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Latin/Lesson 1-Imperfect

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Imperfect Active IndicativeEdit

The imperfect is a construct like:
I was seeing.
In Latin it would look like this:

English has a similar construct called progressive past. Actions seem incomplete, and so the imperfect label. For example, "I was running," "We were sailing," "They were calling." Note that 'to be' is always there. Latin, however, would sometimes use imperfect like simple past; accordingly, "We were sailing" could be translated as "We sailed." Other translations of imperfect can be used to/kept such as "We used to sail/We kept sailing."

Regardless of language, the concept of an imperfect is important. Imperfect is called imperfect for a reason - in Latin, the verb "perficere" means to finish/complete, which is what perfect is from. Thus, imperfect, in the grammatical sense, means not finished - that the action could be or could not be completed. Perfect instead means it has been finished - I saw. You have already seen, and it is now completed. I was seeing implies that the action is not yet completed.

The perfect tense, which we will learn later, is a more immediate reference to the past. The name, imperfect, helps you remember its use: in situations where you can't say when an event started or ended or happened, you must use the imperfect.

In situations where you can know when an event started or ended or happened, use the perfect.

You conjugate the imperfect tense this way: verb + ba + personal ending

The endings for imperfect are:

singular plural
1st -bam -bamus
2nd -bas -batis
3rd -bat -bant

Note that the only thing we add are ba + the personal endings (the same as in the present tense) to the infinitive stem. This gives us the imperfect conjugation.

Note that in third and fourth conjugations, you will have to form it differently. There is *no* rule to explain this, it just is, although there are memorization techniques that can help.

venire is 4th conjugation and is formed like:

singular plural
1st veniebam veniebamus
2nd veniebas veniebatis
3rd veniebat veniebant

For third conjugation, an example used in some textbooks/study guides is: capere (to capture or seize)

singular plural
1st capiebam capiebamus
2nd capiebas capiebatis
3rd capiebat capiebant

Note that it is easiest to think of what the endings -ere and ire lack. The imperfect -ba + the personal ending, which we can call the imperfect conjugation, must be prefixed by ie.

Lesson Vocabulary
Latin English
amo, amare to love
moneo, monere to warn
vinco, vincere to win, defeat
capio, capere to capture, seize
pello, pellere to drive
sedeo, sedere to sit
lego, legere to read
adsum, adesse to be present
emo, emere to buy
tristis, triste sad
redeo, redire to return, go back
cena, -ae dinner
paratus, -a, -um ready
mater, matris mother
paro, parare to prepare

A few examples:

amabam - I was loving (A-conjugation--1st)
monebatis - You were warning [object/personage] (of something negative) (Pl.) (2nd Conjugation)
vinciebamus - We were defeating (long I-conjugation--3rd conjugation)
capiebant - They were catching (short I-conjugation--3rd conjugation)
pellebat - She/he/it was propelling (drive something (not a vehicle), propel something) (consonantic conjugation)

(Wiki-reading tips: See discussion. Some of the above may be unclear, however the clarifying '--' and '/' indicate verification. We may not know what the original author intended, but we know what conjugations the examples are.)

Conjugation in the Imperfect tense
1st 2nd 3rd mixed 4th Irregular
Infinitive: amare sedere legere capere venire ire velle esse
1st person: amabam sedebam legebam capiebam veniebam ibam volebam eram
2nd person: amabas sedebas legebas capiebas veniebas ibas volebas eras
3rd person: amabat sedebat legebat capiebat veniebat ibat volebat erat
1st person: amabamus sedebamus legebamus capiebamus veniebamus ibamus volebamus eramus
2nd person: amabatis sedebatis legebatis capiebatis veniebatis ibatis volebatis eratis
3rd person: amabant sedebant legebant capiebant veniebant ibant volebant erant


Translate from Latin to English

1. dum sol fulgebat, puer ambulabat ad forum
2. in foro multus cibus aderat et femina cibum vendebat
3. puer cibum emere volebat sed satis pecuniae (enough money) non habebat
4. puer se vertit (turned (lit. himself) around) et tristis domum rediebat
5. sed ubi domum rediit (returned) cena parata erat quod mater semper cenam parat