The paradigm of the verb in the present perfect continuous
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The present perfect continuous is used mainly in conversation.
§ 27. The present perfect continuous is used with actional verbs to denote:
1. Actions in progress which begin at a certain moment in the past and continue into the present. In this case either the starting point of the action or the period of time during which it has been in progress is usually specified.
I’ ve been writing since morning, and so I’ll soon stop.
They’ ve been living here since 1970. Now they are going to move to N.
It has been raining ever since midnight, and it is still drizzling.
She’s a fourth year student, so she’ s been learning English for at least 3 years already.
All these forms denoting actions continuing into the present (the so-called present perfect continuous inclusive) are translated into Russian by the present tense, imperfective (in the sentences above: пишу, живут, дождь идет, учит).
2. Actions in progress which begin in the past and continue up to the moment of speaking or till just before it. It is the present perfect continuous exclusive.
Oh, here you are at last! I’ ve been waiting for you all day!
It has been snowing since morning, but now it has stopped.
You look so sad. Have you been crying?
It has been raining for at least two hours, but now the wind has driven the clouds away.
3. Actions in progress that both begin and end at some indeterminate time before the moment of speaking, though connected with it through their importance for the present.
My brother has been using my bicycle and has got the tyre punctured.
I have been thinking over your offer, but still can’t tell you anything definite.
I hear she has been calling on you again?
The forms denoting actions that are over by the moment of speaking (the so-called present perfect continuous exclusive) are translated into Russian by means of the past tense, imperfective (in the sentences in items 2 and 3 they are: ждал, снег шел, плакала, дождь шел, катался, обдумывал, приходила).
4. Future actions in progress before a certain moment in the future (in subordinate adverbial clauses of time and condition).
He will get accustomed to the surroundings after he has been staying here for a week or two.
§ 28. As is seen from above, the present perfect continuous cannot be used to denote a succession of actions and therefore cannot be used to describe the development of events. If two actions denoted by the present perfect continuous happen to come together it only means that they are simultaneous and are usually performed by two different persons:
I have been living here for two months while they have been travelling all over Europe. Now they are coming back, and I’ll soon move back to my own place.
§ 29. All the past tenses (the past indefinite, the past continuous, the past perfect, the past perfect continuous) refer the actions they denote to the past. The difference between them lies in the way they represent the I categories of aspect and perfect.
Owing to their past time reference all of them are used both in the written language in narrative and description, and in conversation, especially the past indefinite.
The past indefinite
(The simple past)
§ 30. Formation. The affirmative forms of the past indefinite are synthetic, the interrogative, negative and negative-interrogative forms are analytic.
Affirmative (synthetic) forms are represented by the second of the basic verb forms.
Interrogative forms are built by means of the auxiliary to do in the past indefinite (did), which is placed before the subject, and the infinitive stem of the notional verb, which follows the subject.
Negative forms are built by means of the negative form of the auxiliary, which has two varieties: a) didn’t (used in the spoken language) and b) did not (used in the written language) and the infinitive of the notional verb that follows it.
The paradigm of the verb in the past indefinite
The auxiliary did also occurs in affirmative forms in cases when the speaker wishes to emphasize his statement, as in:
But I assure you, he did tell me of it himself.
Actually, I did see him once last week.
There are a few verbs which form their past indefinite differently from the way described above. These are:
The verb to be, which has synthetic forms not only in the affirmative, but also in the interrogative, negative and negative-interrogative. It also distinguishes the category of number. The interrogative is formed by placing the verb before the subject.
The verb to have, which also has synthetic forms for all structures.
When having meanings other than ‘possess’ or when used as part of a phrasal verb (to have a look), to have forms its interrogative and negative in the ordinary way with the auxiliary to do.
§ 31. The past indefinite refers actions to past time quite cut off from the present, that is, these actions are in no way connected with the present).* The past indefinite can therefore be used only in contexts relating to the past. The past reference of the context can be shown:
* This is very important for distinguishing the situations in which either only the past indefinite or only the present perfect are to be used.
a) by various adverbials of time pointing to the past, for example, yesterday, the day before yesterday, last (that) Saturday (Sunday), etc., last (that) week (month, year), an hour ago (and other adverbials with ago), in 1970, on the 1st of September, and many others denoting certain moments and periods of time already past.
He left yesterday.
They married in 1975.
She returned two hours ago.
I saw them last Monday.
That night nobody slept.
b) by some other past actions (denoted by the verb in the past indefinite or past continuous).
He came when I was already at home.
They started when the sun was rising.
Thus the very fact that the past indefinite is used in a narrative or in a single sentence is generally an indication that some past time not connected with the present is referred to.
§ 32. The past indefinite is the verb form most frequently used; its range of application is immense, especially in all kinds of narratives.
The past indefinite is used:
1. To state simple facts in the past.
The house stood on the hill.
She was beautiful.
I did not know who the man was.
I did not hear your question.
I did not see you at the theatre.
What did you say?
The past indefinite, never the present perfect, is used in questions beginning with when, even though no indication of past time is made, because when implies a certain moment in the past. The answer can be either in the past indefinite or in the present perfect, depending on the situation: When did you see him? - I saw him two days ago. - I have just seen him.
Likewise, the past indefinite, not the present perfect, is used in questions beginning with where because in such questions the reference to some past moment is implied: Where did you buy that hat? The implication is: when you were at the place where the action was performed.
2. To denote habitual actions in the past.
All summer I got up at 7.
On Sunday evening he took her to the pictures.
He usually took the first morning train.
Besides the past indefinite there are other ways of expressing habitual actions in the past:
a) by means of the form used to + infinitive:
Some years ago he used to call on me, now he never does.
The negative construction of used to is formed in one of two ways: didn’t used to and didn’t use to.
She didn’t use to knit in the evenings.
The interrogative construction is: did (he) used to? or did (he) use to...?
Did she used to write her articles at night?
Did he use to do it?
b) The other way to express habitual actions is by means of the verb would + infinitive stem. But unlike used
to, would always conveys an additional modal colouring of will, insistance, perseverance.
This used to be my mother’s room, and I would sit there for hours.
3. To denote a succession of past actions.
He got up, put on his hat, and left.
The car stopped, the door opened, and a very pretty girl got out of it.
4. To denote actions in progress at a certain moment in the past, with verbs that cannot be used in
He was not listening but still heard what they were speaking about.
At that time he was on the watch.
5. To denote future actions in subordinate adverbial clauses of time and condition depending on
principal clauses with the predicate verb in a past tense.
She said she would come when the film was over.
She said she would do it if nothing unexpected happened.
§ 33. The ways of rendering the past indefinite in Russian are varied, owing to its aspective vagueness. Depending on the lexical meaning of the verb and on the context, it can be translated by Russian verbs in the past tense of both perfective and imperfective aspects with all possible shades of their meanings.
The past continuous
§ 34. Formation. The past continuous is formed analytically by the auxiliary verb to be in the past indefinite and participle I of the notional verb.
In the interrogative the auxiliary is placed before the subject and participle I follows the subject.
In the negative the corresponding negative forms of to be are employed, and participle I follows them.
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