Talk:Ancient Greek verbs

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Since the non-indicative moods do not distinguish tense (only PFV, IPFV, PERF), and the future encodes only tense rather than a 4th aspect, we should explain how the future is used in those moods. (The future optative would on the face of it contradict our claim.) — kwami (talk) 08:08, 3 September 2010 (UTC)

The future in non-indicative moods was explained to me (in Hansen and Quinn) as having relative future tense, or indicating intent. Relative tense may be equivalent to an aspect (prospective, perhaps?), since the tense is given by the main verb. (The future optative, infinitive, and participle don't occur as main verbs.) — Eru·tuon 13:14, 3 September 2010 (UTC)
Prospective aspect is a bit difference from posterior tense (relative future), paralleling the difference between retrospective aspect (perfect) and anterior tense (relative past). Tense proper is purely a point on a time line: A after B is relative future if B in decided by discourse, and absolute future if B is grammaticalized to be the moment of speaking, as it is in English. Prospective is more like English "gonna": it indicates not just a future event, but the relevance of that event to the present through current planning or intent.
That link is not searchable, but I doubt it would make such a distinction. (Assuming Greek did!) It does, however, make me dubious about the claim that tense is only distinguished in the indicative. Greek doesn't appear to have had tense there either, apart from the future, at least according to several sources, which claim that past tense is only an implicature of the imperfect and aorist, not inherent. (That does make me wonder what the distinction is between imperfect and present, if it isn't tense and they're both imperfective in aspect.) — kwami (talk) 01:03, 4 September 2010 (UTC)

The article at various points includes notation such as /j/ (presumably Iota) and /zd/ (presumably Zeta). Could it be modified to include a table of what each of these notations specifically means, or possibly replace with the Greek characters proper? (talk) 15:26, 22 June 2015 (UTC)

Future Perfect[edit]

The Future Perfect seems to be mostly used in the passive voice. The sentence ἀνὴρ τεθυκὼς ἔσται βοῦν 'a man will have sacrificed an ox' seems to me very artificial; even if such sentences can be found in classical authors (I would be interested to see if anyone can produce any examples) it seems rather misleading to present it as if it was as common as the other tenses. At the very least a note should be added to say that it is not normally used. Even the Pluperfect is rarely met with, and perhaps this should be noted too. Kanjuzi (talk) 07:04, 9 January 2016 (UTC)

@Kanjuzi: I've rewritten the examples with a more plausible set of verbs. Think it's an improvement? — Eru·tuon 05:35, 30 March 2016 (UTC)
Yes, certainly, these examples are much more plausible and a big improvement. But I have added an alternative translation; the one you give 'I am dead' is possible but doesn't fit in every context; e.g. οὐ μὴν ἄτιμοί γ’ ἐκ θεῶν τεθνήξομεν (Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1279) 'but I will not have died unavenged by the gods'. Kanjuzi (talk) 07:36, 7 April 2016 (UTC)

Contracted verbs. 2 singular imperative active & middle and 2 singular middle indicatives - pres and imperf . AEIOU.[edit]

It is good to remember that the 2s present imperative active endings are α ει ου (AEIOU!) respectively for verbs in άω,έω,όω. The 2nd singular present middle indicatives need iotas, as presents (active and middle) often do. So the 2 sing pres ind mid endings are ᾷ ει οι. In the 2 sing present imperative middle and 2 sing imperfect indicative middle the endings meet in the middle - ῶ οῦ οῦ. It is easy to remember the AEIOU rule for 2 sing imperatives. It is easy to convert to "iota forms" for the 2 sing present indicative middle. It is easy to remember ῶ οῦ οῦ for the others (imperative middle and imperfect middle). Good luck! Wodorabe (talk) 15:53, 15 January 2016 (UTC)


Let us now have a look at the section on voices. For the middle voice the article gives the example ἀνὴρ τιμᾶται 'A man is honouring himself'. But no such meaning for the middle of τιμάω is given in Liddell and Scott's lexicon (see LSJ entry for τιμάω). A more realistic example should be found as an example for the middle voice. - The addition 'or "reflexive voice" ' is also questionable. No grammar books refer to the middle as the "reflexive voice", as far as I know, and the great majority of middle verbs don't have a reflexive meaning. They are usually verbs with ordinary simple meanings such as βούλομαι 'I want', ἀποκρίνομαι 'I answer', δέχομαι 'I receive', πορεύομαι 'I go', ἔρχομαι 'I come', ἀφικνοῦμαι 'I arrive', γίγνομαι 'I become' and so on. Middle verbs with a reflexive meaning such as παρασκευάζομαι 'I get myself ready' (it can also mean 'I get something ready for myself') seem to be the exception rather than the rule, so it seems to be misleading to give this as the main meaning. - The description of the active voice given in the article ('declares that the subject of the verb is acting and the action is received by another') is also questionable, since it implies that all active verbs are transitive, which is far from the case. - So this whole section needs rewriting, I suggest. Kanjuzi (talk) 08:23, 7 April 2016 (UTC)

Present tense[edit]

Your table implies that the Present tense is always imperfective. This is not the case; it can also be perfective. For example, in the historic present: Δαρείου καὶ Παρυσάτιδος γίγνονται παῖδες δύο (Xenophon) 'Dareius and Parysatis produced two sons'; ὡς δὲ γίγνονται ἐπ’ αὐτῷ, ἐσπίπτουσιν (Thucydides) 'when they reached it (i.e. the river), they jumped into it'. (It can also be used of future events: ἀλλ’ εἶμι καὶ σὴν ἀγγελῶ παρουσίαν (Euripides) 'But I shall go and announce your presence'.) Perhaps therefore it should be described as usually imperfective rather than always so. Kanjuzi (talk) 02:55, 1 October 2016 (UTC)

I find it puzzling that you have deleted 'I (habitually) write' as a basic meaning of the Present tense. Who is to say whether the progressive 'I am writing' or the habitual 'I write' is more basic? Indeed the question doesn't arise, since Greek (like many other languages) makes no distinction between progressive and habitual. As the article now stands, nowhere in it do you give any indication that 'I (habitually) write' is even a possible meaning of the Present, which is a curious omission. I would urge you to put 'I (habitually) write' back in again. Kanjuzi (talk) 03:07, 1 October 2016 (UTC) – Whoops, no, I see you have added a bit now underneath, which I hadn't noticed. Though I still say it would be better to put this meaning up above, along with the other, since it is impossible to say which is more basic. Kanjuzi (talk) 03:18, 1 October 2016 (UTC) (By the way, shouldn't 'every day' be ἀνὰ πᾶσαν ἡμέραν rather than just πᾶσαν ἡμέραν?) Kanjuzi (talk) 03:35, 1 October 2016 (UTC)

(edit conflict) εἶμι is an atypical verb that is always used with future meaning in Attic. The historical present is a special case: there simply isn't a perfective present, so you have to use the imperfective present even when the action "should" be perfective. I won't attempt to explain the reaching the river example.
Various sources, such as Hansen and Quinn and Herbert Weir Smyth, describe the Ancient Greek present and imperfect as imperfective, though they might use a different term with an equivalent meaning. Do you have a source that says they aren't imperfective?
It's true that present and imperfect sometimes have a habitual meaning, but the example sentences are meant to describe the (supposedly) most basic meaning: an unfinished action. I think the article should mention habitual present and imperfect, as well as anterior and inceptive aorist, at some point, but at the moment the text immediately above the examples does not mention them, so it would be confusing to add them. Besides, "I used to write that" and "I [habitually] write this" are kind of unidiomatic. I just added some more natural habitual imperfective examples at the bottom of the tense section.
Ancient Greek just doesn't have a progressive. That's a term that applies to an English tense (or TAM). English past progressive and Ancient Greek imperfectives are used in different situations, so they don't exactly correspond. For instance, Ancient Greek often uses imperfective for stative verbs like "know" (ἐγίγνωσκον), whereas using past progressive in English for the same verb is ungrammatical (*I was knowing). — Eru·tuon 03:38, 1 October 2016 (UTC)
I wasn't quite sure how "every day" would be expressed. You can go ahead and change it. — Eru·tuon 03:39, 1 October 2016 (UTC)
I actually have Rijksbaron's book on the Greek verb, and at some point I can go check how he handles the question of the most basic meaning of each of the tenses. — Eru·tuon 03:42, 1 October 2016 (UTC)
You are adopting a definition "an unfinished action" before looking at the evidence. Where does this definition come from if not from the way the tenses are actually used? You are starting from an axiom "the Present is an imperfective tense" and then discarding any evidence that disagrees with your dogma. But we find in most languages that have only one Present tense that although the Present is often imperfective it is sometimes perfective (as for example in sports commentaries: "So and so has possession of the ball ... he shoots" or "Usain Bolt does it again!") At any rate, even allowing that it is usually imperfective, or even imperfective by nature, that doesn't mean that the habitual meaning is less basic than the progressive; after all 'I go every day' is also an unfinished action. Incidentally, I can't see anything unidiomatic about the expressions 'I habitually go' and 'I used to go'. Kanjuzi (talk) 06:42, 1 October 2016 (UTC)
Here is what Raphael Kühner; Bernhard Gerth [1898], Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache: Teil II. Satzlehre. has to say about the Present tense. Even though you may find the German obscure, you can see from the examples that they define the three principal meanings of the Present as (a) 'what is happening right now for the speaker ('we all beseech you'), (b) a 'repeated or habitual situation' (e.g. 'every year they send a ship to Delos'), (c) a 'general truth' (e.g. 'man is mortal'). They then go on to discuss the historic present and the present describing future events (both of which can be perfective) and so on. There is no reason to suppose that meaning (a) is basic and that (b) and (c) are secondary. On the contrary, they all seem equally important. Kanjuzi (talk) 09:40, 1 October 2016 (UTC) – On the whole I think the article would be a lot better if it used only real examples from Greek authors (even if abridged) rather than artificial made up examples about sacrificing oxen. Kanjuzi (talk) 09:44, 1 October 2016 (UTC)
Look, imperfective aspects across languages are used for various meanings, one of which is habitual actions. I guess it is wrong to say that a simple unfinished action is more basic than a habitual action as a manifestation of the imperfective. But I think that if one sentence were chosen to represent the idea of the imperfective, then the single action is simpler and clearer. If you want to move the habitual examples up, they should probably be explicitly described in the text, because "unfinished" is not an adequate description of a habitual action; it would likely confuse readers.
I can't really understand the German, but it doesn't seem to be trying to determine what type of grammatical aspect the present and imperfect exhibit, so it is not evidence for or against them being imperfective.
If you can find some good short examples from Greek authors, that would be great. I really don't think the ox-sacrificing is very illuminating either. Rijksbaron probably has some examples. — Eru·tuon 10:56, 1 October 2016 (UTC)
state of affairs is
completed not-completed
+ resulting state − resulting state
located in present perfect present
past pluperfect aorist imperfect
future future perfect future

Here's the table of tenses by Rijksbaron (page 5). He uses verb forms of παιδεύω to represent the tenses, and I've replaced the verb forms with the names of the tenses.

On page 199 (and §1), he gives an overview of the meanings of the tense-stems, which he says apply to all forms generated from those stems:

  • present stem expresses a state of affairs that is incomplete and can be interrupted
  • aorist stem expresses a state of affairs is complete and can't be interrupted
  • perfect stem expresses completion and resulting state
  • future stem can express either completion or incompletion and only has temporal value

The historical present is anomalous not only because it's sometimes not imperfective, but also because it's not actually present. If these anomalies indicate something fundamental about the present, then the present should be described as "usually present" as well as "usually imperfective". But the historical present is a case where the rules are purposely broken in order to emphasize the state of affairs described by the verb. — Eru·tuon 21:56, 1 October 2016 (UTC)

I find that very interesting but the fact is that, in the indicative, the Present tense can be both perfective and imperfective (Kühner-Gerth give lots of examples, as you saw). Let us take an example from English. The verb 'he came' can be both perfective ('he came yesterday') and imperfective ('he always came on Thursdays'). Who is to say which is primary and which is secondary? To me, a native speaker, the verb seems to be absolutely neutral between the two. Similarly the Present tense 'he comes' can be imperfect (habitual) or perfective. When it is perfective it can be used of the present ('Bolt comes first again!'), past ('I was sitting in the bar when a man comes in'), future ('he comes tomorrow at 10'), or no particular time ('in Act 2, Macbeth comes in with a dagger') – exactly as in Greek. You can't leave a gap on your table for Present perfective – it has to be filled by something. The meaning exists (for example, for performative verbs 'we beseech you!' ἱκετεύομέν σε), and it is the Present tense that takes that role. For that reason I have altered your table to spread the Present tense out to cover both aspects. When it comes to the subjunctive or imperative mood, of course, it is a different story. In these two moods there are only three tenses: Present, Aorist, and Perfect (Smyth §359), so the distribution of the aspects is different. A different table is needed, showing just three cells, one for each tense/aspect. To try to cram all three moods onto one table is simply to cause confusion. Kanjuzi (talk) 05:26, 4 October 2016 (UTC)
You need to find a source that says that the present can be perfective. Otherwise, it is original research to say that. I haven't seen a source so far that says it's anything but imperfective. I think the reason for the gap is that a perfective meaning is seldom needed in the present tense.
Actually, for performative verbs, the aorist is also used for what could be considered present perfective. This is known as the tragic aorist. I'm not sure if that means that outside of tragedy the present is used, or if the name is just a misnomer. Rijksbaron gives an example from Aristophanes, so apparently it occurs in comedy as well. He compares ἐπῄνεσ᾿, ἀλλὰ στεῖχε δωμάτων ἔσω· "Thanks, but come into the house" (Agamemnon addressing a messenger bringing the news of Iphigenia and Clytaemnestra's arrival in Iphigenia at Aulis) with αἰνῶ, γύναι, τάδε, οὐδ᾿ ἐκεῖνα μέμζομαι· εἰκὸς γὰρ "I approve this, woman, nor do I blame your earlier resentment. It is natural (for a woman)..." (Jason in Medea). He seems not to adopt the typical explanation of these aorists, that the verb is completed by the moment of speaking, but rather that it's a way of quickly getting over the speech act and on to the next thing.
Anyway, perhaps then both the aorist and present should be extended into the empty present perfective spot? But both ideas are original research, unless a reliable source has proposed it. We've got to reproduce the table as the sources have it, despite its apparent incompleteness
I guess I'm kind of curious if this absence of a present perfective is cross-linguistically typical or not. Unfortunately, I haven't studied any Slavic languages. — Eru·tuon 06:48, 4 October 2016 (UTC)
So, I looked at a Russian verb, плева́ть (plevátʹ). It is imperfective. Its present tense is (я) плюю́ ([ya] pljujú). Now, the corresponding perfective verb, плю́нуть (pljúnutʹ), does not have a present tense, only a future плю́ну (pljúnu) and a past плю́нул(а,о,и) (pljúnul[a,o,i]). So maybe it is common for there not to be a present perfective? Of course, this is just one example from one language, and maybe other Russian perfectives or perfectives in other languages have a present tense... I don't know how to find this information. — Eru·tuon 07:00, 4 October 2016 (UTC)
No, this is not original research. It is in Kühner-Gerth (1898), who say "Doch ist zu betonen, dass das Präsens an sich weder den Begriff der Dauer, noch den der Wiederholung enthält, sondern die Handlung nur in ihrer Entwickelung vor Augen führt.", which I believe means "However, it must be emphasised that the Present tense contains within it neither the concept of duration, nor that of repetition, but expresses the action only in (terms of) its development in front of one's eyes". They then go on (as you can see from the link above) to give dozens of examples of perfective uses of the Present tense, with past, present, and future reference. See also Smyth §1853, where he describes the so-called "aoristic present" with examples such as "I am seized with amazement", "I make a present", "it lightens" etc. So it is quite legitimate, and not original research, to point out that the present can be used (at least in the indicative) in a perfective sense. Kanjuzi (talk) 09:18, 4 October 2016 (UTC) – Here are Smyth's words (§1853): "The present stem may denote the simple action of the verb in present time without regard to its continuance; as θαυμάζω I am seized with astonishment, ἀστράπτει it lightens, δίδωμι I make a present. This is called the aoristic present." It goes without saying that these grammars don't use the words "perfective" and "imperfective", since these linguistic terms didn't come into fashion until about 1938, but used terms like "aoristic" and "continuous" or "progressive" instead. However, the concept is clearly the same. So I think we are justified in reverting to the present used both as imperfective and as perfective on the table. – As to whether the "dramatic aorist" should be added, I don't think so, because it is not particularly common. Smyth states (§1937) "This use is derived from familiar discourse, but is not found in good prose." However, if you felt like adding it in brackets with a footnote you could. As for the perfective Present tense, on the other hand, it is frequently used, even in the New Testament, e.g. ἔρχεται Μαριὰμ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ ἀγγέλλουσα τοῖς μαθηταῖς etc. Kanjuzi (talk) 11:27, 4 October 2016 (UTC)
Okay, Smyth is a sufficient source. I wonder how Rijksbaron would explain these cases. But his book is not quite detailed enough. — Eru·tuon 23:12, 4 October 2016 (UTC)
Some of the "aoristic present examples" are atelic (I was going to say stative, but that's only true for the first one; the second is atelic, but involves change so I suppose it's not stative), in which case I don't think they are perfective: θαυμάζω and ἀστράπτει, in particular. For atelic verbs, a perfective often has the meaning of beginning: the inceptive aorist. Other than that, there's the aorist of a stative verb referring to the whole of an action. I think an example is ἐβασίλευσε, which means "he began to reign" or "he reigned" (speaking of the reign as a whole, from beginning to end). I don't see those meanings in the two aoristic presents above. However, I am not totally sure that this analysis of perfectivity and its relation to atelicity is accurate... — Eru·tuon 23:58, 4 October 2016 (UTC)

Imperfective vs. progressive[edit]

Explanation of my edit: English progressives ("is doing, was doing, has been doing, had been doing") are not the same thing as imperfective. As I noted above, stative verbs can appear in the Ancient Greek imperfective, while stative verbs don't appear in the English progressive (*He is knowing, *was knowing, *has been knowing, and *had been knowing are all ungrammatical, unless you're analyzing knowing as an adjective rather than a verb). But it is not ungrammatical for γιγνώσκω to appear in the imperfect ἐγίγνωσκον.

That is one way progressive is different from imperfective. I suppose another is that imperfective often involves the notion of repetition, or of habituality, while English progressive typically does not. "I was walking in the marketplace" doesn't ever mean "I made a habit of walking in the marketplace", whereas the Greek imperfect ἐφοίτων sometimes does.

Then there's the conative use of the imperfect: the AG imperfect ἔπειθον sometimes means "I tried to convince", while the English progressive "I was convincing" or "I was persuading" is sketchy or even ungrammatical, and certainly doesn't mean the same thing. — Eru·tuon 05:28, 5 October 2016 (UTC)

You are welcome to change "imperfective" into "progressive", since the verbs I quoted are progressive; but it rather surprises me that you say (if that is what you are saying) that "progressive is not imperfective". Progressiveness is certainly one type of imperfectivity, according to Bernard Comrie's Aspect (see pages 25ff). According to Comrie, the usual division of verbal aspect is first between perfectivity and imperfectivity; then imperfective itself can be divided into habitual and continuous; then continuous can be divided into non-progressive (e.g. "he knows") and progressive (e.g. "he is eating"). Surely you agree with Comrie that a progressive verb such as "he was eating" is one type of imperfective? Now I suppose that in order to show that the Greek perfect tense can never be imperfective, it would be necessary to show that perfect continual (e.g. "he has always known this") and perfect habitual (e.g. "he has eaten porridge for breakfast for years") are equally not expressed by the perfect tense in Ancient Greek. It would be interesting to know, but I can find no examples in Smyth. It can be used of something that has happened many times in the past, for example ἡ δὲ ἀταξία πολλοὺς ἤδη ἀπολώλεκεν (Xenophon) "indiscipline has before now been the ruin of many" (Smyth § 1948), but I don't think that is imperfective. Kanjuzi (talk) 17:37, 5 October 2016 (UTC) – Actually, how about this: πολλά γε ἔτη ἤδη εἰμὶ ἐν τῇ τέχνῃ (Plato) "I've been in the business for many years now" – this would appear to be a stative verb where the Greek Present is equivalent to the English Perfect. And εἰσήγαγον ἰατρὸν ᾧ πολλὰ ἔτη ἐχρώμην (Demosthenes) "I brought in a doctor that I had been using for many years" seems to be a habitual verb where Greek has an Imperfect equivalent to English Pluperfect Continuous. So I would be prepared to say that Smyth's rule (Smyth § 1885) covers not only progressive verbs, but also stative and habitual ones, that is to say all three varieties of imperfective. Kanjuzi (talk) 17:51, 5 October 2016 (UTC)
Oops, I suppose I should say, then, that progressive is only one subtype of imperfective, not synonymous with it. Thanks for the explanation from Comrie; that's a very helpful framework for understanding the relationship between progressive and imperfective.
The odd thing about the Greek perfect is that it implies both a completed action and a resulting state. The resulting state resembles the imperfective, while the completed action resembles the perfective. I don't think it's exactly analogous to the English perfect, which does not necessary express a state resulting from a completed action. I recall Rijksbaron said the state can relate to the agent or patient. Using the example in the article, τοῦτο γέγραφα "I am the author of this" (I think it came from Thucydides), English "I have written this" doesn't really mean the same thing. I guess it would imply that the writing somehow had present relevance, but not necessarily that there was a state resulting from it. The article should probably discuss this difference between the AG and English perfects. — Eru·tuon 18:59, 5 October 2016 (UTC)
Thucydides doesn't actually say τοῦτο γέγραφα but γέγραφε δὲ καὶ ταῦτα ὁ αὐτὸς Θουκυδίδης Ἀθηναῖος ἑξῆς, ὡς ἕκαστα ἐγένετο, κατὰ θέρη καὶ χειμῶνας, (Thuc. 5.26.1) where it seems to me that 'Thucydides is the author of this book' is not really a possible translation. I should think that "Thuc. has written the history of this period too (i.e. the period of the truce)" is much better. I am surprised that you think that the English perfect doesn't express a state resulting from a previous action. When I say "My car has broken down" I am surely describing the current state of my car. Kanjuzi (talk) 20:24, 10 October 2016 (UTC)
Yes, that is the sentence from Thucydides that Rijksbaron quotes from. He translates the first part of it (up to Ἀθηναῖος) as "Of this too the same Thucydides from Athens is the author". Yeah, I was wrong about the object of the verb. In this situation, ταῦτα is probably being used in the sense of "the following stuff" or "the stuff coming up" (the section of the book immediately after the sentence).
No, ταῦτα is referring to what has been said already. (If it was referring to what is to come, I believe Thuc. would have used τάδε.) I can't say I'm convinced by Rijksbaron's translation, however, especially in view of the words that follow. Kanjuzi (talk) 22:47, 10 October 2016 (UTC)
Oh, you're right. οὗτος means "the preceding" and ὅδε means "the following". I was getting the meanings of the demonstratives mixed up. Rijsbaron argues that the verb means "I am author" because the context (the verb at the beginning of the phrase, and the emphatic pronoun) indicates that Thucydides is stressing his authorhood. At the very least, Rijksbaron counts as a reliable source. — Eru·tuon 23:51, 10 October 2016 (UTC)
I didn't say it never expresses a state resulting from a previous action, but that's just not the default. But in the case of "My car has broken down", I'm not sure if it describes the current state of the car, or simply the fact that breaking down is currently relevant and that the only way for that to be true is for the car to be currently in a broken-down state. For me, the clearest way to express a stative meaning would be to use an adjective: "My car is broken down". — Eru·tuon 20:48, 10 October 2016 (UTC)
To me, "my car is broken down" would refer to a permanent state, like "my car is red". I'm not sure if this always applies to the Greek perfect. (If it does, that would be very interesting.) "Has broken down" (in British English) would probably mean that it is temporarily in a broken-down state. Kanjuzi (talk) 22:47, 10 October 2016 (UTC) I imagine that in this sentence the state is fairly permanent, though: πέπτωκεν ἄναξ δολίῳ πληγῇ. ἆ ἆ ἆ ἆ (Euripides, Rh. 747). Personally I can't see much difference between the perfect in English and perfect in Ancient Greek. But it you can show examples to prove otherwise it would be interesting. Kanjuzi (talk) 22:47, 10 October 2016 (UTC)
Well, perhaps I am wrong about "my car is broken down" being a good equivalent of the Greek perfect. Regardless, the English perfect frequently only implies present relevance: for instance: "Have you ever had lutefisk before?" Here, I'm not sure what the resulting state could be. It doesn't mean that your stomach is currently full of lutefisk, just, I guess, that the experience exists in your memory or something.
Not sure if this counts as proof, but the Greek aorist is commonly translatable by the English perfect or pluperfect. For instance, the constative aorist (Rijksbaron § 8.3.1): διὸ ὑμέας ἐγὼ νῦν συνέλεξα, ἵνα "For this reason I have called you together, to" (Herodotus 7.8a.2); and the past-in-the-past. If the Greek perfect and English perfect corresponded perfectly, then logically one would always translate the other. Since that is not the case, there must be a difference. — Eru·tuon 23:51, 10 October 2016 (UTC)
Of course you are right, Greek often puts an aorist where we put a perfect – but the same is true of Americans, who say (for example) "Did you do it yet?" where English people say "Have you done it yet?" and so on. Concerning examples such as you give ("Have you ever had lutefisk before?"), this is the experiential perfect, which exists in Greek just as it does in English, for example: ἐγὼ πολλάκις ἑώρακά τινας ὅταν κρίνωνται (Plato, Ap. 35a) "I have often seen people when they are judging..." or οὐδὲ ἑώρακα Πρωταγόραν πώποτε οὐδ’ ἀκήκοα οὐδέν (Plato, Prot. 310e) "I have never seen Protagoras or heard him" or οὕτως βεβίωκα ὥστε μηδεπώποτέ μοι μηδὲ πρὸς ἕνα μηδὲν ἔγκλημα γενέσθαι. (Lysias, 16.10) "I have always lived in such a way that there has never been any complaint against me from anyone" etc. I am sure that Rijksbaron is an excellent book, but I don't see much difference between the Greek perfect and the English perfect. Of course no two languages (and no two dialects) are going to use tenses in exactly the same way, but there seems to be a lot in common between Greek and English: both use the perfect for experience, and both use it for recent events of which the result is still valid and important (the perfect of result). – I am glad, by the way, that you have removed all that material on stems; it was most confusingly written, with statements such as "With a suffix -σκ- /-sk-/" giving no example of what it was referring to. Kanjuzi (talk) 04:46, 11 October 2016 (UTC)

It just occurred to me that there's an interesting parallel between the pair of Ancient Greek verbs κτῶμαι "I acquire" and κέκτημαι "I own" and the pair of English verbs, "I get" and "I have got" (= "I have"). The Greek perfect has a similar meaning to the English perfect. — Eru·tuon 01:44, 18 October 2016 (UTC)

Yes, that's true, though perhaps the meaning isn't quite the same or rather isn't as commonly used as 'have got', e.g. πλούσιοι ἐν πόλεσιν ἀνδράποδα πολλὰ κέκτηνται "rich people in cities possess/own many slaves" (Plato). I have added an example already of a perfect tense used with present meaning. Is another needed? I don't think we should overmultiply the examples. Kanjuzi (talk) 07:22, 18 October 2016 (UTC)
I think it's perfectly fine to add more examples. If there end up being too many examples, a new article on Ancient Greek tenses can be created. — Eru·tuon 23:03, 20 October 2016 (UTC)

Perfective imperfect[edit]

Could you explain this edit? I have seen examples of the imperfect being translated as the English simple past, but that doesn't mean the imperfect is sometimes perfective, because the English simple past is not perfective. — Eru·tuon 23:03, 20 October 2016 (UTC)

I am referring to sentences like the following, in which the imperfect clearly is used in a perfective meaning: τούτῳ ἡλίου δεδυκότος ἰόντι ἐξ ἀγροῦ ἀπήντησα. εἰδὼς δ’ ἐγὼ ὅτι τηνικαῦτα ἀφιγμένος οὐδένα καταλήψοιτο οἴκοι τῶν ἐπιτηδείων, ἐκέλευον συνδειπνεῖν· καὶ ἐλθόντες οἴκαδε ὡς ἐμέ, ἀναβάντες εἰς τὸ ὑπερῷον ἐδειπνοῦμεν. ἐπειδὴ δὲ καλῶς αὐτῷ εἶχεν, ἐκεῖνος μὲν ἀπιὼν ᾤχετο, ἐγὼ δ’ ἐκάθευδον. ὁ δ’ Ἐρατοσθένης, ὦ ἄνδρες, εἰσέρχεται, καὶ ἡ θεράπαινα ἐπεγείρασά με εὐθὺς φράζει ὅτι ἔνδον ἐστί. (Lysias 1.23) "I met this man after sunset as he was coming back from his farm. Knowing that having arrived so late he wouldn't find any of his friends at home, I invited him to join me for dinner; and we went back to my house, went upstairs, and had dinner. When he had had his fill, he went off home and I went to sleep. And Eratosthenes, gentlemen, entered, and the maid woke me up and told me he was in the house." The four verbs in bold are imperfect; the two underlined ones are present. The last verb ἐκάθευδον might be taken as inceptive ("I began sleeping") but the others not. There are other examples in Smyth. A Greek grammar for colleges. § 1891.  and in Kühner-Gerth 383.3, who write (I translate from the German): "Often the imperfect is used to express a perfective, not progressive, meaning, where an imperfect seems to stand in place of an aorist. This usage is particular common in Homer with verbs such as αἱρεῖν, βαίνειν, βάλλειν, διδόναι, ἱέναι, ἱστάναι, καλεῖν, λείπειν, πέμπειν, πίπτειν, τιθέναι etc. and in prose with verbs of sending and going, such as: πέμπειν, ἀποστέλλειν, πλεῖν, ἀνάγεσθαι etc. and also of saying, exhorting, and similar, for example λέγειν, ἀγγέλλειν, ἄρχεσθαι λόγου (or simply ἄρχεσθαι), ἐρωτᾶν, κελεύειν, παρακελεύεσθαι among others." In the Lysias example, he seems to switch from the aorist (simple fact) to the imperfect (more vivid) to the present (more vivid still) as the story gets more exciting. Kanjuzi (talk) 05:22, 21 October 2016 (UTC)
@Kanjuzi: Huh, very interesting. I read that speech in one of my Greek classes, but was not paying close attention to the tenses at that time. It seems to me that the imperfective meaning of the imperfect is the reason for the vividity: it gives the connotation of placing the listeners in the middle of the events as they happen, rather than at a distance viewing the actions as a simple whole. Without an imperfective meaning, then, there is no difference between the aorist and imperfect, and no reason to use one over the other. — Eru·tuon 15:44, 21 October 2016 (UTC)
@Erutuon: Yes, you have a point. On the other hand the context makes it clear that the meaning is perfective. There is a similar choice of tenses in e.g. "You always say/ you are always saying the same things, Socrates!", "I went/ used to go to school every day on foot", Spanish yo hablaba / yo estaba hablando. The progressive form in the first example adds something, though it is hard to say exactly what, since as "always" is added it is clear the meaning is habitual. Does Rijksbaron have anything to say about the use of the imperfect in narrative, I wonder? Kanjuzi (talk) 05:07, 22 October 2016 (UTC)
future future perfect,
I'm inclined to suggest that the table should display only the most common aspectual and temporal values, and the one that is most commonly shown in sources that actually attempt to say what aspects the tenses correspond to. Showing all the possible aspectual meanings that the tenses can have in more or less frequent cases would be even more complicated than the current table: see the table to the right. The aorist sometimes has a present meaning; the perfect and pluperfect often have stative meanings that are similar to the present and imperfect; the present sometimes has a past meaning; the perfect sometimes refers to the future. Showing all the possible meanings is unhelpful and will only confuse people. I would rather go back to the original table and give a set of "caveats" below the table. For instance, that present perfective has no dedicated form, and the present and aorist (maybe also the perfect?) are sometimes used with present perfective meaning. Languages are full of gaps, and the lack of a present perfective in Ancient Greek is one of them. — Eru·tuon 23:11, 21 October 2016 (UTC)
Well, I disagree that there can be a gap for present perfective. If you look at any actual Greek text (as opposed to a book like Hansen and Quinn which simplifies things for beginners) you will see that a very large number, perhaps the majority, of present tenses are perfective – and I don't just mean the historic present, but examples such as "I see the man!" There is no gap at all, in other words, but plainly the present can have both meanings, just as the English present can be both habitual and perfective. So the present must fill both slots. – Now as to whether we should add "imperfect" to the perfective slot, that is another question. If this was rather a rare phenomenon, like the gnomic aorist, which doesn't occur very often, I would agree that we shouldn't; but since it seems very common, especially with verbs meaning "go", "send" and "say" (two of which, εἶμι and φημί, don't even have an aorist tense, but only one past tense that covers both imperfect and aorist meanings), I would argue that it should be added. It seems to be a left-over from early Greek and PIE; in later Greek this usage of the imperfect, I assume, became less common. As a compromise I have put "(imperfect)" in brackets in the perfective slot. How about that? Kanjuzi (talk) 05:43, 22 October 2016 (UTC)
Well, perhaps I'm not well enough acquainted with the concept of perfectivity cross-linguistically (I ordered Comrie's book on aspect, but it hasn't arrived yet), but I don't see how "I see" is perfective. It seems like a continuative meaning without a goal, so could be imperfective. Likewise I'm puzzled about "send": there is an aorist, so why would the Greeks use an imperfect? Smyth § 1891 claims that it has to do with the Greeks perceiving there being a goal to the sending that was not yet achieved: for instance, sending messengers for a truce. Surely there must be some reason. Certainly the two athematic verbs don't have aorists, but εἶμι at least has a suppletive aorist ἦλθον, so the distinction could be made. I wonder if the distinction between imperfect and aorist, in the cases where separate forms existed, was somehow different from perfectivity in modern languages. I probably have not read enough Greek to truly get a sense of it for myself, so I am sort of blind.
Well, there clearly is a gap morphologically: there are only two present tenses, but three past tenses. The main present tense is usually morphologically similar to the past imperfective. It's sort of analogous to the way English has a dedicated morphological past and present, but no future the way Romance languages, Latin, and Ancient Greek do. So, we make do with auxiliaries and other tense-forms. In the same way, I guess the Greeks made do with, I guess, what is typically said to be a present imperfective, and is usually imperfective morphologically, as well as the past imperfective. (Perhaps the fact that the aorist was used for present tense in drama indicates that it was a feature of the spoken language, but considered too colloquial for good prose?)
Perhaps Smyth and Rijksbaron are simplifying by viewing things from a morphological perspective, and trying to impose that on the semantic realm. — Eru·tuon 16:45, 22 October 2016 (UTC)
To rephrase one of my thoughts: if the Greeks were not making a perfectivity distinction by using ἔπεμψε instead of ἔπεμπε (or ἦλθε instead of ἤρχετο ᾔει), then I wonder what distinction they were making? — Eru·tuon 17:16, 22 October 2016 (UTC)
I get the impression that classical Greek was in a state of change. Possibly in the original tense system in PIE the imperfect had both perfective and imperfective meaning, and then the aorist was developed; but the old system still continued for a while side by side with the new. That's how I conceive it; so there were two systems going at the same time, and some inconsistency perhaps. You can see from the list of verbs which commonly use imperfect for aorist in Homer, which Kühner-Gerth give (see above), that there was a wider range of verbs that did this in Homer than in classical Greek. But I am willing to be corrected. Perhaps there was a slightly different nuance about the imperfect, just as when we say "I kicked the ball" it doesn't mean quite the same as "I gave the ball a kick". When I gave a ball a kick it may possibly not have gone anywhere, but if I kicked it it probably went where I wanted. Perhaps "ἐδειπνοῦμεν" in the same way means "we sat down to eat" without necessarily implying that we finished the meal. Anyway as far as the article is concerned we can merely report what the grammar books say are the facts of classical Greek usage. Kanjuzi (talk) 17:37, 22 October 2016 (UTC)
So what sort of difference in aspect is that, I wonder? The difference between "they sent a messenger" and "they sent off a messenger" (but he didn't necessarily arrive), or between "he went home" and "he set off for home" (but didn't necessarily get there). "we had dinner" and "we sat down to dinner" (but didn't necessarily eat it), "I had a good sleep" and "I went to sleep" (but didn't necessarily sleep the whole night), "I persuaded him" and "I attempted to persuade him" (but didn't necessarily succeed)? It isn't perfective vs. imperfective, but a different kind of aspectual distinction not mentioned by Comrie. Kanjuzi (talk) 17:53, 22 October 2016 (UTC)
I think the technical term for that is telic versus atelic. Finnish uses different case-forms (accusative and partitive) to make that distinction, and I thought it was also common for it to be expressed with perfective and imperfective. I also thought the conative imperfect (Smyth § 1895) was a natural outgrowth of the basic meaning of the imperfective. Rijksbaron § 6.2.2 says "the value [not-completed] of the imperfect often leads to a conative interpretation: the state of affairs did not get beyond the stage of an attempt". — Eru·tuon 18:24, 22 October 2016 (UTC)
Well, that is certainly possible – on the other hand, the description in that Wikipedia article on telicity (at least the first part about "built a house" vs "built houses") doesn't quite match what we are discussing here; though the part about "shot the bear" vs. "shot at the bear" is much closer. Rijksbaron's "conative" also doesn't match here, I think – he is perhaps thinking of examples with πείθω. (They didn't "try" to eat the meal and fail, but set about eating the meal.) This is certainly very interesting! Perhaps something could be said in the article. Kanjuzi (talk) 19:46, 22 October 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Yep, he actually quotes Anabasis 7.3.7: ἄγγελοι ἔπειθον ἀποτρέπεσθαι· οἱ δ' οὐχ ὑπήκουον "Messengers tried to persuade them to turn back, but they would not listen". Conative doesn't match all the pairs of verbs in your previous message; only the last one. But I think all of them are likely able to be expressed by perfective and imperfect verbs.

I actually found a part of Rijksbaron that applies to some of the verbs listed by Kühner-Gerth (§ 6.2.4). To paraphrase, he says that the imperfect sometimes refers to completed states of affairs, and that this is done to direct attention to the consequences of the completed state of affairs: what happened as a result? Thus, this is done with verbs of saying or commanding, when the speaker wants to get the addressee to respond, or to do something. Using the imperfect implies that the state of affairs and the action that follows are closely connected. (Or that the imperfect verb is not actually completed unless there is a response, I guess.) He gives two pairs of examples from Herodotus in which the same verb is used in the imperfect and the aorist. With the imperfect, the reaction to the verb of saying is explicitly described (in both cases the "saying" involved a command); with the aorist, the reaction is in one case not described but simply assumed, and in the other case it is described (the reaction of Croesus to the Oracle of Delphi), but the speakers (messengers) are not concerned with the addressee's reaction. — Eru·tuon 20:15, 22 October 2016 (UTC)

Your last post would be clearer if you mentioned the verb in question. Incidentally, I forgot to reply to your point above when you wrote "I don't see how 'I see the man!' can be perfective". I would say the answer to this is that it is because these words (said by Prince Cyrus at the Battle of Cynaxa) describe a momentary event, just as much as "Bolt comes first again!". Looking back later you would describe the event using a perfective verb, e.g. "At that moment Cyrus saw his brother" (not "was seeing his brother"), just as you would say "Bolt came first again" (not "was coming first"). An imperfective verb describes an action that can be interrupted, e.g. "I'm eating dinner right now — can you call back later?" Later you would say "When my friend called I was eating dinner" not "I ate dinner". Kanjuzi (talk) 04:28, 23 October 2016 (UTC)
I've added Rijksbaron's example from Xenophon about persuading now with a reference to Smyth. You could perhaps add the Rijksbaron page number too for good measure. Kanjuzi (talk) 04:48, 23 October 2016 (UTC)
  • τήν τε δὴ θάλασσαν ἐνετέλλετο τούτοισι ζημιοῦν καὶ τῶν ἐπεστεώτων τῇ ζεύξι τοῦ Ἑλλησπόντου ἀποταμεῖν τὰς κεφαλάς. καὶ οἱ μὲν ταῦτα ἐποίεον ... (Hdt. 7.35.2-36.1)
"Thus he commanded them to punish the sea and to behead those who had been overseers of the bridging of the Hellespont. So this was done."
  • Δαρεῖος δὲ ... τὴν κεφαλὴν τὴν Ἱστιαίου ... εὖ ἐνετείλατο θάψαι ... τὰ μὲν περὶ Ἱστιαῖον οὕτως ἔσχε
"Darius gave command that Histiaeus's head should be buried with full observance ... Thus it fared with Histiaeus"
  • ὁ μὲν δή σφι τὰ ἐνταλμένα ἀπήγγελλε, τοῖσι δὲ ἕαδε μὲν βοηθέειν Ἀθηναίοισι ...
"Thus he gave the message with which he was charged, and they resolved to help the Athenians ..."
  • ταῦτα μὲν ἡ Πυθίη ὑπεκρίνατο τοῖσι Λυδοῖσι, οἱ δὲ ἀνήνεικαν ἐς Σάρδις καὶ ἀπήγγειλαν Κροίσῳ. ὁ δὲ ἀκούσας συνέγνω ...
"Such was the answer of the Pythia to the Lydians; they carried it to Sardis and told it to Croesus; and when he heard it, he realized ..."
Better than simply mentioning the verbs, here are the examples as he gives them (§ 6.2.4). — Eru·tuon 17:02, 23 October 2016 (UTC)
I don't think the use of the English simple past "saw" shows that the Greek equivalent is perfective. The simple past expresses a perfective meaning in some cases, but it is also used for stative verbs where Greek would use imperfect. I could be wrong, but I think the reason that "was seeing" is ungrammatical is because "see" is stative and English generally doesn't use the progressive with stative verbs, except in McDonalds advertisements ("I'm lovin' it"). I think seeing can be interrupted; but you would just never describe that interruption using the English past progressive because of the above grammatical rule. You could use the progressive with "look", though, which for some reason is unlike "see" in allowing the progressive "I was looking at". — Eru·tuon 17:16, 23 October 2016 (UTC)
An example of "seeing" being interrupted: "Where's John?" "I saw him a minute ago, but now he's gone." — Eru·tuon 17:21, 23 October 2016 (UTC)
Well, it could be stative if the sentence means "I can see the man". Is that how you understand it? It is possible, I suppose; though I was taking it as an instantaneous event, not as "I can see him, he is in sight" but as "There he is!" (Eventive, like "I name this ship X" or "I congratulate you!") Perhaps both meanings are possible. But in the past tense "He saw the man" and "I saw him a minute ago" definitely sound perfective to me, as in "I saw a book in the shop window and went in and bought it." (three perfective events). – The examples from Rijksbaron are very interesting and need some thinking about. At first sight the point seems a very subtle one, and may be a good one, but it doesn't seem firmly enough proved to be worth putting in the article. Kanjuzi (talk) 21:03, 23 October 2016 (UTC)
Huh. Perhaps what you mean is "I currently have him in sight line of my eyes" and "I caught sight of him"? "Currently having someone in sight line" is stative, even if it doesn't last for very long after the moment of speaking (and probably I suppose would be expressed by imperfective forms), while "catching sight of" is inceptive or inchoative, expressing the beginning of a state (and therefore can expressed by perfective). — Eru·tuon 22:12, 23 October 2016 (UTC)
I'm basing my definition of stative on a table in Lexical aspect: it shows stative as being changeless and durative. Seeing is changeless, because there isn't a defined end point, no goal. It's durative because it can last for as long as you keep your eyes on what you're looking at. There are other "seeing" verbs, like glance, glimpse, look at, view, that may or may not be stative in their basic meanings. I think Rijksbaron might have said that the aorist εἶδον properly means "glance at"; I should look for that. — Eru·tuon 22:45, 23 October 2016 (UTC)
Well, my point is that the verb "see" can be both stative and perfective. When I say "I saw it in the window and went in and bought it" it is the equivalent of "I caught sight of it", and it is an event. When I say "I see what you mean" it is the equivalent of "I understand what you mean" or "I can see what you mean" and it is stative or "continual" (Comrie's term). ("Suddenly I saw what he meant" would be perfective though, because it means "suddenly the meaning dawned".) Similarly "was" can be both stative and perfective. If you were translating "he was tall" into Spanish you would say era alto; but "it was a surprise" would be fue una sorpresa (Latin erat and fuit); but English speakers are usually unaware of the difference, because English doesn't differentiate. So which meaning is meant here when Cyrus said "I see the man!" is unclear to me. Whether he meant "I am seeing him now" or "there he is!" I don't know. Kanjuzi (talk) 04:23, 24 October 2016 (UTC) – Perhaps a clearer example of a perfective (but non-historical) present could be given though, such as ὄμνυμι πάντας θεούς "I swear by all the gods" (Xenophon, Ages. 5.5). In the context this is clearly a performative verb (or the type "I name this ship" or "I pronounce you man and wife"); it is not stative or continual; it is not habitual; and it is not progressive, since the pronunciation of the word itself performs the act. At any rate, this example shows that a perfective present is possible in Greek, not merely in a historical context but with a present meaning; so the "perfective present" cell on the table needs to be filled. Kanjuzi (talk) 04:53, 24 October 2016 (UTC)
All right, I can finally understand what you mean by "see" having both a perfective and imperfective meaning (insofar as that makes sense to use those terms when talking of meanings and not forms). It does sometimes refer to the beginning of the state of "seeing".
But I still think the table in the article should not have the present perfective spot filled. I would rather have a gap there, because there is no perfective present form; and say, in a footnote, that because there is no dedicated perfective present form, the perfective present meaning is most often expressed by the present tense, and rarely by the aorist. Perfective and imperfective aspect refer more properly to forms than meanings, and the present tense is unambiguously imperfective in form, since it always shares the stem of the imperfect. It is acceptable that there be a gap, because there's a gap in form. If the meanings expressed by the various tenses are to be shown in the table, it would be as complicated as the version of the table that I created above. In the same way, the past perfective slot should not include the imperfect, because the imperfect is not perfective in form, even if it can perhaps be understood as having a perfective meaning sometimes.
However, it would be good to note somewhere on the page that for some verbs (for instance, ἔφην, ἦν), imperfect and aorist are not distinguished. — Eru·tuon 02:32, 26 October 2016 (UTC)

I finally got Comrie's book in the mail, and read through it. He mentions on pages 77–78 a French narrative technique that is the same as the technique used in the Lysias example that you quoted above. The French imperfect (imperfective past) is used in place of the past definite (perfective past). French, like Greek, has no perfective present, so narrating in the historical present would necessarily involve a whitewashing of aspectual contrasts, presenting everything in the imperfective aspect. Using the imperfective past does the same whitewashing, except in the past tense. In essence, using the imperfect is a midpoint between using the full palette of past-tense aspectual contrasts and going all the way to a historical present. It is the same as using Greek imperfect in place of imperfect and aorist. This is known as the imparfait pittoresque; I wonder if there's a term for it in Greek grammar?

Comrie also says that it is quite natural for there not to be a perfective present, and in fact that perfective non-pasts often develop a future meaning. It would be interesting if he had explored the cases where presents refer to events or situations that can be naturally regarded as perfective, but it was, I guess, too short a book to have room for that. — Eru·tuon 19:39, 29 October 2016 (UTC)

What I am going to say may seem monstrous. It is probably the result of my having had a very old-fashioned education. The fact is that I completed my Greek studies to degree level, along with much abler learners than me, some of whom became eminent scholars, without ever hearing of the aspects of a verb, or the terms perfective and imperfective. After that, however, I learnt Russian fairly thoroughly, which of course meant getting completely on top of the concept of aspects. I would suggest, putting it very briefly, that it is quite unprofitable to introduce this concept into Greek, and that all mention of aspects should be removed from this most impressive article. Seadowns (talk) 19:04, 25 October 2017 (UTC)
@Seadowns: Well, I learned about aspect very early on in my introductory Attic Greek text (Hansen and Quinn), so evidently approaches to teaching Greek (or any language) vary. Hansen and Quinn used the terms "simple", "progressive/repeated", and "completed", but the concepts were roughly equivalent to imperfective, perfective, and perfect. — Eru·tuon 21:04, 25 October 2017 (UTC)
The difference is that people have been learning Greek up to the highest standards for centuries without this concept, which is absolutely basic to Russian, of course. However, having been implanted, it does seem to have a meaning for some present-day learners, and is obviously not going to go away. There are certain points I could make, but I confine myself to wondering, with Russian in mind, what effect, if any, the negative is supposed to have on aspect in languages like English or Greek. Seadowns (talk) 11:53, 29 October 2017 (UTC)

@Kanjuzi: I've reverted the tense–aspect table back to the simpler form.

As mentioned above, Comrie says that it is quite common for a language to have no present perfective. For instance, Russian has no present perfective; the form of a perfective verb with the same endings as the present tense of an imperfective verb is actually the future tense. Similarly, some Ancient Greek futures are formed by adding the present-tense endings to the aorist stem (for example, present παιδεύω, aorist ἐπαίδευσα, future παιδεύσω). So it isn't necessary to assign the Ancient Greek present to two different aspectual categories, any more than it is necessary to call the present tense of a Russian imperfective verb both imperfective and perfective.

The previous version of the table is also not complete. It doesn't describe all the prototypically imperfective, perfective, or perfect meanings that the tense-forms of the indicative can express. A more complete table is shown above. I think that table is unacceptably complex, but as it is not accurate to simplify it, it is better to go with the potentially misleading table that pigeonholes the present tense-form as present imperfective. That pigeonholing is probably based on the fact that the present tense-form is generally morphologically similar to the imperfect, and that the present tense (as a concept) is a better match to the imperfective than the perfective, so it is common, and makes sense, for the missing morphological slot to be the present perfective form, rather than the present imperfective (as I think Comrie says). In addition, though these terms are used in a squishy way, imperfective, perfective, and perfect are probably really morphological terms, so it could be said to be incorrect to use them for semantics, as the semantics-based table does.

Anyway, it was probably out of line for me to unilaterally go back to my preferred form of the table, so revert me if you want. I don't want to debate the issue much further because it gets frustrating and takes up so much time, and I'm resigned to the fact that I may not like the current state of an article on a topic I am interested in. — Eru·tuon 22:44, 25 October 2017 (UTC)

@Erutuon: Well I have indeed reverted it, since I think it is more accurate the way it was. It seems to me that when a speaker says "I swear by the gods" that they are using the present tense perfectively, to refer to an event, not a situation. So something has to go into that slot. Now what Comrie says about French is very interesting, and it may apply to Greek, but we can only go by what the standard textbooks say, such as Smyth. Of course, it is also true that the present tense is perfective when used as a historic present, which though it is used when referring to a past event is still describing the event as if it were happening in front of your eyes now, and so can be considered a present tense. I agree very much that the table shouldn't be over-complicated, and should omit rare cases, but the perfective use of the imperfect tense (e.g. ἔπεμπε 'he sent' or ἔφη 'he said') is very common, so I think it would be misleading not to include it. So altogether I think the version as it is now after reversion of your reversion is better and more accurate.

@Seadowns: It is interesting that, as you say, the term "perfective aspect" etc was never traditionally applied when describing Greek in the past. If you enter the phrase into the Google ngram-viewer, however, it is clear that it only came into print about 1960, that is to say, it wouldn't be found in any of the textbooks you or I used at school. However, I am sure the concept existed perfectly well even 100 years ago when those books were written; it's just that they called it by different names. Kanjuzi (talk) 09:50, 26 October 2017 (UTC)

@Kanjuzi: Smyth (as well as Rijsbaron) explains why the supposedly semantically perfective imperfect that you mention is really an extension of the meaning of the imperfective. I have explained this above. If your desire is to follow Smyth, then this instance of the imperfective should not be considered perfective. — Eru·tuon 23:53, 26 October 2017 (UTC)
I don't see where Smyth says that. In section 1891 he says "The imperfect of verbs of sending, going, saying, exhorting, etc., which imply continuous action, is often used where we might expect the aorist of concluded action.. Thus in ἔπεμπον, the action is regarded as unfinished since the goal is not reached...". (This, incidentally, @Seadowns:, is the language used in those days: "continuous action" = imperfective; "concluded action" = perfective; "the goal is not reached" = atelic, and so on, in modern linguistic terms.) At any rate we don't have to be absolutely pedantic about the imperfect sometimes being perfective; but I wouldn't like to remove from the table the fact that the present can sometimes be perfective, for the reasons I have given above. Kanjuzi (talk) 18:31, 30 October 2017 (UTC)


The weak part of this article is the second part on Stems. As far as I can see it must seem just a lot of gobbledegook to most readers (including those who know Greek). There are no references to any textbook. It explains nothing, but merely gives a full list of all the things that are available much more clearly in the grammars (such as Smyth and Goodwin) which are already available on the Internet. It even gives up on using Greek letters halfway through. A Wikipedia article shouldn't just copy wholesale things from a grammar book. It should provide a summary or introduction for people who don't know the language and would like some summarised way into it, or some information about it, without going into every last detail. My suggestion is that this entire complicated and badly written section should be deleted, and replaced with a simplified summary of the main things that a beginner might meet with if learning Greek, or which a person who is interested in the language but doesn't wish to learn it might want to know about the sort of things that are found in it. Kanjuzi (talk) 20:04, 10 October 2016 (UTC)

Extended content

Formation of tense-stems[edit]

Verbs with stems ending in a vowel[edit]

  • Completely regular -ευ- (-eu-) and -αυ- (-au-) verbs: παιδεύω (paideúō), παιδεύσω (paideúsō), ἐπαίδευσα (epaídeusa), πεπαίδευκα (pepaídeuka), πεπαίδευμαι (pepaídeumai), ἐπαιδεύθην (epaideúthēn) "educate".
Likewise are conjugated: πορεύω (poreúō) and ἐκπορεύω (ekporeuō) "travel", κυριεύω (kurieúō) and κατακυριεύω (katakurieúō) "dominate", καταπαύω (katapaúō) "take rest", φυτεύω (phȳteuō) "plant", περιπατεύω (peripateúō) "take a walk".
  • The standard paradigmatic verb: λῡ́ω (lū́ō), λῡ́σω (lū́sō), ἔλῡ́σα (élū́sa), λέλυκα (léluka), λέλυμαι (lélumai), ἐλύθην (elúthēn) "free, release; (middle) ransom". (Note variable vowel length. In Homeric Greek, all parts have a short υ.)
Likewise are conjugated: θῡ́ω (thū́ō) "sacrifice".
  • Verbs in -υ- (-u-) with some peculiarities: δῡ́ω (dū́ō), δῡ́σω (dū́sō), ἔδῡσα (édūsa), ἔδῡν (édūn), δέδῡκα (dédūka), δέδῡμαι (dédūmai), ἐδύθην (edúthēn) "wear" (Athematic second aorist, otherwise like the previous).

Likewise are conjugated: ἐνδύω endúō "don".

  • A regular contracted verb in -ε- (-e-): ποιέω (poiéō) [ποιῶ (poiô)], ποιήσω (poiḗsō), ἐποίησα (epoíēsa), πεποίηκα (pepoíēka), πεποίημαι (pepoíēmai), ἐποιήθην (epoiḗthēn) "make, do".

Likewise are conjugated: εὐλογέω (eulogéō) "bless", ἐμφυσέω (emphuséō) "inhale", οἰκοδομέω (oikodoméō) "build", προσκολλέω (proskolléō) "stick", κατανοέω (katanoéō) "contemplate", διανοέω (dianoéō) "brood", φοβέω (phobéō) "fear", τηρέω (tēréō) "hurt".

  • Contracted verb in -ε- (-e-) which preserves short ε in most forms: καλέω (kaléō) [καλῶ (kalô)], καλέσω (kalésō), ἐκάλεσα (ekálesa), κεκάλεκα (kekáleka), κεκάλεμαι (kekálemai), ἐκαλέθην ekaléthēn "call (by name)".
  • Contracted verb in -εσ- (-es-) with -σ- -s- elided, but reappearing in some forms: τελέω, τελέσω, ἐτέλεσα, τετέλεκα, τετέλεσμαι, ἐτελέσθην (teléō, telésō, etélesa, tetéleka, tetélesmai, etelésthēn) "finish".

Likewise conjugated συντελέω sunteléō - "end up"

  • A regular contracted verb in -α- -a-: νικάω (nikáō) [νικῶ (nikô)], νικήσω (nikḗsō), ἐνίκησα (eníkēsa), νενίκηκα (neníkēka), νενίκημαι (neníkēmai), ἐνικήθην (enikḗthēn) "win". (Note how α /a/ is lengthened to η /ē/.)

Likewise are conjugated: ἀπατάω apatáō - "deceive", λυπάω lupáō - "suffer", ἁμαρτάω hamartáō - "mistake", "sin", βοάω boáō - "shout", ζάω záō - "live"; deponents: κτάομαι ktáomai - "purchase",

  • A regular contracted verb in -ο- -o-: δηλόω, δηλώσω, ἐδήλωσα, δεδήλωκα, δεδήλωμαι, ἐδηλώθην (dēlóō, dēlṓsō, edḗlōsa, dedḗlōka, dedḗlōmai, edēlṓthēn) "show".

Likewise are conjugated πληρόω, αναπληρόω anaplēróō - "fill up", κυκλόω kuklóō - "turn around", ὑπνόω hupnóō - "sleep",

  • A regular verb in -ιζ- -iz-: νομίζω, νομιέω (νομιῶ), ἐνόμισα, νενόμικα, νενόμισμαι, ἐνομισθήν (enomisthḗn) "consider, think, believe". (Note the normal contracted future in these types of verbs.)

Likewise are conjugated: ποτίζω potízō - "irrigate", διαχορίζω diakhorízō - "separate", ἐνοτίζω enotízō - listen, ἀφορίζω aphorízō - "divide", κατοικίζω katoikízō - "settle",

  • A regular verb in -αζ- -az-: θαυμάζω, θαυμάσω, ἐθαύμασα, τεθαύμακα, τεθαύμασμαι, ἐθαυμάσθην (thaumázō, thaumásō, ethaúmasa, tethaúmaka, tethaúmasmai, ethaumásthēn) "marvel at".

Likewise are conjugated: ἡσυχάζω (hēsukházō) - "be still",

  • Verb with stem in -ϝ- digamma, which changed to υ in some forms, and disappeared entirely in others, thus rendering an irregular verb in -ou-: ἀκούω, ἀκούσω, ἤκουσα, ἀκήκοα, ἠκούσθην (akoúō, akoúsō, ḗkousa, akḗkoa, ēkoústhēn) "hear" (Perfect with "Attic" reduplication, hiatus between ο o and α a after loss of ϝ.)

Verbs with stems ending in a consonant and no ablaut[edit]

  • Velar-stem: lēgō, lēksō, elēksa, lelēkha, lelēgmai, elēkhthēn "cease (+ gen.)". (Note regular use of the aspirated perfect.)

Likewise are conjugated: brekhō - "wet", deponents dekhomai - "get",

  • Velar-stem: arkhō, arksō, ērksa, ērkha, ērgmai, ērkhthēn "rule". (Note regular use of augment for reduplication in perfect due to initial vowel.)
  • Velar-stem: agō, aksomai, ēksa, ēgagon, agēokha, ēgmai, ēkhthēn "lead". (Middle future, second aorist with "Attic" reduplication, irregular second perfect).

Likewise are conjugated: synagomai - "gather", eksagō - "lead out";

  • Velar-stem, with present /j/ suffix: tattō, taksō, etaksa, tetakha, tetagmai, etakhthēn "put, place" (Note regular aspirated first perfect).
  • Labial-stem: graphō, grapsō, egrapsa, gegrapha, gegrammai, egraphēn "write". (Second aorist passive.)
  • Labial-stem: strephō, strepsō, estrepsa, estrepha, estremmai, estrephthēn "turn".

Likewise are conjugated: apostrephō - "return",

  • Labial-stem, with present /j/ suffix: blaptō, blapsō, eblapsa, beblapha, beblammai, eblaphthēn/eblabēn "harm". (Both first and second aorist passive with same meaning.)

Likewise are conjugated: haptō - "touch", rhaptō - "pluck", kryptō - "hide",

  • Dental-stem: peithō, peisō, epeisa, pepeika, pepeismai, epeisthēn "persuade; (middle) obey (+dat.)". (This verb also has a poetic second perfect pepoitha meaning "trust")
  • Dental-stem: ereidō, ereisō, ēreisa, --, erēreismai, ēreisthēn "(cause to) lean, prop; press hard". (Semi-deponent, with middle perfect; Attic reduplication.)
  • Sonorant-stem, with present /j/ suffix: aggellō, aggeleō (aggelô), ēggeila, ēggelka, ēggelmai, ēggelthēn "announce". (Regular contracted future, as in all sonorant-stem verbs. Compensatory lengthening in the aorist, caused by the lost /s/, with a -> ē, e -> ei, i -> ī, o -> ou, u -> ū.)

Likewise are conjugated: anaggellō - "indicate",

  • Verb in ainō: sēmainō, sēmaneō (sēmanô), esēmēna, --, sesēmasmai, esēmanthēn "show, point out; signify, indicate". (Semi-deponent, with middle perfect.)

Likewise are conjugated: khainō - "open",

  • Verb in ainō: phainō, phaneō (phanô), ephēna, pephagka, pephasmai, ephanēn "show", (second passive aorist).
  • Verb in ainō: kraino, kraneō (kranô), ekrāna, --, kekrammai, ekranthēn "accomplish". (Semi-deponent, with middle perfect, but with slightly different middle perfect from previous verbs. Note that ā never changes to ē after r, i, e.)
  • Verb in ūnō: aiskhūnō, aiskhuneō (aiskhunô), ēiskhūna, --, --, ēiskhunthēn "dishonor". (No perfect.)

Likewise are conjugated: plethūnō - "multiply",

  • Present /an/ suffix: blastanō, blastēsomai, eblastēsa, beblastēka, beblastēmai, eblastēthēn "sprout". (Middle future. Root blast with suffix ē in some forms.)

Likewise are conjugated: auksanō - "grow",

  • Present /an/ suffix with some peculiarities: aisthanomai, aisthēsomai, ēisthomēn, --, ēisthēmai, -- "perceive". (Deponent. Second aorist. Root aisth with suffix ē in some forms.)
  • Present /isk/ suffix: euriskō, eurēsomai, ēuron, ēurēka, ēurēmai, ēurēthēn "find" (Second aorist, suffix e in some forms).
  • Present /isk/ suffix: haliskomai, halōsomai, heālōn, heālōka, --, -- "be captured". (Semi-deponent, middle with active aorist and perfect. Root aorist. Irregular augment, both syllabic and quantitative – transfer of /h/ to beginning is normal. Suffix ō in some forms.)
  • Reduplicated present, with /sk/ suffix: gignōskō, gnōsomai, egnōn, egnōka, egnōsmai, egnōsthēn "know". (Semi-deponent with middle future. Root aorist. Irregular reduplication with augment. Suffix /s/ in parts V and VI.)

Verbs with ablaut[edit]

  • Labial-stem: leipō, leipsō, elipon, leloipa, leleimmai, eleiphthēn "leave". (Second aorist. Ablaut leip/lip/loip.)

Likewise are conjugated: kataleipō,

  • Labial-stem: trephō, threpsō, ethrepsa, tetropha, tethrammai, etraphēn, etrephthēn "rear, bring up, nourish". (Second aorist passive. t/th alternation due to dissimilation of aspirates (Grassmann's law). Ablaut t(h)reph/t(h)roph/t(h)raph.)
  • Labial stem: tiktō, teksō, eteka, tetoka, -- - "bring forth" (Irregularly reduplicated present, irregularly asigmatic first aorist. Ablaut tek/tok/tk (while /tk/ affected by metathesis)).
  • Velar-stem: ekhō, heksō/skhēsō, eskhon, eskhēka, -eskhēmai, -- "have, hold". (Second aorist. Perfect middle occurs only in compounds. h/nothing alternation at beginning of stem due to dissimilation of aspirates (Grassmann's law). Ablaut (h)ekh (from PIE *segh)/skh. Suffix ē in some forms.)

Likewise are conjugated: prosekhō - "regard".

  • Dental-stem: petomai / poteomai, ptēsomai, eptomēn - "fly". (Deponent, middle future, ē suffix in some forms. Ablaut pet/pt – same as in "pīptō" - "fall" see below)
  • Sonorant-stem, with present /j/ suffix :speirō, spereō (sperô), espeira, esparka, esparmai, esparēn "sow". (Second aorist passive. Ablaut sper/spar (originally spr, with vocalic r) in perfect, perfect middle and aorist passive.)

Likewise are conjugated: stellō - "send", eksapostellō - "send out",

  • Sonorant-stem, with present /j/ suffix: kteinō, ktenô, ekteina, ektanon, ektona - "kill" (Second aorist. Ablaut kten/kton).

Likewise are conjugated: apokteinō - "kill",

  • Sonorant stem, with present /j/ suffix: teinō, tenô, eteina, tetaka, tetamai, etathēn "pull" (Elision of /n/ in some forms. Ablaut ten/tan).

Likewise are conjugated: ekteinō - "extend",

  • Sonorant-stem, with present /j/ suffix: tellō, teleō (telô), eteila, tetelka, tetalmai, etelthēn "spring" (Ablaut tel/tal in middle passive).

Likewise are conjugated: anatellō - "spring up", eksanatellō, entellō - "instruct",

  • Sonorant-stem, with present /j/ suffix: ballō, baleō (balô), ebalon, beblēka, beblēmai, eblēthēn "throw, hit". (Second aorist. Ablaut bal/blē.)

Likewise are conjugated: ekballō - "cast out",

  • Present /n/ suffix: daknō, dēksomai, edakon, --, dedēgmai, edēkhthēn "bite". (Semi-deponent with middle future and perfect. Second aorist. Ablaut dak/dēk.)
  • Present /nj/ suffix: bainō, bēsomai, ebēn, bebēka, --, -- "go". (Root aorist. Ablaut ba/bē.)
  • Prefixed verb, present /nj/ suffix: apobainō, apobēsomai, apebēn, apobebēka, --, -- "go away, result". (Prefix precedes augment and reduplication. Final vowel of prefix elided before initial vowel.). Likewise anabainō - "go out",
  • Present /an/ suffix, nasal infix: lambanō, lēpsomai, elabon, eilēpha, eilēmmai, elēphthēn "take". (Semi-deponent with middle future. Second aorist. Ablaut lab/lēb. Irregular reduplication.)

Likewise are conjugated: syllambanō - "conceive",

  • Present /an/ suffix, nasal infix: punthanomai, peusomai, eputhomēn, --, pepusmai, -- "ascertain". (Deponent. Second aorist. Ablaut puth/peuth.)
  • Reduplicated present: gignomai, genēsomai, egenomēn, gegona, gegenēmai, -- "become". (Semi-deponent, middle with active perfect. Second aorist and perfect. Ablaut gen/gon/gn. Suffix ē in some forms.)
  • Reduplicated present: pīptō, pesoumai, epeson, peptōka, --, -- "fall". (Semi-deponent with middle future. Second aorist. Ablaut pet/pt/ptō. Irregular long vowel in present reduplication. Irregular occurrence of contracted future. Irregular suffix s in future and aorist.)

Likewise are conjugated: sympiptō - "fall down",

  • Present /sk/ suffix: paskhō, peisomai, epathon, pepontha, --, -- "suffer". (Semi-deponent with middle future. Second aorist and perfect. Ablaut penth/ponth/path (originally pnth, with vocalic n).) Irregular assimilation of aspiration into present /sk/ suffix.)
  • Present /isk/ suffix: apothnēiskō, apothanoumai, apethanon, tethnēka, --, -- "die". (Semi-deponent with middle future. Second aorist. Ablaut than (originally then, with vocalic n)/thnē. No prefix in perfect; perfect means "be dead". Irregular occurrence of contracted future.)

Athematic verbs[edit]

These verbs have reduplication in the present, ablaut between short and long forms, a separate set of endings, and certain other irregularities that vary from verb to verb.

  • didōmi (δίδωμι), dōsō, edōka, dedōka, dedomai, edothēn "give".
  • hīēmi (ἵημι), -hēsō, -hēka, -heika, -heimai, -heithēn "let go, send forth".
  • histēmi (ἵστημι), stēsō, estēsa (trans.) or estēn (intr.), hestēka (intr.), hestamai, estathēn "make stand; (middle or intr.) stand".
  • Prefixed verb: aphistēmi (ἀφίστημι), apostēsō, apestēsa (trans.) or apestēn (intr.), aphestēka (intr.), aphístamai, apestathēn "cause to revolt; (middle or intr.) revolt". Some (epístamai instead of ephístamai, "to know well") retain dialectical features that reflect their topical origins.

Likewise are conjugated: anistēmi – surge,

  • tithēmi, thēsō, ethēka, (ethemen), tethēka - "put, place", (present and second aorist athematic, second aorist first singular wanting).

Likewise are conjugated: prostithēmi - "continue", apotithēmi - "carry on",

  • Present with suffix -nū-: deiknūmi, deiksō, edeiksa, -- "show" (Present athematic, the other forms decline like thematic).
  • Present with suffix -nū- with some peculiarities: anoignūmi, anoiksō, ēneōiksa, aneōgōn, --, aneōikhthēn "open" (Second aorist, double augment, suffix -ō- in some forms).

Likewise are conjugated: dianoignūmi - "open up",

Suppletive verbs[edit]

These verbs all have complex irregularities, ablaut, second aorist and/or perfect, unexpected reduplication and/or augment, etc. They usually represent compilations of semantically identical or similar stems, various formations of which have become obsolete, the extant formations coming together like a puzzle to fill in a morphologically quirky but functionally complete system. These verbs are few and, if they are to be learnt, the most practical approach is to simply memorise them:

  • erkhomai, eîmi/eleusomai, êlthon, elēlutha, --, -- "go, come".

Likewise is conjugated dierkhomai - "get out".

  • legō, ereō (erô)/leksō, eipon/eleksa, eirēka, eirēmai/lelegmai, elekhthēn/errhēthēn "say, speak".
  • horaō, opsomai, eidon, heorāka/heōrāka, heōrāmai/ōmmai, ōphthēn "see".

Likewise is conjugated ephoraō "regard".

  • haireō, hairēsō, heilon, -- "take".

Likewise are conjugated: diaireō – divide,

  • pherō, oisō, ēnenka/ēnenkon, enēnokha, enēnegmai, ēnekhthēn "carry".

Likewise are conjugated epipherō "cause to float",prospherō "bring before".

  • esthiō, edomai, ephagon, edēdoka, edēdesmai, ēdesthēn "eat".
  • pōleō, apodōsomai, apedomēn, peprāka, peprāmai, eprāthēn "sell".
I agree that it's way too confusing, and it's probably best to blow it up and start over (WP:TNT). I'm copying it here just for reference. — Eru·tuon 22:00, 10 October 2016 (UTC)

Need for a "Greek grammar" template[edit]

@Erutuon: If you look at any of the pages about Latin grammar (including mine on Latin syntax), you see they have a "Latin grammar" template written at the top of the edit page, and on the main page of the article there appears a box on the right with a list of the articles about Latin grammar. I think something similar would be a good idea for the various articles about Greek grammar. Can you manage it with your technical wizardry? Kanjuzi (talk) 04:32, 24 October 2016 (UTC)

@Kanjuzi: It looks like there's already one: shown to the right of my comment. However, it might be nicer if it were a sidebar like the Latin one, and it certainly needs to have a few articles added to it. — Eru·tuon 01:05, 25 October 2016 (UTC)
Here's a sidebar version. Needs some fine-tuning, though. — Eru·tuon 01:21, 25 October 2016 (UTC)
Brilliant! I like the one with the purple border best. I have added it to Optative (Ancient Greek) already. A little bit of tweaking is necessary. For example, I think that Optative and Subjunctive should go under "Syntax" rather than "Parts of Speech". And of course we need to add the introductory article Ancient Greek grammar itself, flawed though it is. (For a start it quotes numerous examples without any references as to where they come from, and secondly it goes into huge detail about certain topics instead of serving as a general introductory article.) Next, we need to remove the category "Greek grammar" from the articles about Ancient Greek and put "Ancient Greek grammar" instead, with a new category "Modern Greek grammar" for the articles on modern Greek. Kanjuzi (talk) 05:09, 25 October 2016 (UTC)
On another topic, when we use the template "Smyth|...", is it necessary for it to have "Part IV: Syntax" etc.? It makes the footnotes rather cumbersome I think. My copy of Smyth is all in one volume, and has the title simply "Greek Grammar" (it's the 1920 version, updated 1956). And perhaps instead of "Smyth" it could have "Smyth, H.W."? Kanjuzi (talk) 05:09, 25 October 2016 (UTC)
I can move those items around. There is a link to Ancient Greek grammar, in the top of each of the boxes. Is it not visible enough?
My copy of Smyth is the same, I think; the Parts are simply parts in the book. I can see if the ref can be made shorter. — Eru·tuon 02:35, 26 October 2016 (UTC)
Not sure about moving aorist, subjunctive, and optative; they and the verbs article cover morphology as well as syntax and semantics. — Eru·tuon 02:43, 26 October 2016 (UTC)