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
welcome (in the attitude of holding out the hand, while δεικνύ-μενος denotes the action)

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).