I received the following question from a person who was not specific as to whether they knew me from YT or some other source:
I have a question. Seeing you are a native speaker of English and a Slavic languages expert, I reckon you can answer this better than most!
What, in a nutshell, is verbal aspect all about? I know the grammar book stuff about “completed actions”, etc. It doesn’t cut it for me! What I need are some solid English equivalents. For example, when a Russian says (using future perfective aspect) “I will visit the museum tomorrow”, would we say: “I will have visited the museum (by) tomorrow”? Or is it more a sense of: “I will DO A VISIT to the museum tomorrow”? (Or is it something else entirely?)
And as regards the past perfective, what’s the deal if you want to say: “Tsar So-and-so built this palace in 1820”? Should that be perfective or imperfective? Or is there a choice? If so, what’s the difference?
I really want to learn some Russian but this stuff is doing my head in! (Cases are one thing – at least there is a clear logic there!) Any simple low-down help would be greatly appreciated.
Verbal aspect is about whether the FOCUS of an utterance is concerned with whether the action of the verb is now over and done with or not, or, in the case where the verb describes a state like lying or standing, whether this state has changed or not.