Grammatical Aspects, or cognitive variables?

Source: BBC Learning English on YouTube

Most sources say the grammatical Aspect is about the type of verb. You do not really choose between the Simple, Progressive, Perfect, or Perfect Progressive: verbs are such or such, and require such or such language patterns. ■→Merriam-Webster explains:
The grammatical Aspect is the nature of the action of a verb.

BBC Learning English says in the video above: the Aspect is all about the character of the verb.

The screenshot tells the types of character to go with the Simple.

Do we sort English verbs by the rubric?

Click to enlarge; source: BBC Learning English on YouTube

Let us test the teaching against a piece of poetry: hardly anybody learns language only to read electronic mail or weather reports. All verbs here are in the Simple; which would be the “long-term general truth”, which “instantaneous”, and which “habitual”?

The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side…
hold them, blue to blue,
lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.
■→Emily Dickinson, The Brain is Wider than the Sky

The answer is — none. Not even one of the verbs fits in the categories as above, because the piece is a poetic metaphor. Well, people happen to say “sky is the limit”, walking on Earth. Feel welcome intellectually to exercise the categories on repositories linked below.

Emoticon, smile


In our earthly reality, time and place occur together without exception. There is no time without place, or place without time. Computer virtual dimensions might isolate the two, but human grammars have not evolved in virtual realities.

The name aspect comes from the Latin word aspectus. It meant a seeing, a looking at. The way we view ourselves and the world is not always the same. We may compare Emily Dickinson’s ■→Beclouded, for the sky.

Grammar cannot decide what we want to say; for example, that we live somewhere, we have lived, we are living, or have been living somewhere. Grammar cannot require that we say where we had lived before we say where we moved in. We can decide to add that after. Feel welcome to read:
■→The idea of travel in grammar.

Let us think about our real, everyday lives. We people live on Earth, we give at least psychological borders to areas in which we are, and we learn as well as remember ways to places. We happen to be at landmarks, too. We can use the words on, in, to, and at for place as well as for time, in English.

All people map cognitively. It is cognitive mapping to help us get to a place, in the shortest length of space as well as time, on our routes to school, work, or another location. We grant cognitive extents to thought and emotion as well (only it gets to be described under other labels).

Emoticon, smile

All grammar books agree that English has 4 grammatical Aspects. As there happen to be differences on particular labels, we can agree they are the Simple, the Progressive, the Perfect, and the Perfect Progressive.

The Simple would tell what we think that existed, exists, or will exist on a cognitive ground or extent.

Grammar does not need to do anything more. If we want to talk philosophy, we simply chat about it.

Emoticon, smile

The Progressive would help say that something was, is, or will be in progress, in its course. To visualize this Aspect, we could picture activity or faculties in an area of a cognitive map.

The Perfect: We can use it to say what had taken place, has taken place, or will have taken place to a moment in time. The moment does not have to mark the end of the state, activity, or faculty work. We may view the course or occurrence of the activity as a way to a place.

The Perfect Progressive can work as a merger of the Perfect and Progressive, with the marker at.

If we use the Aspects as cognitive variables (if we decide on own regard or “looking”), we don’t need to divide verbs into categories, whether we mean literal or figurative language use. There is much less formal grammar to think about, when we speak or write. Feel welcome to see more over the Grammar Weblog,
■→Chapter 4. Time rambles different with different people;
■→Chapter 7. Time in the mind and heart.

For the Greek idea of a category and (a simple) use in grammar, feel welcome to the USA Charters of Freedom: the Constitution is a “syntax bonanza”, an exceptionally rich resource. We cannot have language forms hundreds of years aged for modern grammar, but we can update the language form:
■→USA Charters of Freedom.

■→This text is also available in Polish.


The world may never have seen her original handwriting, if her skill was taken for supernatural. Feel welcome to Poems by Emily Dickinson prepared for print by Teresa Pelka: thematic stanzas, notes on the Greek and Latin inspiration, the correlative with Webster 1828, and the Aristotelian motif, Things perpetual — these are not in time, but in eternity.

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Świat może i nigdy nie widział jej oryginalnego pisma, jeśli jej umiejętność została wzięta za nadnaturalną. Zapraszam do Wierszy Emilii Dickinson w przekładzie Teresy Pelka: zwrotka tematyczna, notki o inspiracji greką i łaciną, korelacie z Websterem 1828 oraz wątku arystotelesowskim, Rzecz perpetualna — ta nie zasadza się na czasie, ale na wieczności.

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