CL210: Intermediate Latin Skidmore College/Spring, 2008 C. Welser What is the Sequence of Tenses? As you know by now, certain kinds of subordinate clauses in Latin require the subjunctive mood. With practice, you’ll learn to recognize these kinds of clauses and to understand the significance of the subjunctive in them. But the tenses in which the subjunctive appears in subordinate clauses can seem confusing at first. The sequence of tenses explains why subjunctives in subordinate clauses are in the tenses that they’re in, and it provides insight as to how they ought to be translated. I. Primary and Secondary Tenses of the Indicative Actually Latin has two “sequences of tenses,” one primary and one secondary. The secondary sequence is also called the “historical” sequence. ►The primary sequence includes all forms of the indicative whose action is NOT YET COMPLETE when the sentence containing the verb is spoken or written. Thus, the indicatives in the primary sequence are normally the present, future, and future perfect.* ►The secondary or historical sequence includes all forms of the indicative whose action IS COMPLETE when the sentence containing the verb is spoken or written. The indicatives in primary sequence are normally the imperfect, perfect, and pluperfect.* II. Subjunctives in Primary and Secondary Sequence The tense of a subjunctive in a subordinate clause is determined by two things: (1) Whether the verb in the main clause is a primary- or secondary-tense verb. If it is the former, the subjunctive follows the rules for the primary sequence. If it is the latter, the subjunctive follows the rules for the secondary sequence. (2) Whether the action of the verb in the subordinate clause is seen as being accomplished before that of the verb in the main clause, or whether the action of the verb in the subordinate clause is seen as being accomplished at the same time as, or subsequent to, the action of the verb in the main clause. * Sometimes the perfect tense, when it refers unmistakably to the present situation created by a past action, can also be a primary tense. The verb vēnimus, for example, may mean in English either “we came” OR “we have come.” If it clearly has the second meaning, which is equivalent to “we are here,” then vēnimus could be treated as a primarytense verb: contrast vēnimus ut dōna tibi dēmus (primary sequence: we have come that we may give you gifts) with vēnimus ut dōna tibi darēmus (secondary sequence: we came that we might give you gifts). 1 The tense of a subjunctive verb in a subordinate clause will reflect these two considerations. The chart below shows how they combine to uniquely determine the tense of a subjunctive verb in a subordinate clause. SEQUENCE Primary (Present, Future, or Future Perfect Indicative in the main clause) Secondary/Historical (Perfect, Imperfect, or Pluperfect Indicative in the main clause) Completion of action of verb in subordinate clause relative to completion of action of verb in the main clause. TENSE OF SUBJUNCTIVE IN SUBORDINATE CLAUSE Same Time /After Present Before Perfect Same Time / After Imperfect Before Pluperfect EXAMPLES USING INDIRECT QUESTIONS: Primary Sequence He is asking… He will ask… He will have asked… He is asking… He will ask… He will have asked… what you are doing. Rogat… Rogābit… Rogāverit… quid faciās. what you did. Rogat… Rogābit… Rogāverit… quid fēceris. Secondary Sequence He asked He used to ask He had asked… He asked… He used to ask… He had asked… what you were doing (i.e., when he was asking) what you had done (i.e., before he asked) 2 Rogāvit… Rogābat… Rogāverat… quid facerēs. Rogāvit… Rogābat… Rogāverat… quid fēcissēs.