A Blast from the Past!

Depending on where you grew up, you will think differently about things that happened in the past. That is because each language has its own way of dealing with past events. Read on and let Tor explain…  

A Blast from the Past! -

In this article Tor will take a different look at the two most important ways to express past tense in Norwegian. Join Tor for a Latin Blast from the Past!

– Have you done it?


– Did you do it?

  To explain the difference between these two sentences, we use the latin terms:  

Perfektum (also known as Presens Perfektum these days)



  So what did those old Latin guys have in mind when they came up with Latin words like Perfektum and Preteritum? Latin words that we have to learn in order to speak better Norwegian – in order to get our permanent residency in Norway?!!   Here’s some completely unrelated Latin Jazz – have a listen:  

  Did it help you think of an answer? If not, I hope you enjoyed it anyway… Pretty amazing stuff, right?  



In fact, there IS sort of a connection between Tito Puente, Sheila E and grammar – those guys have pretty much PERFECTed their art, right?  

"Perfect” is the same as “complete”, “nothing to add or improve on”, “finished”. Finito.
Well, Sheila E did lose a drum stick at the end of the last solo, otherwise her whole routine was pretty perfect if you ask me…

  So Perfektum basically means "completed", "nothing more to add"… An action that has taken place in the past, and is done. We are no longer working (improving) on it. At this point you might be asking yourself:  

But - isn’t that just the definition of Past Tense? – An event that has ended…

  I still don't quite see the difference between Perfektum and Preteritum?  



OK, so let us look at Preteritum for a minute…   Just so you know, behind this link there is something that will break your brain. Don’t look if you’re faint-hearted…   I warned you - don’t go back there if you don’t have to…  

Professor fact

  The old Latin word Preteritum means something like:  

“more than”, "beyond", "in addition to"…

  Aha! So, maybe the form Preteritum will give us more information about an event? More than just the fact that it happened? Could it be that Preteritum makes us think about when, or where something happened or who did it… that sort of thing…   I often say to students:   Preteritum has, if you like, “a camera pointed directly at the event”. We can go back in time, and we can visualize the event as if we were there!  

That is the power of Preteritum. That is the "beyond", the "more", etc.
That those latin guys and gals were talking about!

  Preteritum does not allow us this "looking back into the past" experience. Perfektum is more like the security guard who comes by and puts its hand over the camera lense and says: "No filming!"   Perfektum is only willing to tell us:  

It has been done. Tick it off your list, file it in your cabinet. Now move on!

  Pretty much… And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more perfect. Here's another Latin Blast from the Past!

  I think it goes over and beyond perfect!!! Let us know what you thought of this article – in Preteritum, if you don't mind! Drop us a line in the comment box and don’t forget to tell your friends about

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Yngvil Vatn Guttu

Yngvil Vatn Guttu
21 Feb, 2017