The three verb tenses are past, present, and future. Each of these tenses have four aspects, namely simple, perfect, continuous, and perfect continuous. Together they make twelve tenses.
Aspect signifies the indefiniteness, completion, or the continuation of an action, condition, or event. Thus, there are three aspects: indefinite, complete, and continuing. Another aspect, a fourth aspect, can be made by combining the complete and the continuing aspects.
The Simple Aspects
1.The indefinite aspect describes an action, condition, or event without stating anything about its beginning or its ending. This description is a simple description of the nature of the action, condition, or event. Thus, the indefinite aspect is also known as the simple aspect.
The three simple or indefinite tenses describe an action but do not tell anything about the beginning or the ending of an action. Habitual or repeated actions also show simple aspects.
past simple OR simple past (I went)
present simple OR simple present (I go)
future simple OR simple future (I will go)
The Perfect Aspects
2. The complete aspect describes an action, condition, or event by stating its ending and emphasising that the action is complete or finished. This description is a perfect description of the nature of the action, condition, or event, as it implies the beginning and shows that the ending has completed. Thus, the complete aspect is also known as the perfect aspect.
The three perfect or complete tenses describe a completed action. The action may be completed in the past, present, or in the future.
past perfect (I had gone)
present perfect (I have gone)
future perfect (I will have gone)
The Continuous Aspects
3. The continuing aspect describes an action, condition, or event that is still in progress. This description is a continuous description of the action, condition, or event, as its ongoing or progressive nature shows that it is still going on and is not yet finished. Thus, the continuing aspect is also known as the continuous aspect or the progressive aspect. The continuous aspect implies a beginning but ending has not completed, so it is still in progress.
The three continuous or incomplete or progressive tenses describe an action that is not yet complete, an action that is still ongoing and progressing in the past, present, or in the future.
past continuous (I was going)
present continuous (I am going)
future continuous (I will be going)
The Perfect Continuous Aspects
4. The complete aspect, and the continuing aspect, can be mixed to describe an action, condition, or event that was in progress and then completed. This aspect is termed as the perfect continuous aspect. The perfect continuous aspect implies the beginning, implies the progress, and implies the ending has completed.
The three perfect continuous or perfect progressive tenses describe an action which was in progress and then it completed.
past perfect continuous (I had been going)
present perfect continuous (I have been going)
future perfect continuous (I will have been going)
|had gone||have / has gone||will have gone|
|was / were going||am / is / are going||will be going|
|had been going||have / has been going||will have been going|
1. Morenberg, Max (2010). Doing Grammar (Third ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-1997-3288-3.
2. Jackendoff, R. (2002). Foundations of Language. Oxford University Press.
3. Palmer, F. R., Mood and Modality, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2001.
4. Klaiman, M. H., Grammatical Voice (Cambridge Studies in Linguistics), Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991.
State the tense aspect of the underlined verb:
I was studying.
I had studied.
I had been studying.
I am studying.
I have studied.
I have been studying.
I will study.
I will be studying.
I will have studied.
I will have been studying.
I studied. (past simple or simple past)
I was studying. (past continuous)
I had studied. (past perfect)
I had been studying. (past perfect continuous)
I study. (present simple or simple present)
I am studying. (present continuous)
I have studied. (present perfect)
I have been studying. (present perfect continuous)
I will study. (future simple or simple future)
I will be studying. (future continuous)
I will have studied. (future perfect)
I will have been studying. (future perfect continuous)