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11 Conjunctions

2008.16.0374

Altar of Zeus Ombrios, ca. 100 A.D. Athenian Agora Excavations.


Conjunctions

Conjunctions in Greek work much as they do in English. Greek, however, uses them far more often, and frequently in subtler ways, than formal written English does. This is in part because Greek has a strong tendency to link clauses and sentences together. While consecutive sentences in English are most often separated by a pause (period), many consecutive sentences in Greek are actually marked or offset by coordinating conjunctions, such as “and,” “but,” and “therefore” (S 2163).

 

AND

καί: As a conjunction, καί is used to connect words, clauses, and sentences. If used as an adverb, καί means “even, also.”

τε (enclitic): Like καί, τε is used to link clauses and sentences. τε, however, rarely links individual words in Greek prose. τεκαί in a sentence is a slightly weaker version of καίκαί, “both…and.” As a monosyllabic enclitic, τε rarely has an accent.

δέ: This particle is used most often to delineate, and slightly contrast, a clause or sentence from the one that precedes it. How to translate this slight contrast depends upon context. Sometimes “and” works well, other times “but.” At still other times it is difficult to distinguish between the two, and the word is best left untranslated (S 2834).

μένδέ: When used together, these two particles mark a contrast between one word or clause, marked by μέν, and another, marked by δέ. Sometimes the particles can be translated “on the one hand (μέν)…on the other hand (δέ)”; in other contexts, the μέν is best left untranslated, and the δέ translated as “and” or “but.” Often, however, μένδέ is not translated in English (S 2904).

 

POSTPOSITIVE POSITION

In Greek, some conjunctions always follow the word that they link. Such conjunctions are called POSTPOSITIVE. All the “and” words in Greek are postpositive except for καί. As a result of the frequency of postpositive conjunctions, it is often the case that the second word – or third, if it follows a noun with a definite article – in a clause or sentence is a conjunction. A postpositive conjunction can never be the first word in a sentence.

Consider the following examples:

χρήματα καὶ ὑπάρχοντα δίδομεν.
We give money and property.

δίδομεν τὰ σπέρματα καὶ δίδοτε τὸ ὕδωρ.
We give the seeds and you give the water.

τὰ σπέρματα δίδομεν, ὑπάρχοντα δὲ δίδοτε.
We give the seeds and you give property.

τὰ σπέρματα μὲν δίδομεν, ὕδωρ δὲ δίδοτε.
We give the seeds and you give water.

 

AND…NOT

οὔτε/μήτε: The conjunctions οὔτε (with indicative) and μήτε (with infinitive) mean “and…not.” Note that they are simply combinations of οὐ and μή with τε.

 

BUT

ἀλλά: This conjunction expresses an opposition (“but,” “yet”) to a previous clause or sentence. It represents a stronger contrast than δέ.

δέ: Depending on the context, this postpositive particle can sometimes be translated as “but.” See discussion, above.

μένδέ: Depending on the context, the postpositive μέν is left untranslated, and the δέ translated as “but.” See discussion, above.

 

OR

: Note the breathing mark and accent, which distinguishes this little word from , the feminine definite article.
εἴτεεἴτε: either…or
μήτεμήτε: neither…nor (with infinitives)
οὔτεοὔτε: neither…nor (with indicative verbs)

 

CAUSE and EFFECT

Greek constantly explains the cause of a statement or action (“because”) and the consequence of a statement or action (“therefore”).

BECAUSE

γάρ (postpositive)
ὅτι

THEREFORE

ἄρα
διό
οὖν (postpositive)
τοίνυν (postpositive)

 

OTHER IMPORTANT CONJUNCTIONS:

εἰ, εἴπερ if
ἐπεί after, since, when
ἕως until, while
ἵνα where
μέχρι until
ὅθεν from where
ὅτε when
πρίν (w/indicative verbs) until; (w/ infinitive verbs) before
ὡς as

 

ELISION!

It is common for the final vowel of a conjunction to be ELIDED before a word that begins with a vowel. This process is called ELISION. Note, for example, the elisions in the second sentence of each of the following pairs of sentences.

εἴτε τὰ χρήματα οὐ δίδομεν, εἴτε τὰ ὑπάρχοντα οὐ δίδοτε.
εἴτ’ οὐ δίδομεν τὰ χρήματα, εἴτ’ οὐ δίδοτε τὰ ὑπάρχοντα.
Either we don’t give the money or you don’t give the property.

οὐκ ἀποδίδοτε, ἄρα χρήματα οὐ δίδομεν.
οὐκ ἀποδίδοτε, ἄρ’ οὐ δίδομεν χρήματα.
You do not give (it) back, so/therefore we do not give money.

ὅτε χρήματα ἀποδίδοτε, ὑπάρχοντα δίδομεν.
ὅτ’ ἀποδίδοτε χρήματα, ὑπάρχοντα δίδομεν.
When you give money back, we give property.

NOTE: ὅτι never elides, so ὅτ’ always = ὅτε.

 

– τὸ τέλος –


Key Terms and Concepts

  • CONJUNCTIONS
  • PARTICLES
  • POSTPOSITIVE POSITION
  • ELISION

Vocabulary

  • AND
    • καί
    • δέ (postpositive)
    • μέν…δέ (postpositive)
    • τε (enclitic)
  • AND NOT
    • μήτε (with infinitives)
    • οὔτε (with indicatives)
  • BUT
    • ἀλλά
    • δέ (postpositive)
    • μέν…δέ (postpositive)
  • OR
    • εἴτε… εἴτε either…or
    • μήτε… μήτε neither…nor (with infinitives)
    • οὔτε… οὔτε neither…nor (with indicative)
  • BECAUSE
    • γάρ (postpositive)
    • ὅτι
  • THEREFORE
    • ἄρα
    • διό
    • οὖν (postpositive)
    • τοίνυν (postpositive)
  • OTHER CONJUNCTIONS:
    • εἰ, εἴπερ if
    • ἐπεί after, since, when
    • ἕως until, while
    • ἵνα where
    • μέχρι until
    • ὅθεν from where
    • ὅτε when
    • πρίν (w/indicative verbs) until; (w/infinitive verbs) before
    • ὡς as

Exercises

Ι. Memorize the vocabulary for this lesson. Make careful note of whether the conjunctions are postpositive or enclitic.

ΙΙ. Translate the following sentences.

  1. δίδομεν τὰ σπέρματα ἀλλὰ δίδοτε τὸ ὕδωρ.
  2. τὰ σπέρματα δίδομεν, ὕδωρ δὲ δίδοτε.
  3. χρήματα ὑπάρχοντά τ’ ἀποδίδομεν.
  4. δίδομεν τὰ χρήματα ἢ δίδοτε τὰ ὑπάρχοντα.
  5. οὐ δίδομεν χρήματα, οὐ γὰρ ἀποδίδοτε.
  6. δίδομεν μὲν τὰ σπέρματα, δίδοτε δ’ ὕδωρ.
  7. ἐπεὶ ἀποδίδομεν χρήματά τε καὶ ὑπάρχοντα;
  8. δίδομεν τὰ σπέρματα οὔτε δίδοτε τὸ ὕδωρ.
  9. οὐκ ἀποδίδοτε, διὸ χρήματα οὐ δίδομεν.
  10. οὐκ ἀποδίδοτε, χρήματα οὖν οὐ δίδομεν.
  11. δίδομεν τὰ σπέρματα οὔτ’ ὕδωρ δίδοτε.
  12. τὰ σπέρματα μὲν δίδομεν, ὕδωρ δὲ δίδοτε.
  13. εἴτε δίδομεν τὰ χρήματα εἴτε δίδοτε τὰ ὑπάρχοντα.
  14. οὐ δίδομεν, ὅτι χρήματα οὐκ ἀποδίδοτε.
  15. δίδομεν τὰ σπέρματα ἀλλ’ οὐ δίδοτε τὸ ὕδωρ.

 

License

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Conjunctions by Wilfred E. Major and Michael Laughy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.