chapter  31
Compound verbs
Pages 8

In English, a clear distinction is made between the present perfect (where the focus is on the process, and the time of the action in the past is unspecified; in fact, it could be very close to the present) and past (where the action is complete at a point of time in the past from the present moment of speaking). It is difficult to characterise the distinction between simple and compound verbs with comparable clarity. The grammatical information contained in the verb in both sentences is same: third person, masculine, singular and past perfect tense. What is the semantic difference? Hook (1979: 231) tries to capture the difference in the following: ‘An action may be thought of as consisting of a number of stages or phases. First is the stage of inaction; of intention and preparation; then comes the stage of effort; then the consummation of action leading to achievement, change or transition to something new. In most general terms, using a compound verb allows the mind to travel across the phases of an action. Using the simple verb illuminates a single stage.’ The use of the compound verb tends to capture the process. But in general, 1 and 2 may be regarded similar; in 2 though gayaa gayaa means ‘went’, the meaning of the whole compound is ‘came’, determined by the first verbal element. As we will see below, it may not always be the case that the first element dominates the verbal complex of compound verbs.