Perfect tense and aspect

Date: Wed Sep 04 1996 - 19:28:50 EDT

Jonathan, I think I understand Young's point, but the analogy may have gone
beyond the point of being helpful. The basic idea of the perfect is to look
at the present results of a past action, with little or no regard for the
action itself. The finer nuances are again a case of allowing contextual
details to become part of the definition of the tense itself. That may be
fine for exegetical purposes because it allows us a good deal of shorthand in
communicating our ideas. No doubt every Greek prof has his/her favorite ex-
amples. I have several, one of which is homework. If my child were to say "I
did my homework," would be a statement of historical fact (though not necessar-
ily the reality of it!--also typo above, I meant "that would"). On the other
hand, if the child said "I have done my homework," what s/he is really saying
is that s/he is free of that burden and entitled to watch tv, etc. In every-
day life the effects of either statement might be the same, but the perfect
tense "I have done" states very clearly the present status quo as a presumed
state of freedom.

Don Wilkins
UC Riverside

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