{\rtf1\ansi\ansicpg1252 {\fonttbl\f0\fnil\fcharset0 ArialMT;} {\colortbl;\red255\green255\blue255;\red51\green51\blue51;\red255\green255\blue255;} \deftab720 \pard\pardeftab720\partightenfactor0 \f0\fs26 \cf2 \cb3 \expnd0\expndtw0\kerning0 \outl0\strokewidth0 \strokec2 }
Connect
To Top

The Perfect in English Grammar

Perfects are words that express the perfect aspect including the perfect-progressive aspect. Perfects function within verb phrases functioning as predicates. Only one grammatical form can perform the function of perfect in English. The one grammatical form that can function as the perfect is the verb. Only the verb have, sometimes referred to as the perfect have, can function as a perfect.

The conjugations of the verb have are as follows:

Base Simple Present Simple Past Present Participle Past Participle
have have, has had having had

 

Active Present Perfect

The first use of the perfect have is within active present perfect constructions. The present perfect expresses and emphasizes a previous action or state that began in the past and continued up to the present and whose consequences have implications for the present. For example:

  • My aunt has written me a letter.
  • The visitors have arrived at the train station.
  • I have purchased some more diapers.
  • Rabbits have destroyed my garden.

Active Past Perfect

The second use of the perfect have is within active past perfect constructions. The past perfect expresses and emphasizes a previous action or state that began in the past and continued up to another point in the past and whose consequences have implications for that second point in time. For example:

  • She had just jumped in the shower when the doorbell rang.
  • Had you studied verbs before this class?
  • He had ironed his clothing before getting dressed.
  • Because we had not booked in advance, we were unable to find a hotel room.

Active Present Perfect-Progressive

The third use of the perfect have is within active present perfect-progressive constructions. The present perfect-progressive expresses and emphasizes the consequences resulting from a previous but incomplete action or state that began in the past and continues into the present but may or may not continue into the future. For example:

  • She has been baking all morning.
  • What have you been doing all day?
  • We have been waiting here for hours!
  • I have been experiencing pain in my side.

Active Past Perfect-Progressive

The fourth use of the perfect have is within active past perfect-progressive constructions. The past perfect progressive expresses and emphasizes the consequences resulting from a previous incomplete or ongoing action or state that began in the past and continues up to a specific time. For example:

  • The teacher had been speaking when a student interrupted him.
  • Many animals had been dying until drastic measures were taken.
  • We had been sleeping when the train crashed.
  • He had been contributing to the project.

Passive Present Perfect

The fifth use of the perfect have is within passive present perfect constructions. The present perfect passive expresses and emphasizes previous actions with present implications that began in the past and continued up to the present while moving an object from an active sentence into the subject position. For example:

  • All the cookies have been eaten.
  • My homework has been turned in already.
  • Language has been studied for many years.
  • My toes have been broken many times.

Passive Past Perfect

The sixth use of the perfect have is within passive past perfect constructions. The past perfect passive expresses previous actions or states with additional past implications that began in the past and continued up to another specific point in the past while moving an object from an active sentence into the subject position. For example:

  • The vase had just been knocked down when the earthquake happened.
  • Had verbs been studied before this class?
  • The tub had been cleaned before the sink.
  • Because a room had not been booked in advance, we were unable to find a hotel.

Passive Present Perfect-Progressive

The seventh use of the perfect have is within passive present perfect-progressive constructions. The present perfect-progressive passive expresses incomplete or ongoing actions or states with present implications that began in the past and that may or may not continue into the future while moving an object from an active sentence into the subject position. For example:

  • I have been being yelled at all morning.
  • The toys have been being broken by the children.
  • The pamphlets have been being printed since last night.
  • Too much pollution has been being dumped in the river.

Passive Past Perfect-Progressive

The eighth use of the perfect have is within passive past perfect-progressive constructions. The past perfect-progressive passive expresses incomplete or ongoing actions or states that began in the past until a specific point in time while moving an object from an active sentence into the subject position. For example:

  • The child had been being yelled at by her mother yesterday.
  • Many animals had been being killed until the situation was addressed.
  • The cake had been being cake when the kitchen exploded.
  • Your document had been being printed just as the power went out.

The only grammatical form that can function as the perfect in the English language is the verb, specifically the verb have, or the perfect have.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kilby, David. 1984. Descriptive syntax and the English verb. Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm.
Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004. Meaning and the English verb. Harlow, English: Pearson Longman.

More in Grammatical Function

  • Using Adverb Clauses as Adjunct Adverbials

    Notional grammars define adverb clauses as subordinate or dependent clauses that consist of a subordinating conjunction followed by a clause and...

    Heather JohnsonJuly 4, 2014
  • Grammatical Function of English Adverb Clauses

    Adverb clauses are defined as subordinate or dependent clauses that consist of a subordinating conjunction followed by a clause and that...

    Heather JohnsonJuly 1, 2014
  • The Passive in English Grammar

    Passives are words that express the passive voice. Passives function within verb phrases functioning as predicates. Only one grammatical form can...

    Heather JohnsonMay 23, 2014
  • The Progressive in English Grammar

    Progressives are words that express the progressive aspect including the perfect-progressive aspect. Progressives function within verb phrases functioning as predicates. Only...

    Heather JohnsonMay 20, 2014
  • The Verb Phrase Modifier in English Grammar

    Verb phrase modifiers are defined as words, phrases, and clauses that describe a verb phrase. A verb phrase is a phrase...

    Heather JohnsonMay 9, 2014
  • The Noun Clause Modifier in English Grammar

    Noun clause modifiers are defined as words, phrases, and clauses that describe a noun clause. A noun clause is a dependent...

    Heather JohnsonMay 6, 2014
  • The Forms and Functions of Clauses in English

    Clauses are defined as grammatical structures that contain a subject and a predicate. The English language has four forms of clauses:...

    Heather JohnsonApril 25, 2014
  • Using Postpositional Phrases as Disjunct Adverbials

    Traditional grammars notionally define adpositions as words that “link to other words, phrases, and clauses” and that “express spatial or temporal relations.”...

    Heather JohnsonApril 18, 2014
  • Using Postpositional Phrases as Adjunct Adverbials

    Notional grammars define adpositions as words that “link to other words, phrases, and clauses” and that “express spatial or temporal relations.” In...

    Heather JohnsonApril 15, 2014

Pin It on Pinterest