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New Testament Greek
Course II
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  Lesson 1 Secondary Tenses, Imperfect Active Indicative, Augmentation of Compound Verbs, Imperfect of εἰμί, Conditions contrary to fact, Adverbs  
  Secondary Tenses  

Remember that the primary tenses are the Present, the Future, and the Perfect. The Secondary tenses are associated with past time.

The Secondary tenses are the following:




Although it refers to past time, the imperfect tense has the same kind of action as does the present tense. It is linear, and therefore we will often translate imperfect verbs using a helping verb in English in order to convey the linear idea: I was hearing, rather than I heard; They were sending, rather than They sent; We were going rather than We went.

Secondary Active Endings

When we introduced the present active indicative endings, we gave them as 

  sing.   pl.
1st pers.   -ομεν
2nd pers. -εις   -ετε
3rd pers. -ει   -ουσι(ν)

In reality, these are the endings combined with a variable vowel that serves to connect the stem and a primary tense personal ending. However, because the original primary tense personal endings have undergone various changes, they are mostly unrecognizable. Also, in two instances, the variable vowels have been lengthened. Therefore, for the primary tenses, it seemed best to simply learn the altered endings.

But as we begin to learn the secondary tenses, we can make things easier by learning the secondary tense personal endings themselves because they will be used for all three secondary tenses with only minor variations. Learn these endings!

  sing.   pl.
1st pers.   -μεν
2nd pers.   -τε
3rd pers. -  

Variable Vowel

These endings will be connected to the verb stem by means of a variable vowel, so called because it varies. It will be ο before μ or ν, and ε otherwise.


The secondary tenses are characterized by a change to the beginning of the stem. This is called an augment. For verbs beginning with a consonant, the augment is simply the addition of an ε to the beginning of the stem. For verbs beginning with a vowel, the augment is the lengthening of the initial vowel. Initial vowels are lengthened as follows:

α becomes η
ε becomes η
ι does not change
ο becomes ω
υ does not change

These changes hold true even when the stem begins with a diphthong. But in the case of the diphthongs αι, ει, & οι, there is an additional change: The ι drops beneath the lengthened vowel to become a iota subscript. The result is as follows:

αι becomes
ει becomes
οι becomes

The augment only occurs in the indicative mood. And it is only in the indicative mood that absolute time of action is inferred by tense. You can associate the augment with past time. 


  Imperfect Active Indicative  
  Imperfect tense is formed using the 1st principal part

The conjugation of the indicative mood of λύω is given in this table. Notice the six forms of λύω listed across the top of the table. These are the six "principle parts." They are the forms on which the various tense/voice/mood combinations are formed. Look at the simplified table below and notice that the present tense and the imperfect tense are formed using the same principle part stem, the first principle part stem:

principle part λύω λύσω ἔλυσα λέλυκα λέλυμαι ἐλύθην


future act/mid aorist act/mid perfect act.

pluperfect act.

perfect mid/pass

pluperfect mid/pass

aorist pass

future pass

Imperfect tense is formed with an augmented stem and secondary endings

Although the imperfect tense uses the same principle part as does the present, it looks different for two reasons:

(1) it uses secondary tense endings

(2) the stem is augmented, that is, a change is made to the beginning of the stem consisting of either a lengthened initial vowel or a prefixed epsilon.

augment + stem + variable vowel + secondary (active) tense ending


add the secondary (active) tense ending...

  λυ ν   λυ μεν
  λυ ς   λυ τε
  λυ   λυ ν

...insert the variable vowel, ο before μ or ν, otherwise ε

  λυ ο ν   λυ ο μεν
  λυ ε ς   λυ ε τε
  λυ ε   λυ ο ν

Finally, add the augment...

  λυον   λύομεν
  λυες   λύετε
  λυε   λυον

As a review, let's look at the conjugated forms, identifying each part. 

augment + stem + variable
+ secondary (active)
tense ending
ε   λυ   ο   ν
ε   λυ   ε   ς
ε   λυ   ε    
ε   λυ   ο   μεν
ε   λυ   ε   τε
ε   λυ   ο   ν

The third person singular form may have the movable ν. This, then, is the conjugation of the imperfect active indicative of λύω

  singular   plural
1st person ἔλυον I was loosing ἐλύομεν  we were loosing
2nd person ἔλυες you were loosing ἐλύετε you (pl.) were loosing
3rd person ἔλυε(ν) he, she, it was loosing ἔλυον they were loosing

  Augmentation of Compound Verbs  

Remember that prepositions may be combined with verbs to form compound words. When such compounds are augmented, as in the Imperfect Indicative, the augmentation usually occurs at the beginning of the original verb stem, not at the beginning of the compounded word. Also note that the accent does not precede the augment in a compound verb.

Consider the three compound verbs introduced on page 72, section 9.1.3 of your text book (p. 49 of the 1986 edition), ἀπολύω, ἐκβάλλω, and συνάγω...

Taking the last one first, συνάγω is a compound of σύν and ἄγω. The Imperfect Act. Ind. of this word will have an augment, but the augment will occur at the beginning of the stem, ἄγ-, not at the beginning of the preposition σύν. Because the stem begins with a vowel, the augment consists of the lengthening of that vowel, and we remember that for purposes of augmentation, α lengthens to η. Thus we arrive at the form of the Imperfect Act. Ind., 1st person sing. for this verb, συνῆγον.

preposition + augmented
+ variable
+ secondary (active)
tense ending
συν   ηγ   ο   ν

In the case of ἐκβάλλω, the verb stem βαλλ- is augmented by the addition of ε.
The preposition
ἐκ becomes ἐξ before a vowel, and accordingly, the form of the Imperfect Act. Ind., 1st person sing. for this verb is ἐξέβαλλον.

preposition + augmented
+ variable
+ secondary (active)
tense ending
ἐξ   εβαλλ   ο   ν

In the case of ἀπολύω, the verb stem λυ- is augmented by the addition of ε.
The preposition
ἀπό loses its final vowel, and accordingly, the form of the Imperfect Act. Ind., 1st person sing. for this verb is ἀπέλυον.

preposition + augmented
+ variable
+ secondary (active)
tense ending
ἀπ   ελυ   ο   ν

  Imperfect of εἰμί  

The imperfect of the verb to be is not conjugated in the manner described above. You will notice similarities, but you will need to simply commit these six forms to memory.

  singular     plural  
1st person ἤμην I was   ἦμεν we were
2nd person ἦς you were   ἦτε you (plural) were
3rd person ἦν he, she, it was   ἦσαν they were


  Conditions contrary to fact  

You have already learned to use εἰ for the English if in conditional sentences. The conditional sentences we have discussed so far are all of a very simple type. They are called Type I conditional sentences. They involve the particle εἰ used with a verb in the indicative mood.

Now we introduce Type II conditional sentences. The typical construction is

εἰ ...[secondary tense indic. verb]..., ...ἄν...[secondary tense indic. verb]...

This construction is used when the speaker means to indicate that what he hypothesizes is contrary to fact. For example...

If the earth were flat, ships would sail off the edge.

If I had a nickel for every time a student forgets an accent mark, I would be rich.

In "if...then..." sentences, the if part of the sentence is called the protasis, and the then part of the sentence is called the apodosis. Notice that in the two examples above, the protasis is understood to be untrue, or contrary to fact. The earth is not flat. I do not have a nickel for every time a student forgets an accent mark. (But I'm considering instituting that as a policy!)

Also notice that in English, the protasis of such sentences uses a verb form that can function as a past tense verb: If the earth were flat; If I had a nickel.. However, we are not indicating past time in these sentences. We are talking about the present. If the earth were flat right now...; If at the present time I had a nickel...I would be rich.

Also notice that the apodosis in such sentences often uses the word would. In fact, the construction we are using in such English sentences is the subjunctive mood, and the subjunctive mood often uses the word would as well as verb forms that in other contexts would be considered past tense.

In Greek, a Type II conditional sentence is a way of achieving the same idea without using the subjunctive mood. But it is similar to the English construction in that a verb is used that in other contexts might be considered past tense.

Also, the particle ἄν is very often found in the apodosis. ἄν itself does not have an English equivalent, but where you find ἄν in Greek, you will very likely need to supply would in your English translation. In the following example, ἄν comes after the secondary tense verb in the apodosis:

εἰ ...[secondary tense indic. verb]..., [secondary tense indic. verb] ἄν ...

εἰ γὰρ ἐπιστεύετε Μωϋσεῖ, ἐπιστεύετε ἂν ἐμοι  Jn. 5:46
for if you were believing Moses, you would believe me

Imperfects are used in both the protasis and the apodosis, ἐπιστεύετε in both places. But the thought is not that those addressed would have believed Jesus at some time in the past if they had believed Moses at some time in the past. The imperfects here are not used to indicate past time, but to indicate that those addressed are not in fact believing Moses, that the hypothesis is contrary to fact.


In summary...

  • Type II conditional sentences use secondary tenses in the indicative mood, usually in both the protasis and in the apodosis, but do not necessarily indicate past time.
  • When the imperfect tense is used in such sentences, present time is regularly in view.
  • Type II conditional sentences often have ἄν in the apodosis.
  • The speaker means to indicate that the protasis is contrary to fact.
  • The English translation will use the subjunctive mood involving a past tense verb form in the protasis.


In your text book, read the discussion of adverbs on page 86. (See pages 60-61 in the 1986 edition.)

  Assignment for Lesson 1  
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