English Past Progressive Aspect in Arabic Translation: Theoretical and Textual Considerations



English, Arabic, Translation, Progressiveness, Aspect


This paper deals with the translation of the English past progressive into Arabic by examining both theoretical and textual considerations. First, it shows how the English aspect formally corresponds to the auxiliary verb كان ‘was’ plus the simple present (SP) form or the active particle (AP) form. Second, it is argued that the choice between the SP and the AP is subject to several grammatical and semantic constraints on Arabic verbs: [+/- transitive], [+/- telic], [+/- completed], and [+/- manner of motion]. Third, the textual data (70 examples) drawn from two existing translations indicates that many translation procedures are employed to render the English past progressive, mainly including the past simple (48.57%), present simple (22.85%), formal correspondence (18.57%), and lexicalizing (7.14%). Finally, the qualitative analysis reveals that the progressiveness, emphasis, and dramatization that the English past progressive aspect may communicate are seriously compromised in Arabic translation. While there may be cases where some mismatches between English and Arabic verbs exist in terms of progressiveness which may call for the use of past simple or lexicalizing, the formal correspondence procedure is claimed to be the most valid and appropriate for capturing the functions of the English past progressive.