Definition for PRE'TER-IT

PRE'TER-IT, a. [L. præteritus, prætereo; præter, beyond and eo, to go.]

Past; applied to the tense in grammar which expresses an action or being perfectly past or finished, often that which is just past or completed, but without a specification of time. It is called also the perfect tense; as, scripsi, I have written. We say “I have written a letter to my correspondent;” in which sentence, the time is supposed to be not distant and not specified. But when the time is mentioned, we use the imperfect tense so called; as, “I wrote to my correspondent yesterday.” In this use of the preterit or perfect tense, the English differs from the French, in which j'ai écrit hier, is correct; but I have written yesterday, would be very bad English.

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