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The grammatical category of tense, aspect and time correlation

The grammatical category of tense is a category which expresses the relations between the time of the action and the moment of speech (now) or any other point of reference taken for the basis of temporal relations (then).

In most European languages the expression of time is associated with the grammatical category of tense which includes three grammatical tenses: present, past and future. The present tense expresses an action simultaneous to the time of communication, the past tense – an action prior to the time of communication and the future – an action subsequent (последующий) to the time of communication.

The forms of the present tense are regularly transposed into the sphere of the future. The future action expressed by the present tense forms usually becomes less hypothetical and more predictable. The past tense is the main tense of narration about the past events. It may be used to express universal truth. The forms of the future may be used to express universal truths or habitual characteristics.

The English system of tenses consists of two subsystems: absolute and relative tenses. Absolute tenses are correlated to the moment of speech whereas the relative tenses are correlated to some moment in the past taken for the reference point of temporal relations.

The grammatical category of aspect. According to their formal properties English verbs are divided into two classes: regular and irregular. The class of irregular verbs are the verbs most frequently used because they name everyday routines and activities.

According to their function verbs are subdivided into notional and functional. In between these two subclasses there are the so-called semi-notional verbs. Here belong modal (can, may, must, should, ought), modalized (seem, appear happen, chance turn out prove), aspective verbs (begin, continue, stop). Unlike notional verbs which have a full nominative value, semi-notional verbs possess a partial nominative value. They do not name actions as notional verbs do but just add rather modal or aspective characteristics to the notional verbs they accompany. Functional verbs are further subdivided into auxiliaries, links, substitutes and intensifiers.

According to their grammatical semantics verbs are divided into dynamic and static , transitive and intransitive, durative and terminative. These semantic characteristics are related to the grammatical categories of aspect, time correlation and voice. As many verbs in English are polysemantic these features refer not to the whole of the verbal lexeme, but to its concrete meanings. A verb may be transitive in one of its meaning and intransitive in the other.

The grammatical category of time correlation

Verbs denote actions and they are related both to the concept of space and to the concept of time. In fact the concepts of time and space are very closely connected. The close interrelation of these two concepts – time and space is also reflected in the interpretation of the category of tense in terms of the viewer’s perceptual space.

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