Update: 2016-09-23 10:18 PM -0400


English Grammar in Plain Language


by U Kyaw Tun (UKT), M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.), and staff of TIL (Tun Institute of Learning).
Based on Barrons Educational Series, Grammar In Plain English, by Diamond, H. and Dutwin, P., Barrons Educational Series, Inc., Woodbury, New York. Copyright 1977. Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL Research Station, Yangon, MYANMAR : 
http://www.tuninst.net , www.romabama.blogspot.com

index.htm |Top

Contents of this page

01. Introducing Grammatical terms:
----- Parsing of Sentences into Subject and Predicate 

TIL editor 160920: I'm introducing hyphenated words into Bur-Myan, e.g.
hpic-rp} for predicate . Such hyphenated-terms will be met in
Sentence Analysis or Parsing. See Wikipedia for Parsing:
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsing 160920
"Parsing [or syntactic analysis ] was formerly central to the teaching of grammar throughout the English-speaking world, and widely regarded as basic to the use and understanding of written language."

02. The Grammaticalization of Nominalizers in Burmese,
by Andrew Simpson, in Bur-Myan Language: Speech and Script *
- BurMyan-indx.htm Normalizer.htm (link chk 160920)

UKT 160923: This file has been split from - ch01.htm , and is in need of cleaning up.

UKT notes
particle {pic~s:} phrase predicate
tense {a.hkyain}/ {ka-la.}/ {a.ma.ya.} .
verb to be


Contents of this page

01. Introducing Grammatical terms: Subject and Predicate

When you are studying only one language you do not need to know the formal grammatical terms. However, when you are studying a second language, an L2, you will end up comparing the two languages, and to understand both thoroughly, you need to know the grammatical terms of both. This is what I have found with myself. I had hated grammar, especially the grammatical terms. I had hated both Burmese grammar and English grammar because of the grammatical terms. Now that I am studying Pali and Sanskrit as well, I will have to learn all the four.

I feel like being forced into an unwanted marriage, and I'll have to {ma.hkyic au-l: an.hka nm:} 'holding my breath I have to kiss'.

MLC Burmese Grammar (in Bur-Myan) - BG-MLC-indx.htm
Vol 1. For Middle school; Vol 2. For High school; Vol 3. For University
Available online from Wordpress.com in 6 pdf files.
See downloaded pdf files in TIL SD-Library : links to TIL SD-Library
  SD-Library<> 1. PDF file 1. 2. PDF file 2. 3. PDF file 3. 4. PDF file 4. 5. PDF file 5. 6. PDF file 6.
  (link chk 160911)
  bkp<> 1. PDF file 1. 2. PDF file 2. 3. PDF file 3. 4. PDF file 4. 5. PDF file 5. 6. PDF file 6.
  (link chk 160911)

As for English Grammar - which I also hate - in order to keep myself familiar I have collected a glossary from various sources. See: Grammar and Linguistic glossary in ENGLISH for Myanmar
- E4M-indx.htm > GramGloss-indx.htm (link chk 160919)

a.hku. n-hkn: sa tw ko <Grammar in Plain English> lo. na-m tt hta: p m. <grammar> wau:ha-ra. tw ko tic-lon:sa. nhic-lon:sa. wn: wa: ra. tau. m//

Let's start with a sentence {wa-kya.}.

"There are two main parts of a sentence: the subject, {kt~ta:}, {loap-hsan u}, which is usually a noun or pronoun, and the predicate, {loap-hsan-hkyak_hpric-rp} which usually contains a verb or a verb clause. Although predicates contain verbs, they do not exactly mean the same thing.
"A verb is a word which indicates an action or state of being of the subject of the sentence.  It has many forms and can be modified to specify aspect, mood, tense, voice, person, gender, and number of its subject or object."
From: http://www.differencebetween.net/language/grammar-language/difference-between-verb-and-predicate/ 160919

In The flink glopped. there are two parts:  Subject and Predicate. (The flink) is the Subject, and glopped is the Predicate.

In plain English Subject is the performer or doer , and Predicate means what is being done or what is the state of the performer.

In plain Burmese, performer is {loap-hsan-u} and what is done or the state is {loap-hsan-hkyak} or {hpic-rp}.

For terms in Parsing of the Sentence, MLC, there are two pairs of terms: Subject which should go with Predicate. MLC has no term for Predicate. In place of Predicate, it has given Verb {kri.ya} whose counterpart is Noun {naam}. Because I could not find a dedicated term for Predicate, I have coined a hyphenated word, {loap-hsan-hkyak_hpic-rp}.

Let's analyse sentences based on MLC Burmese grammar :
- TIL SD-Library PDF file 6 / bkp PDF file 6 (link chk 160919)

Sec 180 shows that The flink glopped. is {wa-kya.ro:} 'simple sentence'. It has a Subject, {kt~ta:} and a Predicate, {loap-hsan-hkyak_hpic-rp}. Here the Predicate has only a Verb, {kri.ya}.

Remember: Although predicates contain verbs, they do not exactly mean the same thing.

We will now analyse a typical Burmese sentence. Refer to pdf 76/88 for a simple sentence containing an Adverb {kri.ya-wi..a.na.}.

Simple sentence

{maung-Ba. ka. maung-lha. ko reik-} - SOV

Maung Ba beats Maung Hla. - SVO

Simple sentence containing an adverb.

{maung-Ba. ka. maung-lha. ko toak nhn. reik-} - SOV

Maung Ba beats Maung Hla with a stick. - SVO

Remember the adverb must be placed close to the verb it is qualifying. Similarly an adjective must be placed near its noun.

loap-hsaung-thu ko ro:ro: n~ga.laip sa.ka: mha <performer> lo. hkau t//
<grammar> a.hkau-a.wau ka. < subject>  lo. hkau t//

loap-hsaung-hkyak ka. <action> tho.ma.hoat < predicate> lo. hkau t//
<predicate> ht: mha a.r:kri:hsoan: a.peing: ka. <verb> {kri.ya} hpric-t//
<predicate> ht: mha nauk a.peing: ta.hku. pa la neing th: t//

loap-leik-ta-ko-hkn-ra.thu hpric t// :da ko < object> lo. hkau t//

ta.n: pran-prau: ra.ring <predicate> mha a.peing: nhic-peing: pa-neing-t//
1. <verb> - ma.pa-ring ma.hpric Bu:/
2. <object> - a.mr:tam: ma.pa Bu://

From Lonsdale 1899 p138 - 142
237. ... The function of a verb is that of telling or asserting, and as no assertion can be made without the use of a verb, the verb is called the predicate of the sentence. The equivalent Burmese term for the predicate is {wa-sa.ka.}, a word derived from Pali {wa-sa.nn, 'to declare', 'to affirm', 'to say'. The predicate of a Burmese sentence may consist of a verb or an adjective used as verb (see par. 151(b)) either alone, as in a command, thus {thwa:} 'go', or with other words usually added to it; as, {nga sa: } , {n wa: ra. m}, {mn:kri: main.tau mu-leik }.  ...
246. A large number of verbs of state as well as intransitive verbs of action are made transitive with a causative force of aspiration by aspirating the initial consonant of the verb, or, if it has a corresponding aspirate, by changing it for such aspirate. A few examples are given below:

B-lu-myo: r. sa.ka: mha hpric-hpric {a.Daip~p} rhi. t. a.thn-su mha <subject = S> <verb = V> n. <object = O> thon:myo: pa-neing-t// a.ti. pru. pa/ prau:n-ta-ka {pa-nen-t} lo. prau: ta hpric t/ {pa-ra.m} lo. prau:ta ma-hoat-Bu://

<sentence> tic hku. mha a.n:hson: <verb = V> pa ra.m//

<S> <V> <O> on: hku. ko B a.si-a.si n. hta: t hso-ta ko < syntax> lo. hkau-t//

n~ga.laip sa.ka: n. ba.ma sa.ka: to. kwa-hkya: ta ko <linguistic> a.n n. kr. ring <syntax> kw: hkya: n ta tw. ra. laim. m//

ba.ma sa.ka: {hkw:ka. lu-ko keik-} mha <syntax> ka. <SOV> hpric t/
n~ga.lait sa.ka: <dog bites man> mha tau. <syntax> ka. <SVO> hpric t//

sa.ka:lon: a.si-a.si praung: p-m. sa.ka: ta.myo: r. <syntax> ka. B-tau.mha. ma.-praung:Bu:// di-ni.ya.ma. tho.ma.hoat <law> ka. {Ba-a-b-da} lo. hkau-t. <Linguistics> r. a.hkr-hkn <law> tic hku. hpric t//

na.mu-na a.n n. <dog bites man.> ko praung:kr. pa// <man bites dog.> hpric-wa:t//
<man bites dog.> ha <grammatically> mhan t nau// a.Daip~p praung: thwa: ta B: rhi.t// {lu-ka. hkw-ko keik t} t.//

ba.ma sa.ka: mha {ka.} to. {ko} to. lo sa.ka:tw: tw pa lo. a.si-a.si praung: p-m. a.Daip~p ma.praung:Bu:// {hkw:ka. lu-ko keik t} n. {lu-ko hkw:ka keik t} ha a.Daip~p a.tu-tu B://

Contents of this page

02. The Grammaticalization of Nominalizers in Burmese

- by Andrew Simpson, in Bur-Myan Language: Speech and Script *
- BurMyan-indx.htm Normalizer.htm (link chk 160920)

UKT 160923: The subject of Grammaticalization is still complex for me. I will have to move the above paper from Bur-Myan folder in future updates.


Contents of this page

UKT notes


{wa-kya. kN~a.}

From: Burmese Grammar and Grammatical Analysis 1899 by A. W. Lonsdale, Rangoon, 1899
- BG1899-indx.htm > BG1899-1-indx.htm

006. {wa-kya.kN~a.}: A group of words containing a noun or a word or words equivalent to a noun, and a verb, that make sense but not complete sense by itself is called a Clause; in Bur-Myan it is termed {wa-kya.kN~a.} ( fn003-01) [UKT ]

fn003-01 Pali, {kN~a.} means, 'a part', 'a portion'; {wa-kya.kN~a.} = 'a part of a sentence' fn003-01b

A clause always forms part of a sentence; as,

UKT: In the sentence above, there are two clauses:

{mn:toan: Bu.rn lwun-tau mu lhyn}
'when King Mindon passed away'

{i-Bau nn: hsak hkn Ei.}
'Thi-Bau inherited the throne'.

{mn:toan:mn: nt-rwa-sn-pri:nauk i-pau:mn: nn: tak-t}

For those who hate grammar, whether it be Burmese or English, remember, grammar can be fun when we do not have to memorize definitions. See Barron's Grammar in Plain English, or its TIL version
-- EGPE-indx.htm (link chk 160923)

In plain English a sentence is a statement that conveys a complete thought. The statement #1 becomes incomplete because of the word {lhyn} 'when'. Statement #1 is a clause. It becomes a complete sentence only when #2 is added. However, #2 conveys a complete thought, and so it need not be considered to be a clause.

In general, a sentence which begins with words such as when, after, because, as soon as, before, or since needs to have a completing thought.


From: http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rules-and-tips/independent-and-dependent-clauses.html 160922

Independent and dependent clauses are the building blocks of sentences. A single independent clause can be a sentence, by itself. However, dependent clauses are used to make sentences more complete and more interesting. Using conjunctions and proper punctuation, dependent and independent clauses can be joined together to create interesting and complex compound sentences that are fun and engaging to read.

An independent clause is a clause that can stand on its own, by itself. It does not need to be joined to any other clauses, because it contains all the information necessary to be a complete sentences. 

Independent clauses have three components:

1. They have a subject - they tell the reader what the sentence is about.

2. They have an action or predicate - they tell the reader what the subject is doing.

An independent clause can be as simple as a subject and a verb:

Jim reads.

Jim is the subject. Reads is the action or verb. A complete thought was expressed - something was said, and the reader now knows that Jim likes to read.

Independent clauses can also be joined to other independent clauses, if the independent clauses are related. However, they MUST be joined using the proper punctuation.

Jim read a book; he really enjoyed the book.

Go back clause-note-b

Contents of this page


n. 4. Abbr. obj. Grammar a. A noun or substantive that receives or is affected by the action of a verb within a sentence. b. A noun or substantive following and governed by a preposition. -- AHTD

Go back object-note-b

Contents of this page


LBH: The Little Brown Handbook, 8ed, (AWL-Glossary)
http://occawlonline.pearsoned.com/bookbind/pubbooks/aaronlbh_awl/medialib/ terms/gloss_01.html  -- LBH

From LBH
A verbal showing continuing or completed action, used as an adjective or part of a verb phrase but never as the main verb of a sentence or clause. (See p. 270.)

A present participle ends in -ing:
     My heart is breaking

          (participle as part of verb phrase).
     I like to watch the rolling waves

          (participle as adjective).

A past participle most commonly ends in -d, -ed, -n, or -en :
   wished / shown / given
   but sometimes changes the spelling of the verb :
   sung / done / slept :
          Jeff has broken his own record

               (participle as part of verb phrase).
          The closed door beckoned

               (participle as adjective).

n. Abbr. p. Grammar 1. A form of a verb that in some languages, such as English, can function independently as an adjective, as the past participle baked in We had some baked beans, and is used with an auxiliary verb to indicate tense, aspect, or voice, as the past participle baked in the passive sentence The beans were baked too long. [Middle English from Old French variant of participe from Latin participium from particeps particip-partaker; See participate ] - AHTD

Usage Note: The dangling participle is quite common in speech, where it often passes unremarked; but its use in writing can lead to unintentional absurdities, as in He went to watch his horse take a turn around the track carrying a copy of the breeders' guide under his arm. Even when the construction occasions no ambiguity, it is likely to distract the reader, who will ordinarily be operating on the assumption that a participle or other modifying phrase will be associated with the noun phrase that is immediately adjacent to it. Thus the sentence Turning the corner, the view was quite different would be better rewritten as The view was quite different when we turned the corner or Turning the corner, we saw a different view. A number of expressions originally derived from active participles are now well established as prepositions of a kind, and these may be used freely to introduce phrases that are not associated with the immediately adjacent noun phrase. Such expressions include concerning, considering, failing, granting, judging by, and speaking of. Thus one may write Speaking of politics, the elections have been postponed or Considering the hour, it is surprising that he arrived at all. - AHTD

Go back participle-note-b

Contents of this page


-- UKT 121129

The Bur-Myan word {pic~s:} is a particle . See

{pic~s: - . n. gram  particle, word serving to qualify a noun, pronoun, adjective or an adverb. -- MED2006-271

{} is {wi.Bt}. See Suffix in my notes.

{wi.Bt} - n. gram  post-positional marker; word suffixed to a noun or pronoun to designate it as the subject or object, and to a verb to indicate time or mood. -- MED2006-475


It should not be confused with sentence endings such as {} in
{hkw: hang }.  {} here is a sentence ender similar to {m}
See: The Grammaticalization of Nominalizers in Burmese by A. Simpson in Bur-Myan Language: Speech and Script
- BurMyan-indx.htm > Normalizer.htm (link chk 160923)

From Lonsdale 1899 p.037

56. Particles. -- These are words which have little or no power to stand alone, and to represent an independent meaning. They form prefixes and affixes which serve to convert Radicals into different parts of speech, and to mark various notions and relations. These particles, most of which still contain a meaning in themselves, were, no doubt, originally independent words. Several of them such as {mya:}, {pri}, {pri:}, etc., are still so employed.

57. Burmese words are not inflexional as those of most other languages; and the various relations and meanings of a word simply expressed by affixing certain particles, (alluded to above), without in any way changing the form of the word itself. For example, in English we have man --> men ; I --> me ; break --> broken . In these examples the words are actually changed to express their different relationships and meanings. In Burmese, however, words corresponding to man, I , and break , would suffer no change whatever ; affixes only would be added as {lu --> lu-to.}, {nga --> nga.ko} ; {kyo:th --> kyo:pri}.

58. In like manner, the same notions can be expressed in Pali and Latin by changing the form of the words:

   {ma.noath~tha. --> ma.noath~tha} ;
   {a.hn --> mn}.

59. All these changes or modifications are inflexions, and Pali and Latin are called inflexional languages, but Burmese, owing to the absence of such changes, is called non-inflexional. Synthetic and analytic are alternative terms used for inflexional and non-inflexional respectively.

Go back particle-note-b

Contents of this page


From: Orthoepy (pronunciation) and orthography (spelling) in  Burmese Grammar and Grammatical Analysis 1899 , by A. W. Lonsdale, Rangoon
- BG1899-indx.htmBG1899-1-indx.htm > ch01-1.htm
and proceed to Sentence {wa-kya.} / Clause {wa-kya.kN~a.} / Phrase {pa.da. sa.ya.}

A group of words which does not make any sense by itself is called a Phrase ; in Burmese it is termed {pa.da. sa.ya.}; {ta.n.a.


From: Thalun English-Myanmar Dictionary - Thalun-EMD2003-0806. Translation by UKT:
phrase grammar  1. subject {kt~ta.}/ a group words without verb {kri.ya}. Begins with preposition and ends with noun or pronoun. e.g. "to school", "for him". 2. a short group of words with special meaning. 3. description.

From: AHTD
1. A sequence of words intended to have meaning.
2. A characteristic way or mode of expression.
3. A brief, apt, and cogent expression.
4. A word or group of words read or spoken as a unit and separated by pauses or other junctures.
5. Two or more words in sequence that form a syntactic unit that is less than a complete sentence.

From: LBH
A group of related words that lacks a subject or a predicate or both and that acts as a single part of speech.

From: UseE
A phrase is a group of words that go together, but do not make a complete sentence.

Go back phrase-note-b

Contents of this page


UKT 160920: Refer Grammar and Linguistic glossary in ENGLISH for Myanmar
- E4M-indx.htm > GramGloss-indx.htm > P02.htm - look for Predicate

From: AHTD (edited)
n. Abbr. pred. 1. Grammar  One of the two main constituents of a sentence, modifying the subject and including the verb, objects, or phrases governed by the verb, as

Jane opened the door
Remark: predicate = opened the door

The child is very sleepy.
Remark: predicate = is very sleepy

From: LBH
The part of a sentence that makes an assertion about the subject.
A predicate must contain a finite verb and may contain modifiers, objects of the verb, and complements.

The simple predicate consists of the verb and its helping verbs:

A wiser person would have made a different decision.

The complete predicate includes the simple predicate and any modifiers, objects, and complements:

A wiser person would have made a different decision.

UKT: I've checked (online) this entry: the examples given "A wiser ..." are exactly the same for both simple and complete predicates. It shows that LBH is not as reliable as it ought to be!

From: UseE
A simple sentence can be divided into two parts; the subject and the predicate, which is the verb and any complement of the verb, which can include the object, adverbial, etc.

Subject predicate:
She laughed.
She wrote a book.

From: GGW - Guide to Grammar and Writing, Capital Community College, Hartford, Connecticut, 2002 http://webster.commnet.edu/grammar
A predicate is the completer of a sentence. The subject names the "do-er" or the "be-er" of the sentence; the predicate does the rest of the work.

A simple predicate consists of only a verb, verb string, or compound verb:

The glacier melted.
The glacier has been melting.
The glacier melted, broke apart, and slipped into the sea.

A compound predicate consists of two (or more) such predicates connected:

The glacier began to slip down the mountainside and eventually crushed some of the village's outlying buildings.

A complete predicate consists of the verb and all accompanying modifiers and other words that receive the action of a transitive verb or complete its meaning.

The following description of predicates comes from The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers (examples our own):
With an intransitive verb, objects and complements are included in the predicate.

The glacier is melting.

With a transitive verb, objects and object complements are said to be part of the predicate:

The slow moving glacier wiped out an entire forest.
It gave the villagers a lot of problems.

With a linking verb, the subject is connected to a subject complement.

The mayor doesn't feel good

Go back predicate-note-b

Contents of this page


n. Abbr. subj. 6. Grammar The noun, noun phrase, or pronoun in a sentence or clause that denotes the doer of the action or what is described by the predicate and that in some languages, such as English, can be identified by its characteristic position in simple sentences and in other languages, such as Latin, by inflectional endings. -- AHTD

Go back subject-note-b

Contents of this page


UKT 160921: Suffix is known as {wi.Bt} in Bur-Myan.
- Grammar n. Abbr. suff. suf. 1. An affix added to the end of a word or stem, serving to form a new word or functioning as an inflectional ending, such as -ness in gentleness, -ing in walking, or -s in sits. v. tr. suffixed suffixing suffixes 1. To add as a suffix. [New Latin suffīxum from Latin, neuter of suffīxus, past participle of suffīgereto fasten underneath, affix sub- sub- fīgere to fix, fasten; See dhīg w - in Indo-European Roots.] -- AHTD

Go back suffix-note-b

Contents of this page


-- UKT 121201, 160922

What is <tense> in Bur-Myan. Of course we know that it is a grammatical term that is related to the time-period {a.hkain-ka-la.} in which an action-performance is done, has been done, or will be done. The common Bur-Myan word {a.hkyain} is defined as "time" by MLC MED2006-547. MLC did not mention "tense" in connection with {a.hkyain}.

What about {ka-la.} & {a.ma.ya.} from the Pali words with the same spellings? Again MLC did not mention "tense" for either.

{ka-la.} - n. 1. time; period; age. 2. the present time. -- MED2006-008
roup: No wonder we are never noted for our punctuality! We should proudly call ourselves The Timeless People .

To be fair to MLC, I will say, it tells something about "tense" in its Burmese Grammar for middle schools {mrn-ma d~da}, vol. 1 module 1 as {ka-la.}. Unfortunately not a word of English to relate to English grammar. These grammar pages are posted on the Internet. The downloaded files are in
SD-Library<> 1. bg-mlc-1-1 / bkp1 pdf page 17/41 & 18/41, sec. 23-27 (link chk 160922)

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_tense  080526

Grammatical tense is a temporal linguistic quality expressing the time at, during, or over which a state or action denoted by a verb occurs.

Tense is one of at least five qualities, along with mood, voice, aspect, and person, which verb forms may express.

Tenses cannot always be translated from one language to another. While verbs in all languages have typical forms by which they are identified and indexed in dictionaries, usually the most common present tense or an infinitive, their meanings vary among languages.

There are languages (such as isolating languages, like Chinese) in which tense is not used, but implied in temporal adverbs when needed, and some (such as Japanese) in which temporal information appears in the inflection of adjectives, lending them a verb-like quality. In some languages (such as Russian) a simple verb may indicate aspect and tense.

The number of tenses in a language may be controversial, since its verbs may indicate qualities of uncertainty, frequency, completion, duration, possibility, and even whether information derives from experience or hearsay.


Basic tenses in English

English has two tenses by which verbs are inflected, a non-past tense (present tense) and a past tense (indicated by ablaut or the suffix -ed). What is commonly called the future tense in English is indicated with a modal auxiliary, not verbal inflection.

The following chart shows how TAM (tense/aspect/mood) is expressed in English:

Since will is a modal auxiliary, it cannot occur with other modals, like can, may, and must. Only aspects can be used in infinitives.

Grammarians and linguists typically consider will to be a future marker and give English two non-inflected tenses, a future tense and a future-in-past tense, marked by will and would respectively. In general parlance, all combinations of aspects, moods, and tenses are often referred to as "tenses".


Future tenses

The more complex tenses in Indo-European languages are formed by combining a particular tense of the verb with certain verbal auxiliaries, the most common of which are various forms of "be", various forms of "have", and modal auxiliaries such as English will. Romance and Germanic languages often add "to hold", "to stand", "to go", or "to come" as auxiliary verbs. For example, Spanish uses estar ("to be") with the present gerund to indicate the present continuous. Portuguese uses ter ("to have") with the past participle for the perfect aspect. Swedish uses kommer att ("come to") for the simple future. These constructions are often known as complex tenses or compound tenses (a more accurate technical term is periphrastic tenses).

Examples of some generally recognized Indo-European and Finnish tenses using the verb "to go" are shown in the table below.


preterit or preterite Grammar adj. Abbr. pret. pt. 1. Of, relating to, or being the verb tense that describes a past action or state. n. Abbr. pret. pt. 1. The verb form expressing or describing a past action or condition. 2. A verb in the preterit form. [Middle English from Old French from Latin (tempus) praeteritum past (tense) , neuter past participle of praeterīreto go by praeter beyond, comparative of prae before; See per 1 in Indo-European Roots. īre to go; See ei- in Indo-European Roots.] -- AHTD




Tense, Aspect, Mood (TAM)

The distinction between grammatical tense, aspect, and mood is fuzzy and at times controversial. The English continuous temporal constructions express an aspect as well as a tense, and some therefore consider that aspect to be separate from tense in English. In Spanish the traditional verb tenses are also combinations of aspectual and temporal information.

Going even further, there's an ongoing dispute among modern English grammarians (see English grammar) regarding whether tense can only refer to inflected forms. In Germanic languages there are very few tenses (often only two) formed strictly by inflection, and one school contends that all complex or periphrastic time-formations are aspects rather than tenses.

The abbreviation TAM, T/A/M or TMA is sometimes found when dealing with verbal morphemes that combine tense, aspect and mood information.

In some languages, tense and other TAM information may be marked on a noun, rather than a verb. This is called nominal TAM.

Classification of tenses
Tenses can be broadly classified as:

absolute tense: indicates time in relationship to the time of the utterance (i.e. "now"). For example, "I am sitting down", the tense is indicated in relation to the present moment.
relative tense: in relationship to some other time, other than the time of utterance, e.g. "While strolling through the shops, she saw a nice dress in the window". Here, the "saw" is relative to the time of the "strolling". The relationship between the time of "strolling" and the time of utterance is not clearly specified.
absolute-relative: indicates time in relationship to some other event, whose time in turn is relative to the time of utterance. (Thus, in absolute-relative tense, the time of the verb is indirectly related to the time of the utterance; in absolute tense, it is directly related; in relative tense, its relationship to the time of utterance is left unspecified.) For example, "When I walked through the park, I saw a bird." Here, "saw" is present relative to the "walked", and "walked" is past relative to the time of the utterance, thus "saw" is in absolute-relative tense.

All of the following tenses may occur in either an absolute or a relative frame.

Tenses can be quite finely distinguished from one another, although no language will express simply all of these distinctions. As we will see, some of these tenses in fact involve elements of modality (e.g. predictive and not-yet tenses), but they are difficult to classify clearly as either tenses or moods.

Many languages define tense not just in terms of past/future/present, but also in terms of how far into the past or future they are. Thus they introduce concepts of closeness or remoteness, or tenses that are relevant to the measurement of time into days (hodiernal or hesternal tenses).

UKT 160922
A hesternal tense (HEST) is a past tense for the previous day. (Hesterno die is Latin for 'yesterday'.)
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesternal_tense 160922
A hodiernal tense (HOD) is a grammatical tense for the current day. (Hodie or hodierno die is Latin for 'today').
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hodiernal_tense 160922

Some languages also distinguish not just between past, present, and future, but also nonpast, nonpresent, nonfuture. Each of these latter tenses incorporates two of the former, without specifying which.

Some tenses:

Future tenses. Some languages have different future tenses to indicate how far into the future we are talking about. Some of these include:
Near future tense: in the near future, soon
Hodiernal future tense: sometime today
Post-hodiernal future tense: sometime after today
Remote future tense: in the more distant future
Predictive future tense: a future tense which expresses a prediction rather than an intention, i.e. "I predict he will lose the election, although I want him to win". As such, it is really more of a mood than a tense. (Its tenseness rather than modality lies in the fact that you can predict the future, but not the past.)

Nonfuture tense: refers to either the present or the past, but does not clearly specify which. Contrasts with future.
Nonpast tense: refers to either the present or the future, but does not clearly specify which. Contrasts with past.
Not-yet tense: has not happened in present or past (nonfuture), but often with the implication that it is expected to happen in the future. (As such, is both a tense and a modality). In English, it is expressed with "not yet", hence its name.

Past tenses. Some languages have different past tenses to indicate how far into the past we are talking about.
Hesternal past tense: yesterday or early, but not remote
Hodiernal past tense: sometime earlier today
Immediate past tense: very recent past tense, e.g. in the last minute or two
Recent past tense: in the last few days/weeks/months (exact definition varies)
Remote past tense: more than a few days/weeks/months ago (exact definition varies)
Nonrecent past tense: not recent past tense, contrasting with recent past tense
Nonremote past tense: not remote past tense, contrasting with remote past tense
Prehesternal past tense: before hesternal past tense
Prehodiernal past tense: before hodiernal past tense
Preterite: past, conceived as a whole

Present tense
Still tense: indicates a situation held to be the case, at or immediately before the utterance
Absolute-relative tenses
future perfect tense: by some time in the future, before some time in the future
future-in-future tense: at some time in the future, will still be in the future
future-in-past tense: at some time in the past, will be in the future
future-perfect-in-past tense: by some time which is in the future of some time in the past, eg., Sally went to work; by the time she should be home, the burglary would have been completed.
past perfect tense: at some time in the past, was already in the past

Bybee, Joan L., Revere Perkins, and William Pagliuca (1994) The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. University of Chicago Press.
Comrie, Bernard (1985) Tense. Cambridge University Press. [ ISBN 0-521-28138-5]
Downing, Angela, and Philip Locke (1992) "Viewpoints on Events: Tense, Aspect and Modality". In A. Downing and P. Locke, A University Course in English Grammar, Prentice Hall International, 350--402.
Guillaume, Gustave (1929) Temps et verbe. Paris: Champion.
Hopper, Paul J., ed. (1982) Tense-Aspect: Between Semantics and Pragmatics. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Smith, Carlota (1997). The Parameter of Aspect. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Tedeschi, Philip, and Anne Zaenen, eds. (1981) Tense and Aspect. (Syntax and Semantics 14). New York: Academic Press.

From Lonsdale 1899, p.173

318. The Burmese verb has three principal tenses: the present [UKT: non-past marked with ], the past, and the future.

present: <I go>
{nga wa: }
literal: (I go- {}) -- marks "non-past".

past: <I went yesterday>
{nga ma.n.ka. wa: }
literal: (I yesterday go- {})

UKT: Though Lonsdale has given the above, with the addition of 'yesterday' to indicate the past,
I prefer the following:
past: <I went>
{nga wa: hk. }
literal: (I go- {hk. })

future: 'I will go'
{nga wa: m}
literal: (I go- (m})

UKT: {}, {m}, {hk.} are particles. You will notice that for all three tenses the same word {thwa:} is used. The tenses are indicated by use of particles.

From: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-aspect-and-tense 160922
Joonas Vakkilainen, B.A. in Finnish, phonetics minor, studied many languages : updated 150922

Because many languages express aspects as verbal categories, it may sometimes be difficult to see the difference between tense and aspect. However, tense is a verbal category, whereas aspect necessarily is not. Aspect marking is not compulsory in every language. Let's see some examples.

Russian has compulsory aspect marking. It is carried out as verb forms. Russian is said to have three tenses: present, preterite (past) and future, and two aspects, imperfective and perfective. Imperfective means that the action is not completed, whereas perfective describes an action that is or will be completed. There is however overlapping it the tenses and aspects:  the non-past perfective aspect inevitably refers to the future and is therefore called the future tense; therefore, it can't have the present tense. It is not an inflected future tense, though. Because of this and in order to show the meaning of aspects well, I'll call it present tense in the following explanations.

To put it simply, imperfective present means that something is on progress and imperfective past indicates that something has been being done but not completed. Perfective present means that something will be done and perfective past expresses a completed action. Aspect is marked with prefixes or stem changes. The following phrases contain the verb to read in the first person and the noun book as the object.

Imperfective present
Я читаю книгу  / Ya chitayu knigu
This can mean 'I read a book generally' or 'I'm reading a book'. The action of reading is on progress.

Imperfective past
Я читал книгу  /  Ya chital knigu
The meaning is 'I read a book' but the action did not come to its end.

Perfective present
Я прочитаю книгу  /  Ya prochitayu knigu
'I will read a book'. Because the tense is present and aspect perfective, the verb refers to the future. (This is considered the future tense in Russian grammar but not in linguistic typology.)

Perfective past
Я прочитал книгу  /  Ya prochital knigu
'I read [past] a book'. The reading has been completed.

It is also possible to refer to the future by using imperfective aspect. This requires an auxiliary verb, which is the future tense (seemingly a real future tense) of to be:
Я буду читать книгу  /  Ya budu chitat' knigu
'I will be reading a book'.

Russian motion verbs have iterative and durative aspects. Iterative means frequent actions (going there and back or going generally or repeatedly) and durative means one way motion.

Я хожу в школу  /  Ya hozhu v shkolu
'I go to school', 'I attend school' ('I visit school')

Я иду в школу  /  Ya idu v shkolu
'I'm going to school'

Both of those aspects are also imperfective. The durative aspect can be used as the perfective aspect for both verbs, though the iterative aspect can be used as perfective, too, but it has then a different kind of meaning. Those verbs can get more specific meanings with prefixation, but then the iterative verb becomes imperfective and the durative verb becomes perfective. (A bit confusing, isn't it.)

So, Russian marks its aspects morphologically in verbs. English has verbal aspect, too, but it marks them periphrastically, using separate verbs. Strictly speaking, English has only two tenses but it can use aspect combinations.

I read [past] a book has past tense and perfective aspect. I was reading a book has past tense continuous/progressive aspect. I have been reading a book is again present tense but it combines perfect and continuous aspects. I had read a bookl has past tense and perfect aspect. Aspect can be used in non-finite forms, which is not possible for tenses: to have read a book, having read a book. Continuous aspect is obviously imperfective. Note that perfect aspect is not the same as perfective aspect: perfect tells about a completed action from the point of view of the time of reference, whereas perfective tells that a single action was, has been or will be completed without a necessary link to the time of reference. Simple perfect is perfective but continuous perfect is imperfective.

Some languages have no tenses but mark aspects. Chinese is an isolating language, that is, it doesn't have inflection and therefore it doesn't have tenses. It marks aspect with separate particles, though.

我看書 wo kan shu
Without context, we just can say that there is I performing the act of reading a book or books. The time reference can be now or in the past or in the future.

昨天我看書 zuotian wo kan shu
'Yesterday I read a book'. The lexical time reference indicates when the reading took place.

我看了書 wo kan le shu
'I read a book'. The aspect particle indicates that the reading has come to its end. English favours simple past here.

我看過書 wo kan guo shu
'I have read a book'. Now we have another aspect particle here. It tells that the speaker has an experience of reading books. English can use present perfect here.

我正在看書 wo zhengzai kan shu
'I'm reading a book'

Foreigners often think those are Chinese tenses because of their meanings and translations, but they are really aspects.

Some languages imply aspect in tense. These languages have a different tense depending on the aspectual meaning. The distinction between preterite and imperfect tenses in Romance languages belongs to this category. Latin made the distinction with imperfect and perfect tenses. Latin perfect expresses completed actions but it does not have the difference between perfect aspect and simple past. It is just a preterite. Imperfect tense describes uncompleted actions.

Librum legebam
'I was reading a book'

Librum legi
'I read a book', 'I have read a book'

Latin also had morphological tenses for future (legam 'I will read'), pluperfect (legeram 'I had read') and future perfect (legero 'I will have read'). They include aspect: pluperfect and future perfect are perfective (or perfect) and future and present (lego) are imperfective. In English, those would be aspects combined with present or past tense and modality (if we want to see the future tense as such).

Aspect can be marked in other parts of the sentence than just verbs. Finnic languages use object to indicate the aspect of transitive clauses. Partitive case is imperfective, accusative case is perfective. The same clauses as in the Russian examples are in Finnish as follows:

Imperfective present
Luen kirjaa
'I'm reading a book' (now or as a process)

Imperfective past
Luin kirjaa
'I was reading a book' or 'I read some of the book'

Perfective present
Luen kirjan
'I will read a book' (Refers to the future as in Russian)

Perfective past
Luin kirjan
'I read a book' (completed)

As can be seen, the verb indicates only the tense, whereas the case alternation in the object indicates the aspect. If the verb expresses a change in the state of the object, the imperfective aspect is irresultative (atelic) and the perfective aspect is resultative (telic). When we want to shoot a bear, we want to kill it, and the result is told by the object case.

Ammuin karhun
'I shot a bear (and it died)'

Ammuin karhua
'I shot a bear (but it survived)'

Some verbs are lexically irresultative. To love is not a process with a result so it automatically requires an object with the partitive case (as in imperfectives and irresultatives): rakastan sinua 'I love you', but we can make it resultative in a figurative expression rakastan sinut kuoliaaksi 'I (will) love you to death'.

Aspect is not only the distinction between perfective and imperfective actions or telicity and atelicity, but it can denote subtler meanings as well. Finnish has verb derivations for momentane (1), frequentative (2) and proximative (3) or combined (4). Those can be used in any tense (proximative is a nominal form so it requires an auxiliary to show the tense).

(1) huudahdan 'I shout once and briefly'
(2) huutelen 'I shout / am shouting repeatedly'
(3) huutamaisillani 'me being about to shout'
(4) huudahtelen 'I shout / am shouting once briefly at one time but repeatedly'
 huudahtamaisillani 'me being about to shout once briefly'
 huutelemaisillani 'me being about to shout repeatedly'
 huudahtelemaisillani 'me being about to shout once breafly at one time but repeatedly'

All in all, tense tells the place of the action on the timeline. Aspect tells the relation of the action to the timeline.

UKT: end of article.

Go back tense-note-b1 tense-note-b2


Contents of this page

Verb "to be"

From: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/to_be.htm

"The Forms of "To Be"
The Greek sea god, Proteus, was (like the sea) capable of changing form in an instant. In order to get any decent information out of him, you had to grab him and hold on tight while he went through his various forms lion, wild boar, snake, tree, running stream it wasn't easy. The verb To be is said to be the most protean of the English language, constantly changing form, sometimes without much of a discernible pattern. Considering that we use it so often, it is really too bad that the verb To be has to be the most irregular, slippery verb in the language.

Present Tense:
<I am> / <We are> //
<You are> / <You are> //
<He is; She is; It is> / <They are>

Past Tense:
<I was> / <We were> //
<You were> / <You were> //
<He was; She was; It was> / <They were>

Perfect Form (past participle) / Progressive Form (present participle)
<I have been, etc.> / <I am being, etc.>

Note: there is more on the website.

Go back verb-to-be-note-b

Contents of this page

End of TIL file