previous next


(H. Blase: Geschichte des Plusquamperfekts im Lateinischen. Giessen, 1893.)

Plautus often seems to use the Pluperfect as the equivalent of the Perfect, e.g.

Mil. 132meum erum qui Athenis fuerat”, has the same sense as Mil. 127meum erum Athenis qui fuit”. (In Asin. 356ego me dixeram adducturum”, editors change dixeram to dixi erum.) The ambiguity of fueram with Perfect Participle Passive is turned to account by the cunning slave in Most. 821A. eo pretio emptae fuerant olim. B. audinfuerantdicere?

Two explanations are possible. One is that Tense-signification1 is not so definite and precise in the early stage of a language as in the later, so that amaveram and amavi may have been as interchangeable in Plautine Latin as amavero and amabo (see above, 17). Another theory restricts the interchange to the Verb sum, and tries to prove that, while Plautus uses fueram (conceivably a mixture of fui and eram) for fui, he never uses, e.g., amaveram for amavi; this extension of the license from sum to other Verbs was, according to this theory, a gradual process in Latin, and culminated in that Late Latin substitution of Pluperfect for Perfect which is reflected in the Romance Conjugation, e.g. O. Fr. vidra (= Latin viderat) ‘he saw.’ (See my note on Capt. 17.)

In the Pluperfect Deponent and Passive we find the same use of fueram beside eram as of fui beside sum in the Perfect (20) and of fuero beside ero in the Future Perfect (18).

1 The latest theories regarding the Indo-European Verb make out the character of an action (instantaneous, protracted, completed), rather than the time of its occurrence, to have differentiated the Indo-European Verbal formations. Thus the Present Tense would have originally no sense of Present Time, but would merely characterize an action as a process; traces of this tense-less use survive in Latin in sentences conveying general maxims, e.g. Plautus Capt. 232quod sibi volunt (homines), dum id impetrant, boni sunt”.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: