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Latin - pluperfect tense

Julie in GA

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Our Latin book (LiCT, Vol 2) describes the pluperfect tense (or past perfect in English) as referring to something which has happened a long long time ago. Example given:


perfect tense: I studied yesterday.

pluperfect tense: I had studied a long time ago.


I thought that the pluperfect tense refers to a past action that, when compared to another past action, has already been completed.


Example: By the time I turned 40, I had given birth to 4 children.


This would be the opposite of the "imperfect" tense, which describes a past action that was still going on when compared to another past event (or any continual past action).


Example: I was drinking tea when the lights went off.


So is the "way long ago" definition just an easier one for kids to understand at first? Is that why its used?


I need confirmation or correction. Thanks!

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The pluperfect tense is sometimes called the past perfect tense. Pluperfect comes from two Latin words plus and perfect, and it means "more than perfect". A pluperfect action was completed before another past action. We use the helping verb had with this tense.


HTH! Sounds like you know pluperfect better than they do :eek:

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I'm not sure why the "long ago" definition is used, but I wouldn't teach that to children - it's inaccurate, and they'll just need to unlearn it later on. Your understanding of the pluperfect/past perfect is correct, and Sue explained it well.


One way to think of it is to mentally insert the word "already" into the pluperfect clause:


I had [already] finished dinner when the doorbell rang.


One of my teachers used a sort of timeline with dots and arrows to explain the various tenses. I don't think I can reproduce it by typing, but the idea was to place an event by a dot (perfect tenses) or double-ended arrow (imperfect) and then place other events relative to that. Clear as mud, eh?


Short answer: You're right. Carry on! :D

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