Mapping the time

Human grammar has evolved in our earthly environment, where we do not get living beings, events, or other matters — in a time without a place. Association between time and place is part human language intuition, see brainteasers and nature.

Let us think about a few words we might use to talk about places. For now, the words can be on, in, and to.

We can think how we generally orientate in physical space. For that, we can make an image of an abstract map or surface. It is to symbolize an extent or scope we may give to thought about space, in language grammar. We can process a picture of an area. Grammar is not geography, and how we feel and think cannot pertain with a particular geographical area only.


We can begin with Aspects Simple, Progressive, and Perfect. We may compare classic grammar guidance and think, if the picturing below contradicts classic rules or definitions.

The Simple: We can use it to speak about habits, as well as feelings and thoughts — all that does not change often. We may have the habit to do something usually, as well as... never. We can picture the Simple as the Aspect that tells what existed, exists, or we think will exist ON a cognitive extent. We can extract the general pattern for the Simple Aspect. See how to begin with infinity.



The Progressive: We can use it to say that something was, is, or will be IN progress, IN its course. To visualize this Aspect, we could picture activity or faculties in an area.

We also can extract the general pattern for the Progressive.


The Perfect: we can use it to say what had taken place, has taken place, or will have taken place TO a moment in time. The moment does not have to mark the end of the state, activity, or faculty work. We may be viewing the course or occurrence of the activity as a way to a place. We know the general pattern for the Perfect Aspect.



We can take up the prepositions to connect and combine our thinking about time and language as if we had a map with language markers.

SIMPLE, PROGRESSIVE, and PERFECT patterns with variables

Let us mind, we are not building a system. Systems need to be finite, and language is not a finite entity: it is not possible to count all phrases and collocations we people can produce.

We can have our core verbs (BE, HAVE, DO, WILL), time extents (PRESENT, PAST, FUTURE), and Aspects (SIMPLE, PROGRESSIVE, PERFECT), for a logical array, or set. Such linguistic arrays are not merely collections. They work interconnected. Let us see on an example. The verb to be puts us ON the map. We cannot be IN an area of a cognitive map, without being ON the map. This is how this combined logic can work.

Jake is being mad. He is not really mad. He is really only pretending.


John is mad angry now. His investment has not worked.

When we select part an extent for our view, we mark we do not mean an entire extent:
He is being mad {IN}. He is sane {ON}.

This is abstract, conceptual thinking to manage grammars in all languages. We can visualize the Simple, Progressive, and Perfect — together, as abstract variables.


Exercising concepts, we do not  have  to limit our language skills to a prospect of moving on land solely. We can think about travel as we know it. We can follow the eagle in the Rockies.


For centuries, humans have used symbols to encourage thinking. Concepts here do not come from Greek Anaximander, we yet may compare ideas.

We can combine our variables. We know we can use the Perfect to say what has progressed TO a time.


We can use the Progressive to tell what is progressing IN a time.


The two combined, the Perfect Progressive can help tell what has been progressing IN a stretch of time we refer TO another time.


What language marker (preposition) could we choose for our merged variable? We could think about “into”, to join the “in” and “to”. However, “into” may mean the same as “in” or “to” alone, dependent on the context.

Let us think about the preposition AT.
Something has been progressing AT this time.
Value AT illustration

If our moment in time belongs with the FUTURE, we can say, AT a time, something will have been progressing.

If our moment belongs with the PAST, we can say, AT a time, something had been progressing.


Some grammar books will associate our feature TO with the Aspect we also can  name the Perfect Simple. Some may have the name Perfect Continuous, for our variable AT.

Psycholinguistics says that naming processes do not change the ways language forms can work for brains. Book authors are people, and people happen to differ in approaches. Language forms can work regardless of grammar labels.

Our visualization also is not to fix a picture for language. We do not have to stay with the same visuals for all time. We can present our mapping on one extent, as well as a few extents.


All along, we do not contradict classic guidance. Cognitive mapping will come easy, if we think about an abstract space and a core or basic reference that classic rules would make in it.