Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

What Is the Indefinite Aspect? (with Examples)

What Is the Indefinite Aspect? (with Examples)

The indefinite aspect (or simple aspect as it's more commonly called) is the verb form used to express a fact. Unlike the progressive aspect or the perfect aspect, the indefinite aspect does not make it clear whether the action is a complete action or a habitual action. For example:
  • Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. (fact)
  • We climbed Mount Everest yesterday. (This is a fact. Context tells us it's a complete action.)
  • He climbs Mount Everest every year. (This is a fact. Context tells us it's a habitual action.)
Any verb (in the past, present or future) in the indefinite (or simple) tense is said to be in the indefinite aspect (more commonly called the simple aspect).

The Indefinite (or Simple Aspect) Is Not Simple

A verb in the indefinite aspect relies on tense and context to make it clear whether the action is complete or on going. For example:
  • He ate fish.
  • (The tense tell us this is a complete action, but it is unclear whether this was a habitual action or not. The context doesn't make it clear.)
  • He ate a fish.
  • (This is also a complete action. This time, context suggests it wasn't a habitual action.)
  • He eats fish.
  • (This time, it's unclear whether this is a habitual action or just a fact.)
This aspect's name (i.e., the simple aspect) does not do justice to how complicated it is.

That said, with the exception of the simple future tense (which is formed with the auxiliary verb will), verbs in the indefinite aspect are not formed using auxiliary verbs or participles. So, it's quite simple to form.

Examples of Verbs in the Indefinite Aspect

Here are some examples of verbs in the indefinite aspect.

In the Past Tense
  • I drove the car.
  • (simple past tense)
  • They watched the play.
  • (simple past tense)
In the Present Tense
  • I drive the car.
  • (simple present tense)
  • They watch the play.
  • (simple present tense)
In the Future Tense
  • I will drive the car.
  • (simple future tense)
  • They will watch the play.
  • (simple future tense)

Forming the Indefinite Aspect

Here is an overview on how to form the indefinite aspect:

Forming the Simple Past Tense (for most verbs)

[base form of the verb] + ed
  • They played.
This is how the simple past tense is formed with most verbs. However, there are several spelling rules to consider.

Read more about forming the simple past tense.

Forming the Simple Present Tense (for most verbs)

[base form of the verb by itself]

or (if it's the third person singular (he, she, or it))

[base form of the verb] + s
  • We play.
  • He plays.
This is how the simple present tense is formed with most verbs. However, there are several spelling rules to consider.

Read more about forming the simple present tense.

Forming the Simple Future Tense

"will" + [base form of the verb]
  • He will play.

Verb Tenses Showing the Indefinite Aspect

Here is a list of the verb tenses. The ones in the indefinite aspect are shaded.

The 4 Past Tenses Example
simple past tense I went
past progressive tense I was going
past perfect tense I had gone
past perfect progressive tense I had been going
The 4 Present Tenses Example
simple present tense I go
present progressive tense I am going
present perfect tense I have gone
present perfect progressive tense I have been going
The 4 Future Tenses Example
simple future tense I will go
future progressive tense I will be going
future perfect tense I will have gone
future perfect progressive tense I will have been going
Interactive Test
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