Tenses in Modern & Ancient Greek
The following tenses exist in both Modern and Ancient Greek (you will see them presented usually in the same order in Greek grammar books):
Present, denoting both continuous and habitual aspects. There is no distinction between continuous (“I am helping”) and habitual (“I help”) aspects in the Greek present tense. If one is forced to make the distinction, one can use more than one word to describe the situation. (For example: Τον βοηθάω τώρα: I am helping him now; Or: Τον βοηθάω κάθε φορά: I help him every time.) Usually the context provides disambiguation. Tense name in Greek: Modern: Ενεστώτας; Ancient: ’Ενεστώς.
Imperfect, best translated in English by “I used to help”, and “I was helping”, with its own morphology (endings). The imperfect tense implies a continuous or repeated action which was happening (or: used to happen) in the past and was not completed (hence, “imperfect”). For example: Το τρένο πάντα έφτανε στις οκτώ: The train always used to arrive at eight (repeated action). Or: Επινα τον καφέ μου όταν άκουσα τον κρότο: I was drinking my coffee when I heard the bang (continuous action). Tense name in Greek: Παρατατικός.
Past (“I helped”), with its own morphology (endings). In Classic Greek, several verbs had a “1st past” and “2nd past” form (usually called “1st & 2nd aorist” in grammar books), and the two forms had absolutely no semantic distinction. In Modern Greek (luckily) there is only one past form. Tense name in Greek: ’Αόριστος.
Future (“I will help”, “I will be helping”), formed by prepending the particle “θα” (“will”, “shall”) to the past subjunctive form of the verb to form the simple future (or: definite future: “I will help”: θα βοηθήσω), and to the present subjunctive form (which is identical to the simple present) to form the future continuous (or: indefinite future: “I will be helping”: θα βοηθάω). Do not be confused with this emphasis on “subjunctive”. In Modern Greek there are no distinct subjunctive forms; so, βοηθήσω is the form we refer to here. If you prepend θα to it, you get the simple future; if you prepend να, you get the subjunctive mood (translated usually with the infinitive in English: “to help”). Examples: θα τη βοηθήσω μετά το σχολείο: I will help her after school (simple future). And: θα τη βοηθάω όποτε θέλω: I will be helping her whenever I want (future continuous, but with a habitual aspect). In ancient Greek the future tense had its own morphology (endings). Tense name in Greek: Modern: Μέλλοντας; Ancient: Μέλλων.
Perfect (or present perfect: “I have helped”), formed by the present form of the verb “have” (“έχω”, in the appropriate person and number), followed by the third person singular of the past subjunctive of the verb (see comments on Future, above). Example: έχω βοηθήσει πολλούς μέχρι τώρα: I have helped many till now. In Ancient Greek this tense involved the reduplication of the first syllable, and had its own morphology (endings). Tense name in Greek: Παρακείμενος.
Pluperfect (or past perfect: “I had helped”) formed by the past form of the verb “have” (“είχα”, in the appropriate person and number), followed by the third person singular of the past subjunctive of the verb (see comments on Future, above). Example: είχα βοηθήσει πολλούς τότε: I had helped many back then. In Ancient Greek this tense involved the reduplication of the first syllable, and had its own morphology (endings). Tense name in Greek: ‘Υπερσυντέλικος.
Future perfect (“I will have helped”) formed by the future form of the verb “have” (“θα έχω”, in the appropriate person and number), followed by the third person singular of the past subjunctive of the verb (see comments on Future, above). In Ancient Greek this tense was formed by the perfect participle, followed by the present form of the verb “have” (“έχω”, in the appropriate person and number). Tense name in Greek: Modern: Τετελεσμένος Μέλλοντας; Ancient: Τετελεσμένος Μέλλων.
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