Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 2

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Well with part one of ‘Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek’ being the most viewed post in last three months, let me present you with part two. Important rules to remember when looking at the imperfective and the aorist. Hopefully this will be helpful in remembering terms and simple rules when you are in the process of learning or improving your Greek.

The secondary active suffixes

MS 2649 LEVITICUS 10:15 - 11:3; 11:12 - 47; 12:8 - 13:6; 23:20 - 30; 25:30 - 40
  • Kind of action = verbal aspect
  • Past tenses of the active indicative = Imperfect and Aorist
  • Greek verbs have three sets of forms for indicating action in past time
    • Imperfective aspect = imperfect indicative
    • Aoristic aspect = aorist indicative
    • Perfective aspect = pluperfect indicative
  • Past time is indicated by the prefixing of the past time morpheme = AUGMENT ε
  • Augment appears only in secondary tenses
  • All aorists and imperfects use Greek secondary suffixes (For a full list of the secondary suffixes see Black, p.49)

The imperfect active indicative

  • Imperfect tense = augmenting the present stem, attaching the connecting vowels ο/ε, adding secondary suffix
1st Person Singular:   ἔ-λυ-ον = I was releasing
2nd Person Singular: ἔ-λυ-ες
3rd Person Singular:  ἔ-λυ-ε(ν)
1st Person Plural:        ἐ-λύ-ομεν
2nd Person Plural:      ἐ-λύ-ετε
3rd Person Plural:       ἔ-λυ-ον
The Aorist active indicative
  • Aorist Active Indicative = augment, add aoristic aspect morpheme σα, add secondary active suffix
  • Major difference = aoristic aspect morpheme
1st Person Singular:   ἔ-λυ-σα = I released
2nd Person Singular: ἔ-λυ-σας
3rd Person Singular:  ἔ-λυ-σε
1st Person Plural:        ἐ-λύ-σαμεν
2nd Person Plural:      ἐ-λύ-σατε
3rd Person Plural:       ἔ-λυ-σαν

Amalgamation in the aorist tense

  • When aoristic aspect morpheme σα added
  • Same kind of modifications are made in the final consonants of the stem as are made when the future time morpheme σ is added to form the future stem
  • Κ, γ, χ + σ = ξ
  • Π, β, φ + σ = ψ
  • Τ, δ, θ +σ = σ

The Augment

  • Several important allomorphs
  • If the verb stem begins with a consonant = ADDITIVE MORPHEME = SYLLABIC AUGMENT
  • If the verb stem begins with a short vowel = PROCESS MORPHEME, TEMPORAL AUGMENT = lengthens the short vowel to the corresponding long vowel
  • If the verb begins with a long vowel/long diphthong = ZERO MORPHEME AUGMENT = no visible phonetic change
  • Some Greek verbs take a double augment = both an additive and a process morpheme = αγω = αγαγ- = ηγαγον
  • Some are irregular = εχω = ειχον

The imperfect indicative of ειμι

  • Its person-number suffixes are those of the secondary active tenses with the exception of the first person singular = middle/passive suffix, and 3rd Singular = takes a nu

First and second Aorists

Panel from an Ivory box (The Maskell Ivories), Rome, Present Location: British Museum, Date: 420-430
  • Two basic patterns
  • Difference is one of form only
  • -ed
  • First Aorists have σα aoristic aspect morpheme
  • Most Greek verbs have first aorist forms
  • Second aorist forms are identical to the forms of the imperfect tense except for their stems
  • The second aorist differs from the imperfect by differences within the stem itself
  • The only difference between the imperfect and the second aorist indicative is that the imperfect is formed on the present stem, while the second aorist is formed on the aorist stem = VOWEL GRADATION = like the English ‘sing’/’sang’
  • Some verbs form their second Aorists by substituting entirely different forms = SUPPLETIVES = λεγω = ειπον eg. Went and go

Second aorist stems

  • Add the augment and imperfect ending to the second aorist stem
  • The second aorist is translated exactly the same as the first aorist
  • The original stem of a Greek verb is often preserved in the second aorist

Uses of the imperfect and aorist

  • PROGRESSIVE IMPERFECT = continuous action in the past = I kept loosing
  • CUSTOMARY IMPERFECT = habitual action in the past = I used to loose
  • CONATIVE IMPERFECT = attempted action in the past = I tried to loose
  • INCEPTIVE IMPERFECT = initiation of an action in the past = I began to loose
  • CONSTATIVE AORIST = views an action in its totality = was built
  • INGRESSIVE AORIST = emphasises beginning of an action = lived
  • EFFECTIVE AORIST = views action from the vantage point of the conclusion = I have learned

Resources that may help you further:

Perseus Vocabulary Tools

New Testament Greek Grammar Books

Learn to Read New Testament Greek, Third Edition, By: David Alan Black

Little Greek 101

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4 thoughts on “Important Rules to Remember When Learning Ancient Greek Part 2

    Top Posts 2012 | GraecoMuse said:
    May 2, 2012 at 12:27 am

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    GraecoMuse Turns One « GraecoMuse said:
    October 13, 2012 at 12:50 am

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