perfect vs imperfect

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at
Wed Mar 21 19:47:44 EST 2001

Dear Mike,

You ask:

>Does anyone have of a concise statement of the difference in
>meaning/aspect between the Hebrew perfect and imperfect?  And perhaps an
>example or two to illustrate the differences?

I do not really want to give illustrations, but a way to think of the two
conjugations is that of incomplete (imperfect) versus complete (perfect)
action. The Hebrew imperfect corresponds somewhat to the English present
and imperfect, the Hebrew perfect to the English past and perfect. The
correspondence is in the idea that English present and imperfect (e.g., "I
was hitting") describe ongoing or repeated actions. The English past and
perfect usually describe complete actions. There is a lot of time overlap
in the Hebrew conjugations since Hebrew imperfect and perfect are not
tenses in the sense of giving clear time indicators, but they are aspects,
in speaking of action as complete or incomplete. Thus both can be used of
past time or future time.

I may know you, Mike, from an E.T.S. conference after which I send you a
paper. I am just guessing though. The paper would have concerned

				Harold Holmyard

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list