There are several ways to describe past actions. Collectively, these are known as the Past Tenses. They differ in the way that they present things to the reader. The main differences are between the length of time something occurred and/or the frequency with which that action happened. In other words, there are continuous, ongoing, repeated past actions, and there are one time, single incident past actions. In Latin, these correspond to two different tense.
The Imperfect Tense
The Imperfect tense shows a repeated, ongoing, or continuous past action. It is kind of like background scenery. It shows what was happening for a period of time.
These examples show that the action took place over a period of time versus one single incident in the past. To form the imperfect tense in Latin, follow these steps.
As you can see, every ending has -ba-. This is called the tense indicator. The present tense doesn't have one, the future tense uses -bi-, and the imperfect uses -ba-. Also, notice that the -o is no longer used to show the 1st person singular. Here, instead, you use -m. This is important. If the -o were used, it would make the -a- disappear, and then we wouldn't be able to tell the difference between that and the future tense.
The verb laudo, laudare, laudavi = to praise in the imperfect tense.
That is all there is to it.
The Perfect Tense
The perfect tense is used to show an action that happened once in the past. The action is not repeated.
As you can see, these incidents did not happen over a period of time (they may have, but they are shown here as being one specific moment in the past that happened once and is now over with. ) No other action that we know of took place during this time. If you want to compare the two pasts, think of the imperfect as a movie in which a person does some action over and over and imagine the perfect tense being one image from this movie.
The perfect tense is formed from the 3rd principal part of a verb. From now on, you will have to know all three parts for all the verbs that we know. If you need help with this, ask me at school.
To form the perfect tense:
The perfect tense is formed the same way for every verb, no matter what. I can show you a trick on how to learn the principal parts for all 1st conjugation verbs, but I won't tell you here about it.
Here is the verb laudo, laudare, laudavi = to praise in the perfect tense
Make sure that you don't confuse the tenses. In addition, make sure that you memorize the principal parts of all the verbs that we have studied. The 2nd conjugation verbs do not follow any particular pattern, so you have to make sure that you know what the third part is. This could cause hours of consternation. Don't let it. Get on this early.