Verb tenses

Introduction to Verb Tenses

  • In Classical Greek, verb tenses refer to the time at which the action of a verb takes place.
  • There are primarily three tenses: present, past (or imperfect), and future.
  • Tenses also tell us about the aspect of the verb, i.e., whether the action is ongoing, completed, or yet to begin.

Present Tense

  • The present tense in Greek indicates an action that is currently happening or a general truth.
  • To form the present tense, the verb stem is generally used with various personal endings.
  • For example, the verb ‘λύω’ (I release) in the present indicative active changes as per the subject: λύεις (you release), λύει (he/she/it releases), λύομεν (we release), λύετε (you release), and λύουσι(ν) (they release).

Past Tense

  • The past tense (or imperfect) in Greek describes an action that took place in the past and is now finished.
  • It is formed by adding an augment, typically ε- or η-, to the verb stem, followed by the personal endings.
  • For example, with the augment, ‘λύω’ becomes ‘ἔλυον’ (I released), and with the corresponding changes, you get: ἔλυες (you released), ἔλυε(ν) (he/she/it released), ἐλύομεν (we released), ἐλύετε (you released), and ἔλυσαν (they released).

Future Tense

  • The future tense refers to an action that will occur in the future.
  • Often, the addition of a sigma (σ) to the verb stem forms the future tense, followed by the personal endings.
  • For instance, ‘λύω’ becomes ‘λύσω’ (I will release), and similarly: λύσεις (you will release), λύσει (he/she/it will release), λύσομεν (we will release), λύσετε (you will release), and λύσουσι(ν) (they will release).


  • Like declensions, recognizing and using these verb endings will require frequent practice.
  • Your task is to recognize and use these tenses appropriately in sentence structuring and translation.
  • Aside from these core tenses, Greek also has perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect to consider, which involve the action’s state of completion.