Perfect and Imperfect

By Pacis puella, in 'Grammar Tips And Examples', Jul 30, 2015.

  1. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    I see, thanks... Hmm, so even if you are given the context that you should say something about e.g. a recently deceased person, you would in your colloquial dialect choose automatically the imperfect then?
  2. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    It's hard to say for sure (hard to think about every possible situation on the spot like that), but let's say it's "statistically" (again :p) more likely, I think — so there are probably more situations in which you would use the imperfect than the perfect in this kind of context. Especially with the verb "to be", which seems to behave a bit differently from the rest, sometimes.
  3. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    Oh I see... (it's also peculiar that e.g. Greek doesn't have special aoristic forms for "to be" - that reminded me of it a little :) - even for them the verb was "different" ). How about when you came home from some longer activity (say, work) and tell somebody "I was in work today, it was tiring" and you were to say it in your natural colloquial dialect, what would be the automatic choice then? (I'm really interested just about these dialects... not making any conclusions about French as a whole)
  4. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    For the first part, I could use either. For the second part, it would be the imperfect.

    I think that this greater tendency of French towards the imperfect in some situations might be due to a certain extent to the fact that colloquial French has lost the simple past, leaving only the imperfect and the "have + participle" kind of perfect. I'm thinking maybe the latter sounded "too perfect" in some situations, so to speak, so the language evolved towards using the imperfect in those cases. Just theorizing.
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  5. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    Oh, that's very interesting! I always thought that the periphrastic "perfect" would take over the former simple perfect completely, but as you say, it seem have left some gap, right? At least in the dialects... Hmm, Ok, then.

    Maybe one last question, considering the verb "to live", which doesn't seem with certain meanings so different from "to be", what would be your natural colloquial way to render this: "He lived a happy life, he was a good man." given the same context we said earlier (commenting on somebody's life, who's recently passed away).
  6. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    Perfect for "lived" and imperfect for "was" would be the most likely — my "default" translation.
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  7. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    I would also be a bit interested how Laurentius would answer to all of these questions in respect to Italian - more exactly, in respect to his native dialect he speaks casually (from the first Callaina's post in this thread today up to some of those questions I asked): whether he would feel also a need in certain cases to use rather imperfect (automatically) than the perfect tense for the verb "to be"? (in the natural way he speaks at home)

    In the case that he wishes to contribute :) I would be very curious about this!
  8. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    A situation has now just occured to me where the relative clause (if not the main one) would imperatively need to be in the perfect: if there's some adverbial phrase denoting a complete portion of time.

    E.g.:

    C'était un homme incroyable, que tous ont admiré durant toute sa vie.
    It was (imperfect) an incredible man, whom everyone admired (perfect) during all his life.

    Though it would be exactly the same if these were put as two main clauses, as of course it doesn't really change the idea that much:

    C'était un homme incroyable. Tous l'ont admiré durant toute sa vie.
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  9. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    So basically here, with definite portions of time, the rule stays the same as in Latin.
  10. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    In fact, if the perfect happens there (whether in French or in Latin) without any portion of time being mentioned, I guess we can say in some way that the speaker/writer had that portion of time in mind even if he didn't express it literally (and here we come back to my "block" thing).
  11. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    Right... so simply putting there perfect without any other adverb would be like if we meant this by a kind of elipsis (without saying "during all his life").
  12. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    I must ashamedly admit that I am stuck with this example from Phormio

    Non fuit necesse habere: sed, id quod lex iubet,
    Dotem daretis; quareret alium virum
    Qua ratione inopem potius ducebat domum

    Why is it ducebat rather than duxit?
  13. Callaina Feles Curiosissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Canada
    I don't know the context, but a Google search shows that's it's usually punctuated like this:

    Verum, si cognata est maxime,
    Non fuit necesse habere: sed, id quod lex iubet,
    Dotem daretis; quareret alium virum.
    Qua ratione inopem potius ducebat domum?

    Just from glancing at the surrounding bit, it sounds like the speaker is talking about the other guy's daughter, and saying that if she's well-known, it wasn't necessary for him (or her?) to have (money, I assume), but that he could/should be doing what the law orders and givng her a dowry, in which case she can/would be seeking another man (but she's not -- contrary-to-fact in present time). Then he asks him why she was rather leading on (or maybe a conative sort of imperfect with "trying to marry") the penniless/helpless lord.

    Does any of that make sense in the context as you've read it so far? I could be wrong; it is confusing.
  14. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    After looking at the context, I see that the situation is this:

    The woman whom the son took as a wife was an indigent, and a relative of his (cognata). Now the father here speaking, is saying that her being a relative was no compelling reason to "have" her (i.e. to take her as a wife); they should have done what the law commands and given her a dowry, and she should have sought for another husband. Why was the son, instead of doing this, leading the indigent woman home (as a wife, i.e. marrying her)?

    The imperfect subjunctives are past jussive subjunctives (I don't know if this is the official usual term, but that's basically what it is), not present unreal.

    Perhaps Cinefactus already knew all this and was only wondering about the imperfect in ducebat.

    I can't really tell you why ducebat is used rather than duxit. You know, sometimes, two or more constructions are possible and you choose the one that pleases you best in its nuance (or, as the case may be, in how it scans). There is definitely a difference in point of view between ducebat and duxit. The author chose the former even though the latter wouldn't have been incorrect. I suppose it may be that there is a conative nuance to ducebat here, but the son apparently did marry the woman (he didn't just try), so if it were so I guess it would be like "did his utmost to marry her" (and succeeded), but I'm not sure it is. It could still be a "simple" imperfect.
    Last edited by Pacifica, May 7, 2017
    Cinefactus and Callaina like this.
  15. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    Thanks Pacifica & Callaina. Just wanted to make sure I am not missing something obvious with ducebat :)

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