Just to note that I'm well aware as to the difference between the perfect and perfective aspects.

Up until recently I though that the Perfect aspect can denote (in addition to its perfect aspect meaning) also either a perfective or an imperfective aspect meaning (depending on the context).

However, lately I've stumbled upon these claims:

  • source: It's said that the Perfect tenses in Spanish denote a perfective meaning, while the Conditional and Future denote imperfective meaning.

  • source: It's said that the Present Perfect in Spanish denotes a perfective meaning.

My Questions:

  1. Does the non-progressive Present Perfect (Perfecto), Past Perfect (Pluscuamperfecto), Preterite Anterior (Pretérito Anterior) in Spanish necessarily denote perfective meaning or can they also denote imperfective meaning?

  2. Does the non-progressive Perfect in English necessarily denotes perfective meaning or can it also denote imperfective meaning?

  3. Does the Future (in English and Spanish) and Conditional (in Spanish) necessarily denote imperfective meaning or can they also denote perfective meaning?

  4. What about Future Perfect and Conditional Perfect which are a combination of 1,2 and 3 above?

2 Answers 2


Since I have practically no knowledge of Spanish, I can answer only the English part.

First of all, the English Perfect is not an aspect. The two English aspects are Continuous (progressive) and Non-Continuous (non-progressive). A verb form cannot have two aspects at the same time, but English has several Perfect Continuous tenses and several Perfect Non-Continuous ones, that is, English can combine Continuous/Non-Continuous aspect with Perfect/Non-Perfect, and that is evidence that Perfect/Non-Perfect is not an aspect, look at it as just another category, perfectness, which is not an aspect.

Question 2. No. Some English verbs like sense perception ('see', 'hear', etc.) or likes/dislikes verbs ('love', 'hate', etc.) cannot be put into Continuous (progressive), so their Perfect forms can denote actions that are still in progress, e. g. 'I've loved you so much' which would correspond to the imperfective aspect, but at the same time that very sentence can denote an action/state that has already finished, and in this case it would correspond to the perfective aspect.

Question 3. If by Future you mean Future Indefinite aka Future Simple, the answer is also No. Have a look, 'Will you come to me?' in some situations can imply just one visit (tonight) which corresponds to the perfective aspect, but in some other situations it can imply multiple visits (every day) which corresponds to the imperfective aspect.

Question 4. Again No. That follows from the answers to questions 2 and 3, and also from the fact that the very idea of the perfective and imperfective aspects is totally irrelevant for the English grammar and it absolutely does not correlate with the English verb category of perfect/non-perfect.

  • There is a problem here with terms. You appear to combine 'perfect' with 'preterite' to form a 2 bit tense, and keep separate a 1 bit 'progressive' aspect. Many others consider a 1 bit 'preterite' tense, and 2 aspect bits for 'perfect' and 'progressive'. Each binary feature of a verb could properly be called an aspect, and no pairings should be given preference without a good reason.
    – amI
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 20:12
  • 1
    @amI - If a language has aspects, this means that every verb is in this or that aspect, it is impossible for a verb in a tense not to have an aspect. Every English tense is at least 3 bit: 1. time (present or past or future or future-in-the-past, yeah, this bit is not binary, but quaternary), 2. aspect (progressive or non-progressive), 3. perfectness (perfect or non-perfect).
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 22:28
  • Adding 'future' to 'tense' is another problem. Does tense refer to the 'preterite' bit, or does it include the perfect, progressive and hypothetical bits, or does it exclude the progressive bit? Does 'simple' mean neither perfect nor progressive, or just not progressive? I see people using all these scenarios, and it makes the terms ambiguous.
    – amI
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 22:26
  • @amI - I see it this way: "tense" is the combination of time (present, or past, or future, or future-in-the-past), aspect (progressive or non-progressive), and perfectness (perfect or non-perfect). "Simple" means "non-progressive non-perfect". "Present Perfect" means "present time non-progressive perfect" and "Present Continuous" means "present time progressive non-perfect", etc.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 1:41
  • Then I again simply warn you: The Wikipedia entry on grammatical aspect states that 'future' is not part of 'tense', and 'perfect' is an 'aspect'. Our systems may be self-consistent, but if the definitions of terms are not universal then communication will be difficult.
    – amI
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 20:58

As for Spanish:

  1. Perfecto is usually perfective, but in some situations an imperfective reading is also possible. For example:

He vivido allí durante toda mi vida.

It may (but does not have to) mean that you still live there. I think pluscuamperfecto may have imperfective reading, too. I'm not sure about pretérito anterior, a native Spanish speaker would need to comment on it.

  1. Futuro simple may have a perfective meaning. Here is an example (p. 97):

Aunque vendrá mañana no lo veré, moriré antes.

The verb moriré is clearly perfective here.

  1. Both aspects are possible in futuro perfecto. Here are some examples:

En septiembre habré vivido aquí durante ocho años.

The only sensible interpretation I can see is that the action of "living here" will still be ongoing as of September, so its aspect is imperfective. But:

Habremos vuelto a casa antes de las cinco horas.

The action of "returning" will be completed by five o'clock, so it has a perfective aspect.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.