Distinguishing IMPERFECTIVE from PERFECTIVE verb aspects

What is imperfective verb aspect?

Imperfective verb aspect describes duration of an action.

Example:

I am writing an e-mail.

Pišem e-mail.

So, by using an imperfective aspect, we are putting stress on the duration of an action, not on the result. The action of writing an e-mail is maybe going on at the moment of speaking. If it happened in the past, we might have been busy with it for hours. Unless we say so, we do not know if the action has been completed or not. But, that’s not the most important information either. To use a metaphore: Imperfective verb aspect is all about the journey, not about the destination.

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What is perfective verb aspect?

Perfective verb aspect describes the result of an action. If there is a result, this automatically means that the action has been completed. 

Example:

Yesterday I wrote and sent an e-mail.

Jučer sam napisala i poslala e-mail.

Action has been completed, with an obvious result: the email has been written and sent.

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How do we know that we bring the correct information through? How do we make a verb perfective or imperfective?

In English, the imperfective and perfective aspects of action are expressed by putting verbs in  appropriate tenses.

If we say: I am writing an e-mail, we are actually saying we are still busy with it. If we say: I have written an email (or I wrote an e-mail) we are saying that we have finished writing it, and we have a completed result in fron of us: a fully written e-mail that is ready to be sent.

In Croatian, the usage of different tenses does not make a clear distinction  between the imperfective and perfective aspect. In Croatian, in order to be clear about which action is imperfective, and which action is perfective, we must use the right verbs which precisely describe the aspect of the action. So, the Croatian ”story of imperfective&perfective” is all about the verbs, not the tenses!

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