11.1 - Aspects in general

In Unit 4 and Unit 8 the imperfective future and past tenses were introduced and practised. To revise this, go to pages 8.1 and 8.4, and do Exercises 8.4A and 8.4B.

A reminder: in Ukrainian the future and past tenses (and also infinitives) have two aspects: imperfective and perfective. The present tense is not normally described in terms of aspects, although it is imperfective (i.e. an incomplete or ongoing action) by its very nature.

Aspects are used to show what kind of action is being described.

Example Type of action Aspect
We were at the theatre setting the scene, state imperfective
and were watching a play ongoing action, process, not yet completed imperfective
when someone's mobile went off. one-off, completed action interrupting the situation described before perfective
The man repeatedly tried to turn it off repeated action, not brought to a conclusion imperfective
but it kept ringing. repeated/ongoing action imperfective
People were really annoyed state imperfective
and an usher told him to leave. completed, one-off action perfective
I think the man has learnt his lesson completed action, with no need for repetition in the future and a lasting effect (we hope!) perfective
and will always check repeated action, put in context by "always" imperfective
that his mobile is switched off state imperfective
when he goes to the theatre. repeated action; "when" here means "whenever" imperfective

The system of verb tenses and aspects can be shown as follows, using the verb "to look" in English as an example:

  infinitive past future present
imperfective to be (in the process or state of) looking

to look (if the context makes clear that this is an incomplete or repeated action)
I was (in the process or state of) looking

I used to look

I would look

I looked (if the context makes clear this is an incomplete action)
I will be looking

I will look ... (if the context makes clear this is an incomplete action)
I look

I am looking

do I look?
perfective to look (i.e. to complete or limit the action) I have looked

I looked (completed one-off action)
I will look (completed action)  

Other parts of the verb, for example imperatives (commands), participles and gerunds, also reflect aspect, so it is important to be accurate in recognising and rendering the impefective and perfective forms of verbs. To practise this please try Exercise 11.1A.

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© 2007 Marta Jenkala