What Is the Complete Aspect? (with Examples)

by Craig Shrives

Complete Aspect

The complete aspect (or perfect aspect as it's more commonly known) is the aspect of a verb that expresses a completed action.

Put another way, "complete aspect" is the collective term for all the verbs (in the past tense, present tense, or future tense) in a complete tense (or perfect) tense.

The "Complete (or Perfect) Aspect" Verbs

In total, there are 12 tenses. This table shows all four aspects and the three tenses in each aspect. The three "complete (or perfect) aspect" tenses are highlighted in yellow.
The "Simple Aspect" TensesExamples
The simple aspect is used to describe facts and habits.
Simple Present Tense
  • The cat eats its treats.
  • Simple Past Tense
  • The cat ate its treats.
  • Simple Future Tense
  • The cat will eat its treats.
  •   
    The "Progressive (or Continuing) Aspect" TensesExamples
    The progressive aspect expresses ongoing actions.
    Present Progressive Tense
  • The cat is eating its treats.
  • Past Progressive Tense
  • The cat was eating its treats.
  • Future Progressive Tense
  • The cat will be eating its treats.
  •   
    The "Perfect (or Complete) Aspect" TensesExamples
    The perfect aspect expresses completed actions.
    Present Perfect Tense
  • The cat has eaten its treats.
  • Past Perfect Tense
  • The cat had eaten its treats.
  • Future Perfect Tense
  • The cat will have eaten its treats.
  •   
    The "Perfect Progressive Aspect" TensesExamples
    The perfect progressive aspect expresses the end of an ongoing action.
    Present Perfect Progressive Tense
  • The cat has been eating its treats.
  • Past Perfect Progressive Tense
  • The cat had been eating its treats.
  • Future Perfect Progressive Tense
  • The cat will have been eating its treats.
  • Slider Showing Verbs in the Complete Aspect

    The following slider shows all 12 tenses. The complete tenses (i.e., those in the complete aspect) are highlighted with a yellow background.

    Examples of Verbs in the Complete Aspect

    Here are some examples of verbs in the complete aspect:

    In the Past Tense
    • I had gone.
    • They had eaten.
    • She had felt.
    In the Present Tense
    • I have gone.
    • We have cleaned.
    • It has recovered.
    In the Future Tense
    • I will have gone.
    • You will have acted.
    • He will have flown.

    Forming the Complete Aspect

    The complete aspect is formed using a form of the auxiliary verb "have" and the past participle. For example:

    Forming the Past Complete Tense

    "had"
    +
    [past participle]
    • They had eaten.
    Forming the Present Complete Tense

    "has" or "have"
    +
    [past participle]
    • He has eaten.
    • We have eaten.
    Forming the Future Complete Tense

    "will have"
    +
    [past participle]
    • He will have eaten.

    Verb Tenses Showing the Complete Aspect

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

    Verb Tense Widget

    Use this widget to learn about the different tenses. How do you use this widget? Well, if there's a button, a drop-down menu, or a , then you can click it!

    Why Should I Care about the Complete Aspect?

    Native English speakers can use all twelve tenses without giving the grammar a second thought. However, if you're learning or teaching English, you must spend time learning the tenses because expressing when something occurs is a fundamental communication skill. Remember though that tenses do not just tell us whether something is a past, present, or future action. They also tell us whether the action is habitual, completed, or ongoing (called the aspects).

    The trick to learning tenses is mastering the following:
    • The verb "to be" in all its forms (am, is, are, was, were, will be)
    • The verb "to have" in all its forms (has, have, had, will have)
    • Present participles, i.e., the "ing" form of verbs (e.g., playing, thinking, eating)
    • Past participles (e.g., played, thought, eaten)
    Interactive Exercise
    Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

    See Also

    perfect aspect What is aspect? What is the perfect tense? What is the past perfect tense? What is the present complete tense? What is the future present tense? Glossary of grammatical terms