from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The aorist ( Greek  ἀόριστος aóristos , indefinite “time”) is a tense of the past in some Indo-European as well as in some other languages, such as Georgian . Unlike other past tenses such as the past tense ( past tense ) or Perfect , describing events in the past, as an individual once completed actions, so at certain points are considered. It thus includes the perfect verbal aspect . This aspect of the aorist can in some forms supersede the temporal.

The grammatical term aorist is used inconsistently and sometimes inconsistently for other languages. In Turkish, for example, it describes a tense that expresses something that comes closer to the imperfect aspect.

The aorist in the Indo-European languages


It is assumed that the aorist in the Indo-European original language only expressed the aspect , but was associated with the temporal meaning early on. Similar to Greek , the aorist in Sanskrit was originally a time and aspect category. The differences in meaning between the past tenses of Sanskrit faded early on.

In many Indo-European languages, the aorist (or its equivalents from the Latin perfect) and the imperfect form a semantic pair. The difference between the two can be understood using German verb pairs such as “see” and “view”, “find” and “seek”, “hear” and “listen”; in each of these pairs the first verb has a meaning similar to the aorist: it denotes a unique, completed action with a clearly defined beginning and end - a phenomenon that occurs in a similar way in other languages, such as Hindi . The second verb, on the other hand, indicates an ongoing process that cannot be restricted to a specific moment or a specific action; Repeated or familiar actions can also be displayed in this way.

Going beyond tenses, this dual aspect provided the basis for word meanings in Proto-Indo- European . This is well demonstrated in ancient Greek . For example, there is no tense distinction in the subjunctive and the desire form, but only an aspect distinction, so that the pair ἀκούωμεν and ἀκούσωμεν between “we want to listen” and “we want to hear ('hear')” and not between “we want to listen ”and“ we want to have listened ”.


In Urindo-European there were several forms of formation of the Aorist, which can best be understood using the Greek and Sanskrit (ancient Indian). Even in Latin, in which the aorist has coincided with the perfect , old aorist forms live on as forms of formation of the perfect. In ancient Greek and Sanskrit, the aorist, like all past tenses, receives an augment . The following forms of formation of the aorist stand out as the most widely used:

The s-aorist

The s-aorist or sigmatic aorist (after the Greek letter sigma ) is formed with the tense symbol - s . In Indo-European it was formed from an accentuated prefixed augment , the expansion stage of the root and the prefixed secondary endings . Examples:

  • Ancient Greek ἀκούω akouō "I hear" - ἤκουσα , ēkousa "I heard" (regular formation of the weak aorist).
  • Sanskrit करोमि karomi “I do” - अकार्षम् akārṣam “I made” (ṣ <s (see ruki rule ), stretched ā).
  • Latin dīcō "I say" - dīxī (<* dic-si) "I said" (so-called s-perfect, root-ī).
  • Old Church Slavonic вести vesti "lead" - вѣсъ věsъ "I led" (stretched ě [<idg. * Ē])

Thematic aorist / strong aorist

The thematic aorist in Sanskrit is formed without the tense sign, but with the theme vowel a . Correspondingly, some strong aorist forms in ancient Greek are also formed without the tense sign. If necessary, the quantitative ablaut comes into play, whereby the verb has the normal level in the present tense and the shrinkage level in the aorist. The way in which the past tense is formed in the strong verbs of German is also a holdover from the Indo-European Ablauts. Example:

  • Ancient Greek λείπω leipō "I leave" - ἔλιπον elipon "I left".
  • Sanskrit शक्नोमि śaknomi "I can" - अशकम् aśakam "I could"

Root aorist

With the root aorist , the verbal root is identical to the aorist stem. In Indo-European it was formed from a prefixed stressed augment, the full stage of the root and the secondary endings. Examples:

  • Ancient Greek γιγνώσκω gignōskō "I know" - ἔγνων egnōn "I recognized".
  • Sanskrit ददामि dadāmi “I give” - अदाम् adām “I gave”.
  • Latin videō "I see" - vīdī "I saw" (so-called stretch perfect ).
  • Old Church Slavonic ѹсънѫти usъnǫti (<* ѹ-съп-нѫ-ти u-sъp-nǫ-ti , so-called " law of the open syllable ") "to fall asleep" - ѹсъпъ "I fell asleep".

Reduplicated aorist

The reduplicated aorist is formed by doubling the first stem syllable ( reduplication ), a method that is otherwise typical for the perfect. Examples:

  • Ancient Greek ἄγω agō "I lead" - ἤγαγον ēgagon
  • Sanskrit द्रवामि dravāmi "I run" - अदुद्रवम् adudravam "I ran".


Modern Greek

Since there is a strict distinction in Greek between one-off and repeated / permanent actions, many tenses have two different verb forms to express the respective aspect. The basis for these two verb forms are the two stems that (almost) every verb in modern Greek has: the present stem and the aorist stem . There are two forms for the future tense (θα κλαίω - θα κλάψω), the simple past (έκλαιγα - έκλαψα), the imperative (κλαίγε! - κλάψε!) And all subjunctive forms (e.g. να κωαίω - να κωαίω - να κωαίω - να κωαίω - but not, for example, for the indicative present tense (κλαίω) and all tenses that are formed with auxiliary verbs, such as B. the perfect perfect (έχω κλάψει) or the past perfect (είχα κλάψει). The German does not know the morphological distinction between two verb forms according to aspect in this form: I went can express a single as well as a constantly repeated walk, while here in Greek you absolutely have to form two different verb forms: πήγα (aorist) ich went (once ; I actually went) - πήγαινα ( Paratatikos ) I went (always, usually, regularly; just when something else happened) .

The terms aorist indicative and aorist subjunctive are used in textbooks , although this terminology is unfortunate for several reasons. On the one hand, the terms imply a pair of opposites in which the distinguishing feature is the mode . On the other corresponding aorist subjunctive in its most common use is not as a time step of the present mode of the subjunctive mood of most other Indo-European languages, which thus realize only the expression of desire or ability. In modern Greek it serves more as a general constructor in the sentence structure hypotax and plays an important role for the infinitive substitute. Finally, as an aspect-marked past tense, the aorist indicative is not opposed to the subjunctive, but to the paratatikos .

The aorist indicative expresses a mostly punctual and unique action in the past.

  • τρέχω run > έτρεξα I ran
  • βρίσκω find > βρήκα I found
  • διδάσκω teaching > δίδαξα I taught
  • αισθάνομαι feel > αισθάνθηκα I felt

The examples given here express a one-time act. If, on the other hand, you want to express permanence, repetition or simultaneity, you need the past tense of the present stem , the Paratatikos : έβρισκα κάθε μέρα ... I found every day ... , ήθελε να πλλμε σινεμά, αλλμά εγώ αισυθα. he wanted us to go to the movies, but i felt bad.

Even the retrospective conclusion of a longer period of time is usually expressed with the aorist, although it is a permanent or repetitive act:

  • Προσπάθησε στη ζωή του να είναι πάντα γενναιόδωρος. He tried to always be generous in his life.
  • But: Προσπαθούσε πάντα να είναι γενναιόδωρος. He always tried to be generous. Here the verb is not in the aorist, but in the paratatikos , since it is always connected with πάντα - one of several signal words that contradict the punctual character of the aorist and require the paratatikos. In the first example, προσπαθ steht is in the aorist, since it is connected here with the summing-up punctual στη ζωή του in his life and πάντα depends on είναι!

The aorist subjunctive is used after words that require the subjunctive, and also expresses uniqueness, punctuality. It can refer to different time levels:

  • Ήθελε να με βρει . He wanted to find me.
  • Θα έρθετε τελικά; Are you actually coming now? / Will you come eventually?
  • Ας έρθει ! Just let him come!
  • Πριν φύγετε , κλείστε τα παράθυρα! Close the windows before you go!
  • Να τα βάλω εδώ; Should I put them here?

The following also applies here: If permanence or repetition is to be expressed, the subjunctive must be formed from the present stem (which is identical to the present indicative): Θα έρχεστε ; Will you (always) come? , Να τα βάζω εδώ; Should I put them here (basically, every time)?

Finally, the imperative is also formed analogously to whether a one-off and punctual, or repeated, fundamental action is requested:

  • Imperative from the Aorist tribe (very often): βάλε! κλείσε! βρες! εξαφανίσου! έλα! Leg! Close! Find! Get out! Come over!
  • Imperative from the present stem (less often): βάζε! κλείνε! βρίσκε! να εξαφανίζεσαι! να έρχεσαι! Always lay! Close every time! Find every time! Go away every time! Always come!

It should also be mentioned that in some very common verbs the present tense and aorist stem are identical, for example in κάνω make . The verbs είμαι sein , έχω have and ξέρω know also do not distinguish between aspects.

Lower Sorbian and other Slavic languages

One of the three forms of the formation of the past tense in the Lower Sorbian written language in addition to perfect and past perfect is the simple past tense or synthetic: Imperfect and Aorist. Except in the verbal class o / jo -VII, the aorist is formed from the infinitive stem to which the personal endings of the aorist are added; for example to the trunk padnu- the endings padnuch / padnu / padnuchu . The verbs of the class o / jo -VII form the aorist from the - e - final nominal stem, to which the personal endings of the aorist are added (example: to the stem narosć - narosće - the forms: narosćech , narosće , - chu ). In most verbal classes, the imperfect tense and the aorist differ only in the 2nd and 3rd person singular. In some verbal classes, the imperfect tense and aorist have different vowels in all persons before the personal ending (exception: aorist forms in verbal class j -I).

The Bulgarian language has developed a double system of aspects: the perfective and the imperfective aspect are realized in two stems of the verb and in two different past tenses, the aorist (as the usual narrative time ) and the imperfect (as a kind of progression of the past). In Serbo-Croatian , the aorist is only used regionally (especially in rural Serbia) in the oral language, otherwise only in the written language. The past tense has only survived in the written language.

Past tense of the Romance languages

In the Spanish past tense (sp. Pretérito indefinido ) (and indefinido and imperfecto ) there are unique , perfect, punctual actions of the past . It corresponds in a similar form to the other Romance preterita, e.g. B. French passé simple , Italian passato remoto and Romanian perfectul simplu . If one compares the pretérito indefinido with the pretérito imperfecto, it turns out that both times express actions or events in the past. But only by determining the time within the sentence can you see which form has been chosen, so there are clear rules regarding the different uses of these times.

The aorist in Turkish

In the grammar of Turkish the term aorist is used in the opposite way to the terminology of the Indo-European languages. Turkish has six basic and six derived tenses. Aorist (Turkish geniş zaman , German also r -Presens, after the ending of the 3rd person singular, cf. sev er 'he / it / she likes') and the derived past aorist (geniş zamanın hikâyesi) generally denote processes without specifying a time limit. The Turkish aorist thus has a modal component and is used for processes that do not have a time limit, for example for processes in the imagination that are not (yet) taking place. Among other things, it is used in polite forms or hypothetical statements. Another use is to denote habitual processes in which the speaker emphasizes his own, subjective or knowing position. The aorist in the past denotes, on the one hand, the habitual action in the past, and, on the other hand, an even more personally considered process, regardless of the time level. Examples:


  • Dikkat et, yoksa düşersin . - 'Be careful, otherwise you will fall.'
  • Yemeğin yanına ne alırsınız ? - 'What do you take as a side dish with your meal?'
  • Kızım sebze sever . - 'My daughter likes vegetables.'

The word döner is also an aorist form of the verb dönmek 'turn' and, analogous to the Greek gyros, designates the rotating meat skewer as an elliptical form .

  • Dünya doner . - 'The earth rotates.'

Aorist in the past

  • Böyle bir şey yapmazdım . - 'I would not have / would not have done something like that.'
  • Yemeğin yanına ne alırdınız ? - 'What would you like to have as a side dish with your meal?'
  • Çocukken futbol oynardım . - 'As a child I used to play football.'

The aorist of Quenya

There is also an "aorist" in the artificial language Quenya , one of the languages ​​from the world of Tolkien . There it refers to an indefinite action for which the time or duration is irrelevant, because z. B. this action is constantly repeated or a state is permanent or unchangeable. In German it would mostly correspond to the present tense ("Atlantis lies in the sea").


  • Jón Axel Harðarson: Studies on the Urindo-European root laurelist and its representation in Indo-Iranian and Greek . In: Innsbruck contributions to linguistics . tape 74 . Innsbruck 1993, ISBN 978-3-85124-637-7 (doctoral thesis from 1991).

To the aorist in Greek

  • Adolf Kaegi: Greek school grammar . Weidmann, Zurich.
  • Hans Ruge: Grammar of Modern Greek (phonology, form theory, syntax) . Cologne 2001.

To the aorist in Bulgarian

  • Nadia Christophorov: L'emploi de l'aoriste et du parfait en bulgare modern . In: Bibliotheca Slavonica . tape 8 . Hakkert, Amsterdam 1972.
  • Vassilka Radeva, Hilmar Walter, Jordan Pencev, Sigrun Comati: Bulgarian grammar - basic morphological and syntactic features . Ed .: Vassilka Radeva. Helmut Buske Verlag, 2003, ISBN 978-3-87548-321-5 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Aorist  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Διονυσίου τοῦ Θραικὸς τέχνη γραμματική , (Greek)
  2. ^ D. Alan Cruse: Lexicology / Lexicology. 2nd half-volume, volumes 21-22 of handbooks for linguistics and communication science / Handbooks of Linguistics and Communication Science (HSK), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-11-019424-4 , p. 1006
  3. Pretérito perfecto simple also historical perfect
  4. Georg Bossong: The Romance Languages: A Comparative Introduction. Niemeyer study book, Buske Verlag, Tübingen 2008, ISBN 3-87548-518-1 , p. 93
  5. ¿Por qué se le da al pretérito perfecto simple también el nombre de indefinido o pretérito indefinido? Se trata de un tiempo que designa una acción bien "definida", con principio y fin. Justo Fernández López, Hispanoteca
  6. Olaf Krause: On the meaning and function of the categories of the verbal aspect in language comparison. Pp. 1-31
  7. ^ Margarete I. Ersen-Rasch: Turkish grammar . Hueber, Ismaning 2001, ISBN 3-19-005185-2 .