Semantic classifications of the verb
Semantic classifications of the verb may be undertaken from different standpoints. Grammatically important is the devision of verbs into the following classes:
Actional verbs, which denote a c t io n s p r o p e r (do, make, go, read, etc.) and statal verbs, which denote s t a t e (be, exist, lie, sit, know, etc.) or r e lat io n s ( fit, belong, have, match, cost, etc.). The difference in their categorical meaning affects their morphological paradigm: s t a t a l and r e l a t i o n a l v e r b s have no passive voice (though some have forms coinciding with the passive voice as in The curtains and the carpet were matched). A ls o st at a l and r e la t io n a l v e r b s generally are not used in the continuous and perfect continuous tenses. Their occasional use in these tenses is always exceptional and results in the change of meaning.
From the syntactic standpoint verbs may be subdivided into transivite (mepexoghɵe) and intransitive
Without the object the meaning of the transitive verb is incomplete or entirely different. Transitive verbs may be followed:
- a) by one direct object (monotransitive verbs); Jane is helping her sister.
- b) by a direct and an indirect objects (ditransitive verbs); Jane gave her sister an apple.
- c) by a prepositional object (prepositional transitive verbs): Jane looks after her sister.
Intransitive verbs do not require any object for the completion of their meaning: The sun is rising.
There are many verbs in English that can function as both transitive and intransitive.
Tom is writing a letter. (transitive) Tom writes clearly. (intransitive) Who has broken the cup? (transitive) Glass breaks easily. (intransitive)
Jane stood near the piano. (intransitive) Jane stood the vase on the piano. (transitive)
The division of verbs into terminative and non-terminative depends on the aspectual characteristic in the lexical meaning of the verb which influences the use of aspect forms.
T e r m i n a t i v e v e r b s (mpegenahɵe fnafonɵ) besides their specific meaning contain the idea that the action must be fulfilled and come to an end, reaching some point where it has logically to stop. These are such verbs as sit down, come, fall, stop, begin, open, close, shut, die, bring, find, etc.
No n-t er mi na t i ve , or dur at i ve ve r bs (hempegenahɵe fnafonɵ) imply that actions or states expressed by these verbs may go on indefinitely without reaching any logically necessary final point. These are such verbs as carry, run, walk, sleep, stand, sit, live, know, suppose, talk, speak, etc.
The end, which is simply an interruption of these actions, may be shown only by means of some adverbial modifier:
He slept till nine in the morning.
The last subclass comprises verbs that can function as both t e r m i n a t i v e and n o n – t e r m i n a t i v e (verbs of double aspectual meaning). The difference is clear from the context:
Can you see well? (non-terminative) I see nothing there. (terminative)
The finite forms of the verb
§ 9. The category of person expresses the relation of the action and its doer to the speaker, showing whether the action is performed by the speaker (the 1st person), someone addressed by the speaker (the 2nd person) or someone/something other than the speaker or the person addressed (the 3rd person).
The category of number shows whether the action is performed by one or more than one persons or non-persons.
For the present indefinite tense* of the verb to be there are three contrasting forms: the 1st person singular, the 3rd person singular and the form for all persons plural: (I) am – (he) is – (we, you, they) are.
In the past indefinite tense it is only the verb to be that has one of these categories – the category of number, formed by the opposition of the singular and the plural forms: (I, he) was – (we, you, they) were. All the other verbs have the same form for all the persons, both singular and plural.
In the future and future in the past tenses there are two opposing forms: the 1st person singular and plural and the other persons: (I, we) shall go – (he, you, they) will go; (I, we) should come – (he, you, they) would come.
In colloquial style, however, no person distinctions are found either in the future or in the future in the past tenses. The only marker for the future tenses is ‘ll used with all persons, both singular and plural: I’ll do it; He’ll do it; We’ll do it, etc. The marker for the future in the past tenses is ‘d, also used with all persons and numbers: I said I’d come; He said he’d come; We said we’d come, etc. Historically ‘ll is the shortened form of will, ‘d is the shortened form of would.
The categories of person and number, with the same restrictions, as those mentioned above, are naturally found in all analytical forms containing the present indefinite tense of the auxiliaries to be and to have, or the past indefinite tense of the auxiliary to be: (I) am reading – (he) is reading – (we, you, they) are reading; (I) am told – (he) is told – (we, you, they) are told; (he) has come – (I, we, you, they) have come; (he) has been told – (I, we, you, they) have been told; (he) has been reading – (I, we, you, they) have been reading.
A more regular way of expressing the categories of person and number is the use of personal pronouns. They are indispensable when the finite verb forms in the indicative as well as the subjunctive moods have no markers of person or number distinctions.
I stepped aside and they moved away.
They had been walking along, side by side, and she had been talking very earnestly. If you were his own son, you could have all this.
If she were not a housemaid, she might not feel it so keenly.
The verb is always in the 3rd person singular if the subject of the predicate verb is expressed by a negative or indefinite pronoun, by an infinitive, a gerund or a clause:
Nothing has happened. Somebody has come.
To see him at last was a real pleasure. To shut that lid seems an easy task. Seeing is believing. Visiting their house again seems out of the question.
What she has told me frightens me.
The category of tense
The category of tense in English (as well as in Russian) expresses the relationship between the time of the action and the time of speaking.
The time of speaking is designated as present time and is the starting point for the whole scale of time measuring. The time that follows the time of speaking is designated as future time; the time that precedes the time of speaking is designated as past time. Accordingly there are three tenses in English – the present tense, the future tense and the past tense which refer actions to present, future or past time.
Besides these three tenses there is one more tense in English, the so-called future in the past. The peculiarity of this tense lies in the fact that the future is looked upon not from the point of view of the moment of speaking (the present) but from the point of view of some moment in the past.
Each tense is represented by four verb forms involving such categories as aspect and perfect. Thus there are four present tense forms: the present indefinite, the present continuous, the present perfect, the present perfect continuous; four past tense forms: the past indefinite, the past continuous, the past perfect and the past perfect continuous; four future tense forms: the future indefinite, the future continuous, the future perfect and the future perfect continuous; and four future in the past tense forms: the future in the past indefinite, the future in the past continuous, the future in the past perfect, the future in the past perfect continuous.
The category of aspect
In general the category of aspect shows the way or manner in which an action is performed, that is whether the action is perfective (cobepmehhoe), imperfective (hecobepmehhoe), momentary (mfhobehhoe, oghokpathoe), iterative (mhofokpathoe, mobtopedyeece), inchoative (saumhatenahoe), durative (mpogonwehhoe, gnmtenahoe), etc.
In English the category of aspect is constituted by the opposition of the continuous aspect and the common aspect.
The opposition the continuous aspect <——> the common aspect is actualized in the following contrasting pairs of forms:
- Continuous – Common
- is speaking – speaks
- was speaking – spoke
- will be speaking – will speak
- has been speaking – has spoken
The forms in the left-hand column (whether taken in context, or treated by themselves) have a definite meaning: they describe an action as a concrete process going on continuously at a definite moment of time, or characteristic of a definite period of time (hence its name – the continuous aspect). The forms in the right-hand column, if treated by themselves, are devoid of any specific aspectual meaning. They denote the action as such, in a most general way, and can acquire a definite and more specified aspective meaning due to the lexical meaning of the verb and specific elements of the context in which they are used. Thus, for example, the verb form sang, when regarded out of context, has no specific aspectual characteristics, conveying only the idea of the action of singing with reference to the past. However when the same form is used in the context, it acquires the aspectual meaning conferred on it by that context. Compare the following sentences:
When he was young he sang beautifully (men = ymen meta). He went over to the piano and sang two folk-songs (cmen). He went over to the piano and sang (samen).
While everybody was busy lighting a camp fire, he sang folk-songs (men).
The fact that these forms may express different aspectual meanings according to the context, accounts for the term – the common aspect.
Whereas all verbs can be used in the common aspect, there are certain restrictions as to the use of the continuous aspect. Some verbs do not usually have the forms of the continuous aspect. They are referred to as statal verbs. The most common of them are the following:
1. Relational verbs have, be and some link verbs:
become, remain, appear, seem, sound.
However, both to be and to have can be used in the continuous aspect forms where to be has the meaning to act and to have has a meaning other than to possess.
2. Verbs expressing sense perception, that is involuntary reactions of the senses:
- to feel
- to hear
- to see
- to smell
- to taste
However these verbs as well as other statal verbs may be sometimes used in continuous and perfect continuous forms, especially in informal English
3. Verbs expressing emotional state:
to care, to detest, to envy, to fear, to hate, to hope, to like, to love, to prefer, to want, to wish.
4. Verbs expressing mental state:
to assume, to believe, to consider, to doubt, to expect, to find, to forget, to imagine, to know, to mean, to mind, to notice, to perceive, to remember, to suggest, to suppose, to think, to understand.
The category of perfect
The category of perfect is as fundamental to the English verb as the categories of tense and aspect, whereas it is quite alien to the Russian verb.
The category of perfect is constituted by the opposition of the perfect to the non-perfect.
The perfect forms denote action preceding certain moments of time in the present, past or future. The non-perfect forms denote actions belonging to certain moments of time in the present, past or future.
To see the difference between the two categories compare the following pairs of sentences containing non-perfect and perfect forms:
I have seen the film, and I think it is dull.
At last you are here! I’ve been waiting for you so long!
She had left by the 2nd of September.
She had been sleeping for half an hour when the telephone woke her up.
I shall have returned before you get the supper ready.
I see you are tired.
Whom are you waiting for?
She left on the 2nd of September.
When the fire began, everybody was sleeping.
I shall return at 10.
The perfect forms belong either to the continuous or to the common aspect and as such they have specific semantic characteristics of either one or of the other. Thus the perfect continuous forms denote continuous actions taking place during a definite period of time preceding the present moment or some moment of time in the past or future. The moment of time in question may be either e x c l u d e d or i n c l u d e d in the period of time of the action, as in the following:
- Don’t wake her up, she has only been sleeping for half an hour. (She is still sleeping at the moment of speaking.)
- She had been living in St.-Petersburg for 10 years when we met. (She was still living there at that moment of past time.)
- He will have been working here for 20 years next autumn. (He will still be working here at that moment of the future.)
- I’ve woken her up, she has been sleeping ever since dinner. (She is not sleeping at the moment of speaking.)
- They had been living in St.-Petersburg for 10 years when they moved to N. (They were not living in St.- Petersburg any longer at that moment of past time.)
- He will have been working there for 5 years before he returns to our institute. (He will not already be working there any longer at that moment of the future.)
The perfect forms of the common aspect are devoid of any specific aspect characteristics and acquire them only from the lexical meaning of the verb or out of the context in which they are used. Thus terminative verbs in the perfect forms of the common aspect express completeness of the action:
She had shut the window and was going to sleep.
The completed actions expressed by such forms may be momentary or iterative, as in:
He had stumbled and fallen down before I could support him.
He had stumbled and fallen down on his knees several times before he reached the bushes.
Non-terminative verbs may express both completed and incompleted actions:
She had spoken to all of them before she came to any conclusion.(mofobopmna)
I have known him all my life. (shad)
They may also express iterative or durative actions:
He had lived in many little towns before he settled in St.-Petersburg.
She had lived here since the war.
Thus the difference between the perfect and the perfect continuous forms is similar to the difference between the indefinite and the continuous non-perfect forms.
Before passing on to a thorough study of all verb forms in detail it should be clearly understood that every one of them is a bearer of three grammatical categories, those of tense, perfect, and aspect, that is every form shows whether the action refers to the present, the past, the future or the future viewed from the past; whether it belongs to a certain moment of time within each of these time-divisions or precedes that moment, and whether it is treated as continuous or not.