Forms of Narrative Tense Aspects

I use the term Narrative Tense to mean a combination of
• Tense — Past; Present; Future
• Aspect — Simple; Continuous; Perfect (Simple); Perfect Continuous
for events as described by an observer (the Narrator).

An event's content is defined by its choice of verb.

Aspect refers to the relationship of the observer to the event, as depicted on a timeline.
Tense refers to a point or period of time relative to now i.e. before / at / after.

The meaning of a narrative tense is largely determined by its aspect, however its tense also plays a role.

    Non-Perfect Aspects

  1. Simple aspects (action verb) refer to an entire event — as seen on a timeline, the viewer is outside the event.

  2. Continuous aspects refer to a partial / incomplete event — as seen on a timeline, the viewer is inside the event.

  3. Simple aspects: To reconcile an entire event with a point in time, in a clause the point in time (if specified) is of longer duration than the event.
    I watched a movie [2½ hours] on the weekend [48 hours].
    World War I [4 years] happened [in history].

  4. Present Simple narrative tense is usually used for habits and states, however it can be used for narrative (usually in the 3rd person).
    I often play football. I like pizza. Messi kicks a goal!

  5. Perfect Aspects

  6. Perfect aspects add a period of time (duration), up to a point of time in: the past / the present (i.e. now) / the future. (Without a Perfect aspect, a clause refers to a point in time.)

  7. Perfect Continuous aspects add a period of time to a continuous action.
    I am watching television; I have been watching television all morning.
    Multiple events refer to multiple partial (incomplete) events, which sum to an incomplete event.
    • Quantity: 0.0 < # < 1.0
    We have been painting our house all week. [One or more partial events; the painting is not complete.]

  8. Perfect Simple aspects have different meanings for state verbs and action verbs.
    For a state verb, the meaning of duration is obvious.
    She had lived in London for 10 years. I haven't ever liked pizza.
    For an action verb, the period of time contains multiple individual (complete) events.
    • Quantity: # = 1, 2, 3, …
    I have visited my parents 5 times this year. I have done my homework.

  9. Combinations

  10. Simple & Simple:

    For all tenses, this combination is used for a sequence of events in time (A then B then C …).
    For the Present tense, it is usually only used in the 3rd person for a spectacle e.g. a sports event. I woke up; I took a shower; I dressed; I ate breakfast.
    Messi lines up for goal; Messi kicks the ball; Messi scores; Messi is great!
    I will clean my room; I will do my homework; I will feed the dog.

  11. Past Perfect Simple & Past Simple:

    Past Perfect Simple narrative tense is used to describe an event in the earlier past, compared to the Past Simple narrative tense for the main narrative.
    We had phoned [earlier] the hotel before we arrived [main] there.

  12. Past [Perfect] Continuous & Past Simple:

    This combination is used to refer to an event which is in progress (Continuous, with or without a duration — Perfect) at the time another event occurs (Simple).
    I was watching television when the phone rang.
    The plane had been flying for 6 hours when the bomb exploded.

Diagrammatic representation and Table of Auxiliary Verbs.

English Verb System


Some examples of using common verbs — regular (wash) and irregular (take) — and auxiliary verbs — be, do, have — in all Aspects, Tenses, and Voices.

You can use these tables to make all 3 types of sentence — Affirmative & Negative statements, plus direct Questions.

Use your own imagination when inventing the Subject and Object parts of a Clause.
Q. Have you done your homework?
Y. I have done my homework.
N. I have not done my homework.

Active Voice table and Passive Voice table.

© 2016-2018 Kane Muir

BC Phonemic Chart

Click here to see my own version of BC's Phonemic chart.