Lesson 40.1 — Getting Serious About Verbs:
Present Active Indicative Word Formation

Credentials and Recognition for Your Work

To borrow from Acts 3:6, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee."  I can teach you to read Greek, but I have no recognized certificate or degree I can offer you for what you are learning. 

Your actual accomplishments are your only credentials.  I suggest that you keep your hard copy worksheets that show your progress in translating the book of Acts.  While a three-ring plastic binder will work, I recommend that you use the ACCO Pressboard Report Cover, Side Bound. 


They take up minimal space on your shelf, they are durable, and they last almost forever.  Here are my worksheets from a translation I did of Galatians over 45 years ago.

You can see that I like to include a loose-leaf divider page that indicates the content.  I put the binder in my bookshelf bound-side in, and that divider tab is readily visible when I look at the bookshelf.

If the need arises, you can take your Acts notes to a professional copy shop.  They can remove the pages, scan them, and turn the whole thing into a PDF file that you can share as needed.  You can email this to people if there is need to demonstrate what what you have accomplished.

So you will not have a degree or certificate in NT Greek, but you have already translated more of the New Testament than many people who get Master of Divinity degrees.


Overview of Verbs

Verbs in English are a bit limited, since they only communicate the action being performed (e.g. "hunting").  More words are needed to be more precise.

For example, to say “I am hunting,” it requires three words (“I” = pronoun; “am” = helping/auxiliary verb; “hunting” = main verbal idea).

In contrast, verbs in Greek are very compact. They communicate a considerable amount of information through a single word.

For example, to communicate the idea of “we are loosing” in Greek, only one word (λύομεν) is required since Greek verbs express both person and number through attached endings (in this example, –ομεν communicates that the verb has a first person plural subject = “we”).

Person and Number

You are already familiar with the concepts of person and number in Greek verbs.

The options for the person of the verb are these: first person (“I” or “we”), second person (“you” [singular or plural]), or third person (“he/she/it” or “they”).

1st person: The subject is speaking.

2nd person: The subject is being spoken to.

3rd person: The subject is being spoken about.

Similarly, number refers to whether there is only one person related to the action of the verb (singular → “I,” “you” sg, or “he/she/it”) or more than one person (plural → “we,” “you” pl, or “they”).



Active: The subject performs the action. E.g. I see.

Middle: The subject both performs and is affected by the action. E.g. I see (for myself).

Middle voice is difficult for English speakers, as there is no equivalent of the Greek middle voice in English.  For that reason, it is often translated the same as an active voice verb.

The ancient Greeks thought of some actions as being inherently middle voice.  That is, you could not do the action of the verb without affecting yourself.  Hence, some verbs such as ἔρχομαι (to come/to go) only exist as middle voice verbs.  An active voice version of ἔρχομαι does not exist.

Passive: The subject receives the action.  E.g. I am seen [by somebody else].



The indicative mood represents something as certain or stated (“He went fishing” or “Will he go fishing?”).

Statements in the indicative mood do not necessarily indicate an objective fact. By using the indicative mood, the author or speaker is choosing to present his speech as factual, at least for consideration. Consequently, it is possible for someone to lie or be mistaken while using the indicative mood.

The subjunctive mood represents something as probable, contingent, or indefinite (“He might go fishing” or “Whenever he goes fishing”).

The optative mood, which is fairly rare in the NT, represents something as possible or hoped for (“I wish he would go fishing”).

The imperative mood represents something as requested or commanded (“Go fishing” or “Please, go fishing”).



New Testament Greek has six tenses: present, future, imperfect, aorist, perfect, and pluperfect.  These are sometimes referred to as "tense-forms", since tense (or "time") is not always packaged in the verb.

Here are examples in the active voice and indicative mood.



“I am loosing” or “I loose”



“I was loosing”



“I will loose”



“I loosed”



“I have loosed”



“I had loosed”

Only in the indicative is there any element of time.  In other moods, verbal aspect is totally dominant.



Aspect is a difficult concept for me, as a native-English speaker.  I am going to present a slightly different spin on aspect here from the essay I wrote back in 2014 (which is available from the menu to the left under Verbs >> Aspect).  There are three kinds of aspect that NT authors have in view.

Imperfective Aspect (present and imperfect tenses): the author depicts the action as ongoing or in process, without attention to the action’s beginning or ending.

Perfective Aspect (aorist tense): the author depicts the action as complete or as a whole. The beginning and ending of the action (and everything in-between) are included in the depiction of the action. The perfective aspect describes a given action simply as occurring or as having occurred without indicating how the action took place (“it happened”).

Stative (or "State-of-being") Aspect (perfect and pluperfect tenses): the author depicts a state of affairs or ongoing relevance resulting from a previous action or state (“it has happened, and it is relevant to the present context”). Depending on the context, there can be more emphasis on the completion of the action or its ongoing relevance.

A good example of the stative aspect would have to do with the resurrection of Jesus.  It happened in the past, but has implications for the present.

There is some debate over the significance of the future tense.  It generally DOES seem to relate primarily to future time...and is undefined in its aspect.


Present Active Indicative of εἰμί

  Singular   Plural
1st person εἰμί I am   ἐσμέν We are
2nd person εἶ You are   ἐστέ You (all) are
3rd person ἐστί(ν) He/she/it is   ἐισίν They are

This is a very common verb in the NT, and is irregular.  To learn it you must simply memorize it by wrote.


Write this chart out again and again, until you can do it correctly from memory.


Present Active Indicative of λύω

We have already seen several instances of present active indicative verbs in the first two chapters of Acts.  You have, of course, noticed that the most common verb tense in Acts is the aorist.  This is normal, since the aorist is the verb tense most commonly used in historical narrative.

However, present tense verbs have some important functions.  One of them has to do with "chunking" the text.  The Gospel writers all make periodic flips from aorist to the present to signal a division in the text—something that we today would handle with either a new paragraph, subheading, or indentation.  For instance, in Mark 1:37-38 we read:

καὶ εὗρον αὐτὸν καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ ὅτι πάντες ζητοῦσίν σε. καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· ἄγωμεν ἀλλαχοῦ εἰς τὰς ἐχομένας κωμοπόλεις, ἵνα καὶ ἐκεῖ κηρύξω· εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ ἐξῆλθον.

And they found him and they are saying to him, “Everyone is seeking you.” And he is saying to them, “Let us go elsewhere—to the surrounding villages so that also there I may preach. For this [reason] I came forth.”

It would be a mistake to translate the Greek text mechanically, as above, because Mark is not using the present tense to indicate that the time frame suddenly switches to the present.

Rather, he is conforming to a standard ancient method of segmenting his narrative. Unless you are reading the New Testament in Greek, these subtle authorial indications of narrative structure are inaccessible to you.

It is time now to get a bit more methodical and learn the pattern of word suffixes that point to the present active indicative. 

Although there are a number of verbs that are irregular, it is still true that this pattern of word suffixes is found over and over again in the New Testament.  Since λύω is a short verb, it is a popular one to use when learning verb endings.


Write this chart out repeatedly until you can reproduce it from memory.  Include both the Greek word and also the English translation.

Present Active Indicative

  Singular Plural
1st person λύω I untie λύομεν We untie
2nd person λύεις You untie λύετε You untie
3rd person λύει He/she/it unties λύουσι(ν) They untie

I know that memorizing the word formation for εἰμί and λύω is tedious and difficult.  But you are learning a new language!  This is inevitably going to involve some hard work.  There is no getting around that.


Once you feel like you have the present active indicative forms of these two words memorized, click   for some exercises to help you practice these things.