I repaired my car. Perfective or imperfective?

zaffy

Senior Member
Polish
A: What did you do yesterday?
B: Well, quite a few things. I mowed the lawn, trimmed the trees and finally repaired my car.

The question is, how do you understand the 'repaired my car' form? Imperfective or perfective? Does the person just mention the activity of repairing the car or say they managed to repair it? I mean, from this form, we don't know what the final result was, i.e. whether the car was successfully repaired or not? By nature, it should be perfective (I managed to do it) as the imperfective form would be 'was repairing' but this form doesn't fit here as we have a sequence of events.

For example:
I repaired the car and could go on holiday. - That's clearly a perfective form.
I was repairing the car when my cat jumped on my shoulders. - That's clearly an imperfective form.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    English does not, I think, work in the same way as Slavic languages in this respect.

    In English, perfective and imperfective are the aspects that apply in perfect and progressive/continuous verb tenses, respectively. Your example only uses the simple aspect.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I agree with Lingobingo - perfective and imperfective are terms which cannot sensibly be applied to English verbs. However, I think it's possible to say that the entire phrase finally repaired my car is perfective. But it's the word finally that gives the clue, not the verb. If the phrase had been repaired my car for a few hours, I'd have said the opposite. And I wouldn't state this as certain, only possible.

    All of this only has any meaning when trying to translate into Russian or, it seems, Polish.
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Ok, but how do you understand that sentence? That person just mentions the activity spent with his car, not pointing whether he manged to fix the car or not, or it is clear for you that he actually fixed his car and it was ready to be driven. What if there were no 'finally'?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Repair usually means that the mending is complete. Otherwise we'd be inclined to say started to repair... tried to repair... continued repairing... whichever is more appropriate.
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    It is clear from your sentence that he was successful in repairing his car. He didn’t just say he’d worked on it; he said he’d repaired it. That is a completed action.

    [Cross-posted]
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    "Yesterday I mowed the lawn, trimmed the trees and repaired my car."

    So the Slavic languages are indeed different. We can make all activities perfective or imperfective. In this case, we actually make them all imperfective in Polish, and that's why 99% of the Polish learners would say incorrectly in English: " It was a busy day. I was mowing the lawn, trimming the trees and repairing my car." We don't show the result, we just mention the activity. In fact, we don't know if that person mowed all the lawn, trimmed all the trees and managed to repair the car.

    Ok, so you say for you all these activities are complete, done till everything was finished. So what if the activities were not complete???? For example, he just started mowing and after a moment went on to trim the trees. He trimmed just one twig, found it boring and went on to repair his car. He thought he would be unable to fix it, so he left the job and went home. Will you still say "I mowed the lawn, trimmed the trees and repaired my car"?
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And mentioning just one activity with 'all day long', which tense do I use?

    A: What did you do yesterday?
    B:
    -I mowed the lawn all day long.
    -I was mowing the lawn all day long.

    Do I need to use the Past Simple because the question was asked in this tense?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Either. All day long itself expresses continuity, so the continuous aspect is not essential in the verb. It is, however, much more idiomatic, as demonstrated if you make it the answer to a question:

    What were you doing all day long? — I was mowing. :thumbsup::thumbsup:

    What did you do all day long? — I mowed. :thumbsdown:
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Do I need to use the Past Simple because the question was asked in this tense?
    That should be a guiding principle.

    If you read the following, it may help you understand the simple and continuous forms of the English verb.

    All simple forms of the verb indicate an action as a whole - from start to finish.
    The simple form of the verb can indicate a habitual or regular action that
    (i) is/was/will be complete/completed each time it is undertaken. ->
    A: What do you do to keep fit?
    B: I ride a bike. -> “ride” includes everything from getting on the bike at the start of the journey to getting off the bike at the end.

    Or
    (ii) a single, complete or completed present, future, or past action:
    He told me that I had to visit the Eiffel Tower, so I go/went/will go to Paris on Wednesday” -> “go/went/will go” includes everything from the decision being made, bags being packed, going to the airport, etc., to the arrival in Paris.


    All continuous participles indicate an action (or a regular, frequent or habitual series of action) that is in progress and was not complete at the time referred to. The action is happening at the time referred to.

    The continuous form of the verb indicates
    (i) an action that is/was incomplete and in progress at the time that is being referred to (it has started but it has not yet finished) ->
    I will be/am/was/have been/had been riding a bike = I will be/am/was/have been/had been in the process of riding a bike but have not yet finished riding the bike at the time I am referring to.

    The continuous form used to be known as “the imperfect”: It was called “imperfect” because the action had not been “perfected” i.e. it had not finished.

    OED 5. Grammar. Applied to a tense which denotes action going on but not completed; usually [edit Q- but not always] to the past tense of incomplete or progressive action.

    1871 H. J. Roby Gram. Latin Lang. §549 Three [tenses] denoting incomplete action; the Present, Future, and Imperfect (sometimes called respectively, present imperfect, future imperfect, past imperfect).
     

    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    PaulQ, I'm afraid those rules don't work always if both tenses fit here as lingobingo said. Both tenses here indicate a complete action, don't they?

    A: What did you do yesterday?
    B: I mowed the lawn all day long/I was mowing the lawn all day long.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    PaulQ, I'm afraid those rules don't work always if both tenses fit here as lingobingo said. Both tenses here indicate a complete action, don't they?

    A: What did you do yesterday?
    B: I mowed the lawn all day long/I was mowing the lawn all day long.
    The "all day long" resolves the issue you seem to be raising about verb tense: the time adverbial explicitly means the continuous aspect of the action of mowing so the choice of verb has no impact and is therefore moot. In this case we don't know with certainty whether all the lawn had been mowed at the end of that day. That would need to be added - such as " ...but I finished just as the sun went down".
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I'm afraid those rules don't work always if both tenses fit here as lingobingo said.
    Zaffy,
    They are not rules: it is guidance and it is enitrely consistent with what lingobingo wrote.

    WRF receives many questions about the continuous form from speakers of languages that either do not have one or have something that is only "similar".

    Your examples demonstrate my post perfectly:

    -I mowed the lawn. -> this considers the mowing of the lawn as a completed action. All day long now adds the durative element to the simple form - a function that the continuous form also does.

    -I was mowing the lawn [all day long.] -> this directs the reader listener to the action taking place while you were mowing the lawn, i.e. from between starting to mow and just before finishing mowing.​

    which tense do I use?
    If you had read my post, you would have answered "Both work."
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    And how about these two? Will both tense fit with the 'for 3 hours' expression'?

    A: What did you do yesterday?
    B: I mowed the lawn for 3 hours and then went to work.

    A: What did you do yesterday?
    B: I was mowing the lawn for 3 hours and then went to work.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    And how about these two? Will both tense fit with the 'for 3 hours' expression'?

    A: What did you do yesterday?
    B: I mowed the lawn for 3 hours and then went to work.

    A: What did you do yesterday?
    B: I was mowing the lawn for 3 hours and then went to work.
    Yes - the time adverbial dominates the meaning so the choice verb tense is not important to the meaning of the sentence.
     
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