Whether English is spoken or written, verb forms be and have are the most usual to occur. The river of time lets extract two patterns that grammar books name the Progressive and the Perfect.
The patterns help tell a view to activity or faculty. Grammars call it the Aspect. The word aspect comes from Latin. Aspectus meant “a seeing, looking at”; aspicere meant “to look upon, behold”.
Let us make a brief note on grammar and life, to understand the Aspects better. We people live in our bodies, and this gives us an inner reference that does not change, as long as we live on Earth at least (and there has not been any “eternal grammar” around here, anyway). Our inner reference works for our real as well as grammatical time. We can express it with the pronoun I, or me. ■→SUBCHAPTER 3.2 tells about the pronoun you.
If we see, do, or say something, it does not mean other people see, do, or say the same. All languages on Earth express the grammatical time. Some do not express the verbal Aspect, but have other means for sharing exactly the same kind of views.
Without the grammatical time, we would have to check on a lot, to talk. To say a thing or person is somewhere, we would most often have to go and check, if really. With grammar, we can tell how this is we look at or view matters; and well, everybody is subjective, to an extent.
On the other hand, there is no “objective grammar” to resolve how we people should view matters. It is right to learn to use the Time and Aspect independently, for oneself.
- The grammatical time is to help us tell how we refer something or someone and real time.
- The grammatical aspect is to help us tell how we view the character or manner for that matter.
The Progressive Aspect is for something or someone in progress. Progress may be a changing condition, state, or activity. It may mean betterment, but it not always does.
From the river of time, we can extract a general pattern we can refer
to the PRESENT, as well as the PAST, or FUTURE:
be ∞ ING.
The Perfect Aspect is for something or someone regarded to a point in time. The name “perfect” comes from Latin. For grammar, it has nothing to do with faults, flaws, or their absence. It tells about effects to a time.
have ∞ 3RD.
To move into any particular field of time, we adapt the verbs to be or to have, to make a Progressive or Perfect pattern for the PRESENT, PAST, or FUTURE. The verbs to be or to have are then auxiliary verbs, or auxiliaries, in short.
In Latin, the word auxiliaris meant “helping”, “accompanying”. Auxiliaries can help tell “where” we are in our thoughts about time: in our grammatical PRESENT, PAST, or FUTURE.
The “place, where” is a figure of speech. There is no single or specific brain area for thoughts. Own language activity is the strongest single factor to unite the working of the human brain entire (!)
Auxiliaries keep company to head verbs. There are thousands of verbs in English that can head phrases and tell faculties or activities, as to learn, to read, or to write. We can symbolize head verbs with the lemniscate or infinity. Our color code for head verbs is mauve.
Let us try a Progressive pattern for our Future field.
The Perfect pattern takes the third form. It ends in –ED, for regular verbs. For irregular verbs, the ending can be –EN. We can guess the field of time by the shape of the verb to have.
The shape of the verb to have tells we are in the PAST field of time.
The river of time has one more pattern, the Simple. It can work without auxiliaries.
What does the name Simple tell in grammar? An activity or faculty in the Simple Aspect does not take on boundaries, as to tell to what time we regard a matter, or whether we have it for something in progress.
The name of this Aspect comes from the Latin word simplus. The form is “simple”, because it may work without an auxiliary. An activity or faculty may be not simple at all, and we might use the Simple Aspect, still:
I love my grammar
(though it is not an easy feeling).
We capitalize, that is, use big letters, to write Aspect names. We use the words “simple”, “progressive”, or “perfect” as parts of noun phrases where the noun ― Aspect ― is a proper noun. We do not use the words Simple, Progressive, Perfect, or Aspect in any sense other than grammatical.
To perceive the Simple Aspect, let us try the verb to learn. It is a regular verb, in American English. We can begin with the PAST. Regular verbs take the ending ―ED for the Simple in the PAST.
I, you, we, they, he, she, it
In the PRESENT field, the third person singular has the feature “S”. We say,
he, she, or it
is, has, or does.
I, you, we, they
He, she, it
■→CHAPTER 2 shows the verb form will mapping on the FUTURE with its PRESENT form.
I, you, we, they, he, she, it
It can be any verb, to map the grammatical time in the Simple, and we can present the pattern with infinity and attributes: the feature —s for the PRESENT field of time, and the 2ND form the for the PAST field. Regular verbs end in —ED, in the 2nd form.
The infinity symbol is to mean that something cannot be exactly calculated, similarly to the ■→PI, π. It is impossible to calculate natural languages mathematically.
Nobody can count all thinkable phrases or even words. If we ascribe numerical values to alphabets, words, or phrases, we are arbitrary — and our code does not represent any objective linguistic reality.
When the Simple pattern works without auxiliaries, it is the head verb to map the grammatical time. Let us see language mapping in big letters, for all the Aspects so far.
|∞ s / 2nd||be ∞ ing||have ∞ 3rd|
|The Present||The Past||The Future|
|LEARN, LEARNS||LEARNED||WILL LEARN|
|AM, IS, ARE, learning||WAS, WERE, learning||WILL BE learning|
|HAVE, HAS, learned||HAD learned||WILL HAVE learned|
We might think it takes at least two words to shape a phrase, and the Simple does not have the phrase, sometimes. Phrases yet can work well if we have them as room we make in our language. Verb phrases are the room for grammatical time, and one word is enough to make the verb phrase in the Simple.
Some grammars use the label “Continuous” for the “Progressive”. They mean the same Aspect in practice. Travelers in Grammar remains with the name Progressive.
There is one more Aspect pattern in English, the Perfect Progressive. We can get to know it better in Part 2 of the journey. Feel now most welcome to ■→3.2. THE PERSON “YOU”.
The world may never have seen her original handwriting, if her skill was taken for supernatural. Feel welcome to Poems by Emily Dickinson prepared for print by Teresa Pelka: thematic stanzas, notes on the Greek and Latin inspiration, the correlative with Webster 1828, and the Aristotelian motif, Things perpetual — these are not in time, but in eternity.