Re: aspect of present tense

Paul Zellmer (
Thu, 12 Dec 1996 09:07:03 -0800

KULIKOVSKY, Andrew wrote:
> Fellow Greeks,
> Just had a sudden thought about verbal aspect and the present indicative.
> The present tense indicative mood can also have past time reference and
> future time reference. Remember that time is a complete dimension and
> can't be simply pinned down. Let me demonstrate:
> "I am a software engineer" uses a present tense indicative verb but
> this statement not only refers to my current state, it also refers
> to my past state - I was a software engineer yesterday as well -
> and my future state - I will be a software engineer tommorrow (Lord
> willing) - although I'd like to be a Greek Prof one day!
> This statement is also true when I started saying it and when I
> finished saying it.
> Taking a Biblical example, when Jesus said "I am" it means "I am" and
> "I was" and "I will be".
> Remember Einstein - time is relative.
> Some food for thought....


I see your point, but you are dealing with a stative, which is a strange
character that various languages handle in different ways. Some
languages drop out the verb completely in these cases, others (like
English) use a "being" verb, still others use a form of the verb that is
almost adjectival in characteristics. The various ways of handling the
statives could well be indicative that these type forms have little
connection to time. (Please note, I said "little," not "no.")

How strong would your point be if you were to use the example, "I am
going to the temple."? What would that be in Koine, "ERXOMAI hIERW."?
Does this case also imply the events of the recent past and near future?

We probably differ in our training, which causes a difference in the
thrust that we see in this form. I, for one, was taught that the main
characteristic of the Greek present was the durative nature of the form,
while the main characteristic of the aorist was its "point-action" and
the main characteristic of the (Greek) perfect was its residual
results. It was only in the indicative that the concept of time came
into play, and, even then, the time was of secondary concern. Perhaps
this was only a rationalization of my professors resulting from the fact
that they see these each of these forms used in different places on the
time continuum (from the English point of view). One result is that I
am very hesitant to give up the temporal component of the augment in the
indicatives. But I digress, and am suffering from laliarrhea

Peace, brother

Paul Zellmer
Southern Methodist Missions