Re: Tense of OIDA

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Jun 12 2000 - 19:48:34 EDT

At 3:06 PM -0400 6/12/00, wrote:
>In a message dated 6/11/00 3:20:18 PM, writes:
><< This is in fact
>not really a PAST so much as a PRESENT counterfactual condition, because
>HDEIN, although technically a pluperfect, has the force of an imperfect,
>since OIDA functions as a present tense. >>
>Could you explain this to me? I'm puzzled by the statement that OIDA
>functions as a present tense. Do you mean that OIDA always functions as a
>present tense regardless of the form?

OIDA is a very ancient ("second perfect"--absent KA endings) perfect tense
of the root EID/OID/ID. There was a Homeric present tense EIDOMAI but the
standard present tense form is hORAW from a different verb root, even if
the aorist EIDON does come from the same root as OIDA and EIDOMAI.

All perfect tenses have present time reference, but most of them indicate
the present state obtaining as a result of an action that is complete. Thus
GEGRAPTAI, although it could be translated as an English present perfect
passive, "it has been written," really means most essentially, "it stands
in writing." But there are two very common verbs in Greek that are
morphologically perfect tense but really have present-tense time reference:
OIDA and hESTHKA. What OIDA probably originally meant as a perfect tense is
something like "I have a full-formed vision of X" (X being the object of
the verb). We normally translate it in English as a present tense, "I
know." Similarly the verb hISTHMI in the active means "I cause to stand,"
in the middle/passive hISTAMAI means "I am rising to a standing position."
The only way to say "I am standing" is to use the perfect tense form,
hESTHKA--and hESTHKA would never be translated "I have stood" but always "I
am standing" or "I stand."

Similarly the morphological "pluperfect" forms of these verbs, EIDEIN and
hESTHKEIN, function as imperfects: EIDEIN means not "I had known" but "I
was knowing" and hESTHKEIN means not "I had stood" but "I was standing."

While these may seem to be inconsistencies of the Greek verbal system, they
really are not: it is ultimately a matter of the present tense of these
verbs having a sort of inceptive force while the perfect tense (indicative,
that is) yields the effected state.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243 OR

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