What are aspect and modality in English grammar?Add examples.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aspect and mood (modality) are concepts in English grammar that are tied in with tense and are therefore sometimes difficult to untangle and understand on their own. Aspect identifies whether the action, state, or occurrence (event) represented by the verb is complete or incomplete.

Regarding aspect, if the verb relates to Sally baking a pie and she has completed baking the pie, the aspect is perfect and is expressed as have + -ed participle as in "Sally has baked the pie." If the verb refers to Betty baking a pie and she is having trouble and therefore the baking is incomplete the aspect is progressive and is expressed as be + -ing participle as in "Betty is [still] baking the pie."

Therefore, what is called Perfect tense is the Perfect aspect associated with the three tenses, Past, Present, Future, to yield Past Perfect, Present Perfect, and Future Perfect. What is called Progressive tense is the Progressive aspect associated with the three tenses yielding Past, Present, or Future Progressive. Additionally, what is called Perfect Progressive tense is the Perfect aspect and Progressive aspect in combination and together associated with the three tenses to yield Past Perfect Progressive, Present Perfect Progressive, and Future Perfect Progressive, which is expressed as have + be + -ing participle as in the Past Perfect Progressive expression, "Betty had been baking her pie a long time."

Mood, or modality, indicates the grammatical tone with which a sentence is delivered in writing or speech. This is different from personal moods or tones such as irritation or joyfulness. Grammatical moods are indicative, interrogative, imperative, conditional, and subjunctive.

Indicative is the expression of ordinary statements: Betty is slow with her pie.
Interrogative is the expression of questions: Why is Betty slow with her pie?
Imperative is the expression of the urgent and commands: Betty, hurry up!
Conditional is the expression of the probability between related events with modal verbs and if: If Betty could finish her pie, it might be good. Also written as: Betty's pie might be good, if she could finish it.
Subjunctive is the expression of wishes or doubts with were and if: If I were Betty, I would like to be faster.