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10.65 The Imperfect Active Indicative

Read carefully Croy Lesson 10, section 65, where he gives you the forms of the imperfect active indicative. It is also important that you understand the label which he has on these verb forms:

Augment. The most important feature of the imperfect active indicative is that it has augment. Augment is something that is added to the stem of the verb to indicate that it is the past tense. Augmented is added to all the past tense verbs (imperfect, plus the aorist and the pluperfect which you will learn in the next weeks). In English, we sometimes add something to the end of a verb to indicate that it is the past tense ("we dance" in the present, and "we danced" in the past). In Greek, the augment is added to the beginning of the verb, not to the ending. The verb endings for the imperfect indicate the person and number of the verb. The actual past tense marker is the augment added to the beginning of the verb. You will learn more about the forms of the augment in section 66.

Endings. The endings for the imperfect are very similar to the endings for the present. In fact, the first person plural and second person plural endings are identical! Yet even when the endings are the same, you will not get the forms mixed up, because the imperfect has augment, but the present tense does not.

In addition, you will notice that the first person singular and the third person plural endings are identical in the imperfect. In the context of a sentence, however, you will always be able to tell who the subject is.

Notice how the stress shifts. This is because the first-person plural and second-person plural endings are two syllables long, but all the other endings consist of a single short syllable. Since verb accent is recessive (going as far from the end of the verb as possible), this difference in the number of syllables in the ending causes the stress to move around.

Note also that the third-person singular ending sometimes adds a "nu" when there is a following vowel in order to prevent hiatus (you saw this already with the third-person plural ending in the present tense).

The following table shows you three sample verbs. Pay careful attention to the shifting stress! Also, note the English translations. You should use a simple English past tense ("I spoke") to translate the imperfect, unless you think that an English continuous past translation ("I was speaking") is really called for. We do not use the continuous past very much in English, and it would be a mistake to always translate the Greek imperfect with an English continuous past tense (even though that is often what you will see in the textbooks, including Croy).

ον ἔλεγον I spoke ἤγειρον I roused κατέβαινον I went down
ες ἔλεγες you spoke ἤγειρες you roused κατέβαινες you went down
ε ἔλεγε she spoke ἤγειρε he roused κατέβαινε it went down
ομεν ἐλέγομεν we spoke ἠγείρομεν we roused κατεβαίνομεν we went down
ετε ἐλέγετε you spoke ἠγείρετε you roused κατεβαίνετε you went down
ον ἔλεγον they spoke ἤγειρον they roused κατέβαινον they went down



Biblical Greek Online. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. Page last updated: April 9, 2005 8:06 PM

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