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Mihai ION ● Basic English Morphology

The English Verb System
Tense vs. Time
Tense is the linguistic reference to objective time (extra-linguistic concept). In other words, tense belongs to LANGUAGE, while time belongs to REALITY. Tense is the grammatical expression of location in time: it expresses time relation with respect to the Speech Time (NOW). For example, Past tense refers to an action/state prior to the moment of speaking (NOW), Present tense refers to an action/state simultaneous with the moment of speaking (NOW), whereas Future tense refers to an action/state subsequent to the same moment of speaking.


2. Tense vs. Aspect
Aspect reflects the status of the action with respect to duration (continuous/non-continuous) and/or result (perfect/non-perfect). It is the subjective point of view relative to time. On the contrary, tense reflects the exact, objective position in time of an action/state expressed by the verb. Consequently, the English verb cannot be conceived without either tense or aspect information, the same way as a coin cannot be possibly imagined without either heads or tails. Remember TENSE → external/objective time ASPECT → internal/subjective time

Depending on the presence/lack of information displayed by the verb relative to duration and/or result, the English language identifies four distinct aspects:

will/would V b.g. b. 3. present. V-ed/V2. you are writing.Mihai ION ● Basic English Morphology a. perfect continuous [+ duration/ + result] (looking back at an action in progress) Form: HAVE + BEEN + V-ing Tenses in English As there are three tenses (1.b. simple [. c. future) and four aspects (a. singular) e. perfect continuous). you write.result] (action in progress) Form: BE + V-ing c.g. Present continuous BE (present) + V-ing e.g. perfect [. d.c. 2. continuous [+ duration/ . he writes 1.duration/ . Present perfect HAVE (present) + V-ed/V3 e. perfect. he is writing 1. continuous. and a verb is a combination of these two grammatical categories (as seen above). past. simple. you have worked.duration/ + result] (looking back at an action) Form: HAVE + V-ed/V3 d.a. Present simple V/V-s (3rd pers. it follows that the English verb system displays 3 x 4 = 12 distinct forms (or tenses): 1. he has written .result] ● (no information about the action) Form: V/V-s.

g. you have been writing. you were writing. you will write 3.g.g.c. Future continuous BE (future) + V-ing e. you will be writing 3. you had worked. he has been writing 2.g.g. then the verb in the subordinate clause (= propoziţie subordonată) referring to a future event MUST be in the future-in-thepast (viitor din perspectiva trecutului .d. he was writing 2.g. you had been writing 3.g. you worked.Mihai ION ● Basic English Morphology 1.g. Past simple V-ed/V2 e. Present perfect continuous HAVE (present) + V3/BE + Ving BEEN e.g. Past perfect continuous HAVE (past) + V3/BE + Ving BEEN e. you will have written 3.b. The auxiliary for future-in-the-past is will + -ed = would 4. he said/ you would write 4. Future-in-the-past continuous BE (future-in-the-past) + V-ing e.d.b.d.b. Future perfect HAVE (future) + V-ed/V3 e.a. he said/ you would be writing .a. Past perfect HAVE (past) + V-ed/V3 e.c. Future perfect continuous HAVE (future) + V3/BE + Ving BEEN e. he wrote 2. you will have been writing Remember The English verb system observes a specific rule called The Sequence of Tenses (Corespondenţa timpurilor).a.timp inexistent în limba română!).g. Past continuous BE (past) + V-ing e.g. he had written 2. Future simple will V e. Future-in-the-past simple would V e. which states that if the verb in the main clause (= propoziţie principală) is in the past.

he said/ you would have written 4. becomes subject in the passive [who?]). For didactic reasons (the diagram would be too complicated). the English verb system has gained another four tenses for a total of 16 distinct forms. the continuous aspect has been left out. overall picture of the relationships established among tenses.e. intended to serve you as a visual aid in your learning process. or turning a statement into the passive (i. it is important to remember that you cannot use WILL (the auxiliary of future) in time and condition clauses (= subordonate temporale şi condiţionale). is responsible for either presenting the action in progress. Another major auxiliary. You should notice that HAVE. switching position between the subject and the object of the sentence.c. Also. Future-in-the-past perfect continuous HAVE (future-in-the-past) + V3/BE + Ving BEEN e.d. object in the active [what?]. he said/ you would have been writing Now. introduced by any of those words in parentheses. BE. Future-in-the-past perfect HAVE (future-in-the-past) + V-ed/V3 e.Mihai ION ● Basic English Morphology 4. .g. Below you can see a diagram of the English verb system. you must always use the tenses in the diagram indicated by the arrows. and to offer you an instant.g. as in the example above: the furniture. Instead. DO and WILL are the three major auxiliaries which position the action/state in time relative to the speech moment (now).