48 Hypothetically Speaking

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Altar of Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria. Late 4th c. B.C. Athenian Agora Excavations

 


Subjunctive and Optative Mood: Subordinate Clauses

So far we have discussed the uses of the subjunctive and optative in MAIN CLAUSES. Now let’s consider how these moods are used in SUBORDINATE clauses.

For many subordinate clauses, such as PURPOSE CLAUSES or FEAR CLAUSES, the TENSE or MOOD of the main verb determines the MOOD–subjunctive or optative–of the verb in the subordinate clause.

If, for example, the MAIN VERB of the sentence is a PRIMARY tense (e.g., present, future, perfect) or a MOOD that refers to a possible future action (i.e., imperative, subjunctive, optative):

  • the verb of the purpose clause is SUBJUNCTIVE

If the MAIN VERB of the sentence is a SECONDARY tense (e.g., imperfect, aorist, pluperfect):

  • the verb of the purpose clause is OPTATIVE (or SUBJUNCTIVE to express vividness)

This pattern–subjunctive following primary main verbs, optative following secondary main verbs–is called the SEQUENCE OF MOODS.

 

 

To see how the SEQUENCE OF MOODS operates in Greek, let us look in more detail at PURPOSE CLAUSES and FEAR CLAUSES.

 


Purpose Clause

A PURPOSE CLAUSE indicates the purpose for which the action of the verb in the main clause was done (S 2193-2206). For example:

  • He sent ships in order to trade with the Athenians.

A purpose clause in Greek is introduced by the following conjunctions:

  • ἵνα, ὡς, ὅπως
    • so that, in order that
  • ἵνα μή, ὡς μή, ὅπως μή, or μή (alone)
    • so that…not, in order that…not, lest

 

The mood of the verb in the purpose clause is SUBJUNCTIVE or OPTATIVE, as determined by the SEQUENCE OF MOODS. As always, the tenses of SUBJUNCTIVE and OPTATIVE denote ASPECT, not time.

  • ταῦτα ποιοῦσιν ἵνα ἡ πόλις ἐλευθέρα ᾖ.
    • They are doing these things so that the city may be free.
  • ταῦτα ποιήσουσιν ἵνα ἡ πόλις ἐλευθέρα ᾖ.
    • They will do these things so that the city may be free.
  • ταῦτα ἐποιήσαμεν μὴ τοὺς ἵππους λύσαι.
    • We did these things so that he not free the horses.
  • ταῦτα ἐπεποιήκεσαν ὅπως μὴ τοὺς ἵππους λύσαι.
    • The had done these things so that he not free the horses.
  • Ἑλληνικὴν μάθωμεν ὅπως τὴν Ἰλιάδα τοῦ Ὁμήρου ἀναγιγνώσκωμεν.
    • Let’s learn Greek in order to read Homer’s Iliad.
  • Ἑλληνικὴν ἐμανθάνομεν ὡς τὴν Ἰλιάδα τοῦ Ὁμήρου ἀναγιγνώσκοιμεν.
    • We were learning Greek so that we may read Homer’s Iliad.

 


Fear Clause

Another common subordinate clause in Greek is the FEAR CLAUSE (S 2221-2232). The clause acts essentially as the direct object of a verb of fearing. For example:

  • I fear that my time has run out.

A fear clause in Greek is introduced by the following conjunctions:

  • μή that, lest
    • expresses the fear that something may happen
  • μὴ οὐ that…not, in order that…not, lest…not
    • expresses the fear that something may not happen

If the fear clause expresses a concern that something is happening (PRESENT) or has happened (PAST), the verb in the subordinate clause is INDICATIVE.

  • φοβοῦμαι μὴ ἀληθές ἐστιν.
    • I fear that this is true.
  • φοβοῦμαι μὴ ἀληθὲς ἦν.
    • I fear that this was true.

If, however, the fear clause expresses a concern that something may or may not happen (FUTURE), the clause follows the same SEQUENCE OF MOODS as purposes clauses.

  • φοβοῦμαι μὴ ἀληθές ᾖ.
    • I fear that this may be (i.e. turn out) true.
  • ἐφοβοῦντο μὴ ἀληθές εἴη.
    • They feared that this might be (i.e. turn out) true.
  • φόβος ἐστι μὴ οὐ ταῦτα ποιήσῃ.
    • There is a fear that he may not do these things.
  • φόβος ἦν μὴ ταῦτα ποιοίησαν.
    • There was a fear that he would be doing these things.
  • μὴ φοβήσῃ μὴ τοὺς ἵππους λάβωσιν.
    • Don’t fear that they may take the horses.
  • ἐφοβούμεθα μὴ τοὺς ἵππους λάβοιντο.
    • We feared that they might take the horses.

 

It may seem odd that the conjunction μή is translated as that, while μὴ οὐ is translated that…not. Why is μή not a negative in FEAR CLAUSES? The reason is that μή after verbs of fearing was originally not a conjunction meaning that, but a particle indicating a prohibition. In other words, φοβοῦμαι μὴ ἀληθές ᾖI fear that this may be true, originally developed from I am afraid + let it not be true (S 2222). Over time, μή developed into a conjunction that expressed fear of an undesirable outcome.

 

– τὸ τέλος –

 


Key Terms and Concepts

  • PURPOSE CLAUSE
  • SEQUENCE OF MOODS
  • FEAR CLAUSE

Exercises

1. For each of the following fear and purpose clauses, give the tense and mood of both the main verb and the verb in the subordinate clause. Translate the sentence.

  • ἐφοβούμην μὴ λύσαιεν τοὺς κακούς.
  • φοβοῦμαι μὴ οὐ λύωμεν τοὺς κακούς.
  • ἐφοβοῦντο μὴ λύσειε τοὺς κακούς.
  • φοβοῦμαι μὴ οὐ λύσῃ τοὺς κακούς.
  • ἐπέμπομεν δῶρα ὡς λύσαιτε τοὺς ἀδελφούς.
  • ἐπέμπψαμεν δῶρα ἵνα λύοιτε τοὺς ἀδελφούς.
  • πέμπομεν δῶρα ὅπως λύητε τοὺς ἀδελφούς.
  • πέμψομεν δῶρα ἵνα λύσητε τοὺς ἀδελφούς.

 

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