Main Difference – Tense vs Aspect
Tense and Aspect can be defined as grammatical categories that are closely related. Tense indicates the location of an action or an event in time. For each grammatical tense, there are sub-categories named aspects which indicate how an action is to be viewed with respect to time, rather than to its actual location in time. Therefore, the main difference between tense and aspect is that tense indicates the location of an action in time whereas aspect indicates how that particular action is to be viewed with time.
What is Tense
As mentioned above, tense refers to the location of an action in time. It indicates whether the action is in the present or the past. Tense can be identified by the inflections of the verb. For example,
He cleans his room.
He cleaned his room.
There are only two tenses in English. They are past tense and present tense. As their names suggest, past tense is used to talk about actions and events in the past whereas present tense is used talk about the actions and events in the present.
What is Aspect
Aspect indicates how an action, state or an event is related to the flow of time. By looking at the aspect of a verb, we can decide whether the action is completed or ongoing. There are four aspects in English grammar. They are simple, progressive, perfect and perfect progressive.
This is used to indicate facts. It merely states whether or not an action occurs. This aspect can be used with habitual or repeated actions.
Present: Base form of the verb by itself (if it’s the third person singular add ‘s’, ‘es’ etc. to the base form)
He visits his aunt on Saturday.
Past: Base form of the verb + ed (for regular verbs) or irregular past tense verb
He visited his aunt on Saturday.
This indicates an ongoing action. Therefore, the action is not complete.
Present: ‘is’ or ‘are’ + present participle
He is reading a poem.
Past: ‘was’ or ‘were’ + past participle
He was reading a poem.
This indicates a complete action. This is often used with actions in the recent past.
Present: ‘has’ or ‘have’+ past participle
They have fallen in love.
Past: ‘had’ + past participle
They had fallen in love.
This is used with actions that began in the past and continues to the present.
Present: ‘has been’ or ‘have been’+ past participle
I have been studying for five years.
Past: ‘had been’ + present participle
I had been studying for five years.
Difference Between Tense and Aspect
Tense indicates the location of an action or an event in time.
Aspect indicates how an action, state or an event is related to the flow of time.
There are two tenses in English: past and present
There are four aspects in English: simple, progressive, perfect and progressive perfect.
Tense is a major grammatical category.
Aspect is a sub-category of tense.