I'm trying to say in Latin, "Our garden has been full of junk for three years" and I can't figure out what tense to put the verb in. In English, "has been" expresses present tense with perfective aspect of a stative verb.

Other present-tense, perfective-aspect verbs (stative or otherwise, unless I'm mistaken) call for the perfect. But somehow

Hortus trés annós scopí quisquiliæque fuit plénus.

makes me feel the past tense only, not the present.

And yet

Hortus trés annós scopí quisuiliæque erat plénus.

also feels wrong.


Hortus trés annós scopí quisquiliæque est plénus.

can't be right.

Similarly, past tense perfective aspect seems impossible to me too.

Hortus trés annós scopí quisquiliæque fuerat plénus.

I have the feeling this is actually a really easy thing to deal with and I'm just overthinking it.


2 Answers 2


I'd say you want the present tense. A&G 466, "Present with iam diu etc.":

The Present with expressions of duration of time (especially iam diu, iam dudum) denotes an action continuing in the present, but begun in the past... In this use the present is commonly to be rendered by the perfect in English

They give examples such as annum iam audis Crattipum "for a year you have been a student of Crattipus" (Cicero), which seems like the kind of thing you're looking for.


I think the perfect is the way to go. There is in principle a danger of misinterpretation as past only. However, when the Latin perfect refers to the past, it typically refers to instantaneous events. For example, "giraffa canebat, elephas eum percussit" is in the past due to the imperfect, so the elephant was not beating the giraffe but probably gave a single punch. (Sorry for the silly example. I just happen to have an elephant and a giraffe on my desk now.)

Instantaneity is impossible due to the temporal accusative tres annos, so I see no room for confusion — unless your full sentence is going to be longer. If the garden was full in the past for three years and then was cleared up, one would expect pluperfect.

I would interpret the present est correctly, but I do not know if that is idiomatic or grammatical.

  • 8
    You must have a very large desk. Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 20:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.