GCSE Latin: Indicative Active Perfect


Perfect Tense

There are two main ways to translate the perfect tense from Latin to English, for example:

portavi I carried
or I have carried

The first of these (“I carried”) refers to a completed action in the past, and is the way this tense should usually be translated.

The second of these (“I have carried”) refers to a completed action in the present. This translation can only be used in a section of direct speech.

The Latin perfect has a unique set of personal endings:

singular 1st -i
2nd -isti
3rd -it
plural 1st -imus
2nd -istis
3rd -erunt

This tense also uses a verb’s perfect stem, which almost always differs from the present stem, in some cases considerably so. Knowledge of conjugations is of only limited help.

Paradigms

Perfect Tense (Indicative Active)
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
singular 1st portav-i monu-i rex-i audiv-i cep-i
2nd portav-isti monu-isti rex-isti audiv-isti cep-isti
3rd portav-it monu- it rex- it audiv- it cep- it
plural 1st portav-imus monu-imus rex-imus audiv-imus cep-imus
2nd portav-istis monu- istis rex- istis audiv- istis cep- istis
3rd portav-erunt monu- erunt rex- erunt audiv- erunt cep- erunt

Patterns

Perfect Tense (Indicative Active)
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
The 1st Conjugation is the most predictable for perfect stems: all end in -av- (e.g. porto/portavi), except do/dedi and sto/steti. Perfect stems in the 2nd Conjugation end in -u- roughly half the time (e.g. timeo/timui, terreo/terrui) but otherwise vary (e.g. sedeo/sedi, rideo/risi). The 3rd Conjugation is the most unpredicatable. An “s” sound is common (e.g. misi, scripsi, discessi, dixi), but practically all need to be learned as though additional vocabulary. The 4th Conjugation is either like audio/audivi or venio/veni (as in veni, vidi, vici), along with sentio/sensi Perfect stems in the 5th Conjugation are various, but a change of vowel to an -e- is common (e.g. facio/feci, capio/cepi, iacio/ieci)