previous next


2335. General conditions refer indefinitely to any act or series of acts that are supposed to occur or to have occurred at any time; and without any implication as to fulfilment.

The if clause has the force of if ever (whenever), the conclusion expresses a repeated or habitual action or a general truth.

2336. Any simple or unreal condition of present or past time, or any future condition, may refer to a customary or frequently repeated act or to a general truth. But for the present and past only (when nothing is implied as to fulfilment) there are two forms of expression: either a special kind of conditional sentence or (less frequently) the simple condition, as regularly in English and in Latin:

Present. Protasis: ἐά_ν (= ἐά_ν ποτε) with the subjunctive; apodosis: the present indicative (2337).

Protasis: εἰ ( = εἴ ποτε) with the present indicative; apodosis: the present indicative (2298 c, 2342).

Past. Protasis: εἰ with the optative; apodosis: the imperfect indicative (2340).

Protasis: εἰ with the imperfect; apodosis: the imperfect (2298 c, 2342).

a. By reason of the past apodosis, the optative in the protasis refers to the past. Only in this use (and when the optative in indirect discourse represents a past indicative) does the optative refer distinctly to the past.

b. The present subjunctive and optative view the action as continuing (not completed); the aorist subjunctive and optative, as simply occurring (completed). The tenses of the protasis have no time of themselves, but usually the action of the present is relatively contemporaneous with, the action of the aorist relatively antecedent to, the action of the main verb.

c. The indicative forms in the protasis are more common in temporal and relative sentences. Observe that it is the character of the apodosis alone which distinguishes the special kind of general condition from the two forms of future conditions.


2337. Present general conditions have, in the protasis, ἐά_ν (ἤν, ἄ_ν) with the subjunctive; in the apodosis, the present indicative or an equivalent. ἐὰ_ν ταῦτα ποιῇς (ποιήσῃς), σὲ ἐπαινῶ if ever you do this, I always praise you. The conclusion holds true of any time or of all time.

““ἢν δ᾽ ἐγγὺς ἔλθῃ θάνατος, οὐδεὶς βούλεται θνῄσκεινbut if death draws near, no one wishes to dieE. Alc. 671, ““γελᾷ δ᾽ μῶρος, κἄ_ν τι μὴ γελοῖον the fool laughs even if there is nothing to laugh atMen. Sent. 108, ἐὰ_ν ἴσοις ἴσα προστεθῇ, τὰ ὅλα ἐστὶν ἴσα if equals be added to equals, the wholes are equal Euclid, Ax. 2.

2338. The gnomic aorist is equivalent to the present indicative in apodosis. ἢν δέ τις τούτων τι παραβαίνῃ, ζημία_ν αὐτοῖς ἐπέθεσαν but if any one ever transgresses any one of these regulations, they always impose punishment upon them (him) X. C. 1.2.2.

2339. Homer and Pindar prefer εἰ to ἐά_ν or εἴ κε (A 81); and this εἰ is sometimes found in Attic poetry (S. Ant. 710). ἄν is more often absent in general conditions than in vivid future conditions.

Sixth Form of Conditions: PAST GENERAL CONDITIONS

2340. Past general conditions have, in the protasis, εἰ with the optative; in the apodosis, the imperfect indicative or an equivalent. εἰ ταῦτα ποιοίης (ποιήσειας), σὲ ἐπῄνουν if ever you did this, I always praised you.

εἴ πού τι ὁρῴη βρωτόν, διεδίδου if ever he saw anything to eat anywhere, he always distributed it X. A. 4.5.8, ““εἰ δέ τις καὶ ἀντείποι, εὐθὺς . . . ἐτεθνήκειbut if any one even made an objection, he was promptly put to deathT. 8.66, εἰ μὲν ἐπίοιεν οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι, ὑπεχώρουν, εἰ δ᾽ ἀναχωροῖεν, ἐπέκειντο if the Athenians advanced, they retreated; if they retired, they fell upon them 7.79, ἐτί_μα_ δ᾽ εἴ τι καλὸν πρά_ττοιεν, παρί_στατο δ᾽ εἴ τις συμφορὰ_ συμβαίνοι he honoured them if ever they performed some noble action, and stood by them in times of misfortune (lit. if any misfortune befell) X. Ag. 7.3.

a. The optative is here sometimes called the iterative optative. This mood has however no iterative force in itself, the idea of repetition being derived solely from the context. In Homer the iterative optative after εἰ (found only Ω 768) is an extension of the iterative optative in temporal clauses where this use originated.

2341. The iterative imperfect or aorist with ἄν (1894, 1933): εἰ δέ τις αὐτῷ περί του ἀντιλέγοι . . ., ἐπὶ τὴν ὑπόθεσιν ἐπανῆγεν ἂν πάντα τὸν λόγον if ever any one opposed him on any matter, he would always bring the entire discussion back to the main point X. M. 4.6.13, εἴ τις αὐτῷ δοκοίη . . . βλα_κεύειν, ἐκλεγόμενος τὸν ἐπιτήδειον ἔπαισεν ἄν if ever any one seemed to be lagging, he would always pick out the likely man and strike him X. A. 2.3.11. These cases are not to be confused with the apodoses of unreal conditions.


2342. Present: protasis, εἰ with the present; apodosis, the present. Past: protasis, εἰ with the imperfect; apodosis, the imperfect.

The protasis usually has εἴ τις, εἴ τι (cp. ὅστις, τι) with the indicative, as εἴ τις δύο καί τι πλείους ἡμέρα_ς λογίζεται, μάταιός ἐστιν if ever any one counts upon two or even perchance on more days, he is rash S. Tr. 944, ““ἐλευθέρως δὲ . . . πολι_τεύομεν . . ., οὐ δι᾽ ὀργῆς τὸν πέλας, εἰ καθ᾽ ἡδονήν τι δρᾷ, ἔχοντεςwe are tolerant in our public life, not being angry at our neighbour if he acts as he likesT. 2.37, τὰ μὲν ἀγώγιμα, εἴ τι ἦγον, ἐξαιρούμενοι φύλακας καθί_στασαν taking out the cargoes, if the vessels carried anything, they appointed guards X. A. 5.1.16, εἴ τίς τι ἐπηρώτα_, ἀπεκρί_νοντο if ever anybody asked any questions (for additional information) they answered T. 7.10, ἐμί_σει οὐκ εἴ τις κακῶς πάσχων ἠμύ_νετο, ἀλλ᾽ εἴ τις εὐεργετούμενος ἀχάριστος φαίνοιτο (2340) he hated not the man who, on suffering ill, retaliated, but him who seemed ungrateful though he had received kindness X. Ag. 11. 3.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: