What is the origin and logic behind the perfect aspect which is used for actions started in the past and ongoing at present time or past states which is still valid at present time.

My question isn't about the progressive aspect.I am especially wondering the grammatical logic of using "been" (with the -ing form of a lexical verb) or another state verb in the past participle form to describe unfinished actions which started in the past and continue up to the present (or past situations still true).

Examples are:

I have been working here since 1990.

I have been here for a long time.

I have known him for five years.

I have loved her since we met.

I have wanted to go to London for all my life.

  • Welcome to ELU. Please read the FAQ here: english.stackexchange.com/help/asking Good Luck.
    – Kris
    Nov 30 '19 at 11:56
  • have known, have loved are not progressive Nov 30 '19 at 15:47
  • For what the perfect means, this canonical answer on ELL is meant to clarify one's understanding of what the perfect actually signifies (it is much more than what you have stated). See Parts 3.1 and 3.2 especially. Nov 30 '19 at 16:02
  • 1
    to be doing something, to have been doing something versus be: was/have been
    – Lambie
    Nov 30 '19 at 19:20

Here are a few hints:

From: Brinton, L. J. (1988). The development of English aspectual systems: Aspectualizers and post-verbal particles. Cambridge University Press. p. 109.

One hypothesis regarding the origin of the development of the English progressive aspect was the Old English construction that used a form of beon/wesan (to be/to become) with a present participle (-ende). It has been proposed that such a construction in Old English was not analogous to progressive aspect signaled in present-day English (a more modern development), but rather carried the meaning of a simple stative verb, where the past participle functioned as an adjective, and was predominantly used for translating the corresponding construction in Latin texts.

But, from Language Log

However, this explanation has been criticised on the grounds that the introduction of an entirely new aspect (quite a radical change) would not occur "from the top down", especially given the isolation of monastic communities at the time and the lack of literacy amongst the general population. Another claim is that the origin of the English current progressive aspect is the Celtic languages that have been spoken in Britain throughout its history, which use the same construction. This would make the progressive aspect an example of a Brittonicism.


  • Thank you but, I meant to ask the origin and history of using "been" or another state verb in past participle form to tell our unfinished actions which started in the past and continues up to the present (still in progress).
    – Help Me911
    Nov 30 '19 at 10:24

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