Luxembourgish Lessons #19: The Perfect Tense
Welcome to number nineteen of the Luxembourgish lessons, which will be discussing how to form perfect tense verbs.
Passé composé vs. Preterit
Last lesson, I discussed the imperfect tense and it's relative rarity in Luxembourgish verbs, often being subsided by the perfect tense. Verbs such as sinn, hunn, and the modal verbs will prefer the imperfect tense, but most will prefer the perfect tense due in part that the vast majority of verbs that lack the imperfect tense altogether.
Forming the Perfect Tense
The perfect tense is formed by combining a verb's past participle with a conjugated form of either hunn (to have) or sinn (to be). Most verbs will take the auxiliary verb hunn, with sinn usually reserved for intransitive verbs (verbs that don't take a direct object)
Many verbs when making the past participle will usually take the prefix "ge-" while changing either the vowel of the stem or the whole stem together. For example, bäissen (to bite) becomes gebass, gleewen (to believe) becomes gegleeft, and huelen (to take) becomes geholl.
There are some exceptions to this rule, including:
- Verbs that already begin with "ge-" (ex. gewannen "to win" -> gewonnen)
- Verbs that change their stem without attaching the "ge-" prefix (ex. bleiwen "to stay" -> bliwwen)
- Verbs with inseparable prefixes (ex. verëffentlechen "to publish" -> verëffentlecht)
- Verbs that are flat out irregular (ex. sinn "to be" -> gewiescht)
- Verbs that do not change whatsoever (ex. ginn "to give" -> ginn)
Below are a couple of examples of how the perfect tense is formed from verbs:
drénken - to drink
bleiwen - to stay
Like with modal verbs, the non-finite verb (in this case, the past participle) moves to the end of the sentence. For example, the sentence "I ate/have eaten the apples yesterday" would translate as Ech hunn d'Äppel gëschter giess (lit. I have the apples yesterday eaten).
Verbs that end with -éieren usually follow an alternative pattern in terms of forming the past participle. Rather than taking the "ge-" prefix, the past participle is usually taken from the third-person singular form of the verb. Take the verb akzeptéieren for example:
akzeptéieren - to accept
Verbs with separable prefixes in the present tense would have the prefix moved to the end of the sentence. For example, the verb undeiten (to suggest, imply) has the separable prefix "un-", so if I were to translate the sentence "We suggest the idea", It would translate to Mir deiten d'Iddien un.
For past participles, the separable verb occurs first, with the "ge-" prefix (if applicable) following immediately after, ending with the verb stem. Therefore, the past participle of undeiten is ugedeit.
Notice that the prefix "un-" is still affected by the Eifel rule. Any separable prefix ending in the letter "n" is affected by the Eifel rule where applicable.