You are on page 1of 15

Morphology The grammatical description of many, if not all, languages is conveniently divided into two complementary sections: morphology

and syntax. The relationship between them, as generally stated, is as follows: morphology accounts for the internal structure of words, and syntax describes how words are combined to form phrases, clauses, and sentences. There are many words in English that are fairly obviously analyzable into smaller grammatical units. For example, the word unacceptability can be divided into un-, accept, abil-, and -ity (abil- being a variant of -able). Of these, at least three are minimal grammatical units, in the sense that they cannot be analyzed into yet smaller grammatical units un-, abil-, and ity. The status of accept, from this point of view, is somewhat uncertain. Given the existence of such forms as accede and accuse, on the one hand, and of except, exceed, and excuse, on the other, one might be inclined to analyze accept into ac- (which might subsequently be recognized as a variant of ad-) and -cept. The question is left open. Minimal grammatical units like un-, abil-, and -ity are what Bloomfield called morphemes; he defined them in terms of the partial phonetic-semantic resemblance holding within sets of words. For example, unacceptable, untrue, and ungracious are phonetically (or, phonologically) similar as far as the first syllable is concerned and are similar in meaning in that each of them is negative by contrast with a corresponding positive adjective (acceptable, true, gracious). This partial phonetic-semantic resemblance is accounted for by noting that the words in question contain the same morpheme (namely, un-) and that this morpheme has a certain phonological form and a certain meaning. Bloomfield's definition of the morpheme in terms of partial phonetic-semantic resemblance was considerably modified and, eventually, abandoned entirely by some of his followers. Whereas Bloomfield took the morpheme to be an actual segment of a word, others defined it as being a purely abstract unit, and the term morph was introduced to refer to the actual word segments. The distinction between morpheme and morph (which is, in certain respects, parallel to the distinction between phoneme and phone) may be explained by means of an example. If a morpheme in English is posited with the function of accounting for the grammatical difference between singular and plural nouns, it may be symbolized by enclosing the term plural within brace brackets. Now the morpheme [plural] is represented in a number of different ways. Most plural nouns in English differ from the corresponding singular forms in that they have an additional final segment. In the written forms of these words, it is either -s or -es (e.g., cat : cats; dog : dogs; fish : fishes). The word segments written -s or -es are morphs. So also is the word segment written -en in oxen. All these morphs represent the same morpheme. But there are other plural nouns in English that differ from the corresponding singular forms in other ways ( e.g., mouse : mice; criterion : criteria; and so on) or not at all (e.g., this sheep : these sheep). Within the post-Bloomfieldian framework no very satisfactory account of the formation of these nouns could be given. But it was clear that they contained (in some sense) the same morpheme as the more regular plurals. Morphs that are in complementary distribution and represent the same morpheme are said to be allomorphs of that morpheme. For example, the regular plurals of English nouns are formed by adding one of three morphs on to the form of the singular: /s/, /z/, or /iz/ (in the corresponding written forms both /s/ and /z/ are written -s and /iz/ is written -es). Their distribution is determined by the following principle: if the morph to which they are to be added ends in a sibilant sound (e.g., s, z, sh, ch), then the syllabic allomorph /iz/ is selected (e.g., fish-es /fi-iz/, match-es /ma-iz/); otherwise the nonsyllabic allomorphs are selected,

the voiceless allomorph /s/ with morphs ending in a voiceless consonant ( e.g., cat-s /kat-s/) and the voiced allomorph /z/ with morphs ending in a vowel or voiced consonant ( e.g., fleas /fli-z/, dog-s /dog-z/). These three allomorphs, it will be evident, are in complementary distribution, and the alternation between them is determined by the phonological structure of the preceding morph. Thus the choice is phonologically conditioned. Very similar is the alternation between the three principal allomorphs of the past participle ending, /id/, /t/, and /d/, all of which correspond to the -ed of the written forms. If the preceding morph ends with /t/ or /d/, then the syllabic allomorph /id/ is selected ( e.g., waited /weit-id/). Otherwise, if the preceding morph ends with a voiceless consonant, one of the nonsyllabic allomorphs is selectedthe voiceless allomorph /t/ when the preceding morph ends with a voiceless consonant (e.g., pack-ed /pak-t/) and the voiced allomorph /d/ when the preceding morph ends with a vowel or voiced consonant (e.g., row-ed /rou-d/; tame-d /teimd/). This is another instance of phonological conditioning. Phonological conditioning may be contrasted with the principle that determines the selection of yet another allomorph of the past participle morpheme. The final /n/ of show-n or see-n (which marks them as past participles) is not determined by the phonological structure of the morphs show and see. For each English word that is similar to show and see in this respect, it must be stated as a synchronically inexplicable fact that it selects the /n/ allomorph. This is called grammatical conditioning. There are various kinds of grammatical conditioning. Alternation of the kind illustrated above for the allomorphs of the plural morpheme and the /id/, /d/, and /t/ allomorphs of the past participle is frequently referred to as morphophonemic. Some linguists have suggested that it should be accounted for not by setting up three allomorphs each with a distinct phonemic form but by setting up a single morph in an intermediate morphophonemic representation. Thus, the regular plural morph might be said to be composed of the morphophoneme /Z/ and the most common past-participle morph of the morphophoneme /D/. General rules of morphophonemic interpretation would then convert /Z/ and /D/ to their appropriate phonetic form according to context. This treatment of the question foreshadows, on the one hand, the stratificational treatment and, on the other, the generative approach, though they differ considerably in other respects. An important concept in grammar and, more particularly, in morphology is that of free and bound forms. A bound form is one that cannot occur alone as a complete utterance (in some normal context of use). For example, -ing is bound in this sense, whereas wait is not, nor is waiting. Any form that is not bound is free. Bloomfield based his definition of the word on this distinction between bound and free forms. Any free form consisting entirely of two or more smaller free forms was said to be a phrase (e.g., poor John or ran away), and phrases were to be handled within syntax. Any free form that was not a phrase was defined to be a word and to fall within the scope of morphology. One of the consequences of Bloomfield's definition of the word was that morphology became the study of constructions involving bound forms. The so-called isolating languages, which make no use of bound forms (e.g., Vietnamese), would have no morphology. The principal division within morphology is between inflection and derivation (or word formation). Roughly speaking, inflectional constructions can be defined as yielding sets of forms that are all grammatically distinct forms of single vocabulary items, whereas derivational constructions yield distinct vocabulary items. For example, sings, singing, sang, and sung are all inflectional forms of the vocabulary item traditionally referred to as the verb to sing; but singer, which is formed from sing by the addition of the morph -er

(just as singing is formed by the addition of -ing), is one of the forms of a different vocabulary item. When this rough distinction between derivation and inflection is made more precise, problems occur. The principal consideration, undoubtedly, is that inflection is more closely integrated with and determined by syntax. But the various formal criteria that have been proposed to give effect to this general principle are not uncommonly in conflict in particular instances, and it probably must be admitted that the distinction between derivation and inflection, though clear enough in most cases, is in the last resort somewhat arbitrary. Bloomfield and most linguists have discussed morphological constructions in terms of processes. Of these, the most widespread throughout the languages of the world is affixation; i.e., the attachment of an affix to a base. For example, the word singing can be described as resulting from the affixation of -ing to the base sing. (If the affix is put in front of the base, it is a prefix; if it is put after the base, it is a suffix; and if it is inserted within the base, splitting it into two discontinuous parts, it is an infix.) Other morphological processes recognized by linguists need not be mentioned here, but reference may be made to the fact that many of Bloomfield's followers from the mid-1940s were dissatisfied with the whole notion of morphological processes. Instead of saying that -ing was affixed to sing they preferred to say that sing and -ing co-occurred in a particular pattern or arrangement, thereby avoiding the implication that sing is in some sense prior to or more basic than -ing. The distinction of morpheme and morph (and the notion of allomorphs) was developed in order to make possible the description of the morphology and syntax of a language in terms of arrangements of items rather than in terms of processes operating upon more basic items. Nowadays, the opposition to processes is, except among the stratificationalists, almost extinct. It has proved to be cumbersome, if not impossible, to describe the relationship between certain linguistic forms without deriving one from the other or both from some common underlying form, and most linguists no longer feel that this is in any way reprehensible.

What is morphology?
Definition Morphology is the study of the internal structure of words. Discussion Morphology can be thought of as a system of adjustments in the shapes of words that contribute to adjustments in the way speakers intend their utterances to be interpreted.

What is a morph?
Definition A morph is the phonetic realization of a morpheme. Kinds Here are some kinds of morphs:

allomorph portmanteau morph zero morph

What is an allomorph?
Definition An allomorph is one of two or more complementary morphs which manifest a morpheme in its different phonological or morphological environments. Discussion The allomorphs of a morpheme are derived from phonological rules and any morphophonemic rules that may apply to that morpheme. Examples (English) The plural morpheme in English, usually written as '-s', has at least three allomorphs:

[-s] as in [hQts] 'hats' [-z] as in [d&u0254;gz] 'dogs' [z] as in [bksz] 'boxes'

What is a zero morph?

Definition A zero morph is a morph, consisting of no phonetic form, that is proposed in some analyses as an allomorph of a morpheme that is ordinarily realized by a morph having some phonetic form. Example (English) The plural form that is realized in two sheep is , in contrast with the plural -s in two goats.

What is a portmanteau morph?

Definition A portmanteau morph is a single morph that is analyzed as representing two underlying morphemes. Example (French)

au to (him) from a to + le masc. art du of (him) from de of + le masc. art Example (Burmese) ne? your from ne) you + ?"@? poss.mkr. Tu? his from Tu$ he + ?"@? poss.mkr.

What is a morpheme?
Definition A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in the grammar of a language. Discussion Current approaches to morphology conceive of morphemes as rules involving the linguistic context, rather than as isolated pieces of linguistic matter. They acknowledge that

meaning may be directly linked to suprasegmental phonological units, such as tone or stress. the meaning of a morpheme with a given form may vary, depending on its immediate environment. Unladylike

Examples (English)

The word unladylike consists of three morphemes and four syllables. Morpheme breaks: un- 'not' lady '(well behaved) female adult human' -like 'having the characteristics of' None of these morphemes can be broken up any more without losing all sense of meaning. Lady cannot be broken up into "la" and "dy," even though "la" and "dy" are separate syllables. Note that each syllable has no meaning on its own.


The word dogs consists of two morphemes and one syllable:

dog, and

-s, a plural marker on nouns Note that a morpheme like "-s" can just be a single phoneme and does not have to be a whole syllable. Technique

The word technique consists of only one morpheme having two syllables. Even though the word has two syllables, it is a single morpheme because it cannot be broken down into smaller meaningful parts.

Classification Morphemes may be classified, on the basis of word formation, characteristics into the following types: Morpheme type

Structure simple, made up of a single morpheme; a basis for compounding and affixation

Bound yes/no

Free yes/no


stem may be complex, made up of one or more morphemes; a basis for affixation



affix simple
o o o o o o

yes prefix infix suffix suprafix simulfix circumfix simple yes (phonologic ally)


o o

proclitic enclitic

yes (syntactica lly)

Note: A clitic is a kind of morpheme that does not fit well in the above classification system because it is phonologically bound but syntactically free.

Comparison and contrast of wordform, word, morpheme, and syllable

Compare and contrast: Wordform, word, morpheme, and syllable Here is a table that compares and contrasts a morpheme with other minimal units in language: A Is the smallest unit That of

Has distinctive meaning. Can occur by itself. (In most orthographies it is separated from other wordforms by a space.) Has distinctive meaning. Can occur by itself. Has a distinctive meaning. Cannot occur by itself monomorphemic word. unless it is in a

Wordform Speech or writing



Morpheme Syntax

Has no inherent distinctive meaning. Cannot occur by itself unless it is in a monosyllabic word.



Comparison of morpheme-morph-allomorph and phonemephone-allophone

Compare: Morpheme-morph-allomorph and phoneme-phone-allophone The relationship between a morpheme and its morphs and allomorphs is parallel to the relationship between a phoneme and its phones and allophones. A morpheme is manifested as one or more morphs (surface forms) in different environments. These morphs are called allomorphs. A phoneme is manifested as one or more phones (phonetic sounds) in different

environments. These phones are called allophones.

Parts of Speech
Parts of Speech, words classified according to their functions in sentences, for purposes of traditional grammatical analysis (see Grammar). Eight parts of speech are usually identified: nouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, pronouns, verbs, and interjections. Most of the major language groups spoken today, notably the Indo-European languages and Semitic languages, use almost the identical categories; Chinese, however, has fewer parts of speech than English.



A noun (Latin nomen, name) is usually defined as a word denoting a thing, place, person, quality, or action and functioning in a sentence as the subject or object of action expressed by a verb or as the object of a preposition. In modern English, proper nouns, which are always capitalized and denote individuals and personifications, are distinguished from common nouns. Nouns and verbs may sometimes take the same form, as in Polynesian languages. Verbal nouns, or gerunds, combine features of both parts of speech. They occur in the Semitic and Indo-European languages and in English most commonly with words ending in -ing. Nouns may be inflected to indicate gender (masculine, feminine, and neuter), number, and case. In modern English, however, gender has been eliminated, and only two forms, singular and plural, indicate number (how many perform or receive an action). Some languages have three numbers: a singular form (indicating, for example, one book), a plural form (indicating three or more books), and a dual form (indicating, specifically, two books). English has three cases of nouns: nominative (subject), genitive (possessive), and objective (indicating the relationship between the noun and other words).



An adjective is a word that modifies, or qualifies, a noun or pronoun, in one of three forms of comparative degree: positive (strong, beautiful), comparative (stronger, more beautiful ), or superlative (strongest, most beautiful). In many languages, the form of an adjective changes to correspond with the number and gender of the noun or pronoun it modifies.



An adverb is a word that modifies a verb (he walked slowly), an adjective (a very good book), or another adverb (he walked very slowly). Adverbs may indicate place or direction ( where, whence),

time (ever, immediately), degree (very, almost), manner (thus, and words ending in -ly, such as wisely), and belief or doubt (perhaps, no). Like adjectives, they too may be comparative (wisely, more wisely, most wisely).


Words that combine with a noun or pronoun to form a phrase are termed prepositions. In languages such as Latin or German, they change the form of the noun or pronoun to the objective case (as in the equivalent of the English phrase give to me), or to the possessive case (as in the phrase the roof of the house).



Conjunctions are the words that connect sentences, clauses, phrases, or words, and sometimes paragraphs. Coordinate conjunctions (and, but, or, however, nevertheless, neither ...nor) join independent clauses, or parts of a sentence; subordinate conjunctions introduce subordinate clauses (where, when, after, while, because, if, unless, since, whether ).



A pronoun is an identifying word used instead of a noun and inflected in the same way nouns are. Personal pronouns, in English, are I, you, he/she/it, we, you (plural), and they. Demonstrative pronouns are this, that, and such. Introducing questions, who and which are interrogative pronouns; when introducing clauses they are called relative pronouns. Indefinite pronouns are each, either, some, any, many, few, and all.



Words that express some form of action are called verbs. Their inflection, known as conjugation, is simpler in English than in most other languages. Conjugation in general involves changes of form according to person and number (who and how many performed the action), tense (when the action was performed), voice (indicating whether the subject of the verb performed or received the action), and mood (indicating the frame of mind of the performer). In English grammar, verbs have three moods: the indicative, which expresses actuality; the subjunctive, which expresses contingency; and the imperative, which expresses command (I walk; I might walk; Walk!) Certain words, derived from verbs but not functioning as such, are called verbals. In addition to verbal nouns, or gerunds, participles can serve as adjectives (the written word), and infinitives often serve as nouns (to err is human).



Interjections are exclamations such as oh, alas, ugh, or well (often printed with an exclamation point). Used for emphasis or to express an emotional reaction, they do not truly function as grammatical elements of a sentence.

Classification of nouns in English

Proper nouns and common nouns Proper nouns (also called proper names) are nouns representing unique entities (such as London or John), as distinguished from common nouns which describe a class of entities (such as city or person)[9]. In English and most other languages that use the Latin alphabet, proper nouns are usually capitalised.[10] Languages differ in whether most elements of multiword proper nouns are capitalised (e.g., English House of Representatives) or only the initial element (e.g., Slovenian Dravni zbor 'National Assembly'). In German, nouns of all types are capitalised. The convention of capitalising all nouns was previously used in English, but ended circa 1800. In America, the shift in capitalisation is recorded in several noteworthy documents. The end (but not the beginning) of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and all of the Constitution (1787) show nearly all nouns capitalised, the Bill of Rights (1789) capitalises a few common nouns but not most of them, and the Thirteenth Constitutional Amendment (1865) only capitalises proper nouns. Sometimes the same word can function as both a common noun and a proper noun, where one such entity is special. For example: "There can be many gods, but there is only one God." This is somewhat magnified in Hebrew where EL means god (as in a god), God (as in the God), and El (the name of a particular Canaanite god). Another example is the word "Internet." In the vast majority of usage, it is a proper noun, and thus capitalized. However, it can be used as a common noun when talking about "internet technologies" (TCP/IP, DNS, HTTP) that are not necessarily in use on "the Internet," which is a specific global information network. Incorrect capitalization of the proper noun is frequent, even in respected newspapers and magazines. The common meaning of the word or words constituting a proper noun may be unrelated to the object to which the proper noun refers. For example, someone might be named "Tiger Smith" despite being neither a tiger nor a smith. For this reason, proper nouns are usually not translated between languages, although they may be transliterated. For example, the German surname Kndel becomes Knodel or Knoedel in English (not the literal Dumpling). However, the translation of place names and the names of monarchs, popes, and non-contemporary authors is common and sometimes universal. For instance, the Portuguese word Lisboa becomes Lisbon in English; the English London becomes Londres in French; and the Greek Aristotels becomes Aristotle in English. Count nouns and mass nouns Main articles: Count noun and Mass noun Count nouns (or countable nouns) are common nouns that can take a plural, can combine with numerals or quantifiers (e.g. "one", "two", "several", "every", "most"), and can take an indefinite article ("a" or "an"). Examples of count nouns are "chair", "nose", and "occasion".


Mass nouns (or non-countable nouns) differ from count nouns in precisely that respect: they can't take plural or combine with number words or quantifiers. Examples from English include "laughter", "cutlery", "helium", and "furniture". For example, it is not possible to refer to "a furniture" or "three furnitures". This is true, even though the furniture referred to could, in principle, be counted. Thus the distinction between mass and count nouns shouldn't be made in terms of what sorts of things the nouns refer to, but rather in terms of how the nouns present these entities.[11][12] The separate page for mass noun contains further explanation of this point. Some words function in the singular as a count noun and, without a change in the spelling, as a mass noun in the plural: she caught a fish, we caught fish; he shot a deer, they shot some deer; the craft was dilapidated, the pier was chockablock with craft. Collective Nouns Main article: Collective noun Collective nouns are nouns that refer to groups consisting of more than one individual or entity, even when they are inflected for the singular. Examples include "committee," "herd" and "school" (of herring). These nouns have slightly different grammatical properties than other nouns. For example, the noun phrases that they head can serve as the subject of a collective predicate, even when they are inflected for the singular. A collective predicate is a predicate that normally can't take a singular subject. An example of the latter is "talked to each other." Good: The boys talked to each other. Bad: *The boy talked to each other. Good: The committee talked to each other. Concrete nouns and abstract nouns Concrete nouns refer to definite objectsobjects in which you use at least one of your senses. For instance, "chair", "apple", or "Janet". Abstract nouns on the other hand refer to ideas or concepts, such as "justice" or "hate". While this distinction is sometimes useful, the boundary between the two of them is not always clear. In English, many abstract nouns are formed by adding noun-forming suffixes ("-ness", "-ity", "-tion") to adjectives or verbs. Examples are "happiness", "circulation" and "serenity". Nouns and pronouns Noun phrases can be replaced by pronouns, such as "he", "it", "which", and "those", in order to avoid repetition or explicit identification, or for other reasons. For example, in the sentence "Janet thought that he was weird", the word "he" is a pronoun standing in place of the name of the person in question. The English word one can replace parts of noun phrases, and it sometimes stands in for a noun. An example is given below: John's car is newer than the one that Bill has. But one can also stand in for bigger subparts of a noun phrase. For example, in the following example, one can stand in for new car. This new car is cheaper than that one.


Verbs in the English language are a lexically and morphologically distinct part of speech
which describes an action, an event, or a state. While English has many irregular verbs (see a list), for the regular ones the conjugation rules are quite straightforward. Being part of an analytic language, English regular verbs are not very much inflected; all tenses, aspects and moods except the simple present and the simple past are periphrastic, formed with auxiliary verbs and modals.

Tense Tense is the property of a verb that indicates the time in which the action described by the verb takes place. The three simple tenses are: Present: I walk the dog. Past: I walked the dog. Future: I will walk the dog. Three perfect tenses are formed by adding the auxiliary have or had: Present perfect: I have walked the dog. Past perfect: I had walked the dog. Future: I will have walked the dog. To suggest ongoing action, the present particle (present form + -ing) is used to create a progressive form. Present progressive: I am walking the dog. Past progressive: I was walking the dog. Future progressive: I will be walking the dog. Present perfect progressive: I have been walking the dog. Past perfect progressive: I had been walking the dog. Future perfect progressive: I will have been walking the dog.

Mood (grammar)
Mood is a property of a verb that tells a reader whether a sentence is a statement, a question, a request, or a wish. There are three primary moods in English: the indicative, the imperative, and the subjunctive. Indicative Mood Most sentences are in the indicative mood. It is used to make statements, express opinions, and ask questions. Imperative Mood The imperative mood signals that a sentence is a request or a command. The subject of an imperative sentence is sometimes omitted; in the following example, the subject is understood to be you.


Subjunctive Mood The subjunctive mood is used primarily for expressing wishes and conditions that are contrary to fact. (For more information, see Subjunctive Mood.) Shifts in Mood In sentences with more than one verb, avoid shifting from one mood to another.

Voice (grammar)
Voice is the property of a verb that indicates the relationship between action the verb describes and its subject. In the active voice, the subject performs the action. In the passive voice, the subject receives it. Active: Joshua eats the strawberry pie. Passive: The strawberry pie is eaten by Joshua. Generally, the active voice creates a more concise and immediate sentence than the passive. It is therefore preferred for most writing (see Active vs. Passive Voice). Do not shift from one voice to another within a sentence. Incorrect: Jennie pled for mercy, even though her guilt was admitted. Correct: Jennie pled for mercy, even though she admitted her guilt. Avoid cluttering a sentence with a string of passive verbs. Awkward: The event was planned to be held on Thursday. Better: They planned to hold the event on Thursday. Active vs. Passive Voice A verb in the active voice emphasizes the person or thing that performs the action the verb describes. Bobby threw a ball. Jane called Loraine on the phone. A verb in the passive voice emphasizes the person or thing that receives the action. A ball was thrown by Bobby Loraine was called on the phone by Jane. When to Use the Active Voice When to Use the Active Voice Generally the active voice will produce a more concise and more powerful sentence than the passive. An active construction immediately identifies the sentences subject so readers can quickly understand and visualize who is doing what. Because of its clarity, the active voice is almost always the best choice in documents that are intended primarily to communicate information, such as business letters and memos. When to Use the Passive Voice When to Use the Passive Voice Using the passive voice is not always a mistake, however. Inserting an occasional passive sentence into a document lends some variety to your sentence construction.


A passive construction is also frequently used when the subject of a sentence is obvious or unimportant. George was arrested after his fingerprints were discovered on the knife. In this sentence, the subject is unstated. A reader, though, would have no problem assuming that the police arrested George and discovered his fingerprints. In this sentence, the receiver of the action (George) is more significant than the actor (the police), so a passive construction places emphasis on the proper person. If the role of the officers was of crucial importance, the sentence would be more forceful if stated in the active voice. The police arrested George after they discovered his fingerprints on the knife. In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb defines the temporal flow (or lack thereof) in the described event or state. For example, in English the difference between I swim and I am swimming is a difference of aspect. Aspect, as discussed here, is a formal property of a language. Some languages distinguish a large number of formal aspects (see the list below), while others distinguish none at all. Even languages that do not mark aspect formally, however, can convey such distinctions, if important, by the use of adverbs, phrases, serial verb constructions or other means. Grammatical aspect may have been first dealt with in the work of the Indian linguist Yaska (ca. 7th c. BCE), who distinguishes actions that are processes (bhAva), from those where the action is considered as a petrified whole (mUrta). This is of course the key distinction between the imperfective and perfective. Yaska applies the same distinction also for between a verb and an action nominal. Aspect in English According to one prevalent account, the English tense system has only two basic times, present and past. No primitive future tense exists in English; the futurity of an event is expressed through the use of the auxiliary verbs "will" and "shall", by use of a present form, as in "tomorrow we go to Newark", or by some other means. Present and past, in contrast, can be expressed using direct modifications of the verb, which may be modified further by the progressive aspect (also called the continuous aspect), the perfect aspect (also called the completed aspect), or both. Each tense is named according to its combination of aspects and time. These two aspects are also referred to as BE + ING (for the first) and as HAVE +EN (for the second). Although a little unwieldy, such tags allow us to avoid the suggestion that uses of the aspect BE + ING always have a "progressive" or "continuous" meaning, which they do not. So we have for the present tense: Present Simple (not progressive/continuous, not perfect; simple): "I eat" Present Progressive (progressive, not perfect): "I am eating" Present Perfect (not progressive, perfect): "I have eaten" Present Perfect Progressive (progressive, perfect): "I have been eating" ...and for the past tense: Past Simple (not progressive/continuous, not perfect; simple): "I ate"


Past Progressive (progressive, not perfect): "I was eating" Past Perfect (not progressive, perfect): "I had eaten" Past Perfect Progressive (progressive, perfect): "I had been eating" (Note that, while many elementary discussions of English grammar would classify the Present Perfect as a past tense, from the standpoint of strict linguistics and that elucidated here it is clearly a species of the present, as we cannot say of someone now deceased that he "has eaten" or "has been eating"; the present auxiliary implies that he is in some way present (alive), even if the action denoted is completed (perfect) or partially completed (progressive perfect).) The uses of these two aspects are quite complex. They may refer to the viewpoint of the speaker: I was walking down the road when I met Michael Jackson's lawyer. (Speaker viewpoint in middle of action) I have travelled widely, but I've never been to Moscow. (Speaker viewpoint at end of action) But they can have other meanings: You are being stupid now. (You are doing it deliberately) You are not having chocolate with your sausages! (I forbid it) I am having lunch with Mike tomorrow. (It is decided) Another aspect that does survive in English, but that is no longer productive, is the frequentative, which conveys the sense of continuously repeated action; while prominent in Latin, it is omitted from most discussions of English grammar, as it suggests itself only by Scandinavian suffixes no longer heard independently from the words to which they're affixed (e.g., "blabber" for "blab", "chatter" for "chat", "dribble" for "drip", "crackle" for "crack", etc.). Note that the aspectual systems of certain dialects of English, such as Hawaiian Creole English and African-American Vernacular English, are quite different from standard English, and often distinguish aspect at the expense of tense.