Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(21) Verbs and the Progressive Aspect.

(Formal and Functional Description).

(21.1) Grammatical Categories of Verbs

- E: tense, aspect, mood, voice, person, number

- primary verbal features: tense, aspect, mood, voice

- secondary nominal features: subject-verb agreement in person and number

- verbal categories manifested in: (a) flexion/(b) auxiliaries

- CZ: tense, aspect, mood, voice, person, number, gender, conjugation

(21.2) The Category of Tense/Aspect

(21.2.1) Time versus Tense

- time = a universal non-linguistic concept divided into past/present/future

- tense = the correspondence btw the form of the verb and our concept of time

- present tense: actions simultaneous wrt the time of utterance

- past tense: actions preceding the time of utterance

- future tense: actions following the time of utterance

- tense => a deictic category (<> some pronouns/adverbs)

(21.2.2) Tense/Aspect System in English/Czech

- CZ: 3 tenses (past, present, future) + 1 aspect (perfect) = 5 verbal forms (combination PERF + PRES impossible)

- E: 3 tenses + 2 aspects (perfect, progressive) = 12 verbal forms modified wrt tense/aspect complex

- CZ: most verbs morphologically marked either as having no aspect [nedokonavé] or having the perfect aspect [dokonavé]

- CZ: aspect = an inherent verbal category

- E: base verb forms neutral wrt aspect, only the progressive forms marked for aspect

- E: the PROG = a tense + aspect category x the PERF = a tense category (Dušková)

- aspect = the manner of experiencing the verbal action either as completed or in progress

- perfect aspect: have (in different forms accord. to the structure) + passive participle

- progressive aspect: be (in different forms according to the structure) + present participle of the lexical V

(21.3) Functions of the Progressive Aspect

- typical functions

(a) continuation of action

(b) repetition of action

(c) change of state

(d) near future

(21.3.1) Present Progressive

( Typical Reference

- a momentary action in progress: what are you looking for?

- change of state: the standard of living is rising

- temporary situation: people are becoming less tolerant of smoking these days

- near future: he is moving to London

- repeated actions: she’s always helping people

( Typical Usage

- commentaries on sport to describe longer-lasting actions: X passes to Y, Y makes a quick pass to Z, Z is away with the ball, but he’s losing his advantage...

- narration to describe the background of an event/present simple to describe the main event: I’m driving along this country road and I’m completely lost, then I see this old fellow, he’s leaning against a gate...

- newspaper headlines to describe future: cabinet minister resigning soon

(21.3.2) Past Progressive

( Typical Reference

- actions in progress in the past: I was playing tennis all this afternoon

- a past action in progress while another past action took place: we were having our breakfast when the clock struck nine

- parallel actions: while I was working in the garden, my husband was cooking dinner

- a past action in progress btw two time limits in the past: yesterday from five to seven I was learning French

- repeated actions: when he worked here, Roger was always making mistakes

( Typical Usage

- typically combined with the oth. past tenses (past simple/perfect) in narratives referring to the past

- past progressive used for scene-setting: it was evening, the sun was setting, a gentle wind was blowing, in the distance I noticed a car...

(21.3.3) Future Progressive

- will/shall + be + present participle: prediction about a present action, reference to a planned future action (he will be still reading his paper; I can’t come this afternoon because I’ll be training)

- be going to + bare infinitive: intention in the future or an event "on the way" (we are going to get married, she’s going to have a baby)

- be about to + bare infinitive: immediate future (we are about to leave)

- be on the point of + present participle: immediacy (look! they’re on the point of starting)

(21.3.4) Present Perfect Progressive

- an action started in the past, still in progress and likely to continue in the future: I’ve been waiting for him for half an hour but he hasn’t come yet

- an action in the past with consequences at the present: he is tired because he has been working too hard

(21.3.5) Past Perfect Progressive

- expresses the same type of action as the PRES PERF PROG but in relation to another action in the past

- I had been waiting for him for half an hour when his wife came to tell me he had had an accident

- he was very tired because he had been working too hard

(21.3.6) Future Perfect Progressive

- by next January we shall have been living here for ten years

(21.4) Restrictions on the Progressive Aspect

- progressive aspect typically with action verbs only

- x not with action verbs referring to mental processes: think, wonder, puzzle, guess, count, calculate

- with state verbs only after their re-categorisation as action verbs and a change of meaning

(21.4.1) State Verbs

(a) physical states: feel, hurt, ache, itch

(b) perceptions: see, hear, smell, taste, feel

(c) mental states: know, understand, believe, doubt, hope, think

(d) emotions: like, love, detest, envy, hate, prefer, wish, want

(e) human external relations: contain, involve, concern, measure, cost, resemble

(f) having and being: belong, own, depend, seem, appear, need

(21.4.2) Modals

- inert elements = lack of inflectional morphology: no 3rd per. SG present form/no gerund/no participle/no to infinitive

- do not form passive/imperative

- suppletive forms for infinitive: can > be able to; may > be allowed to; must > have to, etc.

(21.4.3) Copula Verbs

- typically NO progressive aspect

- x be re-categorised from state V (= meaning general characteristics) to action V (= meaning a momentary behaviour): he is clever x he is being clever

- x have in verbo-nominal groups: I have a book x I’m having a lunch

(21.4.4) Passive Structures

- continuous forms used only with present/past: the picture is being finished/the picture was being finished

- NOT with future: ?the house will be being built

- NOT in combination with perfect aspect: ?the house has been being built


Dušková, Libuše, et al. Mluvnice současné angličtiny na pozadí češtiny. Praha: Academia, 2003.

Svoboda, Aleš, and Mária Opělová Károlyová. A Brief Survey of the English Morphology. Ostrava: Ostravská univerzita, 1993.

Other Sources

Veselovská, Ludmila. Přednášky a semináře: Morfologie 2. ZS 2003/04.

Veselovská, Ludmila. Přednášky a semináře: Syntax 1 a 2. ZS a LS 2003/04.


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