Ancient Greek verb stems and principal parts 

If you have a list of principal parts for an irregular verb, how do you use that to work out what the stem is?  This simple question does not seem to be addressed directly in the grammars.  Indeed if you look at the grammars and lists of irregular verbs, they do not agree on what is a principal part!

This chart is intended as a guide to how the principal parts of a Greek verb map onto the various tenses and moods.  The data in this chart is essential, once you start to deal with irregular verbs, where you are using something other than the present stem.  Corrections are welcome!


(Present tense system)


  PP*: stem 1 =stem1 =stem1
Imperfect =aug+stem1 =aug+stem1 =aug+stem1

(Future tense system)

Future PP*: stem 2.
= stem1 + σ
=stem2 1 PP*: stem 8.
=stem1 + θε + σ 8

(First aorist tense system)

1st Aorist PP*: stem 3.
= aug+stem2+α
=stem3 PP*: stem6. 5
= aug.+stem2+θε
(Second aorist tense system)
2nd Aorist PP*: stem 7. 2
irregular: cannot be generated 
V. 6
(First perfect tense system)
Perfect PP*: stem 4. 3
= redupl.+stem1+κ
PP*: stem 5.
= redupl.+stem4 4
(Second perfect tense system)
Pluperfect =aug.+stem4 =aug.+stem5 =aug.+stem5
(Perfect middle tense system)
Future Perfect [No such tense] =stem5 + σ =stem5 + σ
(First passive tense system)
(Second passive tense system)


Note that a 'tense system' is a collection of tenses all derived from one of them in a predictable way.  These I have colour coded.  The base tense in any tense system is the Principal Part, and all the other members derive from it regularly, even in an irregular verb.  The principal parts are specified for irregular verbs.

1 If there is no Future Active stem, this may be the specified principal part, stem2.
2 The 2nd Aorist stem is only rarely specified, because no regular verbs have one.  When it is specified, it is always irregular, and cannot be calculated from any other stem.
3 The perfect stem (stem4) is either a first perfect or a second perfect.  The first perfect in a regular verb may be generated as shown.  The second perfect is simply irregular.
4 Note that stem4 = stem5 + κ.
5 The aorist passive stem (stem6) is either a first aorist passive or a second aorist passive.  The first aorist passive can be generated as shown.  The second aorist passive is in theory found by prefixing an epsilon to the 'verb-stem' (a basically useless concept, as far as I can see, except for regular verbs which, of course, do not have second aorist passives) but since the vowel in the stem also changes in various ways, it's basically irregular.
6 V. and VI. are coded the same colour, although there are in fact both 1st and 2nd perfect and 1st and 2nd pluperfect involved.  This is because it makes no difference for stem purposes.  stem4 is either regular (as for 1st perfect) or irregular (for 2nd perfect).  The other stems are generated from each of these in the same way.
7 VIII. and IX. are coded the same way, although they refer to 1st aorist passive and 1st future passive; or 2nd aorist passive, and 2nd future passive.  
8 I can find no description of how to form this from an irregular stem, so am presuming from inspection of forms in luw.  However it seems to be often simply irregular.


PP* = principal part.  There are 7 of these, which are specified for irregular verbs.
'=' = how this stem is normally generated from some other stem.  In a regular verb, PP's 2-7 can be generated this way.
'aug' = 'augment'.  This is where we add 'e' to the front, or some variant of that.  So λυ- -> ελυ-
redupl. = 'reduplicate'.  This is where we double the first syllable.  So λυ- -> λepsilon;λυ-

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

Written 2nd September 2005.

This page has been online since 2nd September 2005.

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