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What Is the Simple Aspect? (with Examples)

What Is the Simple Aspect? (with Examples)

The simple aspect (or indefinite aspect as it's occasionally called) is the verb form used to express a fact. Unlike other aspects (like the progressive aspect or the perfect aspect), the simple aspect does not make it clear whether the action is a complete action or a habitual action. For example:
  • Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain.
  • (fact)
  • We climbed Ben Nevis yesterday.
  • (This is a fact. Context tells us it's a complete action.)
  • He climbs Ben Nevis 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 simple aspect.

The Simple Aspect Is Not Simple

A verb in the simple aspect relies on a combination of context and tense to clarify whether the action is complete or on going. For example:
  • He ate cake.
  • (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 cake.
  • (This is also a complete action. This time, context suggests it wasn't a habitual action.)
  • He eats cake.
  • (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.

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

Examples of Verbs in the Simple Aspect

Here are some examples of verbs in the simple aspect.

In the Past Tense
  • I cleaned the window.
  • (simple past tense)
  • They cleaned the window.
  • (simple past tense)
In the Present Tense
  • I clean the window.
  • (simple present tense)
  • They clean the window.
  • (simple present tense)
In the Future Tense
  • I will clean the window.
  • (simple future tense)
  • They will clean the window.
  • (simple future tense)

Forming the Simple Aspect

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

Forming the Simple Past Tense (for most verbs)

[base form of the verb] + ed
  • They jumped.
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 jump.
  • He jumps.
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 jump.

Verb Tenses Showing the Simple Aspect

Here is a list of the verb tenses. The ones in the simple 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
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