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Henle II: When to use the imperfect vs perfect

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    Henle II: When to use the imperfect vs perfect

    We have had this problem come up numerous times. How do you know when you use the imperfect as opposed to the perfect? I know about the imperfect being "incomplete", and I know about the helping verbs (was and were in the imperfect/have, has, & did in the perfect). However it doesn't always seem to be clear cut. My daughter just did Exercise 78 in Henle II. She translated all the verbs in the perfect. The answer key has all of them in the imperfect. Why? I need help!

    Thanks in advance!
    Amy

    #2
    Re: Henle II: When to use the imperfect vs perfect

    There are many times when either the Latin perfect or imperfect would serve. Her answers in the perfect could also be considered correct.

    I think a couple of things are going on in this exercise.

    1. By using the Latin imperfect for English verbs that are not ending with -ing, Henle helps the student realize that the progressive -ing ending is not generally the best way to translate the Latin imperfect, and that the imperfect may be read in many other ways -- which are made more clear as the lessons and readings proceed during the year. (Of course, the -ing ending is a great, concise, shorthand way to sum up the imperfect.)

    2. The imperfect tense draws the reader into the scene. It is the descriptive tense of past events. Rather than the action being stated and done, over with, completed as the perfect tense represents, the imperfect (not perfect, not completed) shows the action as it was happening in the past -- as if the writer invites us in as a witness. That certainly suits this passage, which puts us smack into Gaul with Caesar.

    Note that, when it is time to sum up and withdraw from the action, the passage switches back into the perfect and pluperfect.

    You will see many cases in which either the imperfect or perfect indicative might be correct. If you understand the general guidelines for the indicative, do not worry about the cases where either tense might be used. It is easier to see why perfect or imperfect is used in a bigger context within a narrative. You might want to re-read the Henle Grammar, # 486-487, 492.

    Does that help?

    Bonnie
    Last edited by Bonnie; 10-08-2018, 04:03 PM.

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      #3
      Re: Henle II: When to use the imperfect vs perfect

      Yes, that greatly helps. Thank you!

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        #4
        Re: Henle II: When to use the imperfect vs perfect

        Thank you, Bonnie! I so didn't want to bother Michael on his vacation, and you made that possible!

        Tanya

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