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Completion with verbs


Techniques > Use of language > Parts of speech > Completion with verbs

Method | Example | Discussion | See also



Show something to be complete or incomplete with the combined use of verb tense, perfect/imperfect form and simple/continuous form.

Seek to show completion when you want to create closure, for example when you want the other person to put something behind them, to agree to something to recognize that you some other action has been completed.

You can even talk about completion in the future, projecting out to a time when something is complete (motivating the doubters that it can be done).

Work against completion when you want to create action, for example when you want them to think again about a poor decision or when you want to show that there is more work to do.


I told her yesterday. (past completion)

When will the job be done? (future completion)

You say you thought about it yesterday, but what are you thinking today? (making a complete action incomplete)


Verbs may describes an action that is complete. When you use such a verb, you create a sense of completion and hence of closure. Putting an action in the future creates possibility and uncertainty about which many people will avoid thinking. Creating completion in the future makes acceptance of projection easier to accept and more motivating.

He has done it.
He will have done it.

An incomplete verb describes an action that is incomplete. When you use such a verb, you create a sense of continuity. The lack of completion creates tension and hence motivation.

It works.
It worked.
It will work.

Completion is shown in various ways in  as below:


  Perfect Imperfect
Simple Continuous Simple Continuous
Past I tried I was trying I had tried I had been trying
Present I try I am trying I have tried I have been trying
Future I will try I will be trying I will have tried I will have been trying


Notice in particular the sense of completion (or not) that each of these gives. Completion is increased by simple and imperfect forms of the verb. The past also increases completion.

At its most incomplete, the past imperfect simple form (I had tried) puts an action 'in the past, in the past', thus doubly showing it to be complete. At the most incomplete, the opposite effect happens, and the present continuous perfect tense ('I am trying') shows a present continuation which continues from the past and into the future.

See also

Types of verb


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