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How to Use the Tense Timeline to Form Perfect System Verb Tenses

Note the equivalent number of each tense on the number (time) line*:

present = 0
one step in the past =  -1
two steps in the past = -2
one step in the future = +1
two steps in the future = +2

pluperfect imperfect
present future perfect future

-2 -1 0 +1 +2

Perfect System Verb Tenses in the Active Voice

(stem from the 3rd principal part: laudavi (active)

PERFECT ACTIVE: perfect stem + perfect endings (-1 + 0 = -1)
(NB: this is the only one that doesn't work perfectly since the perfect endings are idiosyncratic and have no value on the timeline)

perfect stem  perfect endings =  -1 perfect
laudav- + -it = laudavit "he has praised"
-1 + 0 = -1 (one step in the past)
"He has praised the child often." or "He praised the child often."
explanation: this action occurred in the simple past, one step before the present.

PLUPERFECT ACTIVE: perfect stem + imperfect of sum as endings (-1 + -1 = -2)

perfect stem  imperfect of sum = -2  pluperfect
laudav- + -erat = laudaverat "he had praised"
-1 + -1 = -2 (two steps in the past)
"He had praised the child before evening came."
explanation: both actions are in the past, but one occurred two steps in the past; one action happened before the other, so you must account for two depths of the past, two steps removed from the present.

FUTURE PERFECT ACTIVE: perfect stem + future of sum as endings (-1 + 2 = +1)

perfect stem  future of sum = +1  pluperfect
laudav- + -erit = laudaverit "he will have praised"
-1 + +2 = +1 (in between future and past but after the present)
"He will have praised the child before evening comes."
explanation: both actions are in the future (future), but one will occur after the first one is completed (perfect). The action of the verb in the future perfect tense will occur at a midway point between two points on the line, between NOW (our present) and THEN (when evening comes, the end of the line, which hasn't happened yet, but will).

*Thanks to Peter Rohn, one of my Latin students, for suggesting that I give "future" the value of 2, thereby making it possible to assign a smaller positive integer to "future perfect." I had originally valued "future" at 1, and then was stuck with 1/2 for future perfect. back to top

See Grammar explanation sheet under Chapter 19 for the
Perfect System in Passive Voice

copyright 2001 Janice Siegel, All Rights Reserved
send comments to: Janice Siegel (jfsiege@ilstu.edu)

date this page was edited last: 06/29/2005
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