Latin/Perfect 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.

New Grammar

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In this lesson we begin our study of the perfect tense in Latin. You’ll remember we’ve studied three tenses so far, present, imperfect, and future, which together make up the “present system” and are formed with the “present stem.” The perfect tense describes completed past action, while the imperfect tense describes continuous, ongoing, or habitual past action. “Perfectus” in Latin means “finished/completed.” The perfect tense is the most common past tense in Latin.

It is formed very regularly for all four conjugations and even irregular verbs, but because it requires the third principal part of the verb (the “perfect stem”) it demands more advanced vocabulary study and memorization than most beginning students realize. Now is an excellent time to get busy with vocabulary cards: it’s not enough to know that = give; try memorizing:

, dare, dedī, datus (1) = give.

You’ll need that 3rd form, dedī, to form the perfect tense.

Now taking the stem of that 3rd principal part (everything but the ī), add the endings ī, istī, it, imus, istis, ērunt:

Part Formation English
1st person singular -ī -> dedī I have given, I gave, I did give
2nd person singular -istī -> dedistī you have given, you gave, you did give
3rd person singular -it -> dedit he/she/it has given, gave, did give
1st person plural imus -> dedimus we have given, we gave, we did give
2nd person plural istis -> dedistis you pl. have given, you gave, you did give
3rd person plural ērunt -> dedērunt they have given, they gave, they did give

You’ll notice that the 1st person singular of the perfect tense is the 3rd principal part, so remember the –ī is not part of the stem. You’ll use that same stem to form the pluperfect and future perfect, further on down the line.

Teachers may often feel like they are nagging their students to study vocabulary when we reach the perfect tense, but it really does help. For this lesson we’ll add in a list of the verbs we’re using, but you may want to go to the above link to the vocabulary list and scroll down to study a whole bunch of verbs at once.

Also, the 3rd person singular and 1st person plural of some verbs are identical in present and perfect tenses when written without macrons, as most texts are. For example, venit can mean he comes, or he came; edimus = we eat, we ate. The imperative singular and the 1st person singular perfect of some verbs are identical when written without macrons; Veni can mean either “Come!” or “I came.” Fortunately this doesn’t happen too often and context will solve most issues.

In case this wasn’t enough of a grammar explanation for you, there is more here.

Verbs in this lesson

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Latin English Audio (Classical) Notes
, dare, dedī, datus, 1 give
habeō, habēre, habuī, habitus, 2 have
videō, vidēre, vīdī, visus, 2 see
bibō, bibere, bibī, (bibus/bibitum), 3 drink
edō, edere, ēdī, ēsum, 3 eat
legō, legere, lēgī, lēctus, 3 read (gather, collect)
veniō, venīre, vēnī, ventus, 4 come  
vincō, vincere, vicī, victus, 3 conquer, win
possum, posse, potuī, irreg. am able, can
sum, esse, fuī, futūrus, irreg. I am

New Sentences

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Latin English Notes
Cervisiam bibistī, sed Mārcus aquam bibit. You drank beer, but Marcus drank water.
Discipuli pānem ēdērunt et lac bibērunt. The students ate bread and drank milk.
Mālum ēdī, sed Lūcia frāgum ēdit. I ate an apple, but Lucia ate a strawberry.
In caupōnā herī ēdimus. We ate at a restaurant yesterday.
Raedam numquam habuī. I have never had a car.
Mārcus et Lūcia pecūniam nōn habuērunt. Marcus and Lucia did not have money.
Paula duōs filiōs habuit. Paula had two sons.
Ubi fuistī (fuistis)? Where were you?  
Fēlīcēs fuimus. We were fortunate.
Paula fuit magistra; Mārcus et Gāius discipulī fuērunt. Paula was the teacher; Marcus and Gaius were students.
Cum parvus puer fuī, rēgem vīdī. When I was a little boy, I saw the king.
Simiās in vīvāriō vīdimus. We saw monkeys in the zoo.
Vīdistīne eam? Have you seen her?
Quandō vēnistī? When did you come?
Paula domum vēnit, cenam ēdit, et diārium lēgit. Paula came home, ate dinner, and read the newspaper. OR (without macrons) Paula comes home, eats dinner, and reads the newspaper.
Vēnī, vīdī, vīcī. I came, I saw, I conquered. Julius Caesar
Lēgēruntne librum? Did they read the book?
Vidēre potuī. I was able to see.
Potuistīne venīre? Were you able to come?
Invenīre librōs nōn potuimus. We could not find the books.
Librum tibi dedī. I gave you a book.
Librum mihi dedistī (dedistis). You gave me a book.  
Pecūniam nōbīs dedit. He gave us money.
Pecūniam eīs dedimus. We gave them money.
Pecūniam eī dedērunt. They gave him (her) money.


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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)

Those are probably enough sentences to start with. Until next lesson on the perfect tense, valēte!