Talk:Grammatical aspect

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Are "Past" tenses always perfective?[edit]

Could you consider these sentences:

  1. If she had eaten the sandwich, they would have thrown it.
  2. If she had eaten the sandwich, they wouldn't have thrown it.
  3. If she hadn't eaten the sandwich, they would have thrown it.
  4. If she hadn't eaten the sandwich, they wouldn't have thrown it.

Which one(s) do make sense, and which one(s) don't? Why? In my opinion 1st one and 4th one don't make sense, and 2nd one and 3rd one do. Reason is that I consider had eaten / hadn't eaten as perfective aspects, but they might be imperfective. More precisely, if she had eaten it there's no chance for them to throw it. But there's an obvious problem; someone looks at this from other viewpoint: if she had eaten it (for a certain period of time, while it is forbidden to do that) they would have punished her by throwing it. I'd like to hear linguists' explanations as well as other native speakers' opinions... --Obsuser (talk) 03:27, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

Perfective aspect and perfect aspect are different concepts. English is typically considered to have perfect but not perfective aspect. I notice you're a speaker of Bosnian; most Slavic languages have perfective-imperfective aspect, so make sure you don't confuse a Slavic perfective with an English perfect.
The examples you give are all counterfactuals: that is, these verbs are stating hypothetical conditions (irrealis mood). This makes things complicated, since we have to distinguish aspect and tense. I think had here marks a past-tense counterfactual, so it isn't really aspectual. These are two possible past counterfactuals, with their indicative (non-counterfactual) equivalents:
  • If she hadn't eaten the sandwich,... (counterfactual)
corresponds to She didn't eat the sandwich. (past indicative)
  • If she hadn't been eating the sandwich,... (counterfactual)
corresponds to She wasn't eating the sandwich." (past progressive indicative)
So, here If she hadn't eaten has the same aspectual meaning and tense as She didn't eat, but the first is counterfactual and the second indicative. Or that is my understanding. — Eru·tuon 05:49, 1 March 2015 (UTC)
Thank you... So which ones do make sense? All of them? --Obsuser (talk) 12:21, 1 March 2015 (UTC)
I think I agree with you that the first one (and possibly the last) is (are) illogical, basically for the reason you suggest. That's not to say that "(if) she had eaten", or more simply "she ate" necessarily implies a perfective meaning, but when put together with "the sandwich" it's hard to imagine how it could have any other (she might habitually eat sandwiches, but not a particular sandwich; and if continuous/progressive meaning were intended we would say "...eating the sandwich...", as noted above). Personally I might try to avoid using the word "aspect" in explaining this (I like to distinguish grammatical categories such as "tense" from semantic categories such as "time", and for me aspect is the same sort of category as tense), but plenty of linguists would have no problem with doing so. W. P. Uzer (talk) 20:58, 1 March 2015 (UTC)
I agree with W. P. Uzer about the first sentence. The last is harder to analyze, because it contains two negatives.
I would offer further clarification. The past conditional If she had eaten the sandwich is equivalent to a past indicative she ate the sandwich. And here she ate the sandwich means "she ate the whole sandwich" or "she finished eating the sandwich". Hence, there is a contradiction in If she had eaten the sandwich, they would have thrown it: the same sandwich cannot be both eaten and thrown.
Your question "Are perfect tenses always perfective" has to be rephrased as "Are past tenses always perfective", since your examples show a past tense, not a perfect tense. And the answer is no. The past conditional she had eaten has a meaning like a Slavic perfective, but English past tense forms are not always perfective. It depends on context and the meaning of the verb. Here are some examples. I'm not completely familiar with how Slavic imperfective and perfective are used, but I have taken a guess at whether a Slavic translation would have an imperfective or perfective:
  • She ate her sandwich so that the bullies wouldn't steal it from her. (finished eating; perfective?)
  • While she ate the sandwich, she read a book. (was in the process of eating; imperfective?)
  • She knew that he loved her. (was in the state of knowing; imperfective?)
  • When he said that, she knew he loved her. (began to know; an inchoative: perfective?)
If I'm not mistaken, this shows that some English verbs are "perfective" by default, and become "imperfective" in some contexts, while others are "imperfective" by default and become "perfective" in some contexts. This is because of telicity, though: whether the verb describes a situation that has a natural endpoint, or does not have a natural endpoint (see lexical aspect).
But it is more accurate to say that English past (either conditional or indicative) is neither perfective nor imperfective: it depends on the meaning of the verb and on the context. — Eru·tuon 22:20, 1 March 2015 (UTC)
W. P. Uzer — I checked Archive 1, and I agree on the usage of aspect.
Erutuon — I was thinking about Past Perfect when I wrote Are "Perfect" tenses always perfective?, so—yes—I should have used just Past instead of Perfect. Basically, I agree with your decisions about perfective/imperfective aspects in the sentences, but in Slavic languages aspects are quite complicated (there are perfective and imperfective aspects, but perfective has many subdivisions; one of them is similar to the inchoative you mentioned above; on the other hand, indeed, all of the sentences could have opposite aspects from those you chose...). In the end, can we say that 1st sentence and 4th sentence are both contradictive, but also can have meaning if one sees eating as eating for a certain period? --Obsuser (talk) 16:02, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
@Obsuser: No, I think the imperfective reading of the examples is impossible. Based on context, if she had eaten has to be perfective, and can't be imperfective, durative, or whatever: it isn't equivalent to if she had been eating. I'm not sure why if she had eaten has to be perfective, what about the context demands it, but for some reason that's what my native-speaker intuition tells me. — Eru·tuon 18:43, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
Thanks a lot; that's exactly what I wanted to know... --Obsuser (talk) 00:32, 3 March 2015 (UTC)

Sorry for the wordiness you had to wade through before coming to your answer. ;-) — Eru·tuon 00:45, 3 March 2015 (UTC)

Calling relative tense "aspect"; calling "perfect" (also known as "retrospective") an aspect.[edit]

One paragraph calls relative tense an aspect; it's not, it's a relative tense. The second sentence of the same paragraph calls "perfect" (aka "retrospective") an aspect; it's not an aspect. I merely ask for citations to support both sentences. If no such citations are forthcoming by the end of September, I propose to delete that paragraph. Eldin raigmore (talk) 05:07, 16 September 2015 (UTC)

You can find plenty of such citations and analysis of the matter just by searching Google Books for a phrase like "perfect aspect". While you and I might prefer not to call this an aspect, it's not for us as Wikipedia editors to say "it's not", when plenty of mainstream linguists say that it is. There is some (but not much) critical discussion of the matter at the end of the article on relative and absolute tense. W. P. Uzer (talk) 06:32, 16 September 2015 (UTC)

Thank you, W. P. Uzer, for your responsive reply. I disagree with your uses of the word "plenty" in this instance; but at any rate I won't be deleting that paragraph without more reason than I had before your response. Eldin raigmore (talk) 11:42, 16 September 2015 (UTC)

"I have eaten" is present tense?![edit]

The article claims that "I have eaten" is in the present tense. That can't be right, can it? Equinox (talk) 03:04, 1 February 2016 (UTC)

I think it can - the past tense would be "I had eaten". But as with most things in linguistics, terminology and analyses vary widely. W. P. Uzer (talk) 07:57, 1 February 2016 (UTC)
Well, it says, "All [including this phrase] are in the present tense, as they describe the present situation", but "I have eaten" doesn't describe the present situation any more or less than "I had eaten": i.e. only because the present is always a result of the past. By that token, "I am eating" could be future tense, because it "describes the future situation" (that there will be a future time at which the person has eaten). Suspicious. Equinox (talk) 23:45, 1 February 2016 (UTC)


"I have eaten" is indeed present tense, though you are right to note that the description of why ("they describe the present situation") is confusing. It's surprisingly difficult to describe what tense means when we try to describe it in terms of people's experience of the world. I'll see if I can find and paraphrase a source that does a better job. Cnilep (talk) 05:37, 14 September 2016 (UTC)

Be and have[edit]

Isn't -ed the regular form for past participles? --147.142.185.205 (talk) 13:19, 29 February 2016 (UTC)

No, -ed is the suffix that is added to the bare infinitives (without to) of regular verbs to form the past simple and past participle tenses.
Being is a present continuous, and haven is a place of safety or refuge. Both be and have are irregular verbs: bewas/werebeen, and havehadhad.
See list of English irregular verbs for the complete list and more info. Hope this helps. --Obsuser (talk) 14:56, 29 February 2016 (UTC)

PLEASE EVERYONE SEPARATE LANGUAGES AND GRAMMAR DO NOT HAVE IT ALL ON ONE PAGE OR YOU DESTROY THE ABILITY TO LEARN EACH PROPERLY LINK TO OTHER LANGUAGES AND SYNTAX BUT KEEP IT SEPARATE PLEASE[edit]

START SEPARATING LANGUAGES AND GRAMMAR AND SYNTAX FOR EACH ON INDIVIDUAL PAGES IN A CATEGORY SO OTHER LANGUAGES ARE NOT RUNING ENGLISH GRAMMAR PAGES AND VICE VERSA.

EACH HAS THEIR OWN UNIQUE SYNTAX AND GRAMMAR SO KEEP IT SEPARATE OR YOU DESTROY THE LEARNING OF ALL>JUST HAVE A LINK TO SEPARATE PAGE FOR EACH> THANK YOU!

PLEASE WIKI CATEGORIZE EACH! EVERY LANGUAGE SEPARATE UNDER EACH CATEGORY SO VERBS AND TENSES ETC IN EVERY LANGUAGE HAVE THEIR OWN FULL PAGE FOR EACH INSTEAD OF LIMITING AND RUINING EVERY ONE OF THE LANGUAGES>THAT WOULD HELP LEARNING ALSO CATEGORIZE GRADE LEVELS PLEASE! PEOPLE LEARNING GRADE SCHOOL DO NOT UNDERSTAND UNIVERSITY LEVEL AND UNIVERSITY LEVEL NEEDS COMPLEX PAGES SEPARATE SO PEOPLE CAN START LEARNING AT THE BEGINNING! OR THIS IS TOO CONFUSING!

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