Re: "Present-future" Tense (was "Ungrammatical ...")

From: Michael Haggett (
Date: Thu Sep 02 1999 - 18:04:41 EDT

In response to Carl Conrad I would not want to take issue with whether the S
of the future originated in the same way as the S of the aorist,
particularly not as far back as proto-IE. But, while it seems to be true
that in any particular time one's thought patterns are determined by the
language one uses, it is equally true that in the long term (centuries, if
not less) language must tend to develop to accommodate the particular way of
thinking of the people who use it.

So for me it's not about origins but about the developed form. My point was
that the aorist and future in Koine Greek correlate to such a degree that
there is essentially no difference between them in the non-indicative
moods - to the extent that they, together, would have been regarded as "the
simple tense". As parallels to this the imperfect and present were together
regarded as "the continuous tense" and the pluperfect and perfect as "the
complete tense". The only difference in each pairing being that the former
was past-time in the indicative only. If we were to appreciate the
difference between our past-present-future way of thinking and the Greek
continuous-simple-complete way of thinking, it could only help our
understanding of the NT.

What I hoped to communicate was that this way of thinking could explain why
there was no need for something like a future perfect within the regular
form of the Greek verb (Al Kidd's original question). Carl Conrad had said
in his answer to Al that we can't really get inside the ancient Greek mind,
from my perspective of the developed form of the Greek verb I wanted to
disagree. This meant presenting a different logic, and I apologize for
being so lengthy.

||||||| Michael Haggett
||||||| 164 Holland Road
||||||| London W14 8BE

----- Original Message -----
From: Carl W. Conrad <>

> I would only like to suggest some qualifications regarding two of Michael
> Haggett's assertions regarding future indicative morphology and its
> relationship to present and aorist morphologies. For that reason I will
> delete the major portion of the lengthy message.
> At 4:02 PM +0100 9/1/99, Michael Haggett wrote:
> > [material deleted]
> >1. There are a good number of NT examples where the Greek present tense
> >used top describe what must logically be future action. This is well
> >described in Moule's Idiom Book and one example is: Matthew 26:19 - POIW
> >PASCA. Our way of translating the logic of the statement is "I am going
> >do (i.e. celebrate) the Passover." But the Greek form for present and
> >future is exactly the same.
> This is unquestionably true.
> > [material deleted]
> >3. This might explain something that trouble most beginners in Greek,
> >the form of the present and future of verbs with liquid stem endings is
> >same (MENW for example, remembering that our accentuation system would
> >then have been used). Beginners tend to see this as a hole in Greek
> >but I would maintain that this not such a big thing under the logic of a
> >"present-future" continuum.
> While it is true that our accentuation system would not have been used in
> pronouncing Greek verbs, I'm not so sure that a difference in
> of the liquid/nasal futures from present-tense forms wouldn't have been
> noticed; they are, after all, contract-verb forms, and the identity of
> MENEIS (present) with MENEI=S (future) may have been more a matter of
> orthography than of pronunciation--although, to be sure, this all depends
> on the extent to which contracted circumflexed diphthongs are given a
> protracted diphthongal pronunciation--and I doubt we can be so sure about
> exact pronunciation of the accents in the NT era). At any rate, there'll
> a difference between a 1 pl. present (MENOMEN) and a 1 pl. future
> (MENOUMEN) that's discernible in pronounciation, or so I'd assume. In
> of course, these distinctions between liquid/nasal future-tense forms and
> regular O/E future forms is a matter of contraction with a second E
> following upon loss of the -S- marking the future.
> > [material deleted]
> >Finally, the simple tenses. Here I would maintain that the Greek aorist
> >future are in fact variants of the same tense. Certainly this is
> >true in terms of FORM. It would explain the characteristic insertion of
> >between the stem and the ending, and the fact that only these tenses have
> >separate form for middle and passive. Generally speaking, when the
> >is used in Greek, it is (of itself) simple rather than continuous in
> >so that if used to describe a future event that will continue it is usual
> >add words like "for ever".
> I don't think this is in accord with current historical Greek linguistics.
> While at one time it was thought that the future indicative may have
> originated as a short-vowel aorist subjunctive, and that the apparent
> future marker -S- was identical with the undisputed aorist -S- marker, the
> view now seems to be that the future marker in Greek derives rather from
> the Proto-Indo-European desiderative marker -SE-. See Andrew Sihler, _New
> Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin_, #500 (pp. 556-7).
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics/Washington University
> One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
> Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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