The category of perfect
§ 13. The category of perfect is as fundamental to the English verb as the categories of tense and aspect, whereas it is quite alien to the Russian verb.
The category of perfect is constituted by the opposition of the perfecttothe non-perfect.
The perfect forms denote action preceding certain moments of time in the present, past or future. The non-perfect forms denote actions belonging to certain moments of time in the present, past or future.
To see the difference between the two categories compare the following pairs of sentences containing non-perfect and perfect forms:
§ 14. The perfect forms belong either to the continuous or to the common aspect and as such they have specific semantic characteristics of either one or of the other. Thus the perfect continuous forms denote continuous actions taking place during a definite period of time preceding the present moment or some moment of time in the past or future. The moment of time in question may be either excluded or included in the period of time of the action, as in the following:
The perfect forms of the common aspect are devoid of any specific aspect characteristics and acquire them only from the lexical meaning of the verb or out of the context in which they are used. Thus terminative verbs in the perfect forms of the common aspect express completeness of the action:
She had shut the window and was going to sleep.
The completed actions expressed by such forms may be momentary or iterative, as in:
Non-terminative verbs may express both completed and incompleted actions:
They may also express iterative or durative actions:
Thus the difference between the perfect and the perfect continuous forms is similar to the difference between the indefinite and the continuous non-perfect forms.
Before passing on to a thorough study of all verb forms in detail it should be clearly understood that every one of them is a bearer of three grammatical categories, those of tense, perfect, and aspect, that is every form shows whether the action refers to the present, the past, the future or the future viewed from the past; whether it belongs to a certain moment of time within each of these time-divisions or precedes that moment, and whether it is treated as continuous or not.
Tense, aspect and perfect forms of the English verbs
Thus each tense is represented by four verb forms involving such categories as aspect and perfect. There are
four present tense forms:
the present indefinite (the simple present)
the present continuous
the present perfect
the present perfect continuous
four past tense forms:
the past indefinite (the simple past)
the past continuous
the past perfect
the past perfect continuous
four future tense forms:
the future indefinite (the simple future)
the future continuous
the future perfect
the future perfect continuous
four future in-the-past tenses:
the future in-the-past indefinite (the simple future-in-the-past)
the future in-the-past continuous
the future in-the-past perfect
the future in-the-past perfect continuous.
§ 15. All the present tenses (The present indefinite, the present continuous, the present perfect, the present perfect continuous) refer the actions they denote to the present, that is to, the time of speaking. The difference between them lies in the way they express the categories of aspect and perfect.
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