Humanities › History & Culture What Do the Latin Tenses Mean? Share Flipboard Email Print What Do the Latin Tenses Mean?. Sam Edwards / Getty Images History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Ancient Languages Figures & Events Greece Egypt Asia Rome Mythology & Religion American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated March 06, 2017 A reader trying to teach himself Latin asked: What I am trying to find are the meanings for all the other tenses [beyond the Present]. I am new at this and I am tying to make it a little easier for me to understand. He had designed a chart for the paradigms and was trying to insert English translations for all the forms. This might be a good exercise for other Latin students. In my explanation below I mostly use the 1st person singular (the "I"). In English, generally there is a difference between the 1st singular (I) and the 3rd singular (he), as in "I love" but "he loves". Aside from this, it should be a straightforward project. Latin has 6 tenses. PresentImperfectFuturePerfectPluperfectFuture Perfect Here is an example (using the active voice of the 1st conjugation verb amare 'to love'): Present: amo I love, I do love, I am loving Imperfect: amabam I loved, I did love, I was loving, I used to love Future:* amabo I shall love, I am going to love, I am about to love Perfect: amavi I loved, I have loved Pluperfect: amaveram I had loved Future Perfect:* amavero I shall have loved *The "shall" is a bit old-fashioned -- in the U.S., at least. Here we usually replace "shall" with "will". Latin Tenses - Overview In Latin, there are one present tense, three past tenses, and two future tenses. To understand the differences among the tenses, we need to pay attention to when the action takes place (present), took place (past), or will take place (future). In the present tense, the action is taking place in the present. It is happening now.I am reading. Lego.[Present]In the past tenses, it happened in the past, but it may still be going on or it may be finished.If it is finished, it is referred to as perfect, since perfect = completed. You use one of the perfect tenses for such actions. [N.B.: There are 3 perfect tenses. To make matters confusing, one of these tenses is referred to as "the" perfect. It is the most common of the perfects, but be alert.]For the Perfect - think of the English -ed endingWhat the master ORDERED, you NEGLECTED to follow. erus quod imperavit, neglexisti persequi.For the Pluperfect - think "had" + the -ed endingWe had extended our feet. Protuleramus pedes.An imperfect or incomplete past action is repetitive, ongoing or habitual. It may have finished, but that isn't specified. The imperfect tense is used for such actions.For the Imperfect - think "was" + the -ing endingThe teacher praised the boys. Magister pueros laudabat. Note, this could be a one time occurrence and properly take the perfect tense.In the future tenses, an event has yet to occur. If you want to say something will happen, you use a future tense.For the Future - think "will" or "shall" + the verbI will depart tomorrow. Cras proficiscar.You also use a future tense if you want to say something will be completed in the future. Since it's finished, this also requires a perfect tense. So combining future and perfect, you use the future perfect.For the Future Perfect - think "will have" or "shall have" + the verb + the -ed endingI shall have loved. Amavero.See: Endings and Tenses of Latin Verbs Latin FAQ Index Is Latin easy?What do the Latin tenses mean?Do you have any tips on memorizing endings?Where can I find a Latin translation of...? In Latin, how do you say "I used to go"? "Fearless and determined"? "Thank you"? What is the correct Latin for "deus lo vult"?What is the plural of virus?