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Perfect forms in English

I have chosen to analyze the Perfect forms in English as they have always presented difficulties to learners and also because opinions of linguists differ greatly as far as these forms are concerned The aim of my paper was, on the one hand to investigate the main peculiarities of the perfect form trying to define their basic functions, meanings and their position within the system of the English verb, and on the other hand, bringing into comparison the verb systems of the English and Romanian languages, to investigate the means by which the English perfect forms are translated into Romanian.

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I based my analysis on examples from “The Picture f Dorian Grey’ by Oscar Wilde and its Translation into Romanian by Maziliu. The perfect, unlike the non-perfect forms denote secondary temporal characteristics of the action. One of the most disputable questions is whether the Perfect is part of another verbal category or it is an independent grammatical category. To answer this question I start from the assumption that grammatical categories are correlated with philosophical ones.

Thus while the Simple Present, Past and Future reflect the division of the objective time into Past, Present and Future, the Perfect having the meaning of time correlation like Aspect and Voice, expresses nother notion. So, in the form “has spoken” we distinguish the present tense and the category of time correlation which is the perfect. According to many linguists, the perfect forms belong to the category of tense which is expressed by the same grammatical form, particularly by the present form “has”.

However, this pattern “has+ participle II” is the expression of some other grammatical meaning. We can draw here a parallel between the category of Voice and that of Time Correlation ( perfect). Thus, if we compare the grammatical form ” is made” which reveals the meaning of wo different grammatical categories : Tense and Voice with the form ” has made”, the question arises why shouldn’t it be possible for this form too to express the meanings of her different categories Tense and Time Correlation.

Another difficulty is whether we should consider all the perfect forms as belonging to one and the same semantic plan. Our analysis proves that the perfect forms characterize the action of the verb from the point of view of anteriority and completeness. Together with their non – perfect opposemes they constitute an independent category, that of time orrelation. The action of the verb in a perfect form is not strictly connected to a certain time. The interval between the moment of speech and the action can be of various dimensions.

The main meanings of the Present Perfect are anteriority and completeness of the action. The present perfect may be referred to the past plan of the verb ( I have already done it) and to the past and present together ( I have known him for 2 years). An important feature of the present perfect is the fact that it never occurs with a narrative function to a large extent, that is in accounts of vents connected with each other in their chronological succession. This is because a narration presupposes the identification of the time that refers to the chain of events a certain action is taken from.

The perfect action is taken out of this chain of events that precede or succeed each other, it is isolated and has a detached meaning of chronological succession that is usually, as we know, rendered by the past simple. “l have tried these modern inoculations a bit myself. IVe killed people with them and IVe cured people with them: but I gave them up because I never could tell which I was going to do” The isolating character of the perfect increases its importance as such, irrespective of the details of its development. I found out that not all the verbs can be used in the Present Perfect as in the E. : verbs that cannot express isolation do not occur in the present Continuous: perfect or happen very seldom ( consist, contain, possess, ripple, etc. ). The same is true of the verbs run, lie, curve, etc. used with an inanimate agent or patent. E. g. The road runs along the field; the path curves to the right; the village lies on a hill. No present perfect is possible in these examples. Judging by our examples, the main sphere of application of the present perfect is Direct Speech. Sometimes the present perfect is used for stylistic purposes when, in fact, the actions refer to a far past.

Thus when Dorian speaks about his beloved actress we are aware that the action was performed long ago, but due to his strong feelings and passions he remembers that so vividly that the action seems to express an evident shade of inclusiveness into the moment of speech. “She is everything to me in my life. Night after night I go to see her play. One evening she is Rosalind, and the next evening she is Imogen. I have seen her die. I have watched her wandering through the forest. She has been mad and has come into the presence of a guilty king”. I have seen her in every age, in every costume”.

It is typical of the present Perfect to be used when some change or achievement take place. E. g. You have made me wait. You have come to love. I have come to learn. This is possibly due to the resultative meaning of the present perfect. The present perfect is not rendered into Romanian in 97% of all instances by the Perfectul Compus. Theoretically we can consider Perfectul Compus as a counterpart of the PresentPerfect. In the other 3% of examples the Present Perfect is rendered by means of Conjunctivul Present (ca sa pot) and the infinitive.

The main property of the Past Perfect is its correlation with another action or moment in the Past, that is, with the temporal centre of the Past sphere. The Past Perfect expresses the temporal meaning more rarely than the present perfect. The ability to be used in narration is an important function distinction of the Past Perfect. This functional difference draws a sharp boundary line between the two perfective forms because the position of verb forms within the anguage system is determined not only by their most important grammatical meanings but also by their pragmatic functions in the language.

The future perfect is so rare that is very difficult to find enough examples to make statistic conclusions. It was proved that one example of this form occurs on 475 pages. In conclusion we state that the two grammatical categories Tense and time correlation belong to the same domain of time but characterize the action from different points of view and are thus different categories. Not all English grammatical categories find their exact counterparts in Romanian. The perfect is one of them Though it exists in Romanian, it is not regarded as an independent category.

While in English it may refer to all time plans: Past, Present and Future, in Romanian it usually refers to the past, and this is true of both Perfectul Compus “am terminat” both languages, there are great differences between them from the point of view of their meaning and usage. There are commonalities too, the most important being the grammatical form and the general meaning of completeness and priority. The paradigm of the Perfect in English is richer than in Romanian because it includes both continuous and non- continuous forms.


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