English grammar questions, answered by Alan

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Post by ShakeyX » Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:05 am

I must preface this post with the fact that I am actually English, but since trying to learn another language I realise I fall short with a lot of the grammatical terms that are being explained to me.

So far I've been using wikipedia but it constantly switches between the word progressive and continuous and says perfective when it means perfect and its blowing my mind so I was wondering if anyone could lay it out to me.

Okay so I'm learning Russian and unlike Russians who use the normal "Present Tense" to say what they are doing currently (i.e. Я ем - literally; "I eat" however translates to "I am eating") I have come to learn that we use the present participle (I am eating). So in English what are the technical names for these two uses;

I am eating (now/fish/cheese/rapidly)
I eat (everyday/fish/cheese)

In my mind I can of course imagine when I would use them but have no way of describing why. I might say I eat for a living... but I am eating now so I can't answer the phone. I just want justification for the use of the participle rather than the flat out verb like other languages use, do we have something that other languages don't?

Also I am getting mixed messages on this topic, as far as I know, English does not use Perfective and Imperfective aspect such as Russian language however we have something called "THE PERFECT" which can be formed by using the past participle... apparently. Anyone care to give me help with that?

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Re: Participles

Post by Alan » Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:04 am

If I have understood your main queries correctly...
1. The terms 'progressive' and 'continuous' are entirely synonymous: some grammarians prefer one, and some the other.
2. Tense-forms such as 'I am eating' - which contain a present participle (eating) - are consequently labelled either 'present continuous' or 'present progressive'.
3. The opposite of 'progressive/continuous' is 'simple'.
4. English actually does have both perfective and imperfective aspects. Perfective verb phrases are those formed with a past participle (have done, had been doing, etc. ) All others, e.g. present simple or past progressive, can be technically classified as imperfective, but (most probably to avoid confusion with the use of the same word in French and German grammar to denote specifically certain past tense-forms, aimais, wohnte, etc.) the term has not acquired popular use in English. However the full tense-aspect label of the verb phrase I am eating, for example, would be PRESENT IMPERFECT PROGRESSIVE.

I trust I have covered the main points!