English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Most tenses exist in a perfect and non-perfect form, e.g. present vs. present perfect and past continuous vs. past perfect continuous. What is the group of tenses that are not perfect called?

share|improve this question
Is this what you are looking for? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperfect – mplungjan Apr 20 '11 at 8:00
@mplungjan: No, imperfect is always past. The word I seek would also describe "I will eat" (but not "I will have eaten"). (If I read the article correctly.) – user4727 Apr 20 '11 at 8:02
The tenses are three: Pesent, Past, Future. The other parts we call aspects: Continuous, Simple, Perfect. Just as there is no opposite to either 'Simple' or 'Continuous', there is no opposite to 'Perfect'. – Karl Apr 20 '11 at 8:07
@Karl: Surely, continuous and perfect are not mutually exclusive. "I have been eating" is present perfect continuous. – user4727 Apr 20 '11 at 8:17
@Tim: Which is precisely why they cannot be opposites of each other. The fact that they refer to different things does not make them opposites, just as red and green are not 'opposites'. If something is not the perfect aspect, it is simply something else. – Karl Apr 20 '11 at 8:21
up vote 2 down vote accepted

They’re called non-perfect.

Likewise, the uses of verbs that aren’t finite are non-finite. Honestly, there’s enough terminology in grammar already without inventing an opposite for every term!

share|improve this answer
But... imperfect means non-perfect no :) ? The fact that imperfect is usually only used to refer to a past test is complicating matters. The imperfective aspect, though, usually means what it states. However, it's not completely clear if OP is asking about aspects or tenses. – dainichi Aug 24 '12 at 9:34

First of all, it is important to point out that the tenses are only three: Past, Present and Future. Tense refers directly to time.

'Simple', 'Continuous' (progressive) and 'Perfect' are aspects, along with the fourth 'perfect continuous' which satisfies the criteria for both 'perfect' and 'continuous'. These refer to state of an action.

As for opposites, different aspects refer to different states. If an action is not continuous, then it is something else. Being different does not make it 'opposite'.

So, put simply: There is no 'opposite' for the perfect aspect, though there are other aspects.

Hope that helps

share|improve this answer
((Above, I gave the analogy of different types of furniture but I fear that is too vast. Consider the states of water. Though they are all the same substance, they could either be solid, liquid or gas. Neither of these states is the opposite of the others, just a different state.)) – Karl Apr 20 '11 at 8:34
Also, incase anybody feels the need to be very accurate about this, 'Future' is technically not a tense as it doesn't inflect the verb. I don't think it is necessary to point that out in my answer though. – Karl Apr 20 '11 at 8:43
I am still critical toward this categorization of aspects. If "simple" is an aspect, than so is "continuous perfect". They're either those four or two (cont. and perf.). – user4727 Apr 20 '11 at 8:47
Oh, I see your point now. Yes, 'perfect continuous' is technically a fourth aspect, but is made up of the other two. That there are four rather than three still doesn't create any question about opposites, I'm afraid. I'll include an edit to make that clearer. – Karl Apr 20 '11 at 9:00
@Karl, no, they don't refer to a different state of the action, they express a difference in the way the speaker is referring to the action. "He went to the shops" and "He has gone to the shops" can both be used to refer to the same event (as a whole), but picking out different characteristics (I nearly said "aspects") of it. – Colin Fine Apr 20 '11 at 14:39

Perfect and continuous are not mutually exclusive, and therefore can be used individually or together, giving three aspects. Those usages that include neither are called simple. Thus simple, while not the "opposite" of perfect, excludes both perfect and continuous.

Expressed tabularly, there are four cases -- s, p, c, pc -- which can be used in all tenses, where s indicates the absence of either p or c.

share|improve this answer
I was looking for a collective word for the s and c cases, i.e. those which are not perfect. – user4727 Apr 21 '11 at 6:45

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.