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Introduction to

tense and aspect (1)

Tense is a grammatical category to do with
inflections (endings) attached to verbs.
There are only two tenses in English:
Present tense



Past tense



There is no future tense in English. Future

time can be expressed in a variety of ways:
Im seeing him tomorrow.

Im going to take the dog for a walk when it stops

Im about to go out, can I do it later?
The train leaves at 6pm tonight

Time and Tense

Time and tense should not be confused:
The present tense can refer to past, present and
future time e.g.
Yesterday a man comes up to me and says, Hey..
I work in Huddersfield
On the 3rd March 2015, Glynn leaves for China

The past tense can also refer to past, present and

future time e.g.

I worked in Germany in 1999
I wondered if I could ask you to move your car
He said he would go later.

Aspect refers to the way in which the action
described by a verb should be regarded e.g. as
extended, complete, temporary etc.
English has 2 aspects: the perfective and the


be + [verb]ING
have + past participle

Both progressive and perfective aspects can be

freely combined with tenses to produce
constructions which are often labelled tenses
in pedagogic grammar
2 aspects can be combined in a single verb
Present perfect
Past perfect

he has spoken
he had spoken

Present progressive
Past progressive

he is working
he was working

Present perfect progressive

Past perfect progressive

he has been singing

he had been singing

He is fishing
He was shopping
She had been travelling for hours

Hes lived here for 25 years

I am thinking of you
We had eaten dinner before she arrived.
They have been waiting for you for ages

Perfective aspect: meaning

The perfective can be used for actions
continuing from the past into the present
Ive worked here for two years (and I still do)

Hes been a student since 2013 (and still is)

It also expresses anterior time (the time

I have already seen it
By 2016 they will have finished their course
When I got there the concert had started

Progressive Aspect: meaning

Used to indicate an action in progress at a
given time.
It has 3 components of meaning which do not

all need to be present at the same time:

Limited duration

It rains a lot
It is raining a lot

Discovery Activity
Work individually
Look at the worksheet provided.
Read the speech bubbles and find mistakes in

grammatical form or use of the present

simple and continuous. SOME SENTENCES
Compare your answers with a partner
Write a summary of uses for the present
simple and continuous

Present Simple Tense:

State present: there is no limit on the extension

of the state from the past into the present into

the future
The earth moves around the sun

Habitual present: expresses an unrestricted

time span around the present. A series of

He (often) walks to work

Instantaneous present:
Used with dynamic verbs to indicate a single action

completed at the time of speaking

I pronounce you man and wife (performatives)
Beckham kicks the ball into midfield

To refer to timetabled future events

The train leaves at 6.30pm

To refer to the past (the historic past)

A man comes into the pub and says..

Present Progressive
Present progressive can refer to:
Activity in progress at the moment of speaking
Wheres Jack? Hes playing tennis.

Long term changes, processes or developments

The earth is warming up

Temporary habits in the current period but not

necessarily at the moment of speaking

Were eating in the kitchen this winter

Our neighbours are very kind

Our neighbours are being very kind

I feel its time you went home.

I am not feeling well
Charles looks like the Queen
Charles is looking more and more like the


Stative and dynamic verbs

Most verbs are dynamic and describe actions we can

take but a minority indicate stative situations which

Qualities e.g.
Phil is Scottish. Jenny is kind.
States (of mind, ownership, sensation etc) e.g.
I know the truth I feel sick
Stance (lie, stand, sit, live etc) e.g.
Liverpool lies on the River Mersey.

Stative verbs are not normally found in the

progressive form unless indicating a special meaning.

Carlas being stupid.
Charles is looking more and more like the Queen

Durative and punctual verbs

Durative verbs refer to situations which can be

extended in time (have duration).

Punctual verbs refer to situations which do not have
duration I.e. last a second or two e.g. kick, sneeze,
Progressive aspect is not normally used with these

verbs. When it is used, it it usually refers to a

repeated series of events e.g.
He was sneezing
He was tapping his pen on the table

Anticipating Problems
What problems might students have with the
present simple and present progressive?

Common problems
Many languages do not have a progressive form e.g.

Arabic, German, Greek which leads to errors such as:

Wheres Jason? He plays football
Look! It rains!

Different concepts expressed through one

Over-use of present simple
omission of auxiliary in progressive forms
Omission of 3rd person s in present simple
inclusion of third person s in question form

Omission of auxiliary do/does in present simple