41 Imperative

2011.05.0061
Grave monument of a girl. 1st-2nd c. A.D. Athenian Agora Excavations.

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!

 


Common Imperatives

The following imperatives are the most frequently encountered in Greek. As you read this section, it may be helpful to download and consult this handout: Chart of Common Imperatives.

 

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!

 


2nd PERSON SINGULAR ACTIVE: –ε

In the 2nd PERSON 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 in the singular, 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!

 

 


2nd PERSON SINGULAR MIDDLE: –σο (-ου)

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

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

In the 2nd person singular SECOND AORIST THEMATIC 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 (–σον) AND MIDDLE (–σαι)

A FIRST AORIST in the imperative uses the personal ending –σον in the 2nd person singular active and –σαι in the 2nd person singular middle:

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

Beware that this 2nd person singular middle 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)

 


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!

 


Less Common Imperatives

 

In the PRESENT TENSE, the 2nd PERSON SINGULAR ACTIVE ending –ε contracts with the tense stem of some –μι verbs (S 746b):

  • τίθει μοι τὰ χρήματα. (τίθεε < τίθημι)
    • Deposit 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)
    • Deposit the money!
  • δὸς μοι τὰ χρήματα. (< δίδωμι)
    • Give me the money!
  • ἓς τὰ χρήματα. (< ἵημι)
    • Throw the money!
  • σχὲς τὰ χρήματα. (< ἔχω)
    • Hold the money!

 


2nd PERSON SINGULAR ACTIVE: –θι

An archaic imperative ending for the 2nd person 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.

 


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 has only a few phrases that preserve 3rd person commands, such as:

  • Someone help him!
  • No one move!

When translating the Greek, the helper verb let is one way to translate 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.
    • He is to release the horses.
  • λυέσθω τοὺς ἵππους. (middle)
    • Let him/her ransom the horses.
    • He is to ransom the horses.

 

3rd PERSON PRESENT TENSE PLURAL:

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

 

3rd PERSON FIRST AORIST SINGULAR:

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

 

3rd PERSON FIRST AORIST PLURAL:

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

 

3rd PERSON SECOND AORIST SINGULAR:

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

 

3rd PERSON SECOND AORIST PLURAL:

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

 

3rd PERSON AORIST PASSIVE SINGULAR:

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

 

3rd PERSON AORIST PASSIVE PLURAL:

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

 

 

– τὸ τέλος –

 


Key Terms and Concepts

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

Exercises

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

  • 1st
  • 2nd
  • 3rd

2. 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

3. The imperative can be formed in what tenses?

  • _______________  and   __________________

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

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

5. 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

κατὰ Μαθθαῖον 8.21-32: AGE Ch. 41a.

Aeschylus Seven against Thebes 245-63: AGE Ch. 41b.

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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