Meaning of the Perfect

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28. The perfect denotes a lasting condition or attitude (ἕξις). If we compare the meaning of any perfect with that of the corresponding aorist or present, we shall usually find that the perfect denotes a permanent state, the aorist or present an action which brings about or constitutes that state.

  • δαίω
    kindle
     
     
  • δέδηε
    blazes
    or (better) is ablaze
     
  • κύθε
    hid
     
  • κέκευθε
    has in hiding
     
  • ὄρ-νυ-ται
    bestirs himself
     
  • ὄρωρε
    is astir
     
  • ὤλε-το
    was lost
     
  • ὄλωλε
    is undone
     
  • ἤραρε
    made to fit
     
  • ἄρηρε
    fits
     
  • ταράσσω (intransitive)
    I disturb
     
  • τετρήχει
    was in disorder
     
  • μείρο-μαι
    I divide
     
  • ἔμμορε
    has for his share
     
  • ῥύομαι
    save, shelter
     
  • εἰρύ-αται
    keep safe
     
  • τεύχω
    I make
     
     
  • τέ-τυκ-ται
    is by making
    (not has been made)
     
  • ἔφυ
    grew
     
  • πέφυκε
    is by growth
     

Thus the so-called perfecta praesentia, βέβηκα, ἕστηκα, γέγηθα, μέμνημαι, πέποιθα, οἶδα, ἔοικα, κέκτημαι, etc., are merely the commonest instances of the rule.

Note the large number of Homeric perfects denoting attitude, temper, etc. Besides those already mentioned we have

  • παρμέμβλωκε
    is posted beside
     
  • δέδορκε
    is gazing
     
  • ἔρριγε
    shudders
     
  • τέτηκα
    I am wasting
     
  • μέμυκε
    is closed (of wounds)
     
  • δεδάκρυσαι
    are in tears
     
  • δέδεξο
    be in waiting
     
  • ὀρωρέχατο
    were on the stretch
     
  • πεποτήαται
    are on the wing
     
  • κέκμηκα
    I am weary
     
  • προβέβουλα
    I prefer
     
  • δείδια
    fear
     
  • ἔολπα
    I hope
     
  • τέθηπα
    I am in amazement
     
  • τέτληκας
    you have heart
     
  • πέπνῡται
    has his sense
     
  • δειδέχαται
    welcome1

together with many participles

  • κεχηνώς
    agape
     
  • κεκαφηώς
    panting
     
  • πεπτηώς
    cowering
     
  • συνοχωκότε
    bent together
     
  • κεκοτηώς
    in wrath
     
  • τετιηώς
    vexed
     
  • ἀδηκώς
    disgusted
     
  • μεμηλώς
    in thought
     
  • πεφυλαγμένος
    on the watch
     
  • δεδραγμένος
    clutching
     
  • λελιημένος
    eager
  • κεχολωμένος
    enraged, etc.

So in later Greek: ἐξηνθηκός (Thuc. 2.49) in eruption, ἐσπουδασμένος in haste.

Verbs expressing sustained sounds, especially cries of animals, are usually in the perfect.

  • γέγωνε
    shouts
     
  • βέβρυχε
    roars
     
  • κεκληγώς
     
  • λεληκώς
     
  • μεμηκώς
     
  • μεμυκώς
     
  • τετριγώς
  • ἀμφιαχυῖα

So in Attic, βοῶν καὶ κεκραγώς (Dem.).

With verbs of striking the perfect seems to express continuance, and so completeness.

κεκοπώς

πεπληγώς

βεβολήατο
was tossed about

βεβλήκει
made his hit

ἠρήρειστο
was driven home

(Cp. Ar. Av. 1350 ὃς ἂν πεπλήγῃ τὸν πατέρα νεοττὸς ὤν)

Note the number of imperatives of the perfect in Homer.

τέτλαθι
μέματε
δέδεξο
τέθναθι
δείδιθι
κέκλυθι
ἄνωχθι

middle

τετύχθω
let it be ordered

τετράφθω
let him keep himself turned

(In later Greek this use seems to be confined to the middle: μὴ πεφόβησθε do not be in alarm, πέπαυσο keep silence.)

The number of Homeric perfects which can be rendered by have is comparatively small. The chief instances in the active are

ἔοργας
you have done

ὄπωπα
have seen

λέλοιπε
has left

πέπασθε
you have suffered

ἐδηδώς

βεβρωκώς
having eaten

they are somewhat commoner in the middle. Yet in the use of these perfects (and probably in the perfect of every period of Greek) we always find some continuing result implied. There is nothing in Greek like the Latin idiom fuit Ilium (Ilium is no longer), vixi (have done with living), etc.

The intransitive meaning prevails in the perfect, so that the active is hardly distinguishable from the middle: cp. τέτευχε and τέτυκται, πεφευγώς and πεφυγμένος, γέγονα and γεγένημαι. Compare also the perfect active with the present middle in such instances as ὄλωλα and ὄλλυμαι, πέποιθα and πείθομαι, βέβουλα and βούλομαι, ἔολπα and ἔλπομαι. The forms τέτροφα, ἔφθορα are intransitive in Homer, but transitive in Attic: and an intransitive or almost passive meaning is conspicuous in the Homeric group of participles κεκοτηώς enraged, τετιηώς (= τετιη-μένος) vexed, κεκορηώς (= κεκορη-μένος) satiated, βεβαρηώς heavy, κεχαρηώς rejoicing, κεκαφηώς panting22.9.b).

  • 1. In the attitude of holding out the hand, while δεικνύ-μενος denotes the action.