I do" occurs in the past
present anterior progressive - "I have been doing" "I do" progresses in the past

(In many varieties of English, the past perfective and past progressive are used in this situation as well.)

present perfective - "I do" "I do" occurs
present progressive - "I am doing" "I do" progresses
present factual - "I do" "I do" is a given fact
present habitual - "I do" "I do" occurs often and repetitively

present anticipative - "I am doing" "I do" occurs in an anticipated future.

present immediative - "I am going to do" "I do" occurs in an immediate future
present immediative progressive - "I am going to be doing" "I do" progresses in an immediate future

present posterior - "I will do" "I do" occurs in an uncertain future
present posterior progressive - "I will be doing" "I do" progress in an uncertain future

FUTURE ANTERIOR

future anterior - "I will have done" in future narrative "I do" occurs further past
future anterior imperfective - "I will have been doing" (rare) in future narrative "I do" progresses further past

This system is becoming archaic; consider the following sentence:

"As soon as you have finished, you'll give the rest to me."
which would, under a normal Indo-European system, be:
"As soon as you will have finished, you'll give the rest to me."

but this system still exists sometimes in English:
"By the time you arrive, the train will have left."
but even this tends to simplify into:
"By the time you arrive, the train'll be gone."

IMPROBABLE CONDITIONS

Present condition - "If I did"
Present progressive condition - "If I were doing"
Present result - "I would do"
Present progressive result - "I would be doing"

Past condition - "If I had done"
Past progressive condition - "If I had been doing"
Past result - "I would have done"
Past progressive result - "I would have been doing"

IMPERATIVE

"Do."

ADJECTIVAL

Active - "doing" e.g. "the washing machine"
Passive - "done" e.g. "the washed clothes"
all passive forms are formed from "to be" + the passive adjectival

ADVERBIAL

Present - "Doing"
Past - "Having done"

NOMINAL

"Doing"


The English verb system is very productive. It certainly spawns many more verb forms than most inflecting languages - marking the transition of English to isolation very well.


Commnet by Hans-Werner (hwhatting) that I found helpful:

Aspekt concerns the question of whether an action is described as completed, with the focus on its effect/result (perfective aspect) or not (imperfective aspect). Examples (from Russian):

"He has drunk (the/some) wine." Pf: On vypil vino. (Connotations: And he's drunk now / and you can smell that / there's no more wine left/ then the next action followed) Ipf: On pil vino. (Connotations: And not beer. Or: he's been drinking, not eating / that's what he was busy with at the time we're talking about/ he was duing that regularly at that time).

"He opened the window." Pf: On otkryl okno. (Connotations: The window is still open / that's why the bird flew into the room / then the next action followed) Ipf: On otkryval okno. (Connotations: Now it's closed again / And not the door / that's what he was busy with at the time we're talking about/ he was duing that regularly at that time).

So, Aspekt is about whether the focus is more on the effect or on the process and circumstances of an action. Aktionsart covers the "rest" of the things described in the English definitions of aspect given in butsuri's links, that is, patterns and stages of verbal processes.

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