Sunday, 13 January 2008

Names for the Past Tenses

I've recently had an email from Jim who mentions that there are a lot of names for the German past tenses in both English and German, which makes it confusing. So I've decided to give you a table showing all the different names I've been able to find for the different past tenses. I've highlighted the name I use in the podcasts for each tense by making it bold and I've put an example of the past tense type described in each column at the top. I've tried to group names that seem to relate to each other together, but not everyone will favour three names in any one line or use the translations that are near each other.

Also, I just want to point out that in Latin, the perfect tense refers to actions that have completed (are perfect) by the time of speaking and the imperfect tense refers to actions that have not yet completed or are repeated or continuous (are imperfect) - which is where the names come from. But this doesn't apply to German, which can make using these names for the tenses confusing (particularly for anyone with a background in Latin grammar) and is one reason I decided not to refer to the ich tat es tense as the imperfect tense in my podcasts.

Unfortunately, having written all that, it turns out that you can't put tables in this blog (or at least not by any method I can work out), so here's a link to the table on my grammar and tables website.


Anonymous said...

Thank Laura
I started my language schooling with Latin and your explanation of the differenceces is a help.

Jack Person
Washington DC

Jim said...

A great help ! Why didn't anybody explain it like this when I was at school ?!!!! So much easier to comprehend !

Richard said...

Absolutely agree; I did Latin for 4 years at school and that saddled me with grammatical terms that don't really apply to English. It's a pity that English grammar wasn't taught in the same depth that Latin grammar was! Your table is a great help.

Anonymous said...

HI Laura,
The link on this page to the table is to the old yahoo geosites, and i can't find it anywhere on the google version. Can you point to where it is now? We never had grammar at all at school and the terms are confusing the heck out of me.
Many thanks,
Sydney, Australia

Laura said...

Hi Craig,

I've updated the link. Scroll down to the first table on the page.