Latin/Imperfect Tense Lesson 1

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Salvēte omnēs! Welcome back to Latin for Wikiversity. Here you can peruse a new lesson in Latin, in a simple format. If you would like to catch up, you can find a directory of lessons, a classified vocabulary list, and Memrise courses at the links on the right.

This lesson we study the imperfect tense, the first tense other than present introduced in this course, and the simplest way of expressing past action. Imperfect tense is usually taught before perfect tense for this reason, although in actual Latin syntax, perfect may be more commonly used. We will study it later.

The imperfect tense is used to express ongoing, repeated, or habitual action in the past. It can be translated “I was (verb)ing” or “I used to (verb).” Although sometimes a simple past tense (“I (verb)ed”) may be a more natural English translation, you should keep using the –ing forms until the distinction between imperfect and perfect tenses is well established.

In these lessons, we’ll try to give the most natural-sounding English translation in the sentences with suggested alternates in parentheses; but in the Memrise course, which just drills the vocabulary, I’ll require the “was/were verbing” translation. But there are exceptions: “was” not “was being;” “had” not “was having.”

Forming the Imperfect

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For regular verbs, the imperfect endings are:

Regular verb imperfect endings
Latin ending English part Grammatical part
-bam “I” 1st person singular
-bās “you” 2nd person singular
-bat “he/she/it” 3rd person singular
-bāmus “we” 1st person plural
-bātis “you (all)” 2nd person plural
-bant “they” 3rd person plural

They are added to the present stem (from the 1st principal part). If the verb is in the first conjugation, the combining vowel -a- is used. If the verb is in 2nd, 3rd, or 4th conjugation, the combining vowel -e- is used.

Written out with model verbs:

Regular verb imperfect endings
Verb conjugation 1st person singular 2nd person singular 3rd person singular 1st person plural 2nd person plural 3rd person plural English
1st portābam   portābās portābat portābāmus portābātis portābant I was carrying etc.
2nd habēbam habēbās habēbat habēbāmus habēbātis habēbant I had etc.
3rd legēbam legēbās legēbat legēbāmus legēbātis legēbant I was reading etc.
4th audiēbam audiēbās audiēbat audiēbāmus audiēbātis audiēbant I was hearing etc.

The irregular verb sum has a unique conjugation:

sum imperfect
Latin English / part
eram = I was
erās You were
erat He / she / it was
erāmus We were
erātis You pl were
erant They were

New Vocabulary

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Latin English Audio (Classical) Notes
cotīdiē (adv.) every day, daily
cum (conjunction) when

New Sentences

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Latin English Notes
Magistra erat. She was a teacher.
Diārium legēbam. I was reading the newspaper.
Cēnam parābam. I was preparing dinner.
Cēnam edebāmus. We were eating dinner.
Ibī habitābam. I used to live there.
Cum puellā eram, trēs fēlēs habēbam. (trēs fēlēs mihi erant.) When I was a girl, I had three cats.
Nōnne canem habēbās? Didn’t you have a dog (You used to have a dog, didn’t you?)
Annī erant fēlīcēs. The years were happy.  
Erāsne (erātisne) domī? Were you at home?
Amīcī Paulae erāmus. We were friends of Paula.
Mārcus nōbīscum ambulābat. Marcus was walking (used to walk) with us.
Līberī lūdēbant. The children were playing.
Lūcia clāvīchordiō cotīdiē canēbat. Lucia used to play the piano every day.
Multās hōrās cotīdiē labōrābant. They worked for many hours every day.
Avus et Avia hīc saepe veniēbant. Grandfather and Grandmother used to come here often.
Dormiēbāsne?/ Dormiēbātisne? Were you sleeping?
Dē Mātre herī cogitābāmus. We were thinking about Mother yesterday.
Crūstula puellīs dābant. They used to give cookies to the girls.
Gāius stābat et clamābat. Gaius was standing and shouting.
Mārcum saepe vidēbāmus. We used to see Marcus often.
Aqua in ollā fervēbat. The water was boiling in the pot.
Advocātus nōn valēbat. The lawyer was not well/strong.
Parva puella equōs timēbat. The little girl was afraid of horses.
Discipulī sedēbant et scrībēbant. The students were sitting and writing.
Quid puerī agēbant? What were the boys doing?
Cibum in mēnsam pōnēbam. I was putting the food on the table.
Nimis bibēbat. He was drinking too much.
Soror mea pānem faciēbat. My sister was making bread.
Discipulus sciēbat. The student knew.
Sitiēbāmus. We were thirsty.
Ēsuriēbant. They were hungry.


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Practice and learn the words and phrases in this lesson
Step one First learn the words using this lesson:
Step two Next try learning and writing the sentencing using this:
Note that the Memrise stage covers the content for all lessons in each stage.
If you are skipping previous stages you may need to manually "ignore" the words in previous levels (use the 'select all' function)

As always, if you have questions about the lesson, please leave a comment on the talk page. We will continue with imperfect tense verbs for a few more lessons. Bonam fortūnam!