In childhood, we people mostly first learn telling where things or persons are, and the ability to tell the hour comes after. Place and time remain a natural association throughout lifespan: for a thing to take place, there has to be time.

Human walking or other moving about needs place and time, yet it does not need anybody to describe, give rules or definitions. Ourselves, we do not verbalize as “now I am going to move about according to this narrative”; we just move about, using our awareness of spatio-temporal whereabouts. There are a few words quite often in use, to talk about places in English, as on, in, and to.

So far, we have found out about three Aspects, the Simple, the Progressive, and the Perfect. For language too, we do not say to ourselves, “now I am going to use the Simple Aspect”, to speak or write. Let us connect the Aspects and basic ways we people orientate in physical space.

Humans have evolved grammars on the surface of planet Earth, and this is where we can begin. Since the beginning — people have lived in environments allowing the horizontal plane.

In everyday life, it is quite natural to map the environment cognitively. Most human minds build a perspective for the neighborhood or vicinity, in familiar settings. Let us think about a picture we could associate with this inhabited world.

Human grammatical ability is not limited to spatial whereabouts. Let us think about an abstract surface. We can have a few such symbolic extents.

The Simple Aspect can help tell what generally existed, exists, or we think that will exist ON a cognitive extent.

We skateboarded a lot.
We work.
We will ski all winter.

The Progressive Aspect helps tell that something was, is, or we predict that will be IN progress, or IN its course. Our picture for this Aspect may be activity or faculty as IN an area.

We were hiking.
I am writing a grammar book.
They will be working.

The Aspects are not options. They can work together. The Simple may tell what got ON a cognitive extent, when we were IN progress with something else.
We were picking strawberries when the rain came.

We can use the Perfect Aspect to say what had taken place, has taken place, or we reason that will have taken place TO a moment in time. The moment does not have to mark the end of the state, activity, or faculty. We may compare this to a way TO a place.

I had studied.
He has traveled a lot.
We will have finished by then.

Schools of grammar may vary on words as on, in, to, or at, and these can be adverbs, sometimes. Adverbs may go into categories as manner or place, dependent on the grammar approach only.

Let us mind that word forms are language forms. In French, we could say sur, in German auf, and in Russian на (Latin alphabet na), in contexts we say on, in English. The ■→EXTRAS tell more about language form.

We can resolve to use ON, IN, and TO as prepositions. The idea will work just the same, wherever we are, and whatever the hour; we become independent of grammar definitions or rules by other people. Likewise, we do not need anybody describing, to move about.

Grammar rules are unable to predict all possible head verbs. We can include the infinity symbol with all Aspects, to view language learning as it naturally is: it much depends on thinking in real time. A little bit of human logic can make this thinking easier.

(e)s / 2ndbe inghave 3rd

As there are four Aspects, we have altogether four prepositions to works as Aspect mapping qualities for English, ON, IN, TO, and AT.

The prepositions work as cognitive variables then. The name variable does not mean that something often changes. The Aspects have not changed in hundreds of years. Variables are things to work flexibly; there cannot be a rule strictly to design their use.

Importantly, we are not building a system. Systems need to be finite. Language is not a finite entity: it is impossible to calculate all phrases people can create. Infinity is our symbol for that.

We are not building a program, either. It is reasonable to doubt if computers are really capable of cognitive variables. Our human variables are up to our choosing; they are not predictable in terms for any program; there is not and there cannot be a rule to decide if we want to say that we live somewhere, or we have lived, have been living, or we are living somewhere.

Our core verbs (BE, HAVE, DO, WILL), time extents (PRESENT, PAST, FUTURE), and Aspects  (SIMPLE, PROGRESSIVE, PERFECT), are a human logical set or array, where the Aspects have the role of cognitive variables, ON, IN, TO, and AT.

How would our logic and set compare with classic grammar? Classic grammars may advise to use use the Progressive for things “happening now”, or “a given moment”, and the the Simple for matters that are more regular. We might get to associate the Progressive with words as “now” or “then”, and the Simple with words as “always” or “never”.

It is yet standard to say or write,
I am happy now;
I think I like it now;
(the Present Simple).

It also would be standard to say or write,
Jake is being mad now; he is “nuts”.
John is mad angry now; his investment has not worked.

We may know the thing to make us happy is one in the sort; we may be aware that Jake loves peanut butter with cottage cheese and himself calls it “nuts”; we may be ready to give John a leaflet about new tax reductions, knowing he is a very balanced person, in his everyday work and life.

Our grammar for the above yet would remain the same. If we turn to classic grammars, we may learn there are special verbs we call “stative” and they make all the exception for the Progressive and Simple. We yet would need to memorize them like from a list, whereas it is so natural for the same verb to become part in varied phrases of different Aspects, among people and person to person, in similar contexts. We can try the ■→CORPUS OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN ENGLISH.

We have already noted, if we want to say that we live somewhere, we have lived, have been living, or we are living somewhere — it is up to ourselves to decide. The matter with good grammar is to learn to make such linguistic decisions without redundant effort. Language learning is not a study in repeating after other people.


The idea here is that we people are able to grant cognitive extents to thinking. We anyway do not think about everything all the time.

Let us compare standard language use again. For thinking and feeling, whether the emotion or idea is good or bad, people tend to grant entire cognitive extents, that is, use the Simple Aspect, our variable ON.

I am happy now;
I think I like it now;
John is mad angry now.

If people behave in ways that would not take entire extents, because it is not their usual for example, the language standard allows to delineate, and the Aspect is Progressive.
Jake is being mad now.
■→CHAPTER 7 has more about the Aspect.

We can learn to grant extents:
I am hating you — the variable {IN} does not mean I always hate, or that I really hate you at all: I do not use the variable {ON}.

Cognitive extents can help with everyday American English a lot. Freedom of speech is cherished in the United States, and people are free to choose on own language styles. This means that grammar books are not to prescribe on the language.

The use above, as hating or loving, continues to be discarded by many classic grammars. They require for verbs as to love or to hate to be always in the Simple or Perfect. The Progressive use is yet quite standard today, and after all, these are people to make the language norm. The title of this chapter says time rambles different, though classic grammars would advise differently.

Whether the English is American or British, it is the objective reality that we humans live ON Earth, happen to be IN geographical areas, and may learn and remember ways TO places. Relating this reality and language cannot break reasonable rules.

Our linguistic arrays are not options or collections. They work interconnected. Feel welcome to ■→4.1. The idea of travel in grammar.

■→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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