Past tenses

By Paulus47, in 'Latin Beginners', Jun 16, 2012.

  1. Paulus47 Member

    Location:
    UK
    I have always assumed that the past tenses follow an order in time from earliest to latest as follows: pluperfect, perfect, imperfect. I order the last two in that way because the action is completed in perfect and not in imperfect.

    I recently saw this:

    Before the general entered the town, we feared him.

    translated as:
    ducem, antequam oppidum intravit, timebamus.


    The use of the imperfect here has confused me as I did not expect to see it before a perfect event.

    Could someone please correct my logic?
  2. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    • Censor
    Location:
    Oklahoma, US
    The imperfect doesn't really have a fixed point in that order, since it conveys a different aspect than the other two. Here, we have something that literally means "We used to fear the general before he entered the town". This "used to" is where the imperfect comes in.

    To my knowledge, the perfect could be used here as well.
  3. Paulus47 Member

    Location:
    UK
    Hello again Nikolaos, thank you for your kind reply.

    Yes, my understanding of the imperfect is "was fearing" or "used to fear" which is why I was a little concerned to see it used in the translation instead of the more obvious perfect.

    It would be kind of the authors of beginners' books to stick to set rules to boost reader confidence!
  4. Infacundus Magister Bibendi

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    California
    "Before he entered the town" refers to a stretch of time, hence the imperfect.
    Paulus47 likes this.
  5. Manus Correctrix QVAE CORRIGIT

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Victoria
    That is a total misunderstanding of the tenses, which you have invented in your own little head, lol ;)

    No textbook taught you anything like that. The notion is so far off from the true distinction that it will make you completely misuse the tenses as long as you labour under it.

    The use of tenses in that extract is exactly what one would expect.

    Go back to the first chapter of your textbook that introduces the perfect-imperfect contrast, and work from there.
  6. Paulus47 Member

    Location:
    UK
    Hi Infacundus, your comment has helped me greatly.

    Cursor, you are right of course, I will avoid this daft rule making in the future.

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