Re: Present Tense

From: Michael Haggett (
Date: Wed Oct 20 1999 - 07:10:21 EDT

Dennis Hukel wrote
Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 1999 10:21 PM
Subject: RE: Present Tense

<<I've been in favor of reexamining the aspectual meanings of the Greek verb
for a long time, but to assign "zero" aspect to the Present and Imperfect
tenses seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I have been
wrestling with this matter for over 15 years too and I have come up with a
way of looking at it I think is ready for peer review ....

<<"The action itself" is viewed as "internal" or "incomplete" (even if it is
a short duration); this is also designated as "durative" or "progressive"
with no problem. Thus, the Greek Present and Imperfect tenses would best
correspond to the Progressive aspect forms in English (I am going, I was
going). This can be done consistently in the active voice, but it can at
times get too wordy, especially in the passive voice, to be acceptable

<<"The results" views the action as "Completed" with a state persisting
which is valid at a specified time (i.e., past = Pluperfect, present =
Perfect, future = Future Perfect). This corresponds well with the Perfective
aspect forms in English (I have gone, I had gone, I will have gone).

I think you are EXACTLY on the right lines.

I haven't really classified the periphrastic tenses, but as to the others,
my classification is that the present and imperfect are "continuous", but I
think that's pretty much the same as durative or progressive. I totally
agree with the pluperfect and perfect as "completed".

<<however, where to categorize the Greek Future tense is more problematic. I
still haven't decided what it really is. There is an empty slot in Future
Progressive it could fill nicely, but since it sheds the durative morphs of
the Present and Imperfect and uses Aorist stems, it may just be an Aorist
confined to future time. The Future infinitive and participle are not
strictly timeless because they point to the "end in view." So the Future may
express another aspect of "expectant" action whereby the use of the
indicative (though it cannot assert absolute certainty) asserts more than
the "probability" of Present, Aorist or Perfect subjunctives. Since the
Aorist sometimes has perfective sense (by context), the Greek Future tense
might sometimes correspond to the sense of a Future Perfect. >>

I classify both the aorist and future as "simple" - in other words the
future is an aorist/simple of future time. Certainly this works in the
indicative. The only problem is then to explain why there should be two
non-finite forms of the "simple", both aorist and future, so I have wondered
if I'm forcing the two to be unhappy bedfellows. However in the NT the
future infinitive and participle is so rare as to be almost negligible. My
thinking is that as the language evolved, the difference between them became
insignificant, I cannot really see any difference in meaning between them
that couldn't be determined from the context of the rest of the sentence.
In form also, the participle only has an A for O difference. If this
syllable is unstressed, it is hardly recognizable anyway. Compare

For what it's worth, I would definitely NOT put the future into the
"continuous/durative/progressive" slot. So far as I can see, what we now
call the "future tense" is never in and of itself continuous. Either the
verb is by nature durative, or additional words are usually necessary such
as "He will reign FOR EVER". The present tense fairly frequently extends
into the future itself so that, in the same way as the perfect is "a present
state resulting from completed action", the present can be "a present
intention that will result in future action".

Nor would I put the future into the "complete" slot. Generally speaking a
state that has resulted from completed action will also remain into the
future (unless something happens to change it). Something that is going to
be completed is, at least in the NT, normally expressed by separate words
such as "complete" or fulfil".

Although some will say it's forced (especially classicists, who are dealing
with an earlier form of the language where there is more distinction between
aorist and future) it is at least neat. The indicative is:

continuous past --------- continuous present/future

simple past----------------simple future

complete past------------------complete present/future

and then the other moods exist only in terms of "continuous", "simple" and
"complete", without time-aspect. It would also explain, as you noted, why
the aorist and future so often behave in the same way, using the same root,
often with inserted "S", and with separate passive forms (as opposed to
joint middle/passive forms) with "Q".

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

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