a semantic property of verbs expressing how a certain event is viewed. See lexical aspect and grammatical aspect.

aspectual morpheme

the morphemes -ing and -en responsible for the progressive and perfective aspectual meanings, respectively.

bound morpheme

a morpheme that has to attach to another morpheme, it cannot stand on its own, e.g. ed, ment, un . See also free morpheme

dummy auxiliary

a certain form of the auxiliary do, its main function is to support the tense morpheme when it cannot appear on the main verb


(a) a morpheme added to the end of words of a given category in sentence structure as required by the given structure, e.g. s in Peter like s his dog or er in Peter is clever er than Tony.

(b) the head of an Inflectional Phrase. It can be realised as a modal auxiliary or a zero agreement morpheme. Information about tense can be found in a separate vP directly under IP.


the smallest meaningful unit. Words can be made up of one or more morphemes. See also bound morpheme, free morpheme.


visible, having phonological realisation

perfect aspect

an action is viewed as being completed, e.g. in I have written my homework.

progressive aspect

the event is viewed as being in progress, e.g. I was having a bath when my sister arrived. Having a bath was an activity in progress when the other past activity happened.


a syntactic category with the help of which we can locate an event or situation in time. In syntactic representation information about tense can be found within the vP appearing directly under the IP in the form of -s, -ed or the zero tense morpheme.

vP (pronounced: little vP)

a phrase headed by a light verb taking a VP complement hosting agent or experiencer arguments in its specifier position. For a list of elements that can appear in vp see light verb.

Basic English Syntax with Exercises

6.2.1 Inserting auxiliaries into I

In the previous chapter, we introduced the idea that dummy auxiliaries are inserted into a structure when the verb is unable to support a bound morpheme. Consider what happens with regard to a bound inflectional element such as the present tense morpheme s:

  ‘he has arrived’
 ‘she is living in London’

In both of these examples, the verb moves from the V position to support the aspectual morphemes. As a consequence of English stems being unable to support more than one overt morpheme, the verb cannot move further. As the inflection is a bound morpheme it needs supporting and in this case the auxiliaries are inserted directly into the inflectional slot. Note that which auxiliary is used depends on the aspectual element heading the vP complement of the inflectional element. A perfective aspectual morpheme determines the supporting auxiliary to be have while the progressive morpheme determines the supporting auxiliary to be be. With a slightly more complex example, we see that this is a very general process:

  ‘they have been staying with my parents’

In this case there are two aspectual morphemes as well as the inflection to be supported. The verb moves to the lowest one and cannot move further. Therefore two auxiliaries are inserted: be, determined by the progressive, is inserted onto the perfective morpheme which takes the phrase headed by ing as its complement, and have, determined by the perfective, is inserted onto the tense morpheme (in this case null) which takes the phrase headed by the perfective morpheme as its complement.