The perfect tense is exegetically significant. It comes in three forms – the perfect, the pluperfect and the future perfect. The perfect verb deals with a completed action, but makes some comment on its continued effect.
The Perfect Active Indicative
The Perfect Active Indicative tense gets a new morpheme – the perfective aspect morpheme. It’s a κα. It also gets a new augment – involving the reduplication of the stem’s consonant, and an ε. The perfect form of λυω (I release) is as follows:
- First Person Singular: λελυκα
- Second Person Singular: λελυκας
- Third Person Singular: λελυκε(ν)
- First Person Plural: λελυκαμεν
- Second Person Plural: λελυκατε
- Third Person Plural: λελυκασι(ν)
You’ll notice that the endings are similar to the secondary suffix (except in the third person plural), and that the first person singular’s form means the third person has to take an ε instead of an α.
The three steps to get to the perfect are:
- Add the κα
- Reduplicate the consonant with an ε
- Attach the secondary suffix
Because the Greek language hates you there are three tricks with reduplication. Two of these stem from the “double letters” – the ones we would transliterate into English with two English letters.
- The aspirated consontants – θ (th), φ (ph), and χ (ch), lose their aspiration in reduplication, so become τ, π and κ respectively.
- The “double consonants” ψ (ps), ζ (dz), ξ (ks), or any stem that begins with two consonants (except consonant + λ or ρ eg γραφω) just get an ε and no consonantal reduplication. They keep the κα to distinguish them from other past time verbs.
- If the stem begins with a vowel then the standard vowel mash up happens – without consonantal duplication. ετοιμαζω becomes ητοιμακα.
The letters τ, δ, and θ don’t play well with κα so they disappear before the perfective morpheme.
There are also second perfects, which seem to have been invented to aid pronunciation but make learning Greek difficult. In second perfects the κα becomes α. They are the same as first perfects except for the missing κ.
The words with second perfect forms are:
- γραφω = γεγραπφα, γεγραηας etc = I have written, you have written…
- ακουω = εκηκοα = I have heard
- πειθω = πεποιθα = I have trusted in
- πεμπω = πεπομφα = I have sent
- πασχω = πεπονθα = I have suffered
The Significance of the Perfect
The perfect tense refers to the state that results from a completed action. The temporal focus is more on the present than the past.
The difference between:
“A sound filled the whole house” (Aorist)
“You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching” (perfect)
When Archimedes ran around shouting ευρηκα it was the perfect tense – referring to the ongoing effect his discovery would have, and not the aorist ευρον.
The choice of the perfect over another tense is often the result of the subjective choice of the author (not necessarily the objective facts).
The “pluperfect” is the same as the past tense of the perfect. Instead of “I have released” it reads “I had released” – it has a past time morpheme added to the front of the consonantal duplication. And gets a κει instead of a κα…
- First Person Singular: ελελυκειν
- Second Person Singular: ελελυκεις
- Third Person Singular: ελελυκει(ν)
- First Person Plural: ελελυκειμεν
- Second Person Plural: ελελυκειτε
- Third Person Plural: ελελυκεισα(ν)
The pluperfect is rarely used in the New Testament, and the future perfect is even rarer. So rarely that it’s not dealt with in the textbook.
It emphasises the completion of the action.
Greek Verbs in ASCII art
O = completed action, a whole. A closed circle.
-> = ongoing action or state of being.
<> = emphasis
- Present = either -> or O
- Future = either -> or O
- Imperfect Past = ->
- Aorist = O
- Pluperfect (past perfect) = <O>->
- Perfect = O<->>
- Future Perfect= <>O->
The verb οιδα
οιδα means “I know,” so does γινωσκω. It only has perfect and pluperfect forms, but they only have present and past meanings. For the purposes of translating they get treated as imperfect (past) and present.
Present Active Indicative
- First person singular: οιδα
- Second person singular: οιδας
- Third person singular: οιδε(ν)
- First person plural: οιδαμεν
- Second person plural: οιδατε
- Third person plural: οιδασιν
Imperfect Active Indicative
- First person singular: ηδειν
- Second person singular: ηδεις
- Third person singular: ηδει
- First person plural: ηδειμεν
- Second person plural: ηδειτε
- Third person plural: ηδεισαν
Vocab and Memory Hooks
- οιδα = (oida) I know = Oida hell should I know?
- ημαρτηκα = I have sinned
- βεβληκα = I have thrown
- εγνωκα = I have known
- ητοιμακα = I have prepared
- ευρηκα = I have found
- εσχηκα = I have had
- τεθεραπευκα = I have healed
- ειρηκα = I have said
- λελυκα = I have released
- μεμαθηκα = I have learned
- εωρακα = I have seen
- πεπιστευκα = I have believed
- σεσωκα = I have saved
- ακηκοα = I have heard
- γεγραφα = I have written
- πεπονθα = I have suffered
- πεποιθα = I have trusted in
- πεπομφα = I have sent
- πεφευγα = I have fled
- οτι = (hoti) that, because = that stove is hoti, because it is on