The Tenses

In general, tense in Greek involves two elements: aspect (kind of action, [sometimes call Aktionsart, though a difference does need to be made between the two]) and time. Aspect is the primary value of tense in Greek and time is secondary, if involved at all. In other words, tense is that feature of the verb that indicates the speaker's presentation of the verbal action (or state) with reference to its aspect and, under certain conditions, its time. [See Wallace's discussion of the significance of tense, aspect, and time, and also his discussion of the difference between portrayal and reality.]


The Present Tense
A. Narrow-Band Presents
1. Instantaneous (Aorist, Punctiliar) Present
2. Progressive (Descriptive) Present
B. Broad-Band Presents
3. Present of Past Action Still in Progress
4. Iterative Present
5. Lifestyle (Customary, General) Present
6. Gnomic Present
C. Special Uses of the Present Tense
7. Historical (Dramatic) Present
8. Futuristic Present
9. Present Retained in Indirect Discourse

With reference to aspect, the present tense is internal (that is, it portrays the action from the inside of the event, without special regard for beginning or end), but it makes no comment as to fulfillment (or completion). The present tense's portrayal of an even "focusses on its development or progress and sees the occurence in regard to its internal make-up, without beginning or end in view" (Fanning, 102). It is sometimes called progressive: It "basically represents an activity as in process (or in progress)" McKay, 225).

With reference to time, the present indicative is usually present time, but it may be other than or broader that the present time (e.g. historical present, gnomic present).

The specific uses of the present tense can be categorized into three groups: narrow-band presents, broad-band presents, and special uses. "Narrow band" means that the action is portrayed as occuring over a relatively short interval; "broad band" means that the action is portrayed as occurring over a longer time interval; "special uses" include instances that do not fit into the other two categories, especially those involving a time frame that is other than the present.

A. Narrow-Band Presents

The action is portrayed as being in progress, or as occurring. In the indicative mood, it is portrayed as occurring in the present time ("right now"), that is, at the time speaking.

1. Instantaneous (Aorist, Punctiliar) Present

2. Progressive (Descriptive) Present

B. Broad-Band Presents

The following four categories of the present tense include those that are used to indicate an event or occurence taking place over a long interval, or an extended sequence of events.

3. Extending-from-Past Present (Present of Past Action Still in Progress)

4. Iterative Present

5. Lifestyle (Customary, General) Present [customarily, as a lifestyle]

6. Gnomic Present

C. Special Uses of the Present Tense

7. Historical (Dramatic) Present

8. Futuristic Present

9. Present Retained in Indirect Discourse


The Imperfect Tense
A. Narrow-Band Imperfects
1. Progressive (Descriptive) Imperfect
2. Ingressive (Inchoative, Inceptive) Imperfect
continually
began doing
B. Broad-Band Imperfects
3. Iterative Imperfect
4. Lifestyle (Customary, General) Imperfect
kept on
used to
C. Special Uses of the Imperfect
5. Conative (Voluntative, Tendential) Imperfect
6. Imperfect Retained in Indirect Discourse
wanted to, could almost

Like the present tense, the imperfect tense displays an internal aspect. That is, it portrays the action from within the event, without regard for beginning or end. This contrasts with the aorist, which portrays the action in summary fasion. For the most part, the aorist takes a snapshot of the action while the imperfect (like the present) takes a motion picture, portraying the action as it unfolds. As such, the imperfect is often incomplete and focusses on the process of the action.

A. Narrow-Band Imperfects

The action is portrayed as being in progress, or as occurring in the past time (since all imperfects are in the indicative).

1. Progressive (Descriptive) Imperfect [continually]

2. Ingressive (Inchoative, Inceptive) Imperfect [began doing]

B. Broad-Band Imperfects

Like the present tense, several imperfects involve a time-frame that is fairly broadly conceived.

3. Iterative Imperfect [kept on]

4. Lifestyle (Customary, General) Imperfect [used to, as a lifestyle]

C. Special Uses of the Imperfect

5. Conative (Voluntative, Tendential) Imperfect [wanted to, could almost]

6. Imperfect Retained in Indirect Discourse


The Future Tense
1. Predictive Future
2. Imperatival Future
3. Deliberative Future
4. Gnomic Future

With reference to aspect, the future seems to offer an external portrayal, something of a temporal counterpart to the aorist indicative. The external portrayal "presents an occurrence in summary, viewed as a whole from outside, without regard for the internal make-up of the occurrence." (Fanning, 97). With reference to time, the future tense is always future from the speaker's presentation (or, when in a participle formm, in relation to the time of the main verb).

1. Predictive Future

2. Imperatival Future

3. Deliberative Future

4. Gnomic Future


The Aorist Tense
1. Constative (Punctiliar, Global) Aorist
2. Ingressive (Inceptive, Inchoative) Aorist
3. Consummative (Effective) Aorist
4. Gnomic Aorist
5. Epistolary Aorist
6. Proleptic (Futuristic) Aorist
7. Immediate Pas (Dramatic) Aorist
.
began to
.
.
.
.
just now

The aorist tense "presents an occurence in summary, viewed as a whole from the outside, without regard for the internal make-up of the occurrence" (Fanning, 97). It may be helpful to think of the aorist as taking a snapshot of the action while the imperfect (like the present) takes a motion picture, portraying the action as it unfolds. In the indicative, the aorist usually indicates past time with reference to the time of speaking (thus, "absolute time"). Aorist participles usually suggest antecedent time to that of the main verb (i.e., past time is a relative sense).

1. Constative (Complexive, Punctiliar, Comprehensive, Global) Aorist

2. Ingressive (Inceptive, Inchoative) Aorist [began to]

3. Consummative (Culminative, Ecbatic, Effective) Aorist

4. Gnomic Aorist

5. Epistolary Aorist

6. Proleptic (Futuristic) Aorist

7. Immediate Past (Dramatic) Aorist [just now]


The Perfect Tense
1. Intensive (Resultative) Perfect
2. Extensive (Consummative) Perfect
3. Perfect with a Present Force
The Pluperfect Tense
1. Intensive (Resultative) Pluperfect
2. Extensive (Consummative) Pluperfect

The perfect and pluperfect tenses are indentical in aspect though different in time. Thus both speak of an event accomplished in the past (in the indicative mood) with results existing afterwards - the perfect speaking of existing results in the present, the pluperfect speaking of existing results in the past.

A. The Perfect Tense

The force of the perfect indicative is simply that it describes an event that, completed in the past, has results existing in the present time (i.e., in relation to the time of the speaker).

1. Intensive (Resultative) Perfect

2. Extensive (Consummative) Perfect

3. Perfect with a Present Force

B. The Pluperfect Tense

As was stated above, for the most part, the perfect and pluperfect are identical in aspect though different in time. The force of the pluperfect tense is that it describes an event that, completed in the past, has results that exist in the past as well (in relation to the time of speaking). The pluperfect makes no comment about the results existing up to the time of speaking. Such results may exist at the time of speaking, or they may not; the pluperfect contributes nothing either way.

1. Intensive (Resultative) Pluperfect

2. Extensive (Consummative) Pluperfect


Edition: Feb 10,2009