If you have questions about Quenya, contact Aikanáro
Back to Quenya Index
Back to Dorthonion
There are five tenses in Quenya, but before explaining these it is first necessary to distinguish between the two forms that verbs may take.
Primary Verbs: These consist of a simple stem, usually one syllable, ending in a consonant. Examples include car-, mat- and mel-. Compound forms such as ohtacar-, artaquet-, and so forth are also treated as primary verbs.
A-Stem Verbs: These verbs usually have two or more syllables, and end in -a or -ya. Examples of these include harya-, lerta-, and lanta-. A-stem verbs form the tenses in a different way to the primary verbs.
On this page car-, meaning 'to make' or 'to do,' is to be used to demonstrate primary verb tenses, and lanta-, meaning 'to fall,' will be used for a-stem verbs. Unless otherwise noted, all other verbs follow the same pattern.
Present Tense: In Quenya, the present tense takes the meaning 'is ...-ing,' and so is used when the action in question is continually occurring. For this reason, it is sometimes called the continuative tense.
Primary verbs form the present tense by lengthening the stem vowel, and adding -a. So for our example, the result would be cára, 'is making.'
The present tense is formed in a-stem verbs by dropping the final a, and adding instead the ending -ëa. So lanta- gives lantëa, 'is falling.'
Past Tense: Both primary and a-stem verbs form the past tense simply with the addition of the suffix -në. Therefore the examples would be carnë, 'made,' and lantë, 'fell.'
However, there are some irregularities with this tense. Primary verbs ending in -p, -t, or -c cannot take the -në suffix, as pn, tn, and cn are not valid consonant combinations in Quenya. This problem is solved by an alteration known as nasal infixion. The effects of this on the letter combinations are shown below:
Top- becomes in past tense tompë. In place of the added n, the letter m is infixed, and the ë ends the word as normal.
Hat- becomes in past tense hantë. Here the n itself is infixed.
Tac- becomes in past tense tancë. All primary verbs which would cause invalid consonant combinations if the past tense were formed in the regular way follow this pattern.
In addition, primary verbs which end in -l take the ending -lë for the past tense, doubling the consonant. So vil- gives villë.
Future Tense: All verbs form the future tense simply through the addition of the suffix -uva. The final -a in a-stem verbs is always displaced. So car- leads to caruva, 'will make,' and lanta- becomes lantuva, 'will fall.'
Perfect Tense: This tense does not occur in English, and would be translated using the verb 'to have.' The perfect tense implies that an action is finished, yet still relevant. Examples in English could be 'has spoken, 'has eaten,' 'has taken,' and so forth.
With primary verbs, the vowel is lengthened, and it is also augmented. This means that it is repeated at the beginning of the word. The suffix -ië is also added. The perfect tense for car-, therefore, would be acárnië, 'has made.'
This tense is formed with a-stem verbs in much the same way, except that there is no lengthening of the vowel, and the final -a or -ya is dropped. Lanta-, then, would become alantië, 'has fallen.'
Both of the examples have a as the augmented vowel, but the formation is the same for other vowels - creating words such as isílië, equétië, onótië, or utultië. Where the verb already begins with a vowel, or a diphthong, then no augment is added, as it would lead to combinations of letters not permitted in Quenya.
Aorist Tense: This tense can be used to describe an ongoing action, or something which is always true. It correlates somewhat to the English simple present tense.
Primary verbs form the aorist tense by adding the ending -ë. Car-, then, would lead to carë, 'makes.' However, if further suffixes are added, this ë changes to an i. 'I make' would be carinyë and not carenyë.
For a-stem verbs, the stem is simply left as it is, with its ending of -a or -ya. So the aorist form of lanta- is just lanta, 'falls.'
Imperative: The imperative form of any verb is created by using á before the aorist tense. Á carë! - Make! Á lanta - Fall! Primary verbs may also form the imperative with the ending -a, hence cara is identical in meaning to á carë.
Negative imperative forms take áva in place of á, giving áva carë! - 'don't make!' or áva lanta! - 'don't fall!'
Participles: There are two participle forms in Quenya. The first of these, the present participle, has the same meaning as the English suffix -ing. In Quenya, it is formed using the suffix -la. Primary verbs take the connecting vowel i, in order to prevent invalid consonant combinations. Any verb stem which has only a single vowel can also lengthen it. From the examples, then, caríla, 'making' and lantala, 'falling,' can be made. Be careful not to confuse this participle form with the present tense!
The past participle describes the condition after the completion of the verb action. Examples in English include 'gone,' from 'to go,' and 'broken,' from 'to break.' The Quenya ending for this participle is -na, or -ina where a connecting vowel is needed. Carna, then, is 'made,' and lantana is 'fell.' Where the verb stem ends in -l, however, the ending is irregular, not -ina but -da, hence for a stem such as mel- the past participle would be melda.