(Non me tenent) Vincula (vincula) wrote in greek_lessons,

Verb Tenses (in excruciating detail)

Native and advanced speakers: I wrote this in a hurry, if you spot any mistakes, please let me know!

If you're studying Modern Greek verbs, one of the first and biggest stumbling blocks is the Greek tense system. Here's how were taught tenses in my time (somewhat analytically, perhaps). I'll talk about the differences between English and Greek tenses, too, as they don't always match each other perfectly.

Modern Greek has eight tenses.

Each tense gives us details about a verb's action. In Greek, tenses describe two things: an action's time (the present, past or future), and its aspect, which is one of three things: imperfect, perfective, and perfect. Don't worry, I'll explain the jargon and provide the Greek names of the tenses.

Before you freak out, all eight tenses are quite logically constructed. We can break them up in two major categories. Tenses that form with one word require memorisation (so does on of the future tenses). Sorry! Multi-word tenses, like in English, form with μόρια, particles (το μόριο, τα μόρια, particle or molecule) along with one of the three other single-word tense forms. You don't need to memorise those (except one of the future tenses). There's even a tense that forms with two particles, and you still don't need to memorise!

Here are the difficult tenses, those that need memorisation.

Ενεστώτας

Ενεστώτας: (/e ne 'sto tas/) denotes something that is happening now, and is expected to last. Γράφω, a verb in ενεστώτας, translates as both 'I write', and 'I am writing'. The action happens in the present, and will last for a while.
Singular First person Εγώ γράφω.
Second person Εσύ γράφεις.
Third person Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό γράφει.
Plural First person Εμείς γράφουμε.
Second person Εσείς γράφετε.
Third person Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά γράφουν.

Παρατατικός

Παρατατικός: (/pa ra ta ti 'kos/) denotes an action that happened in the past, and lasted for a while. The closest English equivalent of 'Έγραφα' is 'I was writing.'
Singular First person Εγώ έγραφα.
Second person Εσύ έγραφες.
Third person Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό έγραφε.
Plural First person Εμείς γράφαμε. *
Second person Εσείς γράφατε. *
Third person Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά έγραφαν.

* There's a bit of a weirdness here! Although in most tenses, you only change the suffic, in Παρατατικός, the root of the verb seems to change too! This is just a sign of wear and tear of the language. Παρατατικός used to be formed with έγραφ- and the appropriate affix for all cases, but this has fallen out of use, and the present 'γραφ-' root has moved in and is making itself comfortable. The older (and, admittedly, more logical) forms can still be encountered now and then in formal writing, but never in colloquial Greek.

Αόριστος

Αόριστος: (/a 'or is tos/) denotes an action that happened in the past, with an unknown, instantaneous, or immaterial duration. The English equivalent of 'Έγραψα' is 'I wrote.'
Singular First person Εγώ έγραψα.
Second person Εσύ έγραψες.
Third person Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό έγραψε.
Plural First person Εμείς γράψαμε. **
Second person Εσείς γράψατε. **
Third person Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά έγραψαν.

** Just like Παρατατικός, Αόριστος also used to form with ε + root + suffix in all persons. Just like Παρατατικός, the first and second plural persons have dropped the ε- prefix and are using the present form of the verb.

Στιγμιαίος Μέλλοντας

Στιγμιαίος Μέλλοντας: (/stiγ mi 'e os 'me l on das/) denotes an action that will happen in the future, but will not last a long time, or the duration is unknown. The equivalent English of 'θα γράψω' is 'I will write'. Στιγμιαίος Μέλλοντας forms with the particle θα + a form of the verb which is quite close to the Αόριστος (but not identical).

The particle 'θα' itself, is all too similar to the English auxilliary verb 'will'! It's a contraction of 'θέλω να' (I want to, I will), that came about after centuries of use. In Greek, this particle is only used to denote future.

The particle 'θα' itself, is all too similar to the English auxilliary verb 'will'! It's a contraction of 'θέλω να' (I want to, I will), that came about after centuries of use. In Greek, this particle is only used to denote future.

Though this looks like a Frankenstein-monster tense from hell (combining bits of both Ενεστώτας and Αόριστος), it is, in fact, a direct descendant of the Ancient Greek future tense (there was no θα particle there, though).

Singular First person Εγώ θα γράψω.
Second person Εσύ θα γράψεις.
Third person Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό θα γράψει.
Plural First person Εμείς θα γράψουμε. **
Second person Εσείς θα γράψετε. **
Third person Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά θα γράψουν.

The remaining four tenses are much easier to construct, as they form by combining the 'θα' particle and/or the auxilliary verb 'έχω' (have, surprise surprise!) with other tenses.

Μέλλοντας Διαρκείας

Μέλλοντας διαρκείας: (/'me lon das ði ar 'ki as/) denotes something that will be happening in the future. That something will last some time. The English equivalent of 'θα γράφω' is 'I will be writing'. This tense is so easy to form you'll cry. You'll also look for the catch, but there isn't one. Here's the rule: just put 'θα' in front of the Ενεστώτας (present) form!
Ενεστώτας Μέλλοντας διαρκείας
Singular First person Εγώ γράφω. Εγώ θα γράφω.
Second person Εσύ γράφεις. Εσύ θα γράφεις.
Third person Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό γράφει. Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό θα γράφει.
Plural First person Εμείς γράφουμε. Εμείς θα γράφουμε.
Second person Εσείς γράφετε. Εσείς θα γράφετε.
Third person Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά γράφουν. Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά θα γράφουν.

Υπερσυντέλικος

Υπερσυντέλικος: (/i per syn 'de li kos/). In this one, 'είχα γράψει' is very close to the English 'I had written.' Υπερσυντέλικος (whose name is by far the most difficult thing about this tense) forms with the Παρατατικός (past) form of the somewhat irregular auxilliary verb 'έχω', which is 'είχα', plus the third singular person of the verb in Στιγμιαίος Μέλλοντας. Here's a table combining both the declension of 'είχα', and the declension of 'γράφω' in Υπερσυντέλικος:
«Είχα» Υπερσυντέλικος
Singular First person Εγώ είχα. Εγώ είχα γράψει.
Second person Εσύ είχες. Εσύ είχες γράψει.
Third person Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό είχε. Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό είχε γράψει.
Plural First person Εμείς είχαμε. Εμείς είχαμε γράψει.
Second person Εσείς είχατε. Εσείς είχατε γράψει.
Third person Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά είχαν. Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά είχαν γράψει.

Παρακείμενος

Παρακείμενος: (/pa ra 'ki me nos/) denotes something that has happened in the past with no duration (or none that is of interest). 'Έχω γράψει' is very close to the English 'I have written.' The most difficult thing about this tense is pronouncing its name. It forms with the Ενεστώτας form of the auxilliary verb 'έχω' plus the third singular person of the verb in Στιγμιαίος Μέλλοντας. Here's a table combining both the declension of 'έχω', and the declension of 'γράφω' in Παρακείμενος:
«Έχω» Παρακείμενος
Singular First person Εγώ έχω. Εγώ έχω γράψει.
Second person Εσύ έχεις. Εσύ έχεις γράψει.
Third person Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό έχει. Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό έχει γράψει.
Plural First person Εμείς έχουμε. Εμείς έχουμε γράψει.
Second person Εσείς έχετε. Εσείς έχετε γράψει.
Third person Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά έχουν. Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά έχουν γράψει.

You may note that this looks very much like 'I have written' declines in English -- 'written' remains constant throughout, but 'have' declines, although in English this is rather easy: I have written, you have written, he/she/it has written, we have written, you have written, they have written).

Συντελεσμένος Μέλλοντας

Συντελεσμένος Μέλλοντας: (/syn de lez 'me nos 'me lon das/) denotes something will have happened in the future. 'Θα έχω γράψει' is equivalent to 'I will have written'. One thing to note here is that a few verbs don't have this tense! The auxilliary verbs (is, είμαι and has, έχω) are prime examples. The tense forms with the particle 'θα' + Παρακείμενος.
Παρακείμενος Συντελεσμένος Μέλλοντας
Singular First person Εγώ έχω γράψει. Εγώ θα έχω γράψει.
Second person Εσύ έχεις γράψει. Εσύ θα έχεις γράψει.
Third person Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό έχει γράψει. Αυτός/αυτή/αυτό θα έχει γράψει.
Plural First person Εμείς έχουμε γράψει. Εμείς θα έχουμε γράψει.
Second person Εσείς έχετε γράψει. Εσείς θα έχετε γράψει.
Third person Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά έχουν γράψει. Αυτοί/αυτές/αυτά θα έχουν γράψει.

And finally, here's a table of all the tenses:

Time
Παρελθόν
Past
Παρόν
Present
Μέλλον
Future
Aspect Στιγμιαίος
Imperfective
(no duration)
Aόριστος
Έγραψα.
I wrote.
N/A Στιγμιαίος μέλλοντας
Θα γράψω.
I will write.
Perfective
(pending)
Παρατατικός
Έγραφα.
I was writing.
Ενεστώτας
Γράφω.
I am writing. I write.
Μέλλοντας διαρκείας
Θα γράφω.
I will be writing.
Συντελεσμένος
Perfect
Υπερσυντέλικος
Είχα γράψει.
I had written.
Παρακείμενος
Έχω γράψει.
I have written.
Συντελεσμένος μέλλοντας
Θα έχω γράψει.
I will have written.
Tags: grammar
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