The category of aspect
§ 11. In general the category of aspect shows the way or manner in which an action is performed, that is whether the action is perfective (совершенное), imperfective (несовершенное), momentary (мгновенное, однократное), iterative (многократное, повторяющееся), inchoative (зачинательное), durative (продолженное, длительное), etc.
In English the category of aspect is constituted by the opposition of the continuous aspect and the common aspect.
The opposition the continuous aspect <> the common aspect is actualized in the following contrasting pairs of forms:
will be speaking
has been speaking
The forms in the left-hand column (whether taken in context, or treated by themselves) have a definite meaning: they describe an action as a concrete process going on continuously at a definite moment of time, or characteristic of a definite period of time (hence its name - the continuous aspect). The forms in the right-hand column, if treated by themselves, are devoid of any specific aspectual meaning. They denote the action as such, in a most general way, and can acquire a definite and more specified aspective meaning due to the lexical meaning of the verb and specific elements of the context in which they are used. Thus, for example, the verb form sang, when regarded out of context, has no specific aspectual characteristics, conveying only the idea of the action of singing with reference to the past. However when the same form is used in the context, it acquires the aspectual meaning conferred on it by that context. Compare the following sentences:
When he was young he sang beautifully (пел = умел петь).
The fact that these forms may express different aspectual meanings according to the context, accounts for the term - the common aspect.
Whereas all verbs can be used in the common aspect, there are certain restrictions as to the use of the continuous aspect. Some verbs do not usually have the forms of the continuous aspect. They are referred to as statal verbs. The most common of them are the following:
1. ^ Relational verbs have, be and some link verbs:
become, remain, appear, seem, sound.
However, both to be and to have can be used in the continuous aspect forms where to be has the meaning to act and to have has a meaning other than to possess.
She is so foolish!
I have three brothers.
She is being so foolish (acting foolishly) today.
I am having dinner (am dining) now.
Other verbs having the same meaning of relation are not used in the continuous aspect forms:
to apply to
to belong to
to compare (to)
Verbs expressing sense
perception, that is involuntary reactions of the senses:
to feel (чувствовать),
to hear (слышать),
to see (видеть),
to smell (чувствовать запах),
to taste (чувствовать вкус).
However these verbs as well as
other statal verbs may be
sometimes used in continuous
and perfect continuous forms, especially in informal English.*
3. Verbs expressing emotional
to care, to detest, to envy, to fear, to hate, to hope, to like, to love, to prefer, to want, to wish.
4. Verbs expressing mental state:
to assume, to believe, to consider, to doubt, to expect, to find, to forget, to imagine, to know, to mean, to mind, to notice, to perceive, to remember, to suggest, to suppose, to think, to understand.
Care should be taken to
distinguish between some of
these verbs denoting a
mental state proper and the
same verbs used in other
meanings. In the latter case continuous aspect forms also occur. Compare, for example, the
following pairs of sentences:
I consider (believe) her to be a very good student.
I expected (supposed, thought) youd agree with me.
I feel (suppose) there is something wrong about him.
I think (suppose) youre right.
Im still considering (studying) all the pros and cons.
I could not come for I was expecting (waiting for) a friend at the time.
Im feeling quite cold.
I am thinking over (studying) your offer.
I am forgetting things more
and more now (beginning to
She is understanding grammar
better now (beginning to
Moreover, all the verbs treated in
12 can occur in the continuous
aspect when the ideas they denote
are to be emphasized:
Dont shout, I'am hearing you perfectly well!