48 Hypothetically Speaking

2012.03.6182

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.

 


Conditional Sentences

A CONDITIONAL sentence is one that states that a given result can happen if a given situation or condition exists. A conditional sentence in English typically has two clauses :

  • A subordinate clause, introduced by if, that presents the condition.
    • This clause, called the PROTASIS (πρότασις premise).
  • A main clause, often introduced by then, that presents the result.
    • This clause is called the APODOSIS (ἀπόδοσις explanation).

Let’s consider three types of conditional sentences in English:

  • SIMPLE CONDITIONS do not specify whether the result is or was occurring.
    • If the orator speaks well, he will convince the people.
    • If the orator spoke well, he convinced the people.
  • SHOULD-WOULD CONDITIONS express some doubt about the condition.
    • If you should think you are a good orator, you would be wrong.
  • CONTRARY-TO-FACT CONDITIONS imply that the condition is or was not fulfilled.
    • If the orator had spoken, the people would have been convinced.
    • If the orator were speaking, the people would be convinced. 

Greek conditional sentences operate in much the same way (S 2280). There are four main types of conditional sentences in Greek:

  • Simple Conditions
  • Contrary-to-Fact Conditions
  • General Conditions
  • Future Conditions

For all conditional sentences:

  • The NEGATIVE of the PROTASIS is μή
  • The NEGATIVE of the APODOSIS is οὐ.

 

1. Simple Conditions

SIMPLE CONDITIONS state a particular condition, without reference to whether the result or outcome is actually fulfilled (S 2298-2301). There are two types of simple conditions: PRESENT and PAST.

Protasis Apodosis
Simple Present εἰ + present or perfect ind. present or perfect ind.
Simple Past εἰ + past tense ind. past tense ind.

 

  • εἰ ὁ ἄνεμος ἀγαθός ἐστιν, ἐπὶ τὸ Βυζάντιον πλεῖ.
    • If the wind is good, he is sailing to Byzantium.
  • εἰ ὁ ἄνεμος ἀγαθός ἦν, ἐπὶ τὸ Βυζάντιον ἔπλει.
    • If the wind was good, he was sailing to Byzantium.
  • εἰ μὴ ὁ ἄνεμος ἀγαθός ἦν, ἐπὶ τὸ Βυζάντιον οὐκ ἔπλει.
    • If the wind was not good, he was not sailing to Byzantium.

 

Remember that the APODOSIS is the main clause. Though the verb in the APODOSIS is usually INDICATIVE in simple conditions, IMPERATIVES, OPTATIVES, and SUBJUNCTIVES used as main-clause verbs can also appear.

  • εἰ ὁ ἄνεμος ἀγαθός ἐστιν, πλεῖτε ἐπὶ τὸ Βυζάντιον.
    • If the wind is good, sail to Byzantium.
    • πλεῖτε: present imperative
  • εἰ ἔστιν ἡ αἰθρία, ἂν συμβαίνοιεν ἀλλήλοις.
    • If there is clear weather, they could walk with each another.
    • ἂν συμβαίνοιεν: potential optative
  • εἰ ἀγαθός εἶ, τοὺς ἵππους μὴ λάβησθε.
    • If you are a good man, don’t take the horses.
    • μὴ λάβησθε: prohibitive subjunctive

 

2. Contrary-to-Fact Conditions

CONTRARY-TO-FACT CONDITIONS imply that a particular condition is or was not fulfilled (S 2302-2305). There are two types of contrary-to-fact conditions: PRESENT and PAST.

Protasis (negative: μή) Apodosis (negative: οὐ)
Contrary-to-Fact Present εἰ + imperfect ind. ἄν + imperfect ind.
Contrary-to-Fact Past εἰ + aorist ind. ἄν + aorist ind.

 

  • εἰ ταῦτα ἐποίεις, καλῶς ἂν ἐποίεις.
    • If you were doing these things, you would be doing well (but you are not).
  • εἰ τὰς θύγατρας καλῶς ἐπαίδευσε, δῶρα ἂν ἔπεμψα.
    • If he had taught my daughters well, I would have sent gifts.
  • εἰ μὴ ὁ ἄνεμος ἀγαθός ἦν, ἐπὶ τὸ Βυζάντιον οὐκ ἔπλει.
    • If the wind was not good, he was not sailing to Byzantium.

– 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.

 

License

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