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This is an attempt to illustrate how English presents aspect in various tenses with various types of verbs. The means of presenting include verb inflection, modal and auxiliary verbs, modal adverbs, use of lexical terms in periphrasis.

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  • (present): He attends university / He is attending university
  • (past): He used to attend university (perfect or imperfect) / I once attended university (perfect) / He has been attending university. {imperfect)

WP's list of aspect terms[edit]

The following aspectual terms are found in the literature. Approximate English equivalents are given.

Aspect Languages (as morpheme) English examples Tense compatability Aktionsart (5)
perfective WP 'I struck the bell' (an event viewed in its entirety, without reference to its temporal structure during its occurrence) all
*perfect WP (a common conflation of aspect and tense): 'I have arrived' (brings attention to the consequences of a situation in the past) NA
*recent perfect WP, also known as after perfect 'I just ate' or 'I am after eating' (Hiberno-English) all
imperfective WP (an action with ongoing nature combines the meanings of both the continuous and the habitual aspects): 'I am walking to work' (continuous) or 'I walk to work every day' (habitual). all
continuous WP 'I am eating' or 'I know' (situation is described as ongoing and either evolving or unevolving/stative; a subtype of imperfective) all
progressive WP 'I am/was/will be eating' (action is described as ongoing and evolving; a subtype of continuous) all
habitual WP 'I used to walk home from work', 'I would walk home from work every day', 'I walk home from work (every day/whenever...) [base, present]' (a subtype of imperfective) all
momentane WP 'The mouse squeaked once' (contrasted to 'The mouse squeaked / was squeaking') all
prospective WP (a conflation of aspect and tense) 'I am about to eat', 'I am going to eat" (brings attention to the anticipation of a future situation) all
stative WP 'I know French' (situation is described as ongoing but not evolving; a subtype of continuous) all
gnomic WP (timeless) 'Fish swim and birds fly' (general truths; using base, present of verb) all
episodic WP 'The bird flew' (non-gnomic) all
continuative WP 'I am still eating' all
inceptive WP 'I started running' (beginning of a new action: dynamic) all
inchoative WP 'The flowers bloom' (beginning of a new state: static) all
terminative WP ~ cessative WP 'I finished eating' all
defective WP 'I almost fell' all
pausative WP 'I stopped working for a while' all
resumptive WP 'I went back to sleep' all
punctual WP 'I fell asleep' all
durative WP 'I slept for a while' all
delimitative WP 'I slept for an hour' all
protractive WP sign languages 'The argument went on and on' (reduplication, particles 'on') all
iterative WP 'I read the same books again and again' (reduplication) all
frequentative WP 'It sparkled', contrasted with 'It sparked'. Or, 'I run around', vs. 'I run' all
experiential WP Mandarin 'I have gone to school many times' all
intentional WP Lakota, Mina, Malayalam, Irian 'I ran into him on purpose' [adverbs, prepositional phrases] all
accidental WP abilitive Tamil, Ivatan, Uyghur, Indonesian 'I accidentally knocked over the chair' all
intensive WP 'It glared' [adverbs: 'a lot'] all
moderative WP Tagalog 'It shone' [also used about adjectives, see -ish all
attenuative WP Japanese??? 'It glimmered' [adverbs: 'intermittently', 'less and less'] all