What Is the Perfect Aspect? (with Examples)
Perfect AspectThe perfect aspect (or complete aspect as it's sometimes called) is the aspect of a verb that expresses a completed action.
In other words, "perfect aspect" is the collective term for all the verbs (in the past tense, present tense, or future tense) in a perfect tense.
The "Perfect (or Complete) Aspect" VerbsThere are 12 tenses in total. The table below shows all four aspects and the three tenses in each aspect. The three "perfect (or completed) aspect" tenses are highlighted in yellow.
|The "Simple Aspect" Tenses||Examples|
|The simple 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|
Slider Showing Verbs in the Complete AspectThe following slider shows all 12 tenses. Each infographic shows how the tense is formed, the role of the tense, and some examples. The perfect tenses (i.e., those in the perfect aspect) are highlighted with a yellow background.
Examples of Verbs in the Perfect AspectHere are some examples of verbs in the perfect aspect:
In the Past Tense
- We had seen.
- I had cleaned.
- She had drunk.
- I have seen.
- She has taken.
- It has found.
- You will have finished.
- They will have eaten.
- She will have swum.
Forming the Perfect AspectThe perfect aspect is formed using a form of the auxiliary verb "have" and the past participle. For example:
Forming the Past Perfect Tense
- They had played.
"has" or "have"+
- He has played.
- We have played.
- He will have played.
Verb Tenses Showing the Perfect 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 perfect (or complete) 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!
Why Should I Care about the Perfect 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)