Sunday, 1 July 2012

In principio and the imperfect tense

For your revision, translate:

Introibo ad altare deum

ædificabo ecclesiam meam

et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam.

Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum.

Incidentally, I have just discovered at site that teaches Latin based on the Vulgate.  It is worth a look (but don't desert me!)

For ourselves, we are going to look at the beginning of the Last Gospel of the EF, that is the opening verses of St John's Gospel.

You will need to learn this by heart, as well, but I don't know of a good musical setting, as it is spoken by the Priest at Mass.

In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. 
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word.

Hoc erat in principio apud Deum. 
The same was in the beginning with God.

Omnia per ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est. 
All things by Him were made: and without Him was made nothing, which was made.

In ipso vita erat, et vita erat lux hominum: 
In Him was life, and life was the light of men:

et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt.
and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not comprehend it.

So why are we looking at this?  One reason is that it (and the following verses) is one of my favourite passages, both for poetry and theology, in the Bible.

But more practically, it gives me an excuse to introduce the imperfect tense. 
In fact if only has one imperfect verb, erat, but it does mention it many times!

Erat is the third person singular of the verb to be: he, she or it was.

Here is the whole of the imperfect of esse: to be

eram        I was
eras         you were (thou wert) singular
erat          he, she or it was
eramus   we were
eratis       you (plural) were
erant        they were

Which reminds me, we never looked at the present of esse.

sum        I am
es            you are (thou art) singular
est           he, she or it is
sumus    we are
estis        you (plural) are
sunt        they are

(famously, of course: antequam Abraham fieret, ego sum: before Abraham was made, I AM)
But I digress.

What I really want to look at is the imperfect tense.  As in so many languages, to be (esse) in Latin is an irregular verb.  Here is a regular imperfect:

1st conjugation (-are) 

Amare - to love

amabam     I was loving
amabas       you (s) were loving
amabat       he, she or it was loving
amabamus we were loving
amabatis     you (pl) were loving
amabant      they were loving

And you wil find that the imperfect of all regular verbs, end in the -bam, -bas, -bat endings.

So a simple rule of thumb, for regular verbs,  is: to form the imperfect tense, remove ‘-re’ from the infinitive,  and add the relevant ending above. However, if the verb is in the fourth conjugation (-ire), you will need to add an ‘-e’ before adding the relevant ending, as follows:

Audire: to hear

Audiebam  I was hearing, (and so on)

That's all I have time for tonight, but should be enough to keep you going for a week!

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