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"You were unable to do it."

Can you describe the tense of this sentence? Is it Past Progressive?

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1  
No, we can't, because the sentence is ungrammatical. Perhaps you meant 'You were able to do it' or 'You were enabled to do it.' –  Barrie England Sep 26 '12 at 9:31
    
@BarrieEngland Sorry, A correct sentence is "You were unable to do it.". –  1eftHer0 Sep 26 '12 at 9:39

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The finite verb is were and it’s the past tense of be.

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it is the imprefect ("were" as opposed to the perfect "had been"). –  Mawg Sep 26 '12 at 11:58
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@Mawg: It is not. English has no imperfect tense. –  Barrie England Sep 26 '12 at 12:03

The tense is simple past or past simple. Progressive tenses use /-ing/: He is running or She was jumping or They had been eating or We will be groaning soon or You would have been driving for 24 hours by then.

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Progressive is not a tense; even in languages with progressive morphology, progressive is an aspect. English has only two tenses, present and past. The progressive is a construction consisting of a form of the auxiliary verb be followed by the -ing form of the main predicate. It doesn't refer to time but to continuity of action, and requires an active predicate. –  John Lawler Sep 26 '12 at 17:20
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Yes, progressive is an aspect. The verb-tense terminology used by most English teachers and textbooks is inconsistent and sloppy. I recognize only two tenses: present and past. (I just found a page that lists 19 English tenses!) Then there are aspects: progressive and perfect; voice: active and passive; mood: subjunctive; etc. And many more words that I no longer use. I should have said progressive tense-forms perhaps. –  user21497 Sep 26 '12 at 18:25

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