Present Indicative: The Progressive Present

The Progressive Present

The Present Indicative is used of action in progress in present time.

Matt. 25:8; αἱ δὲ μωραὶ ταῖς φρονίμοις εἶπαν Δότε ἡμῖν ἐκ τοῦ ἐλαίου ὑμῶν, ὅτι αἱ λαμπάδες ἡμῶν σβέννυνται, our lamps are going out.

Gal. 1:6; Θαυμάζω ὅτι οὕτως ταχέως μετατίθεσθε ἀπὸ τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς, I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you.

The most constant characteristic of the Present Indicative is that it denotes action in progress. It probably had originally no reference to present time. But since, in the historical periods of the language, action in progress in past time is expressed by the Imperfect, and the Future is used both as a progressive and as an aoristic tense for future time, it results that the Present Indicative is chiefly used to express action in progress in present time. Hence in deciding upon the significance of any given instance of the Present Indicative in the New Testament as well as in classical Greek, the interpreter may consider that there is, at least in the majority of words, a certain presumption in favor of the Progressive Present rather than any of the other uses mentioned below.

The Progressive Present in Greek is not always best translated by what is commonly called in English the “Progressive Form.” Some English verbs themselves suggest action in progress, and do not, except when there is strong emphasis on the progressive idea, use the progressive form. Thus the verb Θαυμάζω, in Gal. 1:6, is a Progressive Present, but is best translated I marvel, the verb itself sufficiently suggesting the idea of action in progress.

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