In this passage, I don't understand why the past form прилипли is used instead of a participle, and given that the rest of the sentence talks about the general present, i.e. (теперь) весь день проводит, подбородки работают:

И теперь Дадли весь день проводит на кухне; маленькие поросячьи глазки прилипли к экрану, а пять подбородков работают без остановки.

  • Ну, например, потому, что у глагола прили́пнуть, равно как и у всякого совершенного, просто нету форм настоящего времени. – Dmitry Alexandrov Jan 3 '15 at 14:48
  • Потому что в русском нет жесткого согласования времен :) И потому что глагол в форме прошедшего времени звучит гораздо динамичнее, чем причастие. – Kaworu Jan 5 '15 at 10:39

Прилипли is a completed action and, as such, requires a perfective verb, and those only have a past and a future tense. If прилипают was used instead, the resulting impression would be either that Dudley's eyes are in the middle of becoming glued to the screen (which makes no sense as far as the metaphor goes), or of a very attention-intensive narration of a sequence of events (jokes and sports commentary use the imperfective present throughout) that would, again, be incongruous here.

  • I guess I just expected a participle, as we would use in English "He spends all day in the kitchen, his eyes glued to the screen..." Could one also use прилипши here in this context? – CocoPop Jan 3 '15 at 15:23
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    @CocoPop - No, if you say прилипши in that sentence that will sound extremely low register, просторечье, something like Cockney in English. Besides, it's obsolete, reminding of the 1st half of the 20th century or earlier. Absolute participial constructions (like 'his eyes glued to the screen') are not used in Russian. – Yellow Sky Jan 3 '15 at 15:28
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    @YellowSky I think the particular form is a separate issue — прилипнув would be all right — but yes, it's a matter of Russian not using absolute constructions; that participle would have to agree with the main clause's subject, and while you can go as far as прилипнув к экрану маленькими поросячьими глазками, continuing with работая подбородками would stretch syntax really thin. – Nikolay Ershov Jan 3 '15 at 15:35

What matters in you example is actually not the difference of Present vs. Past tense, but the difference of Imperfective vs. Perfective aspect.

The Imperfective aspect has the meaning of the English Continuous or Non-continuous aspects, depending on the context. The Perfective aspect shows an action as having either the beginning or the end, also depending on the context and on the nature of the action the verb denotes.

The lack of the context in your example makes it impossible to define whether we should translate the two Imperfective verbs проводит and работают as Continuous or Non-continious (Simple) English verbs (or even as Perfect Continuous), this distinction is irrelevant in Russian. But it is absolutely clear that the Perfective verb прилипли shows the action as finished, having come to its end, 'got glued and remained like that', because the very action of getting glued to something can hardly be imagined as having its beginning, since it is a momentary action, and its consequence (got glued or not) is always more important than the way it begins (started to get glued or not).

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