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. Even if we actually do something, grammar only tells how we view that activity. The word aspect comes from Latin; aspectus meant “a seeing, looking at”; aspicere meant “to look upon, behold”.

There is no “objective grammar” to resolve how we people should view the world, and it is right to learn the Time and Aspect as to speak independently, for oneself.


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.

For 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”. Today, auxiliaries can help us render “where” we are in our thoughts about time: in our linguistic PRESENT, PAST, or FUTURE.

The “place, where” is a figure of speech. There is no singular 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: before it told, we do not know what there is going to be told. 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
will learn.

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 / 2ndbe inghave 3rd
The PresentThe PastThe Future
AM, IS, ARE, learningWAS, WERE, learningWILL BE learning
HAVE, HAS, learnedHAD learnedWILL 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”.

■→This text is also available in Polish.


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.
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