Tense, aspect, voice, and mood in English verbs
But wait - there's more! For each main verb phrase you use in a clause, you need to consider which tense, aspect, voice, and mood is best. Depending on what you're talking about, any of them might be suitable! Let's find out exactly what our options are...
In English, we only have two tenses: present and past. Although we talk about the future in English, we do it by using modal verbs or other tenses, so technically it isn't called a tense.
Aspect gives us a feeling about the verb - is it happening now? Is is going to keep happening? Is it connected to now even though it happened in the past? In other words, it tells us whether a verb is continuing or finished. There are four possible aspects for verbs to have in English. Do you know them all?
- simple (e.g. present simple and past simple)
- progressive (also called 'continuous') - verb phrases with be + verb-ing
- perfect (verb phrases with 'have' or 'had' and past participle)
- perfect progressive (2 and 3 at the same time!)
In terms of voice, we have two in English:
Active means the subject is doing the action while passive means the action is being done to the subject. Active voice is more common in spoken and informal English, but less common in academic English. Why? Because English is a subject dominant language, so whatever is in the subject position usually gets more focus. This means that if we want to focus on people or someone doing an action, active voice is great, but in academic English we want to focus on facts and the information that was discovered by people, so we often use passive. Let's look at an example.
As you can see below, the focus in the active sentence is on the scientists doing the action whereas in the passive sentence, it is on the discovery itself.