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Tense
quickinfo

Tense refers to the part played by a verb or verbal string in positioning the action or state of affairs referred to in a clause in time. Absolute tense, according to Comrie (1985), refers to situation directly related to or seen from the perspective of the present moment. Relative tense refers to situations related in time to a point of reference provided by the context, and absolute-relative tense refers to situations which are related to the present moment via another point of reference, as the pluperfect tense relates to the present moment via an action or state of affairs already situated before the present moment.

The Afrikaans tense system consists mainly of a distinction between past and non-past. The past tense – a simple past tense with no present relevance – is expressed mainly by a periphrastic combination of auxiliary and past participle (e.g. het besef have realised) or by preterite forms such as was was/were, dog/dag thought and modal preterites such as sou should, moes had to, kon could and wou wanted to in combination with infinitives (e.g. moes 'n plan maak had to make a plan). When contextual indications are lacking and in the absence of modal preterites, the perfect unambiguously marks a proposition as past tense. However, the expression of past tense, as in (1a), is only one of the functions of the perfect or preterite; the perfect may also be terminative and function as a pluperfect, as in (1b), contribute to expressing the irrealis, as in (1c), or partake in expressing conditionals, as in (d).

1
a. Sy het dit besef, maar kon niks daaraan doen nie.
she have.AUX it realise.PST.PTCP but.CNJ can.AUX.MOD.PRT nothing PN.to do.INF PTCL.NEG
She realised it, but couldn't do anything about it.
b. Toe sy die fout begaan het, moes sy van nuuts af begin.
when.CNJ she the error commit.PST.PTCP have.AUX must.AUX.MOD.PRT she from new of.POSTP begin.INF
When she had made the mistake, she had to begin anew.
c. Sy moes liewer haar ou werk behou het.
she must.AUX.MOD.PRT rather her old work retain.PST.PTCP have.AUX
She should rather have retained her old job.
d. Het sy dit besef, kon sy betyds 'n plan gemaak het.
have.AUX she it realise.PST.PTCP can.AUX.MOD.PRT she in.time a plan make.PST.PTCP have.AUX
Had she realised it, she could have made a plan in time.

The present tense, a truly unmarked form, has a wide range of functions, or is compatible with a wide range of contexts, in which temporal and other senses are indicated by adverbials and other non-verbal means, such as nou now, toe then, in die verlede in the past, etc. A proposition containing a present tense form may for example refer to a point in time or period of time centred on speech time (2a) or a point in time or period of time following on speech time (2b), to a past event (in the so-called historic present) (2c), to habitual action (2d) and to what is perceived to be a law of nature (2e).

2
a. Dié opvatting raak nou baie algemeen.
this idea become now very common
This idea is now becoming very common.
b. Hy kom vandag of môre huis toe.
he come today or tomorrow home to.POSTP
He is coming home today or tomorrow.
c. Hy kom toe gister huis toe.
he come then yesterday home to.POSTP
He then came home yesterday.
d. Hulle noem hom soms 'n diktator.
they call him sometimes a dictator
They sometimes call him a dictator.
e. Rook trek altyd opwaarts.
smoke move always upwards
Smoke always moves upwards.

While adverbials such as vandag today, môre tomorrow, gister yesterdaysoms sometimes and altyd always are relatively unambiguous indicators of the time-frame in which a proposition functions, the temporal reference of others, such as nou now and toe then,  are closely wound up with the semantics of the proposition. Thus Botha (1990:109-110) distinguishes between various applications of nou as deictic pronoun, e.g. the moment of utterance; the period preceding, including and following speech time; the period preceding and including speech time, and the period including and following speech time. The sense of the adverbial may even seem to be at variance with the temporal function of the verb, such as the abverb môre tomorrow and the preterite kon could in the following example. While kon in the root sense of to be able to would be unacceptable, it would be acceptable in the deontic sense of to give permission to or when expressing a possibility, as in could perhaps.

3
Ons kon môre die boeke bring.
we can.AUX.MOD.PRT tomorrow the books bring.INF
We *were able to / were given permission to / could perhaps bring the books tomorrow.

The present and past tense referred to above are “absolute” tenses in the sense of Comrie (1985)Comrie 1985:64-65)) contrasts tenses with absolute time reference, where a situation is located at, before, or after the present moment, with relative tenses, where a situation is located at, before, or after a reference point given by the context.  A relative tense is "quite strictly one which is interpreted relative to a reference point provided by the context” (Comrie 1985:58). Comrie (1985:64) also distinguishes absolute-relative tense, such as the pluperfect, which has characteristics of both, i.e. instances in which it is necessary not only to relate situations relative to the present moment, but also to relate them chronologically to one another(Comrie 1985:67).  Afrikaans examples of the perfect as an absolute tense, an absolute-relative tense and a relative tense would be, respectively, past tense (4a), pluperfect (4b) and event preceding time reference of main clause (4c).

4
a. Ons het die deur gesluit.
we have.AUX the door lock.PST.PTCP
We locked the door.
b. Die deur was al deur die amptenare gesluit toe ons daar kom.
the door be.AUX.PRT already by the officials lock.PST.PTCP when.CNJ we there come.PRS
The door had already been locked by the officials when we got there.
c. Wanneer ons die eksamen geslaag het, gaan ons feesvier.
when.CNJ we the exam pass.PST.PTCP have.AUX go.AUX.MOD we celebrate.INF
When we have passed the exam, we will celebrate.

Reichenbach's (1947) system will be employed as a descriptive device in order to distinguish between basic temporal relationships, viz. event (E), reference time (R) and speech time (S). Thus in (2a) above the event, reference time and speech time coincide (E,R,S) and in (2b) the event will follow speech and reference time (S,R – E), while (4a) may be described  as E – S, R, i.e. event time precedes speech time, which is also taken to be reference time, (4b) as E – R – S and (4c) as E,R – S. Other temporal relationships – not necessarily (absolute-relative) tenses in the sense of having dedicated formal constructions at their disposal – include the future in the past (R – E – S), as in (5a), and the future perfect (S – E – R), as in (5b).

5
a. Jy sou die geld gister al oorhandig het..
you will.AUX.MOD.PRT the money yesterday already over.hand.PST.PTCP have.AUX
You would already have handed over the money by yesterday.
b. Die trein sal môre om elfuur al vertrek het.
the train will.AUX.MOD tomorrow at eleven.o'clock already depart.PST.PTCP have.AUX
The train will have departed tomorrow at eleven o'clock.

The unmarked among the absolute tenses is the present tense, with various temporal values (2, 6) from present to future, as well as the past reference of the historic present (6e, 9b), habitual action (2d, 10), and generally valid (10) or timeless truths (2e, 11). While the present tense as such is employed for future reference (2b, 13), the main verb is also aided by modal verbs (14a, 14b).

Past tense is expressed by a periphrastic perfect (1a, 21a, 22) or one of the restricted group of highly frequent modal preterites (1a, 21b, 30, 31, 32). Past tense – and the realis – is also expressed by a construction consisting of the auxiliary het have + modal preterite (or present) + main verb (36, 37, 38). In a full infinitive, past tense may also be expressed by a modal preterite or a perfect (40).

In the absolute-relative tenses, before-past is generally expressed by the perfect (1b), although special marking may be employed (42, 43, 44). Other absolute-relative tenses to be employed, are the future perfect (5b, 45, 46) and the future in the past (5a, 47).

In the case of the relative tenses the reference point (R) is supplied by the context, in particular the temporal reference of the main clause. If the present tense is used, the temporal relation to the main clause is open. In subordinate clauses it depends on the conjunction type whether a perfect is employed aspectually as a perfective (4c, 49b, 53) or as a past tense form (52d). In adverbial temporal clauses (54) and foregounded subordinate temporal clauses (55) the present tense is used when subsequent action is described.

The sequence of tenses is employed when tense in subordinate clauses agrees with that of the main clause (e.g. past tense) when an unmarked present tense would have sufficed (57).

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[+]Absolute tenses
[+]Present tense

In the active voice the present tense is expressed by the base form of the verb, such as speel play or a base form combined with one or more infinitives, as inmag speel may play, probeer speel try to play, wil bly speel would like to keep playing, kan (iets) hê can have (something), moet (mooi) wees must be (beautiful) and sit en speel sit and play. In the passive voice the present tense is expressed by the auxiliaryword become plus a past participle, as in word gespeel / gespeel word, with further additions of base forms and infinitives, e.g. moet gespeel word must be played and wil gesien speel word want to be seen playing, where the base forms sien see and speel play combine to form a past participle inflection.

The present tense is used for stating a mere factuality which does not pose any uncertainty to the speaker (cf. Van Schoor (1983:137)) ("'n blote feitelikheid ... wat vir die spreker geen onsekerheid inhou nie"). The present tense should be viewed as an unmarked form of the verb compatible with various temporal contexts which may be defined more closely by adverbials and other means, rather than a multifunctional tense form. The present it refers to may be interpreted as a point in time or period of time centred on speech time (S) or a point in time or period of time following on speech time. Thus (6a) refers to a momentary event in the present, (6b) to an ongoing but short-lived event in the present, (6c) to a much longer ongoing event, (6d) to a future starting from the present moment, (6e) to a past event, (6f) to habitual action and (6g) to what is perceived to be a law of nature.  (6e) is an example of the historic present, i.e. employing the present tense for dramatic effect in contexts with past reference.

6
a. Met 'n knal breek hulle nou deur die klankgrens.
with a bang break.PRS they now through the sound.barrier
With a bang they now break through the sound barrier.
b. Daar vlieg hy nou deur die lug.
there fly.PRS he now through the air
There he is now flying through the air.
c. Dié opvatting raak nou baie algemeen.
this idea become.PRS now very common
This idea is now becoming very common.
d. Hy kom vandag of môre huis toe.
he come.PRS today or tomorrow home to.POSTP
He is coming home today or tomorrow.
e. Hy kom toe gister huis toe.
he come.PRS then yesterday home to.POSTP
He then came home yesterday.
f. Hulle noem hom soms 'n diktator.
they call.PRS him sometimes a dictator
They sometimes call him a dictator.
g. Rook trek altyd opwaarts.
smoke move.PRS always upwards
Smoke always moves upwards.

The present as extending from the past through the present and still continuing, with durative interpretation – a sense specially supported by the particleal already (cf. Donaldson 1993:227)) – is exemplified by (7).

7
Ek en ou Duduza wonder al hoeka waar jy draai ...
I and old Duduza wonder.PRS already long.ago where you linger.PRS
Old Duduza and I have been wondering for some time where you are lingering.
M.Malan: Suiderkruis, 2008, 66

Durativity is also expressed in the present tense in constructions such as is aan die be on the (8a) and besig wees om te be busy to (8b) (cf.Breed and Van Huyssteen 2014 and 2015) ). 

8
a. Die twee honde is aan die baklei.
the two dogs be..PRS on the fight.NMLZ
The two dogs are fighting.
b. Sy is besig om te skilder.
she is busy for.COMP PTCL.INF paint.INF
She is busy painting.

As an isolated statement, for instance as a reply to a question, an interpretation with past reference is excluded (9a), but past reference is possible if the utterance forms part of a narrative sequence (9b) historic present.

9
a. Waar was julle? – *Ons speel gister in Pretoria.
where be.PRT you.2PL we play.PRS yesterday in Pretoria
To mean: Where were you? – We played in Pretoria yesterday.
b. Ons speel gister in Pretoria, toe sak die reën uit.
we play.PRS yesterday in Pretoria then fall.PRS the rain out
We were playing in Pretoria yesterday; then the rain came down.

A proposition in the present tense may also refer to habitual action, as in (2d), or be employed to characterise someone, as in (6f) (cf. De Villiers (1971:20)). Though past, present and future are implied, the action in question need not be manifested at speech time (10).

10
Hy rook, maar nie op die oomblik nie.
he smoke.PRS but.CNJ not on the moment PTCL.NEG
He smokes, but is not doing so right now.

Present tense is also used in propositions referring to generally valid or timeless truths (cf. Ponelis (1979:261), as in (11).

11
Onkruid vergaan nie.
weed perish.PRS not
Weeds do not perish, i.e. that which is bad or not wanted, will survive.

Terminative aspect or completed action may be expressed by the verb wees be, the adverb klaar finished and a past participle, as in (12a). This construction is used alongside a het have perfect, where klaar is optional (12b).

12
a. Ons is klaar geëet/gesing/gewerk, etc.
we be.PRS finished.ADV eat.PST.PTCP/sing.PST.PTCP/work.PST.PTCP
We have finished eating/singing/working.
b. Ons het (klaar) geëet/gesing/gewerk, etc.
we have.AUX finished.ADV eat.PST.PTCP/sing.PST.PTCP/work.PST.PTCP
We have (already) eaten / sung / worked, etc.
[+]Future reference

Lyons (1977:677), though maintaining that futurity is never a purely temporal concept, concedes that it is in principle possible for languages to treat predictions as being grammatically parallel with statements about the past or present. In (13) a future event is indeed stated as though it matches the present or the past in certainty.

13
Ons speel môre in Pretoria.
we play.PRS tomorrow in Pretoria
We are playing in Pretoria tomorrow.

Future reference is made more explicit by the modal verbs sal shall/will (14a) and gaan be going to (14b) used in a modal or pragmatic sense. When sal is used, senses such as promise, determination, assurance and prediction may be expressed in addition, while gaan also invites interpretations such as determination and assurance.

14
a. Ons sal môre in Pretoria speel.
we will.AUX.MOD tomorrow in Pretoria play.INF
We will definitely play / We promise to play in Pretoria tomorrow.
b. Ons gaan môre in Pretoria speel.
we go.AUX.MOD tomorrow in Pretoria play.INF
We are bent on / sure to be playing in Pretoria tomorrow.

The use of gaan as future auxiliary, as in (15a) and (15b) was found by Kirsten (2016:138) to have increased in the course of the 20th century.

15
a. Jy gaan móét versigtig wees.
you go.AUX.MOD must.AUX.MOD careful be.INF
You are going to have to be careful.
I. Roggeband
b. Ek gaan dit nie kan doen nie, ek gaan nie elke dag daar kan afgaan en ...
I go.AUX.MOD it not can.AUX.MOD do.INF PTCL.NEG I go.AUX.MOD not every day there can.AUX.MOD go.down.INF and
I won't be able to do it, I won't be able to go down there every day ...
B. Fölscher: Reisgenoot, 2002, 72

Other senses of sal are habitual (16a) and epistemic (16b).

16
a. “Toemaar,” sal  hy weer troos.
never.mind will.AUX.MOD he again comfort.INF
"Never mind," he would comfort (her) again.
A. Coetser: Oop kaarte, 2007, 107
b. Sy sal haar tog deur oom Petrus laat vertel waar sy moet slaap!
she will.AUX.MOD her though by uncle Petrus let.LINK tell.INF where she must.AUX.MOD sleep.INF
As if she will allow UnclePetrus to tell her where she should sleep!
J.M. Gilfillan: Glas, 2007, 89
[+]Historic present

The present tense is widely used, in the spoken language in particular, to conjure up consecutive events in the past as if they were taking place in close proximity to the deictic centres of speaker and addressee. This usage, described inter alia by De Villiers (1971:61-68), Van Schoor (1983:132-135)Van Schoor and Donaldson (1993:228-230), is called the historic present (Afrikaans historiese presens). The sequencing of events in narrative, which correlates with a moving reference point of time, is not a characteristic of the tense form used but rather a property of narrative itself according to Comrie (1985:61-62). Thus, instead of past tense forms (17a) the present tense may be used to refer to events situated in the past (17b).

17
a. Ons het gister in Pretoria gespeel; toe het die reën uitgesak.
we have.AUX yesterday in Pretoria play.PST.PTCP then have.AUX the rain out.drop.PST.PTCP
We played in Pretoria yesterday, when the rain came down.
b. Ons speel gister in Pretoria; toe sak die reën uit.
we play.PRS yesterday in Pretoria, when drop.PRS the rain out
We played in Pretoria yesterday, when the rain came down

The use of the historic present enhances the dramatic potential of the actions related. The non-verbal clues suggesting distance from the here and now may even be circumvented to heighten the illusion of present action (implying degrees of dramatisation), as in (18b) in contrast to (18a):

18
a. Ons speel toe daardie wedstryd in Pretoria ...
we play.PRS then that game in Pretoria
We then played that game in Pretoria.
b. Nou speel ons hierdie wedstryd in Pretoria ...
now play.PRS we this game in Pretoria
Now we were playing this game in Pretoria ...

The historic present is usually not alternated with the past tense in main clause sequences, as in (19a), unless the narrator wishes to explicitly situate the action in the past (19b), comment on the action itself (19c) or single out a salient event or draw a conclusion (19d).

19
a. ? Ons speel toe die wedstryd, maar 'n harde reënbui het uitgesak.
we play.PRS then the game but.CNJ a severe downpour have.AUX out.drop.PST.PTCP
We then played the game but there was a sever downpour
b. Ons het gister op die veld gedraf, toe sien ons dit gaan reën.
we have.AUX yesterday on the field run.PST.PTCP then see.PRS we it go.AUX.MOD rain.INF
We ran onto the field yesterday, when we saw that it was going to rain.
c. Ons draf op die veld, maar die geluk was teen ons, want net toe ons dink ...
we run.PRS on the field but.CNJ the luck be.PRT against us because.CNJ just when we think.PRS
We ran on the field, but luck was against us, because just when we thought ...
d. Ons speel toe gister 'n goeie wedstryd, maar die reënbui het alles bederf.
we play.PRS then yesterday a good game but.CNJ the downpour have.AUX everything spoil.PST.PTCP
We played a good game yesterday, but the downpour spoilt everything.
[+]Past tense
[+]Introduction

The meaning of the past tense, according to Comrie (1985:41), is location in time prior to the present moment. He states, furthermore, that the The Afrikaans past tense suits this definition in its vagueness, of location in the past pure and simple, i.e. E – S,R, without any reference to the remoteness of the event or its relevance to the present. Periphrastic past tense forms are generally employed also with before-past reference or pluperfect function, i.e. E – R – S, though markedly pluperfect forms are also used. On main verbs, past tense is clearly marked morphologically by the perfect, consisting of a past participleInflection and auxiliary (20a),  by one or more modal preterites plus infinitive (20b), in an auxiliary + modal preterite + infinitive construction with realis value (20c) and in infinitive constructions (20d). Modal preterites and perfects may also have modal and other meanings, or combine to express the irrealis, as in (20e).

20
a. Sy het 'n e-pos gestuur.
she have.AUX an e-mail send.PST.PTCP
She sent an email.
b. Sy moes 'n e-pos stuur.
she must.AUX.MOD.PRT an e-mail send.INF
She had to send an email.
c. Sy het 'n e-pos moes stuur.
she have.AUX an e-mail must.AUX.MOD.PRT send.INF
d. Sy was bly om 'n e-pos te kon gestuur het.
she be.PRT glad for.COMP an e-mail PTCL.INF can.AUX.MOD.PRT send.PST.PTCP have.AUX
She was glad to have been able to send an email.
e. Sy moes eintlik 'n e-pos gestuur het.
she must.AUX.MOD.PRT really an e-mail send.PST.PTCP have.AUX
She should really have sent an email.

Next, the periphrastic perfect will be described with due reference to constructional and morphological variants, alternations and irregularities, followed by the modal and other preterites, the realis construction and the past infinitive.

[+]The periphrastic perfect

The Afrikaans periphrastic perfect,  typically consisting of the auxiliary het have + past participle (also in the case of so-called mutative verbs, therefore het gegaan have gone (cf. Conradie (2015), is a simple past tense like the Dutch, German and English preterite, having replaced the preterite in this function. In appropriate contexts the perfect also functions as a pluperfect absolute-relative tenses, or has perfective aspectual value relative tenses.

As a past tense, the Afrikaans perfect is no present perfect as it is in Dutch and English; therefore a distinction between the perfect as referring to a completed event and the preterite (or imperfect) as referring to an action of unlimited duration, or a definition of the perfect as indicating the result of an action continuing into the moment of speaking (cf. Haeseryn et al. (1997:121-125)), is not valid for Afrikaans.  The full infinitive (cf. 39) may also incorporate a perfect.The event referred to strictly precedes speech time, i.e. E – S,R, therefore vandag today in (21) will only refer to the portion of vandag preceding speech time; future reference is excluded.

21
Hulle het gister of vandag of *môre gespeel.
they have.AUX yesterday or today or tomorrow play.PST.PTCP
They played yesterday or today or *tomorrow.

A construction consisting of the verb wees be and an adverbial expression of motion but with ellipsis of the past participle gegaan gone, is also used. This construction forms an exception to the use of the perfect by employing 'be' rather than 'have' as auxiliary and moreover relating the event to the present, as in (22a) in contrast to (22b), where present relevance is not implied. Ponelis (1979:268) refers to the process as "go absorption" (gaan-absorpsie).

22
a. Hy is stad toe / huis toe / strand toe, etc.
he be.AUX.PST town to.POSTP / home to.POSTP / beach to.POSTP
He has gone to town / home / to the beach, etc.
b. Hy het stad toe / huis toe / strand toe, etc. gegaan.
he have.AUX town to.POSTP / home to.POST / beach to.POSTP go.PST.PTCP
He went to town / home / to the beach, etc.

A restricted set of intransitive verbs form a perfect with wees be instead of het have as auxiliary and an irregular past participle, cf. (23a), (23b) and (23c); trou marry has a variant with het as auxiliary (23d).

23
a. Die baba is gister gebore.
the baby be.AUX.PST yesterday bear.PST.PTCP
The baby was born yesterday.
b. Sy pa is verlede jaar oorlede.
his father be.AUX.PST last year die.PST.PTCP
His father died last year.
c. Dié twee is Saterdag getroud.
these two be.AUX.PST Saturday marry.PST.PTCP
These two got married on Saturday.
d. Hulle het Saterdag in die Kaap getrou.
they have.AUX Saturday in the Cape marry.PST.PTCP
They got married in the Cape on Saturday.

In instances of verb doubling, e.g. by means of linking verbs such as probeer try' + werk word (24a), sit sit + speel play (24b) or loop walk/go, staan stand + plant plant (24c) phrasal past participles are formed, e.g.

24
a. Sy het in die hitte (ge) probeer werk.
she have.AUX in the heat try.LINK work.INF
She tried to work in the heat.
b. Die kinders het gesit en speel in die tuin.
the children have.AUX sit.LINK and play.INF in the garden
The children sat and played in the garden.
c. ... waarop ou dominee ... bloekombome loop staan en plant het
where.on old reverend gum.trees go.LINK stand.LINK and plant.INF have.AUX
... on which old Reverend went and planted gum trees
D. Schreuder: Beter hemel, 2009, 25

The preterite of the copula of the verb 'to be', is was was, were. Past tense is also expressed periphrastically by was ... gewees be.PRT be.PST.PTCP, with was in V2, or gewees het be.PST.PTCP have.AUX clause-finally. Rather than being a pluperfect, was gewees is a more emphatic expression of the past tense. Zeman (2015:144) observes that in contemporary colloquial German war gewesen also is a simple preterite rather than being a pluperfect, and the past participle gewesen probably redundant.

The selection of auxiliaries with gewees be.PST.PTCP, i.e. 'to be' as a main verb, is asymmetrical in regard to their occurrence in V2 or clause-finally, viz. commonly was ... gewees  and occasionally is/het ... gewees in V2, e.g. (25a), but commonly gewees het (25b) with the exclusion of *gewees is and *gewees was clause-finally.

25
a. Daar is nooit enige aanmelding van die voorval gewees nie.
there be.AUX.PST never any reporting of the incident be.PST.PTCP PTCL.NEG
There has never been any reporting of the incident.
J. Fouché
b. op dae toe die weer gewees het soos daardie eerste keer
on days when.CNJ the weather be.PST.PTCP have.AUX like that first time
on days when the weather was like (it was) that first time
D. Matthee: Toorbos, 2003, 54

The asymmetry has its roots in 17th century Dutch, with the past participle taking both hebbenhave and zijnbe as auxiliary (cf. Conradie 2015:15)).               

[+]Auxiliaries for main verb 'to be'
Table 1: Auxiliaries for main verb 'to be'
V2 Clause-finally
was was
was ... gewees *gewees was
(is ... gewees) *gewees is
(het ... gewees) gewees het

In combination with modal verbs, only gewees het has been is found, e.g.

26
Dit moet / moes gedoen gewees het.
it must.AUX.MOD / must.AUX.MOD.PRT do.PST.PTCP be.PST.PTCP have.AUX
It should have been done, or: It must have been done.

In expressing the past tense, there is a "trading relationship" between modal preterite + infinitive modal and other preterites (27a) and modal present + perfect (i.e. past participle + finite auxiliary het have) (27b), as a result of the fact that modal verbs such as mag may 'may', behoort te ought to and hoef (nie) te need (not) to have no preterites (27c) – but cf. (27d), with modal preterite as well as perfect. In the spoken language the past tense is often expressed by a redundant perfect after a modal preterite, as in (27e). Note that the addition of a perfect primarily has a non-tense function in that it expresses the irrealis.

27
a. Sy kon wel die concerto speel.
she can.AUX.MOD.PRT indeed the concerto play.INF
She was indeed able to play the concerto.
b. Sy kan wel die concerto gespeel het.
she can.AUX.MOD indeed the concerto play.PST.PTCP have.AUX
She was indeed able to play the concerto.
c. Ek mag nie in die kring van die manne gekom het nie.
I may.AUX.MOD not in the circle of the men come.PST.PTCP have.AUX PTCL.NEG
I wasn't allowed to enter the circle of the men.
D. Matthee
d. Daardie tyd mog jy nie laat gekom het nie.
that time may.AUX.MOD.PRT you.2SG not late come.PST.PTCP have.AUX PTCL.NEG
In those days you were not allowed to be late.
M. de Klerk on TV
e. Sy kon gister die concerto gespeel het.
she can.AUX.MOD.PRT yesterday the concerto play.PST.PTCP have.AUX
She was able to play the concerto yesterday', or: 'She could have played the concerto yesterday.

In the passive voice the past tense is expressed mainly by the auxiliary is am/is/are + past participle (28a), but instead of is, sometimes by was was/were (28b) (cf. Kirsten 2015 and 2016)) on the use of was was/were instead of is am.is.are. In (28d) past tense is signalled by the preterite of wil want to, followed by two participial constructions. Instead of is or was as auxiliary, the perfect of 'to be' (28c) or even of word become is used; for the latter cf. (28e).

28
a. Die concerto is gister deur Mariska gespeel.
the concerto be.AUX.PASS.PST yesterday by Mariska play.PST.PTCP
The concerto was played by Mariska yesterday.
b. Die concerto was baie mooi gespeel.
the concerto be.AUX.PRT very beautifully play.PST.PTCP
The concerto was played very beautifully.
c. Dis goed dat hierdie concerto gespeel gewees het.
it.is good that.COMP this concerto play.PST.PTCP be.PST.PTCP have.AUX
It's good that this concerto was (being) played.
d. Sy wou ook onthou gewees het en bo alles liefgehê word.
she want.to.AUX.MOD.PRT also remember.PST.PTCP be.PST.PTCP have.AUX and above all love.have.PST.PTCP be.AUX.PASS.INF
She also wanted to be remembered and above all be loved.
Beeld, 2015/10/13
e. Ek het moeg geslaan geword, want sien, ek is ook 'n vroue-dominee.
I have.AUX tired hit.PST.PTCP become.PST.PTCP because.CNJ see.IMP I be.PRS also a women-preacher.'
I got tired of being battered, because, (you) see, I am also a woman preacher.
Beeld, 2005/6/28
[+]Modal and other preterites

In spite of their being a limited set, past tense is often expressed by the preterites of modal verbs in combination with other verbs, e.g. sou (< sal shall/will’), kon (< kan can, wou (< wil want to), moes (<moet must), mog (obsolete, <mag may), and the preterites was (< wees be), had had (auxiliary /main verb, obsolete, < het have), dog/dag be under the impression (< dink think) and wis (obsolete, < weet know). The preterites that are not obsolete have a high frequency in the standard language, in some cases coupled with functions not found in Dutch. Thus the full infinitive, as a past infinitive, may utilise a modal preterite to express past tense.

In a longitudinal corpus-based study, Kirsten (2016:112) found that the usage of had had both as main verb and pluperfect auxiliary, dropped to almost zero between 1920 and 1941, with sporadic usage of the main verb (but not the auxiliary) found until the present time. It is still encountered in the literary register, cf. (29). Several examples from late 20th century Afrikaans literature are quoted by Visser (1992:69).

29
Briewe had 'n geur.
letters have.PRT a scent
Letters had a scent.
E. van Heerden

Was was/were, dog thought and wis knew, for instance, express past tense in the following way:

30
a. Sy was gister in die Kaap.
she be.PRT yesterday in the Cape
She was in the Cape yesterday.
b. Ek dog julle kom nie meer nie.
I think.PRT you.2PL come.PRS not any.more PTCL.NEG
I thought you weren't coming any more.
c. Die arme slagoffer wis van niks.
the poor victim know.PRT of nothing
The poor victim didn't know what was going on.

According to Donaldson (199:223), dag/dog thought (and their participles gedag/gedog) are not used when ‘thinking of’ someone or something or with reference to the mental activity of thinking. It is often used in the sense of 'to think mistakenly'(cf. Ponelis 1979:191) or, more generally, 'to be under the impression' that something was the case, cf.

31
a. Ek dag ek’t die agterste hekkie hoor oopgaan.
I think.PRT I=have.AUX the rear gate.DIM hear.LINK open.go.INF
I thought I'd heard the rear gate opening.
C. Diedericks-Hugo
b. Sy dog maar net ek sou wou weet.
she think.PRT just only I shall.AUX.MOD.PRT want.to.AUX.MOD.PRT know.INF
She was just thinking that I would like to know.
D. Snyman: Binneland, 2005, 143
c. Hy dog dis maar die kleintjies se werk.
he think.PRT it=be.PRS only the little.ones POSS work
He thought it was only the little ones' doings.
E. van Rooyen: Seisoene, 2005, 332

Surprisingly, dog/dag is occasionally encountered as a "pure" past tense of dink think (32a), and even as a bare infinitive (32b) and as part of a full infinitive (32c).

32
a. Ek dog naderhand aan die ou storie wat ...
I think.PRT later.on on the old story which.REL ...
Later on I thought of the old story which ...
J.C. Steyn: MER, 2004, 323
b. 'n Man vir spieëls, sou hy dog ...
A man for mirrors, will.AUX.MOD.PRT he think.PRT
A man for mirrors, he would think ...
E. van Heerden: In stede van die liefde, 2005, 346
c. Dis net ons spulletjie wat dom genoeg was om te dog 'n gesellige vuur is 'n onmisbare deel van enige buitelugvakansie.
it=be.PRS only our group.DIM that.REL stupid enough be.PRT for.COMP PTCL.INF think.PRT a cosy fire be.PRS an indispensable part of any open.air.holiday
It's only our little group who were stupid enough to think a cosy fire was an indispensable part of any outdoor holiday.
M. van der Vyfer: Hart van ons huis, 2004, 205

In a diachronic corpus study, Kirsten (2016:113, 115) found that the modal preterite mog might, and the preterites wis knew and dag/dog thought had wellnigh disappeared between 1920 and 1941.

Modal preterites have past tense reference in roughly 50% of cases. Visser (1992:91) concludes on the basis of a 20th century corpus study that the division between past tense and modal usage  in Afrikaans modal preterites is roughly equal (modal usage being about 52%), though in different proportions for the different modals – sal shall/will, for instance, having predominantly modal usage.

33
Hulle sou/kon/wou/moes gister die concerto speel.
they will.AUX.MOD.PRT/can.AUX.MOD.PRT/want.to.AUX.MOD.PRT/must.AUX.MOD.PRT yesterday the concerto play.INF
They would have / were able to / wanted to / had to play the concerto yesterday.

Modal preterites are often linked in sequences of as many as three items in agreement (referred to as “preterite assimilation” by Ponelis (1979:270-271)) with textual cohesion as possible function, cf. the preterite kon could in (34).

34
Niemand sou ooit weer haar hele hart in sy hande kon hou en daarmee maak wat hy wou nie.
nobody will.AUX.MOD.PRT ever again her whole heart in his hands can.AUX.MOD.PRT hold.INF and PN.with make.INF what.REL he want.to.AUX.MOD.PRT