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1824. Potential Optative.—The potential optative with ἄν states a future possibility, propriety, or likelihood, as an opinion of the speaker; and may be translated by may, might, can (especially with a negative), must, would, should (rarely will, shall). So in Latin velim, videas, cognoscas, credas.

““γνοίης δ᾽ ἂν ὅτι τοῦθ᾽ οὕτως ἔχειyou may see that this is soX. C. 1.6.21, ““ἅπαντες ἂν ὁμολογήσειανall would agreeI. 11.5, ἡδέως ἂν ἐροίμην I (would gladly ask) should like to ask D. 18.64, ““οὐκ ἂν λάβοιςthou canst not takeS. Ph. 103, ““λέγοιμ᾽ ἂν τάδεI will tell thisA. Supp. 928. The second person singular is often indefinite (one), as γνοίης ἄν (cognoscas) = γνοίη τις ἄν.

a. The potential optative ranges from possibility to fixed resolve. The aorist optative with ἄν and a negative is very common.

b. When stress is laid on the idea of possibility and power, necessity and obligation, Greek uses δύναμαι, δεῖ or χρή with the infinitive (statement of fact).

c. The potential optative with ἄν is also used in dependent sentences; in purpose clauses (2202 b), in object clauses after verbs of effort (2216) and verbs of fearing (2232), in causal clauses (2243), in result clauses (2278), in the apodosis of conditional (see 2356) and conditional relative sentences (2566). In indirect discourse the infinitive with ἄν or the participle with ἄν may represent the optative with ἄν (1845 ff.).

1825. Usually these optatives are not limited by any definite condition present to the mind, and it is unnecessary to supply any protasis in thought. In some cases a protasis is dormant in a word of the sentence (such as δικαίως, εἰκότως). Thus, in ““οὓς ἀχαρίστους εἶναι δικαίως ἂν ὑπολαμβάνοιτεwhom you would justly consider to be ungratefulAes. 3.196, δικαίως may stand for εἰ δικαίως ὑπολαμβάνοιτε: if you should consider the matter justly. So οὔτε ἐσθίουσι πλείω δύνανται φέρειν: διαρραγεῖεν γὰρ ἄν κτλ. they neither eat more than they can bear, for otherwise (if they should eat more: εἰ ἐσθίοιεν πλείω) they would burst X. C. 8.2.21. The potential optative is also used as the main clause of less vivid conditions (2329) in which the protasis has the optative by assimilation to the mood of the apodosis.

1826. The potential optative with ἄν is used to soften the statement of an opinion or fact, or to express irony: ἕτερόν τι τοῦτ᾽ ἂν εἴη this is (would be) another matter D. 20.116, νοσοῖμ᾽ ἄν, εἰ νόσημα τοὺς ἐχθροὺς στυγεῖν I must be mad, if it is madness to hate one's foes A. Pr. 978. So often with ἴσως or τάχα perhaps.

a. With a negative, the potential optative may have the force of a strong assertion: ““οὐ γὰρ ἂν ἀπέλθοιμ᾽, ἀλλὰ κόψω τὴν θύρα_νfor I will not go away, but I will knock at the doorAr. Ach. 236.

1827. βουλοίμην ἄν (velim) is often used as a softened optative of wish: βουλοίμην ἂν τοῦτο οὕτω γενέσθαι I could wish that this might be the result (οὕτω γένοιτο may it result thus) P. A. 19a. For ἐβουλόμην ἄν see 1789.

1828. The present and aorist are used of what will be, or what will prove to be, true (future realization of a present fact): ἀρετὴ ἄρα, ὡς ἔοικεν, ὑγίειά τις ἂν εἴη virtue then, it seems, will (prove to) be a kind of health P. R. 444d. The perfect is used of what will prove to be the case as regards a completed action: πῶς ἂν λελήθοι; how can it have escaped my knowledge? X. S. 3. 6. Usually the perfect is here equivalent to the present.

1829. The present and aorist are rarely used of the past: (a) in Hom. of past possibility: καί νύ κεν ἔνθ᾽ ἀπόλοιτο and now he might have perished E 311 (Attic ἀπώλετο ἄν, 1784), ἀλλὰ τί κεν ῥέξαιμι; but what could I do? T 90. (b) in Hdt. of a mild assertion: ταῦτα μὲν καὶ φθόνῳ ἂν εἴποιεν they may have said this out of envy 9. 71, εἴησαν δ᾽ ἂν οὖτοι Κρῆτες these would prove to be (might be, must have been) Cretans 1. 2. Both uses are doubtful in Attic prose.

1830. The potential optative with ἄν may be used, in a sense akin to that of the imperative, to express a command, exhortation, or request: λέγοις ἂν τὴν δέησιν tell me (you may tell) your request P. Par. 126a, ““προάγοις ἄνmove onP. Phae. 229b. This courteous formula is used even where a harsh command might be expected: ““χωροῖς ἂν εἴσω σὺν τάχειgo within with all speedS. El. 1491.

a. In ποῖ δῆτ᾽ ἂν τραποίμην; whither pray shall I turn? Ar. Ran. 296 the use is akin to the deliberative subjunctive (1805) or deliberative future (1916).

1831. The potential optative with ἄν is used in questions: τίς οὐκ ἂν ὁμολογήσειεν; who would not agree? (οὐδείς: scil. οὐκ ἂν ὁμολογήσειε) X. M. 1.1.5. So even the optative of wish: τί δ᾽ ὅρκῳ τῷδε μὴ ᾿μμένων πάθοις; but if thou dost not abide by thy oath what dost thou invoke upon thyself? E. Med. 754 (lit. mayest thou suffer what?).

1832. πῶς ἄν, τίς ἄν with the potential optative may be used to express a wish (especially in the tragic poets): πῶς ἂν ὀλοίμα_ν oh, would that I might die E. Med. 97, τίς ἂν ἐν τάχει μόλοι μοῖρα oh, that some fate would speedily come A. Ag. 1448. Properly this usage is not a wish, but is simply a question how the wish may be fulfilled.

1833. The potential optative with ἄν (especially with negatives) may ex change with the indicative: ““φημὶ καὶ οὐκ ἂν ἀρνηθείηνI assert and cannot denyD. 21.191. It is often stronger, though more courteous, than the future indicative: ““οὐκ ἂν πέρα_ φράσαιμιI will speak no moreS. O. T. 343.

1834. The future optative with ἄν occurs only in a few suspected passages.

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