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Progressive Forms. Lecture 14. The Progressive Aspect. The progressive aspect allows us to present an event in different ways: as unfolding in time (progressive VP, i.e. marked for progressive aspect) or as completed (non-progressive VP, i.e. not marked for progressive aspect).

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Progressive forms

Progressive Forms

Lecture 14


The progressive aspect
The Progressive Aspect

  • The progressive aspect allows us to present an event in different ways:

  • as unfolding in time (progressive VP, i.e. marked for progressive aspect) or

  • as completed (non-progressive VP, i.e. not marked for progressive aspect).

  • The marking for progressive aspect consists of a form of be + the suffix -ing added to the next verb in the VP. 

  • Do not confuse this with the use of -ing forms in non-finite clauses or as modifiers.



Types of verb dynamic verbs and state verbs
Types of verb - verb form:   dynamic verbs and state verbs


Dynamic verbs the progressive form represents the middle phase of the action
Dynamic verbs - verb form:   the progressive form represents the middle phase of the action

She wrote a letter. vs. She was writing a letter.

The progressive aspect brings different types of meaning to different types of dynamic verbs:

A. Durative action verbs: sing, swim, write. Progressive  'temporary, ongoing action'

John sings well. vs. John is singing in the shower.

B. Momentary action verbs: knock, kick, nod. Progressive  'repeated momentary action'

Someone is knocking on the door.


Dynamic verbs
Dynamic verbs verb form:  

C. Transitional event verbs: break, die, drown, stop.

Progressive  'approach to transition'

The old man was dying. vs. The old man died.

D. Process verbs: become, change, get, grow, weaken.

Progressive  'on-going process'

It was getting dark. vs. It got dark.


Potentially variable states
Potentially variable states verb form:  

A. Verbs of position: sit, stand, lie, stay, live

  Progressive  'temporary situation'

She was sitting on the sofa. vs. She always sits in that corner.

B. Bodily sensation verbs: ache, hurt, itch, tingle

  Progressive  'temporary situation'

My head is aching. vs. My head aches whenever I read Kafka.


State verbs
State verbs verb form:  

  • A. Verbs of perception: see, hear, feel, taste, smell

  • B. Intellectual/emotional states: know, remember, believe, forget, admire, appreciate

  • C. Physical and abstract relationships: be (tall, old, ...), remain; have, own, possess; belong to, contain; become, fit, suit; mean, equal; cost, weigh; differ from, resemble; concern, involve


Complications with state verbs
Complications with state verbs: verb form:  

1. homonymous dynamic verb forms:

He saw the car coming. (stative: 'perceive visually')

He was seeing her to the airport. (dynamic: 'accompany')

The doctor is seeing another patient. (dynamic: 'admit for consultation')

Do you think that's true? (stative: 'believe')

Are you thinking of leaving? (dynamic: 'plan', 'consider')

The soup smells good. (stative: 'emit smell')

The guests smelt the burning toast. (stative: 'perceive smell')

The cook is smelling the soup. (dynamic: 'inhale fumes')


Complications with state verbs1
Complications with state verbs: verb form:  

2. adverbials denoting gradual change turn stative verbs into process verbs:

He resembles his father. (stative: 'look like')

He's resembling his father more andmore these days.(process: 'become like')

I forget how you say that in Russian.

(stative: 'not remember')

I'm gradually forgetting my Russian. (process: 'lose from memory')


Tense and aspect
Tense and aspect verb form:  

  • The present progressive - can be used to present an event in future time as the outcome of present plan, with or without an adverbial which makes the future time reference explicit:

  • John is going to Paris next week.

  • Are you coming to the party?


The past progressive
The past progressive verb form:  

  • The simple verb form ('completed action') vs. the progressive verb form ('on-going action'):

    Mary wrote a letter. (completed action)

    Mary was writing a letter. (on-going action)

  • As a consequence it is possible to use the progressive form with a framing (backgrounding) function, while the simple form represents an action, which took place within the temporal frame:

    Mary was writing a letter when the phone suddenly rang.


The perfective progressive
The perfective progressive verb form:  

In combination with present tense and perfective aspect, the simple verb form and the progressive verb form express the expected kind of meaning contrast:

You've been painting the door. vs. You've painted the door.

(incomplete vs. completed action in the past with present relevance)

An adverbial which expresses continuity combines with the progressive form:

Peter has been painting the garage door all morning.

An adverbial which refers to a completed period combines with the non-progressive form:

Paul has painted the kitchen door in less than an hour.


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