I'm translating a sentence in my textbook from English to Greek, and that sentence uses the phrase I often saw. For copyright reasons, I'm going to create a new sentence using this phrase.

On this road, I often saw the children who had been hurt by him.

My best translation would be,

Ἐν ταυτῃ τῃ ὁδῳ, τα τεκνα αὐτῳ βεβλαμμενα πολλακις εἰδον (ἑωρων).

In this translation, I used the aorist form of the verb (and also put the imperfect in parentheses). I used the perfect passive participle βεβλαμμενα to translate the relative clause.

When it comes to the main verb, I saw, I'm unsure of whether to use the aorist or the imperfect. The phrase I often saw does seem to have the flavor of I used to see, which would be an example of the imperfect, but I'm not sure if this comparison is correct. As a followup question, is the phrase I often saw enough context for deciding between the aorist and the imperfect, or do you have to consider the entire sentence to decide? I would be interested to know whether adverbs like πολλακις typically point to one or the other.

  • As a notification about Greek questions, here is the Meta discussion.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 3:47
  • 3
    Out of curiosity, are you omitting accent diacritical marks because of keyboard issues? As for the q, this definitely seems like a situation for the imperfect, but I don't have time to back that up now
    – brianpck
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 14:31
  • 2
    Btw the best way to find out the answer to questions like the one in your last sentence about πολλάκις is to search the TLG (stephanus.tlg.uci.edu), if you happen to have access to that. I might do that if I have time, since it would be interesting to see how frequently, if at all, πολλάκις occurs with an aorist.
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 16:30
  • @brianpck Since accent marks are a lot to remember, I currently only include breathing marks and iota subscripts. I would be interested in others' feedback on this system. I think that I could switch to using accent marks, but I wonder if I should spend my time memorizing other things first.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 18:23
  • I definitely recommending learning the accent system. It's not really that complicated, and accents can make a difference in translation more often than you might think.
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 21:16

1 Answer 1


This is an interesting question. A priori, one would think the imperfect would be the obvious choice here, as it's the tense generally used to denote repeated action, but actual Greek usage doesn't seem to bear that out.

I searched the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae for uses of πολλάκις in Plato (as being a typical Attic author). Out of the first 50 hits, I counted 10 where the verb was aorist vs. only one where it was imperfect. (The other hits used other tenses.) If this sample is representative, then the aorist is much more frequent than the imperfect with πολλάκις.

Semantically, this isn't actually too difficult to understand: it seems that each individual event of "seeing" (or whatever the verb is) is conceived of as separate and complete, and the choice of the aorist signals this, rather than the entire series of events being regarded as a unit, which would presumably lead to the imperfect.

  • 2
    Interesting: this concordance search from Perseus (available without a subscription) seems to have the imperfect a bit more often than that, but the aorist is definitely there, but I only glanced at the first page.
    – brianpck
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 14:44
  • @brianpck, I wonder if it's partly a matter of authorial preference... Worth investigating further.
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 17:03
  • Thanks for researching this question and coming up with an answer.
    – ktm5124
    Commented Nov 26, 2016 at 17:42

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