Aspect (grammar)

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Aspect is a part of verb conjugation that indicates the quality of an action, e.g., whether it is a discrete action or ongoing. Broadly, many languages distinguish the imperfective aspect (an ongoing or habitual action) from the perfective aspect (a single completed action). For example, in the sentence "I was eating a sandwich when she arrived," "was eating" is imperfective, while "arrived" is perfective. Some languages divide aspect more finely; for example:

  • Progressive, indicating an action that was ongoing as of the reference time ("I was eating the sandwich.")
  • Iterative or habitual, indicating a repeated or habitual action ("I eat a sandwich for lunch every day.")
  • Aorist (pronounced āər-əst), indicating a single completed action considered by itself ("I ate a sandwich at 12:00 today.")
  • Perfect, indicating a state resulting from an action or an ongoing relevance of an action ("The sandwich is eaten.")


Aspect is what differs the aorist from the imperfect. "While the aorist presents an action as completed or a state as ended, the imperfect presents an action as not completed—as being in progress at some point in the past—or a state as still being in effect at some previous time."[1]

The following examples are provided to distinguish aorist from imperfect:

Ἰησοῦς δὲ ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὸ ὄρος τῶν ἐλαιῶν (aorist)

And Jesus went to the Mount of Olives (John 8:1)

ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐπορεύετο σὺν αὐτοῖς (imperfect)
And Jesus was going with them

And Jesus went with them (Luke 7:6)[1]