Latin/Lesson 8-Imperfect and Future

Intro: 12
Chapter 1 123456
Chapter 2 12345678
Chapter 3 12345678
Chapter 4 12345678910
Chapter 5 123456789

Imperfect and Future constructs edit

Warning: Beyond the imperfect, this page is not entirely clear. Do not use it beyond the basic imperfect if you are a first time Latin student. See discussion for my thoughts on this.

Imperfect Active Indicative edit

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 + -bā- + personal ending

The endings for imperfect are:


  1. -bam
  2. -bās
  3. -bat


  1. -bāmus
  2. -bātis
  3. -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:


For third conjugation -iō stem verbs, the imperfect is like so: capere (to capture or seize)


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

A few examples:

amābam - I was loving (A-conjugation--1st)
monēbātis - You were warning [object/personage] (of something negative) (Pl.) (2nd Conjugation)
'vincēbāmus - We were defeating (3rd conjugation)
capiēbant - They were catching (short I-conjugation--3rd conjugation)
pellēbat - 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.)

Future I, Active edit

Future active is a tense which, unsurprisingly, refers to something which has not yet happened. The endings are fairly basic, and follow fairly regular rules - however, the future endings used in 1st and 2nd conjugation differ from the endings of 3rd, 3rd-iō, and 4th.

For example - "amō, amāre" (1st conjugation) would be

Amābō - I will love
Amābis - You will love
Amābit - He/She/It will love
Amaābimus - We will love
Amābitis - Y'all will love
Amābunt - They will love

NOTE: 1st person singular and 3rd person plural use -bō and -bunt, not -bi-.

NOTE: the B and the BIs - the distinguishing feature of future tense in Latin.

With "veniō, venīre" (4th conjugation), however, the endings are different. In future, this is what they look like:

Veniam - I will come
Veniēs - You will come
Veniet - He/She/It will come
Veniēmus - We will come
Veniētis - Y'all will come
Venient - They will come

[deleted paragraphs go here. deleted to maintain rigorous accuracy, which we will go back to striving for.)

To clarify: venīre, veniō.. we know it is 4th conjugation verb and if we look at its first person singular conjugation, we see that it is an -iō verb, because the conjugation of the first person singular is "venio". (an io category exists within 3rd and fourth conjugations and is a more general concept which we will briefly introduce here by using venire, venio as an example).

Let's first identify what we know.

We know it is 4th conjugation -io because it ends in īre, which tells us that it is 4th conjugation, and io because its first person singular ends in io (venio). Because it is -iō, we leave the -i- in. So, when we are asked (as all textbooks should phrase these new questions):

What are the steps to form the future 2nd person conjugation?

We say:

  1. It is better to know more than you need: check the infinitive nominative singular, we now know that it is 4th conjugation io.
  2. We now know that we can form the stem: the stem is veni and can then add a personal ending--leaving in the i. We leave in the i because it is io. Because it looks weird, we never leave the i in the future perfect.

What is the form for venīre, in the future tense, in the 2nd person?

The answer is veniēs.

Future conjugation edit

Example: I will love:


The table at the end of this page tries to summarize the future tense, with both sets of personal endings. As the warning notes, this summary may confu panda

As an aid to your understanding, this table only applies to the future tense. Do not assume the table is displaying a pattern that is somehow applicable to all of Latin.

(Wiki-reading-tip: This is why they are in the future section, and were not discussed before.)

The A- and the E- conjugation are (relatively) straight-forward. The others are more advanced, and as the warning notes, could confuse a first-time student. Commercial textbooks probably explain it better at this point, although laying their explanation in a table like the one below is well-advised. Leave items marked with a ? in until issues are resolved.

Take a look at the following table:

A E long I (vincere/3rd conj.) short I Consonantic
amā-bo monē-bo vinc-am capi-am pell-am
ama-bis mone-bis vinc-es capi-es pell-es
ama-bit mone-bit vinc-et capi-et pell-et
ama-bimus mone-bimus vinc-emus capi-emus pell-emus
ama-bitis mone-bitis vinc-etis capi-etis pell-etis
ama-bunt mone-bunt vinc-ent capi-ent pell-ent

The vocabulary mostly consists of verbs, and can easily be looked up in a dictionary. We will give a limited translation below, and the rest, for those who are particularly adept at language learning, can be learned through immersion.

capere (3rd conjugation--short ere): to seize, metaphorically or literally [see dictionary for full explanation]
amare (first conjugation -are): to love

Exercises edit

EXERCISE • Lesson 8-Imperfect and Future • Can you be your own editor?
  • monere (what conjugation?)
  • does it change based on the macron over the first vowel on the ending?
  • what does it mean?
SOLUTION • Latin/Lesson 8-Imperfect and Future • Can you be your own editor?