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What Is the Indefinite Aspect?The indefinite aspect (or simple aspect as it's more commonly called) is the verb form used to express a fact. Unlike other aspects (like 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.)
Table of Contents
- The Indefinite Aspect Is Quite Complicated
- The Three "Indefinite Aspect" Verb Tenses
- Examples of Verbs in the Indefinite Aspect
- Forming the Indefinite Aspect
- Verb Tenses Showing the Indefinite Aspect
- Verb Tense Widget
- Why Understanding the Indefinite Aspect Is Important
- Printable Test
The Indefinite Aspect Is Quite ComplicatedDespite also being called the simple aspect, the indefinite aspect is not simple. A verb in the indefinite aspect relies on a combination of context and tense to clarify whether the action is complete or on going. For example:
- She 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.)
- She ate a cake. (This is also a complete action. This time, context suggests it wasn't a habitual action.)
- She eats cake. (This time, it's unclear whether this is a habitual action or just a fact.)
The Three "Indefinite Aspect" Verb TensesThis lesson is about the three tenses (past, present, and future) in the indefinite (or simple) aspect. There are four aspects in total, each of which has three tenses. So, overall, there are 12 tenses.
The tables below show all 12 tenses categorized by aspect. The tenses in the indefinite (or simple) aspect are highlighted.
|The "Indefinite (Simple) Aspect" Tenses||Examples|
|The indefinite aspect is used to describe facts and habits.|
|Simple Present Tense|
|Simple Past Tense|
|Simple Future Tense|
|The "Progressive (or Continuing) Aspect" Tenses||Examples|
|The progressive aspect expresses ongoing actions.|
|Present Progressive Tense|
|Past Progressive Tense|
|Future Progressive Tense|
|The "Perfect (or Complete) Aspect" Tenses||Examples|
|The perfect aspect expresses completed actions.|
|Present Perfect Tense|
|Past Perfect Tense|
|Future Perfect Tense|
|The "Perfect Progressive Aspect" Tenses||Examples|
|The perfect progressive aspect expresses the end of an ongoing action.|
|Present Perfect Progressive Tense|
|Past Perfect Progressive Tense|
|Future Perfect Progressive Tense|
Examples of Verbs in the Indefinite AspectHere are some examples of verbs in the indefinite aspect.
In the Past Tense
- I washed the car. (simple past tense)
- They washed the car. (simple past tense)
In the Present Tense
- I wash the car. (simple present tense)
- They wash the car. (simple present tense)
In the Future Tense
- I will wash the car. (simple future tense)
- They will wash the car. (simple future tense)
Forming the Indefinite AspectHere is an overview on how to form the indefinite aspect:
Forming the Simple Past Tense (for most verbs)
- They danced.
Forming the Simple Present Tense (for most verbs)
- We dance.
- She dances.
Forming the Simple Future Tense
- He will dance.
Verb Tenses Showing the Indefinite AspectHere are the 12 tenses again. This time, the tenses are ordered under the headings past tense, present tense, and future tense. As before, the tenses in the indefinite aspect are shaded in yellow.
|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|
Verb Tense WidgetUse 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! 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. The simple tenses are usually the first tenses taught, but, as we've covered, they're not simple at all, and they're not used too often during a natural conversation.
Remember 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)
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