The aspect of a verb defines its temporal flow. For example, in English, the difference between «I swim» (simple), «I am swimming» (continuous) and «I have swum» (perfect) is a difference of aspect. Some tenses contain two or more aspects at the same time. For example, «I have been swimming», contains the aspects: «perfect» and «continuous» and is thus referred to as «present perfect continuous».
The narrative aspect narrates a state resulting from a previous action. Therefore, this aspect is only possible for tenses in the past. The narrative aspect is not found in English. The «present perfect» of English is similar to past narrative of Persian but English doesn't have any equivalent for other narrative tenses of Persian. For example, «Ann said she had searched all the rooms.» is expressed with past precedent narrative in Persian («Ann goft hame-ye otâghhâ râ gashte bude») whereas it is expressed with the «past perfect» in English.
The precedent aspect is used:
- to refer to an event that has completed before another past action e.g. «When we arrived, the concert had already finished»
- to describe an event that has not yet happened but which is expected or planned to happen before another stated occurrence e.g. «I will have retired by the end of the year.»
In both cases, it precedes another action and that's why this aspect is called «pishin» (precedent) in Persian.
The imperfect aspect indicates duration. It is used to express repeated, continuous, or habitual actions. English doesn't have a grammatical form that corresponds exactly to this aspect. As an example, in languages having imperfect aspect, «I ran five miles yesterday» would use past simple form, whereas «I ran five miles every morning» would use past imperfect form.
The progressive aspect expresses an incomplete action in progress at a specific time. In Persian, the progressive aspect doesn't have a negative form; it is only used when an event was/is in progress. That is, in Persian we don't say «I was not studying». For this purpose, the imperfect equivalent of the tense is used.
The progressive tenses are a recent addition to the language and basically belong to spoken Persian. In written Persian, the imperfect aspect is used instead. The imperfect aspect covers everything related to the concept of «duration» and therefore, it can express progressiveness as well. That is, progressive aspect is a subset of imperfect aspect.
A progressive tense is made from its imperfect equivalent and the auxiliary verb «dâshtan» (to have). The auxiliary verb is separable. That is, other words can come between it and the main verb:
- dâshtam harf mizadam (I was talking)
- dâshtam bâ Ali harf mizadam (I was talking with Ali)
The complement «bâ Ali» (with Ali) has come between the auxiliary «dâshtam» and the verb «harf mizadam».
List of tenses that include the progressive aspect: