A verb’s aspect is closely related to its tense.

  • tense = when the action took place  video
  • aspect = what kind of action took place  video

There are many different kinds of aspect. It’s important to understand these two basics: perfective (video) and imperfective aspect (video).

Perfective aspect Imperfective aspect
action that is completed or perfected action that is incomplete or imperfect


GGBB teaches three different kinds of aspect:

  • internal – (the present and imperfect tense)
  • external – (the aorist tense)
  • perfect – (the perfect tense)

External refers to an action as a whole. Some would call it “snapshot” action.

  • I ran the race.
  • We built the house.

Internal refers to action as ongoing, continuous, repeated, or habitual.

  • I am running the race.
  • We were building the house.

Perfect aspect refers to any verb tense that speaks of the present consequences of past action. In English, these verbs almost always use “have”, “has” or “had”. Wallace uses the term “perfective-stative”; cf. GGBB p. 499-503.

  • I have run the race.
  • We have built the house.

A long list of different kinds of aspect is here. Hebrew verbs also have aspect; see here.  This post is also interesting.


Wallace distinguishes between aspect and Aktionsart:  Aspect is the basic meaning of the tense, unaffected by considerations in a given utterance, while Aktionsart is the meaning of the tense as used by an author in a particular utterance, affected as it were by other features of the language.  source

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