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40 Vocative and Imperative

2009.04.0248

Miniature votive altar dedicated to the goddess Nemesis. 3rd c. A.D. Athenian Agora Excavations.

 


Vocative Case

 

You have already learned the four most commonly used cases for Greek nouns and adjectives: nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative. This lesson presents the final case: the VOCATIVE.

The vocative case is used for the person or persons directly addressed. For example:

  • Jurymen, I submit the following evidence.
  • Where are you going, Odysseus?

Most often, the NOMINATIVE forms of nouns and adjectives double as VOCATIVE forms. When Greek speakers were being formal or polite, they would use the marker (like the English “O Brother…”) to signal the vocative case, but it is not necessary, and  is often best left untranslated in English.

 


IDENTICAL NOMINATIVES/VOCATIVES

 

1. Plural Nouns/Adjectives

In the plural, ALL NOUNS simply use their NOMINATIVE PLURAL forms for the VOCATIVE:

  • παραδίδοτε ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι τὴν πατρίδα.
    • You, Athenian men, are betraying your fatherland.
  • παραδίδοτε, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Athenian men, you are betraying your fatherland.

 

2. Neuter

ALL NEUTER nouns simply use their NOMINATIVE SINGULAR and PLURAL forms for the VOCATIVE:

  • παραδίδως, ὦ τέκνον, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Child, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδως, ὦ τέκνα, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Children, you are betraying your country.

 

3. 1st Declension Feminine

ALL 1st DECLENSION FEMININE NOUNS use their NOMINATIVE SINGULAR forms for the VOCATIVE:

  • nominative sing.: ἡ ἡμέρα, ἡ τέχνη
  • vocative sing.: ὦ ἡμέρα, ὦ τέχνη

 


DIFFERENT NOMINATIVES/VOCATIVES

For some declensions, the ending for the MASCULINE and FEMININE SINGULAR VOCATIVE may differ from the NOMINATIVE. In such cases, the vocative is most often formed in one of three ways, none of which offer significant problems of identification:

  • 2nd declension: –ος is replaced with –ε
  • 3rd declension: the stem is used on its own
  • 3rd declension: the stem is shortened to end in an allowable Greek sound

 

1. Replacing –ος with –ε for 2nd declension nouns/adjectives

All masculine (and feminine) nouns of the 2nd declension change the ending of their stem from –ο to –ε. Note the similar change in Greek –ω verbs (λύομεν/λύετε).

  • παραδίδως, ὦ ἀδελφέ, τὴν πατρίδα. (ἀδελφός: stem = ἀδελφο-)
    • Brother, you are betraying your country.

 

2. Using the stem of 3rd declension nouns/adjectives

Some masculine and feminine nouns/adjectives – e.g., those whose stems end in –ερ, –εσ, –ι, and –υ – use just their STEM for the vocative singular. 1st DECLENSION MASCULINE nouns also follow this pattern.

  • παραδίδως, ὦ πάτερ, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Father, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδως, ὦ μῆτερ, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Mother, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδως, ὦ θύγατερ, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Daughter, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδως, ὦ ἄνερ, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Man, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδως, ὦ Σώκρατες, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Socrates, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδως, ὦ βασιλεῦ, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • King, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδως, ὦ στρατιώτα, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Soldier, you are betraying your country.

 

3. Shortening the stem of 3rd declension nouns/adjectives

If a masculine and feminine stem ends in a CONSONANT other than –ν, –ρ or –ς, the STEM DROPS its final consonants until the word reaches an allowable final sound. For example: σῶματσῶμαἄρχοντἄρχον.

  • παραδίδως, ὦ γύναι, τὴν πατρίδα. (stem = γυναικ-)
    • Woman, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδως, ὦ παῖ, τὴν πατρίδα. (stem = παιδ-)
    • Child, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδοσαι, ὦ πατρὶ, ὑπὸ τῶν παίδων. (stem = πατριδ-)
    • Fatherland, you are being betrayed by the children.

 


PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Adjectives form the vocative just as nouns do. Note the following examples:

  • παραδίδως, ὦ κακὲ βασιλεῦ, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Evil king, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδως, ὦ κακὴ βασίλεια, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • Evil queen, you are betraying your country.
  • παραδίδως, ὦ ἀληθὲς βασιλεῦ, τὴν πατρίδα.
    • True king, you are betraying your country.

 


Imperative Mood

 

You have already learned two moods of Greek verbs: the INDICATIVE and INFINITIVE. This lesson presents one more mood: the IMPERATIVE.

The imperative mood conveys a COMMAND for someone to perform the action of the verb. The imperative mood exists in all voices, but occurs in only TWO TENSES:

  • present
  • aorist

The tenses of the imperative mood indicate ASPECT:

  • present: ongoing aspect
    • λάμβανε Hold on!
  • aorist: simple/unmarked aspect
    • λαβέ Get it!

As you review the following imperative endings, it will be useful to download and consult the summary of imperative endings, available here: Imperative Chart.

 


2nd PERSON PLURAL: –τε and –σθε

In the 2nd PERSON PLURAL of both the PRESENT and AORIST, the IMPERATIVE uses the same personal endings as the INDICATIVE:

  • τε (active)
  • σθε (middle)

The use of the vocative is common, though not necessary, when using the imperative mood:

  • λύετε, ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοὺς ἵππους.
    • Men of Athens, release the horses!
  • λύεσθε, ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοὺς ἵππους.
    • Men of Athens, ransom the horses!

Just as with infinitives, the AORIST IMPERATIVE never receives an AUGMENT.

  • λύσατε, ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοὺς ἵππους.
    • Men of Athens, release the horses!
  • λύσασθε, ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοὺς ἵππους.
    • Men of Athens, ransom the horses!
  • λάβετε, ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοὺς ἵππους.
    • Men of Athens, get the horses!
  • λάβεσθε, ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοὺς ἵππους.
    • Men of Athens, take the horses (for yourselves)!

 


2nd PERSON SINGULAR ACTIVE: –ε

In the 2nd SINGULAR ACTIVE of both the PRESENT and SECOND AORIST verbs, the imperative regularly uses the personal ending –ε (S 466a). This is the most common ending, in fact, for 2nd person singular active imperatives.

  • λῦε, ὦ βασιλεῦ, τὸν ἵππον.
    • King, release your horse!
  • λάμβανε, ὦ βασιλεῦ, τὸν ἵππον.
    • King, hold on to your horse!
  • λίπε, ὦ βασιλεῦ, τὸν ἵππον.
    • King, leave your horse!

 

Note that five thematic SECOND AORIST imperatives accent their ULTIMA, rather than following the rule of recessive accent (S 424b):

  • εἰπέ Say!
  • ἐλθέ Come!
  • εὑρέ Find!
  • ἰδέ See!
  • λαβέ Take!

 

In the PRESENT TENSE, the ending –ε contracts with the verb stem of some –μι verbs (S 746b):

  • τίθει μοι τὰ χρήματα. (τίθεε < τίθημι)
    • Take the money for me!
  • δίδου μοι τὰ χρήματα. (δίδοε < δίδωμι)
    • Give me the money!
  • ἵει τὰ χρήματα. (ἵεε < ἵημι)
    • Throw the money!
  • ἵστη τὸν ἵππον. (ἵσταε < ἵστημι)
    • Stand up the horse!

 


2nd PERSON SINGULAR ACTIVE: –ς

In the SECOND AORIST TENSE, a few imperatives use the –ς ending (S 466b):

  • θὲς τὰ χρήματα. (< τίθημι)
    • Take the money!
  • δὸς μοι τὰ χρήματα. (< δίδωμι)
    • Give me the money!
  • ἕς τὰ χρήματα. (< ἵημι)
    • Throw the money!

The 2nd singular AORIST imperative of ἔχω also uses the  –ς ending:

  • σχὲς τὰ χρήματα. (< ἔχω)
    • Hold onto the money!

 


2nd PERSON SINGULAR ACTIVE: –θι

An archaic imperative ending for the 2nd singular active was –θι, which by the Classical period survived in only a few instances (S 466a):

  • στῆθι. (aorist < ἵστημι) Stand!
  • φάθι or φαθί (present < φημί) Speak!
  • γνῶθι σεαυτόν. (aorist < γιγνώσκω) Know thyself!
  • ἴθι (present < εἶμι, go) Go!
  • ἴσθι (present < εἰμί and perfect < οἶδα) Be…! or Know!

The rare aorist passive/intransitive imperative uses –θι.

  • λυ + θη + θι = λύθητι. (< λύω) Be free!

Remember that as a general rule of pronunciation in Greek, two consecutive syllables cannot each have aspiration (S 125b). So in this case, –θη– keeps the aspiration and the imperative ending loses the aspiration: –θι → –τι.

 


2nd PERSON SINGULAR MIDDLE: –σο (-ου)

In the 2nd singular MIDDLE of both the PRESENT and SECOND AORIST, the imperative uses the personal ending –σο, which contracts for THEMATIC verbs (-εσο → –ου), as it does in the indicative.

In the 2nd singular PRESENT MIDDLE, the accent is on the PENULT:

  • λύου, ὦ βασιλεῦ, τοὺς ἵππους.
    • King, ransom the horses!

In the 2nd singular SECOND AORIST MIDDLE, the accent is a CIRCUMFLEX on the ULTIMA:

  • λαβοῦ, ὦ βασιλεῦ, τὸν ἵππον.
    • King, take the horse (for yourself)!

 


1st AORIST: 2nd PERSON ACTIVE (–ον) AND MIDDLE (–σαι)

A FIRST AORIST (those marked by –σα–) in the imperative uses the personal ending –ον in the 2nd singular active and –σαι in the 2nd singular middle:

  • λῦσον, ὦ βασιλεῦ, τοὺς ἵππους.
    • King, release the horses!
  • λῦσαι, ὦ βασιλεῦ, τοὺς ἵππους.
    • King, ransom the horses!

Beware that this 2nd singular imperative is easily confused with the FIRST AORIST INFINITIVE active in disyllabic verbs. For verbs of three or more syllables, however, the accent distinguishes between the two:

  • κέλευσαι (imperative, recessive accent on antepenult)
  • κελεῦσαι (infinitive, persistent accent on penult)

 


3rd PERSON IMPERATIVE!

A Greek speaker uses the imperative mood in the third person to convey to the listener(s) a command for someone else to do something. English does not have 3rd person commands, but traditionally the helper verb let translates the idea:

  • Let someone else do it!
  • Let it be done!

3rd person imperative endings of both the PRESENT and FIRST/SECOND AORIST:

  • singular: –τω (active) –σθω (middle)
  • plural: –ντων (active) –σθων (middle)
    •  –τωσαν (active) and (–σθωσαν) become more common in later Classical and Koine Greek.

 

3rd PERSON PRESENT TENSE SINGULAR:

  • λυέτω τοὺς ἵππους. (active)
    • Let him/her release the horses.
  • λυέσθω τοὺς ἵππους. (middle)
    • Let him/her ransom the horses.

 

3rd PERSON PRESENT TENSE PLURAL:

  • λυόντων τοὺς ἵππους. (active)
    • Let them release the horses.
  • λυέσθων τοὺς ἵππους. (middle)
    • Let them ransom the horses.

 

3rd PERSON FIRST AORIST SINGULAR:

  • λυσάτω τοὺς ἵππους. (active)
    • Let him/her release the horses.
  • λυσάσθω τοὺς ἵππους. (middle)
    • Let him/her ransom the horses.

 

3rd PERSON FIRST AORIST PLURAL:

  • λυσάντων τοὺς ἵππους. (active)
    • Let them release the horses.
  • λυσάσθων τοὺς ἵππους. (middle)
    • Let them ransom the horses.

 

3rd PERSON SECOND AORIST SINGULAR:

  • λαβέτω τοὺς ἵππους. (active)
    • Let him/her grab the horses.
  • λαβέσθω τοὺς ἵππους. (middle)
    • Let him/her grab the horses.

 

3rd PERSON SECOND AORIST PLURAL:

  • λαβόντων τοὺς ἵππους. (active)
    • Let them grab the horses.
  • λαβέσθων τοὺς ἵππους. (middle)
    • Let them grab the horses.

 

3rd PERSON AORIST PASSIVE SINGULAR:

  • λυθήτω ὁ ἵππος. (passive)
    • Let the horse be released.

 

3rd PERSON AORIST PASSIVE PLURAL:

  • λυθέντων οἱ ἵπποι. (passive)
    • Let the horses be released.

 


IMPERATIVE: εἰμί

The imperative of εἰμί (verb stem: ἐσ-) occurs only in the PRESENT ACTIVE (S 770; GPH p. 180).

Singular

Plural

2nd person

ἴσθι

ἔστε

3rd person

ἔστω

ἔστων

 


NEGATIVE IMPERATIVE: μή

Greek uses μή to negate the imperative mood. For example:

  • μὴ λῦε, ὦ βασιλεῦ, τὸν ἵππον.
    • King, don’t release your horse!
  • μὴ λύσασθε, ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοὺς ἵππους.
    • Men of Athens, don’t ransom the horses!
  • μὴ λαβέντων τοὺς ἵππους.
    • Let them not grab the horses.
  • μὴ λυθήτω ὁ ἵππος.
    • Let the horse not be released.

 

 

– τὸ τέλος –

 


Key Terms and Concepts

  • VOCATIVE
  • IMPERATIVES AND ASPECT
  • 2ND PERSON IMPERATIVE
  • 3RD PERSON IMPERATIVE

Exercises

1. The vocative and nominative endings are always identical in which of the following forms:

  • singular
  • plural
  • masculine
  • feminine
  • neuter

2. When Greek speakers are being polite or formal, they use the following marker before the vocative:

3. Masculine and Feminine nouns/adjectives do not always have matching nominative and vocative singular endings. In these cases, what are the three possible ways that these nouns form their singular vocative? Give an example of each type.

 

4. Provide the vocative singular and plural for each of the following nouns.

  • τέκνον -ου τό child
  • ἀδελφή -ῆς ἡ sister
  • πατρίς, πατρίδος ὁ fatherland
  • ἀδελφός -οῦ ὁ brother
  • παῖς, παιδός ὁ child
  • δαιμόνιον -ου τό demon
  • βασιλεύς -έως ὁ king
  • υἱός -οῦ ὁ son
  • ἀλήθεια -ας ἡ truth
  • πατήρ, πατρός ὁ father
  • θυγάτηρ -τρός ἡ daughter
  • ἀνήρ, ἀνδρός ὁ man

5. The imperative mood in Ancient Greek can be formed in what person(s)?

  • 1st
  • 2nd
  • 3rd

6. The tense of the imperative verb in Ancient Greek reflects which of the following?

  • time in relation to the main verb
  • time in relation to when the verb was uttered
  • aspect

7. The imperative can be formed in what tenses?

  • _______________  and   __________________

8. Provide all the possible imperative forms of the following verbs.

  • ποιέω, ποιήσω, ἐποίησα
  • γράφω, γράψω, ἔγραψα
  • φεύγω, φεύξομαι, ἔφυγον
  • εἰμί, ἔσομαι, ——

9. For each of the following imperatives, provide the person, number, tense, and voice. Translate.

  • πρᾶττε
  • ζῆσον
  • ἔστω
  • θές
  • ὁμολογησάτω
  • δίδου
  • γνῶθι
  • λιποῦ
  • ἀγόντων
  • πέμψαι
  • λάλει
  • ἴσθι

Readings

Aeschylus Seven against Thebes 245-63: AGE Readings 22.

κατὰ Μαθθαῖον 8.21-32: AGE Readings 22b.

 

License

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