Overview of Ancient Greek Past Tenses

Written by Dyami Millarson

The current article will serve as a review or overview of the (most basic) conclusions one may draw from the three articles I have recently written on Ancient Greek tenses (click on the hyperlinks below for more information).

There are three past tenses in Ancient Greek: the aorist, the imperfect and pluperfect.

When one understands the aorist, one can understand the imperfect or vice versa.

In turn, the aorist and imperfect are the keys to understanding the pluperfect.

Past tenses describe actions in the past:

  • the aorist describes a completed, therefore non-continuous action in the past;
  • the imperfect describes a non-completed, therefore continuous action in the past; and
  • the pluperfect describes a completed action that was carried out earlier than another action in the past, therefore expressing a past of the past which is usually called ‘past-in-the-past’.

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