What Is the Simple Aspect? (with Examples)
Simple AspectThe 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.)
The Simple Aspect Is Not SimpleA 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.)
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.
The "Simple Aspect" VerbsThere are 12 tenses in total. The table below shows all four aspects and the three tenses in each aspect. The three "simple 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 Simple AspectThe following slider shows all 12 tenses. The simple tenses (i.e., those in the simple aspect) are highlighted with a yellow background.
Examples of Verbs in the Simple AspectHere 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)
- I clean the window. (simple present tense)
- They clean the window. (simple present tense)
- I will clean the window. (simple future tense)
- They will clean the window. (simple future tense)
Forming the Simple AspectHere is an overview on how to form the simple aspect:
Forming the Simple Past Tense (for most verbs)
[base form of the verb]+
- They jumped.
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]+
- We jump.
- He jumps.
Read more about forming the simple present tense.
Forming the Simple Future Tense
[base form of the verb]
- He will jump.
Verb Tenses Showing the Simple 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 simple 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 Simple 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. 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)