The category of time relation the present perfect tense

The problem of the perfect forms seems to present more difficulty and considerable differences of opinion. The perfect forms are regarded by some scholars as not referring an action to any definite point of time, but only expressing priority with regard to the moment of speaking (the present perfect), to a definite moment in the past (the past perfect) or the future (the future perfect). In contrast to the Indefinite forms the Perfect forms are treated as relative tenses, other authors are inclined to regard the Perfect forms not as an expression of tense but as aspect forms. Their opinions differ, however, as to the nature of that aspect: some scholars assign resultative meaning to the Perfect forms, others-the meaning of complexion. A very interesting theory of the Perfect forms is suggested by Prof. I. Smirnitskiy. He treats them as a new grammatical category which is neither tense nor aspect. This category is constituted by the opposition of all in conversa-

tions, including the Perfect forms to all the NonPerfect forms. The Non-Perfect forms, according to the American scholar M. Joos, show that the action and its effect are simultaneous with each other, whereas the Perfect forms emphasize that the effect of the action is delayed, i.e. the forms of attention in the Perfect forms is not on the action itself but on the effect. In Joos’ opinion the Perfect forms have resultative meaning. He objects to ascribing the meaning of priority to these forms as their basic meaning.

Let’s see the basic meaning of the Present Perfect then it is expedient to describe the use of the various forms according to the time sphere to which they belong, one of them being the Present Perfect. The Present Perfect falls within the time sphere of the Present and is not used in narration where reference is made to past events.

Grammars, as a rule, lay special stress on the fact that the Present Perfect denotes a past action

The category of time relation the present perfect tense which is connected with the present, having a bearing on it. Hence, it is sometimes said to be a sort of mixture of the past and the present. It follows from that that the Present Perfect is used in present time contexts, i.e. including plays and dialogues in narratives, newspaper and wireless reports, lectures and letters.

The Present Perfect has three distinctive uses: Present Perfect I, Present Perfect II and Present Perfect III.

Present Perfect I is used when the speaker merely states that an action took place in the past without mentioning any definite circumstances under which it occurred. Although the action was accomplished in the past, it belongs to the present time sphere because it definitely has a bearing on the present situation. It is the happening itself that matters in the speaker’s opinion, the circumstances of the action being immaterial at the moment. The Present Perfect may be said to have nominating power as it is used just to name a past occurrence, summing it up, as it were. As a rule, the Present Perfect serves to denote single accomplished actions:



I’ve had a talk with him. He says he has all the proof he wants.

Мен онымен сөйлескен болатынмын. Ол өзіне керекті дәлелдің барлығы бар екенін айтты.

“I have spoiled everything,” she said.

“Мен бәрін де бүлдіріп алдым-ау,”-деді ол.

But it may also express recurrent actions or actions or states of some duration


“You’ve so often been helpful in the past.” “I’ve tried,” said Sir Joseph.

“Бұрын сіз сондай жиі қолғабыс тигізіп жүретін едіңіз ғой.” “Мен тырысатынмын,”деді Джозеф мырза.

Since the Present Perfect serves to name a past occurrence, it is frequently used to open up conversations (newspaper and wireless reports, or letters) or to introduce a new topic in them. However, if the conversation (report, letter) continues on the same subject, going into detail, the Present Perfect usually changes to the Past Indefinite, the function of the latter being to refer to actions or situations which are definite in the mind of the speaker. Usually (but not necessarily) some concrete circumstances of the action (time, place, cause, purpose, manner, etc.) are mentioned in this case.


“Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where have you been?” “Марқау, марқау,

Сен кайда болдың?” “I’ve been to London To look at the Queen”

“Патшайымды көру үшін Лондонға бардым” “Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat

What did you see there?” “Марқау, марқау,

Сен онда не көрдің?” “I saw a little mouse Under her chair”

“Патшайымның орындығының астынан Кішкентай тышқанды көрдім”

As is seen from the above examples, the Present Perfect names a new action and the attention is focused on the action itself, whereas the Past Indefinite is used to refer back to a definite action and often the attention is drawn rather to the circumstances attending the action than the action itself.

The Present Perfect is also used not only to introduce a new topic in conversation but to sum up a situation previously described.


Oh, don’t let’s argue! I apologize. I’ve hurt your feelings, I know.

Сөз таластырмай-ақ қояйықшы! Кешірім өтінемін. Білуімше сіздің сезіміңізді жараладым-ау деймін.

It is possible to use the Present Perfect when there is an adverbial modifier of time in the sentence that denotes a period of time which is not over yet: today, this morning, this week, this month, this year, etc.


This year we have taken only one assistant.

Биыл біз жұмысқа тек бір ғана көмекшіні қабылдадық.

Present Perfect II also serves to express an action which began before the moment of speaking and continues into it or up to it. This grammatical meaning is mainly expressed by the Present Perfect Continuous.


That was a couple of hours ago and I have been waiting ever since.

Бұл жәйт екі сағат бұрын болған еді, мен содан бері әлі күтіп тұрмын.

However, the Present Perfect Non-Continuous is found in the following cases:

  1. Its use is compulsory with verbs which cannot have the Continuous form.


I have known the young lady all her life.

Мен бұл жас әйелді туғаннан бері білемін.

  1. As to verbs which admit of the Continuous form, the choice between the Present Perfect and the Present Perfect Continuous depends on the lexical character of the verb. The Present Perfect may be used with durative verbs though normally the Present Perfect Continuous is preferred.


“It’s a pretty room, isn’t it?” “I’ve slept in it for fifteen years.”

“Бұл әдемі бөлме, солай емес пе?” “Мен бұл жерде он бес жыл бойы ұйықтап келдім.”

  1. The Present Perfect is preferred to the Present Perfect Continuous in negative sentences. It may be accounted for by the fact that in negative sentences the attention is focused rather on the negation of the action proper than on its progress.


The other chap was a man who threw up his job ten years ago and he hasn’t worked since.

Басқа жігіт өзінің жұмысын он жыл бұрын тастап кеткен кісі болатын, ол содан бері жұмыс істеген емес.

Present Perfect III is found in adverbial clauses of time introduced by the conjunctions: when, before, after, as soon as, till and until, where it is used to express a future action. It shows that the action of the subordinate clause will be accomplished before the action of the principal clause which is usually expressed by the Future Indefinite. This use of the Present Perfect is structurally dependent as it is restricted only to the above-mentioned types of clauses.


I’ll take you back in my car but not till I’ve made you some coffee.

Мен саған кофе дайындап берген соң ғана жеңіл көлігіммен үйіңе апарып тастаймын.

As soon as we have had some tea, Fred, we shall go to inspect your house.

Фред, біз біраз шай ішіп алған соң ғана сенің үйіңді қарауға барамыз.

Sometimes the Present Indefinite is found in this type of clauses in the same meaning as the Present Perfect. The choice of the form depends on the lexical meaning of the verb. With durative

verbs the Present Perfect is necessary to stress the idea of the action being completed.


When you’ve had your tea and your boiled egg and your toast and butter, we’ll see about it.

Сен өзінің шайыңды, піскен жұмыртқаңды, қарылған наның мен майыңды жеп болған соң, біз ол мәселе туралы ойлап көреміз.

With terminative verbs the choice of the forms is optional.


By the time we return the horse will be here.

Біз үйге қайтып оралғанша жылқы осы жерде болады.

When she retires we won’t replace her.

Ол демалысқа шығып кеткен соң біздің ешқайсымыз да оның орнын баса алмаймыз.

In many cases, however, it is not easy to define the kind of connection between the past and the present implied in the use of the Present Perfect. It is sufficient that the main idea of the Present Perfect prevails-there remains the fact that the action took place in the past and is important for the present from the speaker’s view point.


Has anybody behaved badly to you?

Сізге біреу жаман қылығын көрсетті ме?

I presume you don’t pretend that I have treated you badly.

Мен сізге жаман көзбен қарағанымды аңғармағандай болып тұрсыз ба деп ойлаймын.

It should be noted that many verbs in English are polysemantic they may be terminative in one meaning and durative in another. For example, see may have the terminative meaning “көріп қою” and the durative meaning “көру”. But this does not present any special difficulty because the context definitely points to one particularly meaning of the verb, all the others being eliminated.

So it is expedient to describe the use of the various forms according to the time sphere to which they belong, namely the Present, the Past, the Future and the Future in the Past.

Magazine: KazNU BULLETIN
Year: 2012
City: Almaty
Category: Philology