durative verb class

• The verbs in this class refer to events which have “duration.”

For example: play, walk, read, sing, rain, rot

• Durative verbs are opposed to “punctual” (or “momentary”) verbs which refer to events that do not have duration.

For example: hit, catch, arrive, explode

• The distinction between durative and punctual verbs is relevant to the study of English verb tenses and, in particular to an understanding of the meaning of progressive tenses:

• When a durative verb is put into a progressive tense, the meaning is that an event is (or was) going on over a period of time. The progressive tense of a punctual verb cannot be used with this meaning because the events referred to by this type of verb do not occupy a period of time. Punctual verbs can be put into the progressive, but in this case the use of this tense must be interpreted in a special way—not to mean that an event is “ongoing” but that it is being repeated.)

For example: if we say—Harry is writing to Jill— we are referring to just one writing event. But if we say — Harry is knocking on Jills door— we are referring to several knocking events, sayng that Harry knocked several times in other words.

• With some other punctual verbs, such as “arrive” or “die” when a progressive tense is used, the interpretation is that a reference is being made not to arrival or death but to the approach of one of those punctual events.

For example: Jack phoned Jill, and told her that Harry’s plane was arriving — means that although Harry’s plane had not yet arrived, it would arrive very soon.


• lexical note: durative is the adjective form of the noun duration meaning the period of time something lasts. It is a cognate of the words durable, during and endure and it comes originally from the Latin durus meaning hard.