The absence of any actual difference in meaning in such a case is brought out in the following passage from a modern novel: Mr Bodiham was sitting in his study at the Rectory. The nineteenth - century Gothic windows, narrow and pointed, admitted the light grudgingly; in spite of the brilliant July weather, the room was sombre. Brown varnished bookshelves lined the walls, filled with row upon row of those thick, heavy theological works which the second - hand booksellers generally sell by weight. The mantelpiece, the overmantel, a towering structure of spindly pillars and little shelves, were brown and varnished. The writing - desk was brown and varnished. So were the chairs, so was the door. A dark red - brown carpet with patterns covered the floor everything was brown in the room, and there was a curious brownish smell. In the midst of this brown gloom Mr Bodiham sat at his deks.
By comparing the first and the last sentence of this passage it will be seen that they tell of the same situation, but in different ways. The first sentence is clearly descriptive, and it opens a rather lengthy description of Mr Bodiham's room, its furniture, books, etc. the last sentence of the passage, on the other hand confirms the fact that Mr Bodiham sat in his study, as if summing up the situation. So the same fact is told a second time and the difference in the stylistic qualities of the continuous and the common aspect is well brought out.
On the other hand, if we have the sentence He brought her some flowers and if we substitute was bringing for brought and say, He was bringing her some flowers, the meaning will be affected and the two facts will be different. With the common aspect form brought the sentence means that the flowers actually reached her, whereas the continuous aspect from means that he had the flowers with him but something prevented him from giving them to her. We might then say that he sat = he was sitting,, whereas he brought = he was bringing.. What is the cause of this difference? Here we shall have to touch on a lexicological problem, without which the treatment of the continuous aspect cannot be complete. The verb sit denotes an action which can go on indefinitely without necessarily reaching a point where it has to stop, whereas the verb bring denotes an action which must come to an end owing to its very nature. It has now been customary for some time to call verbs of the sit type cursive, or durative, and verbs of the bring type terminative. We may then say that with cursive, or durative verbs, the difference between the common and the continuous aspect may be neutralized whereas with terminative verbs it cannot be neutralized, so that the form of the common aspect cannot be substitute for the form of the continuous aspect, and vice versa, without materially changing the meaning of the sentence.
A final note is necessary here on the relation between the aspects of the English verb and those of the Russian verb.
Without going into details, we may assume that the Russian verb has two aspects, the perfective and the imperfective. Ll other varieties of aspectal meanings are to be considered within the framework of the two basic aspects. It is obvious at once that there is no direct correspondence between English continuous aspect is not identical with the Russian imperfective. The relation between the two system is not so simple as all that. On the one hand, the English common aspect may correspond not only to the Russian perfective but also to the Russian imperfective aspect; thus, he wrote may correspond both to написал and to писал. On te other hand, the Russian imperfective aspect may correspond not only to the continuous but also to the common aspect in English; thus, писал may correspond both to was writing and to wrote. It follows from this that the relation betwen the English and the Russian aspects may be represented by the following diagram:
English Common Continuous
Russian Perfective Imperfective
What is aspect?
1. Aspect describes whether the action is accomplished or still in progress.
2. Basically, there are two aspects: perfective and imperfective.
3. Perfective aspect describes actions viewed as an accomplished whole in a single point of time which happened in the past, or will happen in the future.
4. Imperfective aspect describes 1) an ongoing process, 2) a series of repeated actions which were taking place in the past, are taking place now, or will be taking place in the future.
5. Perfective verbs have always future meaning in their present tense form.
6. The future of imperfective verbs is always formed with the helping word budu + infinitive of the verb.
7. Verbs describing actions can be both perfective and imperfective,
8. Verbs describing states are always imperfective.
9. Perfective verbs can be made imperfective by means of prefixes and endings, and vice versa.
10. It is impossible to translate aspect directly using any of the English tenses and vice versa.