While reading ASPECT concept am not getting the terms "from outside" and "from inside" from the sentence

"The situation is presented from outside versus the situation is presented from inside."

Please explain these terms with simple and suitable examples.

  • 1
    Is the original really written like this? Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 15:54

2 Answers 2


This is a common metaphor for distinguishing perfective and imperfective aspect.

  • With imperfective aspect you are "inside" the situation (a state or an enduring action) named by the verb in the sense that the situation "encloses" the time you are talking about: started before that time and continues throughout that time and beyond. The beginning and end of the situation are not visible.

  • With perfective aspect you are "outside" the situation named by the verb in the sense that your standpoint in time is outside the process: you don't see it as something happening but as something completed. You can see its beginning and end.

Take the sentence "While John was talking Mary brought me a drink". Here was talking is imperfective: the talking goes on through the time we are looking at. Brought is perfective: the sentence shows the entire action, not its "internal" components:


This picture illustrates the sentence. Our field of vision is "inside" the talking piece, but the served piece is entirely inside the field of vision: we are "outside" it.

  • Give me simple examples to understand these concepts... 1) The situation is presented "from outside" versus the situation is presented "from inside". 2) The situation is presented as "completed" versus the situation is presented as "non-completed". 3) The situation as presented "with its boundaries" versus the situation as presented "without its boundaries"
    – Ram
    Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 23:57
  • @I have done so; all you have to do is make the imaginative leap from spatial containment to temporal containment.Think of the illustration as a "window". The space occupied by 'John was talking' is larger than our space in the window: we see only the current piece of it. It is incomplete, it has already started before we see it on the left, it is still going on on the right. We cannot see its boundaries. The other piece is entirely inside our field; we see its boundaries, it is finished within the window. Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 0:08
  • Please could I know which are "internal" components here ?
    – Ram
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 3:08

Imagine you're at a party. Think about what you can see. In your mind you probably can see people dancing. There's some music playing. One of your friends is laughing. There are lots of people having a good time.

You were just imagining "having a party" from the inside of the experience. You didn't think about the beginning or the end of the party, or the effect the party had afterwards. In your mind, you were thinking about it in the middle of the experience.

Now imagine that you are a party organiser. Every week you have to organise a new party at your venue. Think about what you have to do. You need to buy the food and drinks. You have to send out invitations. You need to decorate the building. People will come to your party, have a good time, hopefully, and then go home. When it all happens well, you make lots of money.

You were just thinking about parties from the "outside". You thought about the beginning and end and the effect of the completed parties. You thought about whole parties. You didn't imagine just the middle. It wasn't like watching a little video of a few seconds during a party.

In English, we represent thinking about actions and events from the inside by using the "continuous" aspect. This usually involves the auxiliary BE and a verb in the ING form. We could represent the first idea we thought about like this:

We were having a party.

We could represent the second idea like this:

Every week we have a party.

When people study other languages, they often use different names for the "continuous" aspect. This can be confusing because these other words are used for completely different ideas in English grammar.

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