(Notes taken from Lynn M.Berk: English Syntax - from word to discourse, New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1999)

Tense and aspect are completely separate grammtical systems. Tense is a particular set of inflectional affixes (tense markers) that communicate information about the time frame in which something exists or occurs. Aspects are different ways of viewing the internal temporal constituency of a situation. Aspect markers are a combination of inflectional suffixes and auxiliary verbs.

English has only two tense markers - the present and the past. These tense markers are suffixes or vowel change or suppletive form.

PRESENT TENSE (rarely communicates an action or event that is ongoing in present time)
* habitual activities:
- I eat cheese.
- My cousin attends the Chinese University. He works at the zoo.
* state (experience, condition):
- The Empire State Building is tall.
* universal truth:
- Hot air rises. Two and two equals four.
* scheduled, future event:
- The train arrives at noon.
- The concert starts after the reception.
* historical, narrative present:
- Jack climbs up the hill and creeps into the castle.
* performatives:
- I now pronounce you husband and wife.
- I move that this meeting be adjourned.
- I beg you to leave.
* commentary present:
- (horse race) They're at the gate. They're off.

X I eat dinner now.
= I smell gas (I can smell gas).

* usually requires a time frame in some way
- I ate yesterday.
- I broke my arm day before yesterday.
- She phoned a moment ago.
- I met Robert many years ago.
- I saw Fred in town. (i.e. when I was there this morning.)
- I smoked forty cigarettes a day till I gave up.
- I always liked Gloria.
- I often saw her in Rome.

* a polite form:
- I wanted to ask you for a favour. (=I want to ask you for a favour.)

[FUTURE: periphrastic construction (by adding extra words)
- I shall eat
- It will rain tomorrow.
- The baby is going to fall.
- They are coming later.
- The train arrives at 9:00 tonight.
- Yves is to arrive at noon.]

There are two aspects in English - progressive and perfect.

usually used to communicate an ongoing and incomplete event.

* referring to an event that is occuring in present time
- I am eating.
- Someone is knocking at the door.
- He is working at the moment, so he can't come to the telephone.
- She is studying English at Durham University.
- Don't take the ladder away, your father's using it. (but perhaps not at the moment)
- We're spending next winter in Australia.
- She's always helping people.
- I have broken my arm.

* referring to an ongoing past event and incomplete
- I was eating.
- I was living abroad in 1987, so I missed the general election.
- Just as I was living the room, the phone rang.
- While I was working in the garden, my wife was cooking dinner.
- When he worked here, Roger was always making mistakes.
- I was wondering if you could give me a lift.

***** remarks about progressive aspect ******
Not all verbs take the progressive.
* dynamic verbs: have progressive aspect.
- eat, go, hit, read, make, grow, have, etc.

* state verbs: by nature is ongoing and doesn't require additional grammatical information to indicate that fact.
->love, like, prefer, want, belong, etc.
X The Empire State Building is being tall.
X I am having a dog.

* mental state verbs: take progressive only when describing an activity.
->believe, desire, own, etc.
- I am thinking about dessert.
- I am understanding statistics better these days.
- I am craving spaghetti.
- We are having dinner (= We are dining).
- I am having a baby (= I am pregnant).

* sensory verbs: pathological meanning when using progressive.
- I am seeing stars.
- I am hearing things.
except I am feeling some pain.

* copulas expressing relatively permanent states don't co-occur with the progressive
X You are appearing angry.
X Mary is seeming sad.

* sonsory copulas can co-occur with the progressive to mean temporary state:
->seem, appear, sound, look, be, get, turn
- The children are being impolite. (temporary impolite)
(The children are impolite. - relative permanent state)
- He is attending AA meetings. (temporary)
(He attends AA meetings - permanent)

* punctual verbs: take progressive to mean repeated actions.
->blink, cough, knock, flash, hit, pinch, slap, stab
- Mary is pinching her little sister.



* of current relevance:
- I have cut my finger. (and I am bleeding all over the floor.)
- I have eaten a late dinner. (and I am not hungry now.)

* experiential:
- I have been to Russia.

* referring to recent past:
- Summer vacation has ended.
- Mike has arrived.

* relationship between two time points, one in the past and one that includes the present.
- Mary has lived here three years. (Mary still lives here.)
[Past simple: Mary lived here three years. (Mary is no longer at this address.)]
X Shakespeare has written 37 plays. (Shapespeare is not writing anymore.)

* a past event that somehow bumps up against another, more recent past event.
- I had eaten my dinner [when you called.]
- I had read three pages of the report [when Jerry walked in.]

The HAVE of the perfect, the BE of the progressive and the BE of the passive are called primary auxiliaries.
Primary auxiliaries have no independent semantic content.

Lexical verbs communicate a number of meanings and semantically complex. The lexical verb is always the last verb in the verb phrase.

Auxiliary BE and HAVE are completely different from lexical BE and HAVE.
- Mike is being obnoxious.
- Mary has had trouble with her car.

- I have been eating all day.
- Dave has been sleeping all day.
[Dave began sleeping in the past and that this is an incomplete, ongoing activity that includes the present.]

- I had been eating all day.
- Dave had been sleeping all day.
[Dave began sleeping in the past and that this is an incomplete, ongoing activity that somehow bumps up against another, more recent past event.]

* * *


Present I eat.Base form (add -s for 3PS)
PastI ate.Simple past
Present ProgressiveI am eating. Present form of 'be' + [base form + -ing]
Past ProgressiveI was eating. Past form of 'be' + [base form + -ing]
Present PerfectI have eaten. Present form of 'have' + past participle
Past PerfectI had eaten. Past form of 'have' + past participle
Present Perfect ProgressiveI have been eating. Present form of 'have' + been + [base form + -ing]
Past Perfect ProgressiveI had been eating. Past form of 'have' + been + [base form + -ing]
Modal + Base FormI will eat. Modal + base form
Modal ProgressiveI will be eating. Modal + be + [base form + -ing]
Modal PerfectI will have eaten. Modal + have + past participle
Modal Perfect ProgressiveI will have been eating. Modal + have + been + past participle