Examples of PERFECTIVE and IMPERFECTIVE verb aspects (1)

Let’s compare the following two sentences.

a)      I have been writing this e-mail for one hour. I still haven’t finished writing it.

b)      I have written this e-mail in one hour. I am happy with the result.

 

Sentence (a)

have been writing this e-mail for one hour. I still haven’t finished writing it.

This sentence is telling us that the e-mail is still in the process of being written. The writer of this e-mail will maybe need  one more hour to finish writing it. The stress is on the action, not on the result.

Sentence (b)

have written this e-mail in one hour. I am happy with the result.

This sentence is telling us that the process of writing  the e-mail has finished. The e-mail is fully written, the writer is happy with the result, and he/she will most probably send it soon.

*

Now, let’s  translate these two sentences into Croatian.

a)      have been writing this e-mail for one hour. I still haven’t finished writing it.

         Pišem ovaj e-mail već sat vremena. Još nisam gotova.

Sentence (a) in both English and Croatian gives us the message about the verb aspect being imperfective. The action is still taking place. We do not know when it is going to be completed, and we don’t need to know that. This sentence is telling us that writing an e-mail is a (one-hour) long action. It might make us think that the writer is already tired or irritated from writing, and wants to finish it as soon as possible.

b)      have written this e-mail in one hour. I am happy with the result.

          Napisala sam ovaj e-mail u sat vremena. Zadovoljna sam rezultatom.

Sentence (b) in both English and Croatian gives us the message about the verb aspect being perfective.  By reading this sentence, we do not know how long it has taken for the writer to finish writing the e-mail, and we don’t need to know that. This sentence is telling us that the action has been completed. The e-mail has been written. The writer is happy with the result.

*

Sentence analysis

Which  details within the sentences  give us the information about the verb aspect being imperfective or perfective, and the action being incomplete or completed?

(a)

have been writing this email for one hour. I still haven’t finished writing it.

By using the Present Perfect Continuous, and the time-duration reference (for 1 hour), we are highlighting the duration of the action. The sentence I still haven’t finished writing it confirms our suspicion that the email still hasn’t fully been written. Therefore, the action incomplete, the verb aspect is imperfective.

*

Pišem ovaj email već sat vremena. Još nisam gotova.

The sentence is translated by using Croatian present tense. The combination of the verb choice (PISATI – pišem), and the time reference (već sat vremena),  gives us detailed  information about the duration of the action.  The sentence Još nisam gotova  makes it absolutely clear that the action of writing the mail is still going on. Thus, the action is incomplete, the verb aspect is imperfective.

*

(b)

have written this email in one hour. I am happy with the result.

By using the Present Perfect Resultative Tense, and the time reference (in one hour), we are highlighting the fact that the action has been completed. Moreover, the writer is happy with the result of the action.

The action is  completed, the verb aspect is perfective.

*

Napisala sam ovaj email u sat vremena. Zadovoljna sam rezultatom.

The sentence is translated by using Croatian past tense. The combination of the verb choice (NAPISATI – napisala sam), and the time reference (u sat vremena), makes it clear that the action has been completed. The last sentence Zadovoljna sam rezultatom  makes it absolutely clear that the action of writing  the  e-mail has  finished.

The action is completed, the verb aspect is perfective.

*

End conclusion

Let’s take a closer look at the verb used in each example.

English sentences:

a)      I have been writing an e-mail.

b)      I have written an e-mail.

Question:

The tense used in sentence (a) and sentence (b) is different, but is  the verb in sentence (a) and sentence (b) the same?

Answer:

YES, it is.

In both sentences the verb TO WRITE is used. In English, we have to use the appropriate tense which regulates the verb aspect being perfective or imperfective.

*

Croatian sentences:

c)      Pišem e-mail.

d)      Napisala sam e-mail.

Question:

The tense used in sentence (c) and sentence (d) is different, but is  the verb in sentence  (c) and sentence  (d) the same?

Answer:

NO, it is not.

In sentence (c) the verb PISATI is used. In Croatian, this verb is always imperfective.

In sentence (d) the verb NAPISATI is used. In Croatian, this verb is always perfective.

In Croatian, the usage of the right verb regulates the verb aspect being perfective or imperfective.

*

NOTE

Most of the time, imperfective verb aspect is connected to incomplete actions, and perfective verb aspect is connected to completed actions. But this cannot be taken as a rule of thumb. The verb aspect can be imperfective, with the action at the same time being completed.

For example:

Jučer sam pisala i poslala e-mail.   (I wrote and sent an e-mail yesterday.)

The verb PISATI is imperfective. It emphasizes the duration of the action. It makes us think the writer of the e-mail needed a long time to write this e-mail. However, the other verb  (poslati, perfective) makes it clear that the action of writing had been completed before the  e-mail was sent.

We could also say:

Jučer sam pisala e-mail, ali ga nisam dovršila.   (Yesterday I wrote an e-mail, but I didn’t finish it.)

In this sentence the verb PISATI is imperfective, with the action of writing the e-mail being incomplete. The second part of the sentence proves the action of writing being incomplete  (ali ga nisam dovršila).

If we would say:

Jučer sam napisala i poslala e-mail,

we would make a statement about the results of our actions: the email was written and sent. Both verbs (NAPISATI, POSLATI) are perfective. Both actions were completed.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s