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Chapter II

The Tenses.

19. There are seven Tenses,—the present, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect, aorist, future, and future perfect. The imperfect and pluperfect occur only in the indicative; the futures are wanting in the subjunctive and imperative.

20. These tenses may express two relations. They may designate the time of an action as present, past, or future; and also its character as going on, finished, or simply taking place. The latter relation is expressed by the tenses in all the moods and in the infinitive and the participle; the former is always expressed in the indicative, and to a certain extent (to be explained below) in the dependent moods and the participle.

21. The tenses are divided into primary tenses, which denote present or future time, and secondary or historical tenses, which denote past time. This distinction applies properly only to the tenses of the indicative; but it may be extended to any forms of the dependent moods which have the same distinction of time as the tenses of the indicative.

The primary tenses of the indicative are the present (in its ordinary uses), perfect, future, and future perfect. The secondary tenses are the imperfect, pluperfect, and aorist (in its ordinary uses).

This distinction will be more fully explained at the end of this chapter (165-191). It must be noted that the historic present (33) is a secondary tense, and the gnomic aorist (154) is a primary tense.

22. In speaking of the time denoted by any verb, we must distinguish between time which is present, past, or future with reference to the time of speaking or writing (that is, time absolutely present, etc.), and time which is present, past, or future with reference to the time of some verb with which the verbal form in question is connected (that is, time relatively present, etc.) Thus, when we say τοῦτο ἀληθές ἐστιν, this is true, ἐστίν is present with reference to the time of speaking; but when we say ἔφη τοῦτο ἀληθὲς εἶναι or εἶπεν ὅτι τοῦτο ἀληθές ἐστιν (or εἴη), he said that this was true, (i.e. he said “this is true”), the present tense which we use denotes time present to the time of the leading verb, i.e. time absolutely past and only relatively present. The same distinction is seen between the future in τοῦτο γενήσεται, this will happen, and that in ἔφη τοῦτο γενήσεσθαι or εἶπεν ὅτι γενήσεται (γενήσοιτο), he said that this would happen; where the future in the first case is absolutely future, but in the other cases is only relatively future and may be even absolutely past. Again, in τοῦτο ἐγένετο, this happened, the aorist is absolutely past; but in ἔφη τοῦτο γενέσθαι, or εἶπεν ὅτι τοῦτο ἐγένετο (or γένοιτο), he said that this had happened, it denotes time past to the time of the past leading verb, and so is doubly past. But in connection with a future expression an aorist, though relatively past, may be absolutely future; as in PLAT. Rep. 478 D,τὸ φανέν” as subject of ἔσεσθαι means that which will hereafter have appeared. So διαπραξάμενος in 496 E. (See 143.)

It is a special distinction between the Greek and the English idioms, that the Greek uses its verbal forms much more freely to denote merely relative time. Thus, we translate the Greek presents εἶναι and ἐστί after ἔφη or εἶπεν (above) by our was; the futures γενήσεσθαι and γενήσεται by would happen; and the aorists γενέσθαι and ἐγένετο by had happened. This distinction appears especially in the indicative, optative, and infinitive of indirect discourse; in future forms after past tenses in final and object clauses with ἵνα, ὅπως, etc.; and usually in the participle; but not in protasis.

I. Tenses of the Indicative: Present.

23. The present indicative represents an action as going on at the time of speaking or writing; as γράφω, I write, or I am writing.

An important exception occurs when the present indicative in indirect discourse denotes time which is present relatively to the leading verb. See above, 22; 669, 2; 674, 1.

24. As the limits of such an action on either side of the present moment are not defined, the present may express a customary or repeated action or a general truth. E.g.

25. The present denotes merely the continuance or progress of an action, without reference to its completion. It may, however, be implied by the context that the action is not to be completed, so that the present denotes an attempted or intended action. Especially δίδωμι, in the sense of offer, and πείθω, try to persuade, are thus used. E.g.

This conative signification is much more common in the imperfect. See 36 and the examples.

26. The present is often used with expressions denoting past time, especially πάλαι, in the sense of a perfect and a present combined. E.g.

So πολὺν χρόνον τοῦτο ποιῶ. So in Latin, iam dudum loquor.

27. The presents ἥκω, I am come, and οἴχομαι, I am gone, are used in the sense of the perfect. An approach to the perfect sense is sometimes found in such presents as φεύγω, in the sense I am banished, ἁλίσκομαι, I am captured, νικῶ and κρατῶ, I am victorious, ἡττῶμαι, I am conquered, ἀδικῶ, I have been unjust (I am ἄδικος). So the Epic ἵκω and ἱκάνω, with ὄλλυμαι and sometimes τίκτω in tragedy. E.g.

Present participles are given in some examples here where they illustrate the meaning of the tense.

28. The Greek, like other languages, often uses such presents as I hear, I learn, I say, even when their action is finished before the time to which they strictly refer. E.g. Εἰ στασιάζουσιν, ὥσπερ πυνθανόμεθα, “if they (the Sicilians) are in discord, as we learn.” THUC. vi. 16.Ἐπὶ πόλεις, ὡς ἐγὼ ἀκοῇ αἰσθάνομαι, μέλλομεν ἰέναι μεγάλας,Id. vi. 20.

29. Εἶμι as Future. The present εἶμι, I am going, and its compounds, have a future sense. Εἶμι thus became a future of ἔρχομαι, the future ἐλεύσομαι not being in good use in Attic prose. E.g.

In Homer εἶμι is used also as a present; as “οἷος δ᾽ ἀστὴρ εἶσι μετ᾽ ἀστράσι,Il. xxii. 317. So ii. 87, Il. xi. 415; Od. iv. 401; and often in similes. This is doubtful in Attic; as in “πρόσειμι δῶμα καὶ βρέτας τὸ σόν,AESCH. Eum. 242 , where πρόσειμι may be πρός + εἰμί. See Krüger and Classen on ἐπίασιν, THUC. iv. 61.

30. The future sense of εἶμι and its compounds extends to the optative, infinitive, and participle in indirect discourse, and often to the participle in other uses (especially when it expresses purpose with ὡς). E.g. “Προεῖπον ὅτι, εἰ μὴ παρεσόμεθα συστρατευσόμενοι, ἐκεῖνοι ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς ἴοιεν,” “i.e.that they would come against us.” XEN. Hell. v. 2, 13 . See also v. 1, 34, where εἰ μὴ ἀπίοιεν corresponds to εἰ μὴ ἐκπέμψοιεν. As ἴοιμι in this use is equivalent to a future optative, it is naturally rare (128). Ἀπιέναι ἐνόμιζεν ὅταν βούληται, he believed he could depart (ἄπειμι) whenever he pleased. THUC. v. 7. So

31. In the optative and infinitive not in indirect discourse, and often in the participle, the same forms of εἶμι are used as ordinary presents. E.g.

In the subjunctive and imperative there can of course be no special future sense in these verbs.

32. In animated language the present often refers to the future, to express likelihood, intention, or danger. E.g.

So ἀπόλλυμαι, I am to perish, LYS. xii. 14. For a similar use of the perfect, see 51. (See also 61.)

33. (Historic Present.) The present is often used in narration for the aorist, sometimes for the imperfect, to give a more animated statement of past events. This is called the historic present. E.g.

The historic present is not found in Homer.


34. The imperfect represents an action as going on in past time; as ἔγραφον, I was writing.

35. The imperfect is thus a present transferred to the past, retaining all the peculiarities of the present which are consistent with the change. Thus it may denote a customary or repeated action, or a series of actions; or, if it refers to a single action (as it very frequently does), it represents it in its progress rather than as a simple past occurrence (like the aorist). In narration it dwells on the course of an event instead of merely stating its occurrence. E.g.

The same action (as in the last two examples) could easily have been mentioned, without reference to its continuance, as a mere event. For the relations of the imperfect to the aorist, see 56.

36. The imperfect, like the present (25), sometimes denotes attempted action, being here strictly an imperfect tense. So especially ἐδίδουν and ἔπειθον. E.g.

37. When the present has the force of the perfect (27), the imperfect has regularly the force of a pluperfect. E.g.

38. The imperfect sometimes denotes likelihood, intention, or danger in past time (see 32). E.g.

39. The imperfect ἦν (generally with ἄρα) may express a fact which is just recognised as such by the speaker or writer, having previously been denied, overlooked, or not understood. E.g.

Other imperfects are rare; as “ἠπίστω,XEN. Hell. iii. 4, 9 .

40. In like manner the imperfect may express something which is the result of a previous discussion, with reference to which the past form is used. This is sometimes called the philosophic imperfect. E.g.

41. The Greek sometimes uses an idiom like the English he was the one who did it for he is the one who did it; as “ἦν τὴν γνώμην ταύτην εἰπὼν Πείσανδρος,THUC. viii. 68 ; “τίς ἦν βοηθήσας τοῖς Βυζαντίοις καὶ σώσας αὐτούς;DEM. xviii. 88.

Perfect and Pluperfect.

42. The perfect represents an action as already finished at the present time; as γέγραφα, I have written (that is, my writing is now finished).

43. The pluperfect represents an action as already finished at a given past time; as ἐγεγράφειν, I had written (that is, my writing was finished at some specified past time).

44. The perfect, although it implies the performance of the action in past time, yet states only that it stands completed at the present time. This explains why the perfect is classed with the present as a primary tense, that is, as a tense of present time.

45. The perfect and the pluperfect may be expressed by the perfect participle with the present and imperfect of εἰμί. Here, however, each part of the compound generally retains its own signification, so that this form expresses more fully the continuance of the result of the action of the perfect to the present time, and of that of the pluperfect to the past time referred to. E.g.

In DEM. xviii. 23, οὔτε γὰρ ἦν πρεσβεία πρὸς οὐδένα ἀπεσταλμένη τότε τῶν Ἑλλήνων means for there was no embassy then out on a mission to any of the Greeks; whereas ἀπέσταλτο would have given the meaning no embassy had ever been sent out (see 831).

This of course does not apply to cases where the compound form is the only one in use, as in the third person plural of the perfect and pluperfect passive and middle of mute and liquid verbs.

46. On the other hand, although the simple form very often implies the continuance of the result of the action down to the present time or to a specified past time, it does so less distinctly than the compound form, and not necessarily (see the last two examples below). E.g.

47. Ἔχω with the aorist and sometimes the perfect participle may form a periphrastic perfect (831). In tragedy and in Herodotus this is often fully equivalent to our perfect with "have"; elsewhere, especially in Attic prose, the participle and ἔχω are more or less distinct in their force. Still, this is the beginning of the modern perfect. E.g.

See THUC. i. 68; DEM. ix. 12, DEM. xxvii. 17.

The beginning of this usage appears in

Κρύψαντες γὰρ ἔχουσι θεοὶ βίον ἀνθρώποισι


48. Εἶχον or ἔσχον with the participle may form a periphrastic pluperfect in the same way (47). E.g. “Ὅν γ᾽ εἶχον ἤδη χρόνιον ἐκβεβληκότες.SOPH. Ph. 600. See HDT. i. 28, 73, and 75; XEN. An. iv. 7, 1.

49. (a) The perfect of many verbs has the signification of a present, which may usually be explained by the peculiar meaning of the verbs. Thus θνῄσκειν, to die, τεθνηκέναι, to be dead; καλεῖν, to call, κεκλῆσθαι, to be called or named; γίγνεσθαι, to become, γεγονέναι, to be; μιμνῄσκειν, to remind, μεμνῆσθαι, to remember; εἰδέναι, to know; ἱστάναι, to place, ἑστάναι, to stand. So βεβηκέναι, to stand; ἐγνωκέναι, to know; ἠμφιέσθαι, to wear; κεκτῆσθαι, to possess; πεποιθέναι, to trust; πεφυκέναι, to be (by nature); etc.

(b) The pluperfect of such verbs has the signification of the imperfect; as οἶδα, I know, ᾔδειν, I knew.

50. In epistles, the perfect and aorist are sometimes used where we might expect the present, the writer transferring himself to the time of the reader. E.g.

So scripsi and misi in Latin.

51. The perfect sometimes refers to the future, to denote certainty or likelihood that an action will immediately take place, in a sense similar to that of the present (32), but with more emphasis, as the change in time is greater. E.g.

So perii in Latin.

52. In a somewhat similar sense (51), the pluperfect may express the immediate or sudden occurrence of a past action. This occurs especially in Homer and Herodotus. E.g.

For the gnomic perfect, see 154 and 155.


53. The aorist indicative expresses the simple occurrence of an action in past time; as ἔγραψα, I wrote.

54. This fundamental idea of simple occurrence remains the essential characteristic of the aorist through all the dependent moods, however indefinite they may be in regard to time. The aorist takes its name (ἀόριστος, unlimited, unqualified) from its thus denoting merely the occurrence of an action, without any of the limitations (ὅροι) as to completion, continuance, repetition, etc., which belong to other tenses. It corresponds to the ordinary preterite (e.g. did, went, said) in English, whereas the Greek imperfect corresponds generally to the forms I was doing, etc. Thus, ἐποίει τοῦτο is he was doing this or he did this habitually; πεποίηκε τοῦτο is he has already done this; ἐπεποιήκει τοῦτο is he had already (at some past time) done this; but ἐποίησε τοῦτο is simply he did this, without qualification of any kind.

55. The aorist of verbs which denote a state or condition generally expresses the entrance into that state or condition. E.g. Βασιλεύω, I am king, ἐβασίλευσα, I became king; ἄρχω, I hold office, ἦρξα, I took office; πλουτῶ, ἐπλούτησα, I became rich.Τῇ ἀληθείᾳ συνῴκει καὶ οὐδέπω καὶ τήμερον ἀπολέλοιπεν: ἀλλὰ παρὰ ζῶντος Τιμοκράτους ἐκείνῳ συνῴκησε,” “she was his wife in good faith, and has not yet even to this day been divorced; but she went to live with him from Timocrates while T. was still living.DEM. XXX. 33.

56. The aorist is distinguished from the imperfect by expressing only the occurrence of an action or the entrance into a state or condition, while the imperfect properly represents an action or state as going on or as repeated. See the examples of the imperfect and aorist in 35, and compare συνῴκει and συνῴκησε in DEM. xxx. 33 (in 55). The aorist is therefore more common in rapid narration, the imperfect in detailed description. It must be remembered that the same event may be looked upon from different points of view by the same person; thus in DEM. xviii. 71 and 73 (quoted in 35) ἔλυε τὴν εἰρήνην and τὴν εἰρήνην ἔλυσε refer to the same thing, once as an act in progress, and once as a fact accomplished. No amount of duration in an act, therefore, can make the aorist an improper form to express it, provided it is stated as a single past event viewed as a whole. Thus ἐβασίλευσε δέκα ἔτη (see HDT. ii. 157) means he had a reign of ten years, (which is viewed as a single past event), while ἐβασίλευε δέκα ἔτη might refer to the same reign in the sense he was reigning during ten years. The aorist may refer even to a series of repetitions; but it takes them collectively as a whole, while the imperfect would take them separately as individuals. See DEM. xviii. 80,μετὰ ταῦτα δὲ τοὺς ἀποστόλους ἅπαντας ἀπέστειλα” , and afterwards I sent out all the naval armaments; and xviii. 60, μὲν πρὸ τοῦ πολιτεύεσθαι καὶ δημηγορεῖν ἐμὲ προὔλαβε καὶ κατέσχε Φίλιππος” , the (succession of) advantages which Philip secured during the period before I entered public life, emphatically opposed (as a whole) to Philip's many failures after that time, which are mentioned in δὲ καὶ διεκωλύθη. If the orator had wished to dwell on the number of the advantages or failures, or on their duration, he could have used the imperfect. See the last example under 35.

57. Since the same event may thus be stated by the aorist or the imperfect according to the writer's point of view, it is natural that it should occasionally be a matter of indifference which form is used, especially when the action is of such a nature that it is not important to distinguish its duration from its occurrence. For example, this distinction can seldom be important in such expressions as he said, he commanded; and we find ἔλεγον and ἐκέλευον in the historians where no idea of duration can have been in mind. See “οἱ δ᾽ ἐκέλευόν τε ἐπιέναι, καὶ παρελθόντες οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ἔλεγον τοιάδε,THUC. i. 72 , followed, at the end of the speech in 79, by τοιαῦτα δὲ οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι εἶπον and Ἀρχίδαμος ἔλεξε τοιάδε. In such cases as the following (cited with others by Krüger) it was not important to the narrative whether the idea of duration was included in the expression or not: βάλλετο and βάλετο, Il. ii. 43 and 45; θῆκεν and τίθει, Il. xxiii. 653 and 656; δῶκε and δίδου, Il. vii. 303 and 305; ἔλιπεν and λεῖπε, Il. ii. 106 and 107; compare also μίστυλλον with ἔπειραν, ὤπτησαν, and ἐρύσαντο, Il. i. 465 and 466. In all these cases the fundamental distinction of the tenses, which was inherent in the form, remained; only it happened that either of the two distinct forms expressed the meaning which was here needed equally well. It must not be thought, from these occasional examples, that the Greeks of any period were not fully alive to the distinction of the two tenses and could not use it with skill and nicety. But the Greeks, like other workmen, did not care to use their finest tools on every occasion; and it is often necessary to remember this if we would avoid hair-splitting.

58. The aorist, expressing simply a past occurrence, is sometimes used where we should expect a perfect or pluperfect, the action being merely referred to the past without the more exact specification which these tenses would give. E.g.

59. The aorist is generally used with ἐπεί or ἐπειδή, after that, the aorist with the particle being equivalent to our pluperfect. So after ἕως and πρίν, until. E.g.

But the pluperfect may still be used after ἐπεί or ἐπειδή, to give additional emphasis to the doubly past action; as in DEM. xviii. 42,ἐπειδὴ ἐξηπάτησθε μὲν ὑμεῖς, ἐξηπάτηντο δὲ οἱ Φωκεῖς καὶ ἀνῄρηντο αἱ πόλεις, τί ἐγένετο;

So in Latin we have generally postquam venit, but occasionally postquam venerat.

60. The aorist is sometimes used colloquially by the poets (especially the dramatists), when a sudden action, which is just taking place, is spoken of as if it had already happened. E.g.

61. The aorist sometimes refers vividly to the future, like the present (32) or perfect (51); as “ἀπωλόμην εἴ με λείψεις,” “I perish if you leave me.EUR. Alc. 386 : so EUR. Med. 78. See also ὤλετο, Il. ix. 413 and 415.

62. In questions with τί οὐ, expressing surprise that something is not already done, and implying an exhortation to do it, the aorist is sometimes used strangely like a future. E.g.

For the gnomic aorist see 154.


63. The future denotes that an action is to take place in time to come; as γράψω, I shall write or I shall be writing, sometimes I will write; πείσεται, he will suffer, sometimes he shall suffer.

64. In indirect discourse and in all final constructions the future expresses time future relatively to the leading verb. See 22.

65. The future may represent an action in its duration, its mere occurrence, or its inception; as ἕξω, I shall have, or I shall obtain; τοῦτο δώσω, I shall give this; ἄρξω, I shall rule, or I shall obtain power (cf. 55). E.g.

66. The future may be used in a gnomic sense, denoting that something will always happen when an occasion offers. E.g. “Ἀνὴρ φεύγων καὶ πάλιν μαχήσεται.MEN. Mon. 45. “He that fights and runs away may turn and fight another day.”

67. The future is sometimes used to express what will hereafter be proved or be recognised as a truth. Compare the use of the imperfect in 40. E.g. “Φιλόσοφος ἡμῖν ἔσται μέλλων καλὸς κἀγαθὸς ἔσεσθαι φύλαξ,” “he will prove to be a philosopher.PLAT. Rep. 376 C .

68. The future is sometimes used in questions of doubt, where the subjunctive is more common (287). E.g.

69. The second person of the future may express a concession or permission; and it often expresses a command, like the imperative. E.g.

Compare the Latin facies ut sciam, let me know; abibis, depart.

70. In a few instances the future indicative with μή expresses a prohibition, like the imperative or subjunctive with μή (259). E.g.

So probably “οὐ σῖγα; μηδὲν τῶνδ᾽ ἐρεῖς κατὰ πτόλιν,” “silence! say nothing of all this in the city.AESCH. Sept. 250. (See 279.)

71. The future sometimes denotes a present intention, expectation, or necessity that something shall be done, in which sense the periphrastic form with μέλλω (73) is more common. E.g.

The distinction between this and the ordinary future (63) is important in conditional sentences (see 407).

72. A still more emphatic reference to a present intention is found in the question τί λέξεις; what do you mean to say? often found in tragedy; as “ὤμοι, τί λέξεις; γὰρ ἐγγύς ἐστί που;EUR. Hec. 1124. So EUR. Hec. 511, EUR. Hec. 712; EUR. Hipp. 353; EUR. Ion. 1113; SOPH. Ph. 1233.

For the future in protasis, see 447 and 407; in relative clauses expressing a purpose, 565; with ἄν, 196; with οὐ μή, 294-301.

73.Μέλλω, with the Infinitive.) A periphrastic future is formed by μέλλω and the present or future (seldom the aorist) infinitive. This form sometimes denotes mere futurity, and sometimes intention, expectation, or necessity. E.g. Μέλλει τοῦτο πράττειν (or πράξειν), he is about to do this, or he intends to do this. So in Latin, facturus est for faciet.Μέλλω ὑμᾶς διδάξειν ὅθεν μοι διαβολὴ γέγονε.PLAT. Ap. 21B.Οὐκοῦν δεήσει τοῦ τοιούτου τινὸς ἀεὶ ἐπιστάτου, εἰ μέλλει πολιτεία σῴζεσθαι;” “if the constitution is to be preserved.PLAT. Rep. 412A . (See 71.)

74. Although the present and the future infinitive were preferred with μέλλω (73), the aorist was still used by some writers, as by Euripides. See

75. The future infinitive with μέλλω forms the only regular exception to the general principle which restricts the use of the future infinitive to indirect discourse (see 86; 112).

76. The imperfect (seldom the aorist) of μέλλω with the infinitive expresses past intention, expectation, or necessity. E.g.

Future Perfect.

77. The future perfect denotes that an action will be already finished at some future time. It is thus a perfect transferred to the future. E.g.

78. The future perfect often denotes the continuance of an action, or the permanence of its results, in future time. E.g. “Δύναμιν, ἧς ἐς ἀίδιον τοῖς ἐπιγιγνομένοις μνήμη καταλελείψεται,” “power, the memory of which will be left to our posterity for ever.” THUC. ii. 64. (Compare 105.

79. The future perfect sometimes denotes certainty or likelihood that an action will immediately take place, which idea is still more vividly expressed by the perfect (51). E.g.

80. The future perfect can be expressed by the perfect participle and ἔσομαι. In the active voice this is the only form in use, except in a few cases (chiefly ἑστήξω and τεθνήξω). E.g. “Ἂν ταῦτ᾽ εἰδῶμεν, καὶ τὰ δέοντα ἐσόμεθα ἐγνωκότες καὶ λόγων ματαίων ἀπηλλαγμένοι,” “we shall have already resolved to do our duty and shall have been freed from vain reports.” DEM. iv. 50. (See 45 and 831.)

81. A similar circumlocution with the aorist participle and ἔσομαι is sometimes found, especially in the poets. E.g.

(See 47 and 831.)

82. When the perfect is used in the sense of a present (49), the future perfect is its regular future; as κεκλήσομαι, μεμνήσομαι, ἀφεστήξω, I shall be named, I shall remember, I shall withdraw, etc.

83. In many other verbs, the future perfect differs very slightly, if at all, from an ordinary future. Thus πεπράσομαι is the regular future passive of πιπράσκω. Still, where there is another future, the future perfect is generally more emphatic.

84. It must be remembered that, in most cases in which the Latin or the English would use a future perfect in a dependent clause, the Greek uses an aorist or even a perfect subjunctive. (See 90 and 103, with the examples.)

II. Tenses of the Dependent Moods.

85. The distinctions of time which mark the various tenses in the indicative are retained when the optative and infinitive represent the indicative in indirect discourse, and usually in the participle. But in other constructions these distinctions of time disappear in the dependent moods, and the tenses here differ only in their other character of denoting the continuance, the completion, or simply the occurrence of an action (20). The infinitive with ἄν is not included in this statement (see Chap. III.)

The tenses in these two uses must, therefore, be discussed separately.

Not in Indirect Discourse.

86. In the subjunctive and imperative, and also in the optative and infinitive not in indirect discourse (666; 684), the tenses chiefly used are the present and the aorist. The perfect is used here only when the completion of the action is to be emphasized (see 102-110). For the occasional future, see 111-113; 130-132.

Present and Aorist.

87. The present and aorist here differ only in this, that the present expresses an action in its duration, that is, as going on or repeated, while the aorist expresses simply its occurrence, the time of both tenses being otherwise precisely the same. E.g. For other examples see below.

This is a distinction entirely unknown to the Latin, which has (for example) only one form, si faciat, corresponding to εἰ ποιοίη and εἰ ποιήσειεν, and only facere to correspond to both ποιεῖν and ποιῆσαι (as used above).

88. It is sometimes difficult here, as in the corresponding case of the imperfect and the aorist indicative (56; 57), to see any decisive reason for preferring one tense to the other; and it can hardly be doubted that the Greeks occasionally failed to make use of this, as well as of other fine distinctions, when either form would express the required sense equally well, although they always had the distinction ready for use when it was needed. Compare the present and the aorist subjunctive and optative in the following examples:—

In the last example, it is obvious that the change from κομίσαιντο to κομίζοιντο is connected with the change from εἰ ἦσαν to εἰ εὐεργετηκότες εἶεν; but it is questionable whether the latter change is the cause or the effect, and it is also quite as hard to see the reason for this change in the protasis, when both conditions are equally general, as for that in the final clause. Probably no two scholars would agree in the reasons which they might assign for the use of the tenses in these examples. It is certain, however, that either present or aorist would express the meaning equally well in all these cases.

Subjunctive and Imperative.

89. The present and aorist subjunctive and imperative are always future, except that in general conditions (462; 532) the subjunctive is general in its time. In all final constructions the subjunctive is future relatively to the leading verb. The following examples will show the distinction of the two tenses:—

90. When the aorist subjunctive depends on ἐπειδάν (or ἐπάν, ἐπήν), after that, it is referred by this meaning of the particle to time preceding the action of the leading verb, so that ἐπειδὰν τοῦτο ἴδω, ἥξω means after I (shall) have seen this, I will come; and ἐπειδὰν τοῦτο ἰδω, ἀπέρχομαι, after I have seen this, I (always) depart. In such cases it may be translated by our future perfect when the leading verb is future, and by our perfect when the leading verb denotes a general truth and is translated by the present. As the subjunctive here can never depend upon a verb of simply present time, it can never refer to time absolutely past; and we use the perfect indicative in translating such an aorist after a verb expressing a general truth, merely because we use the present in translating the leading verb, although this is properly not present but general in its time.

In like manner, after ἕως, πρίν, and other particles signifying until, before that, and even after the relative pronoun or ἐάν, the aorist subjunctive may be translated by our future perfect or perfect, when the context shows that it refers to time preceding that of the leading verb. E.g.

91. This use of the aorist subjunctive (90) sometimes seems to approach very near to that of the perfect subjunctive (103); and we often translate both by the same tense. But in the perfect, the idea of an action completed at the time referred to is expressed by the tense of the verb, without aid from any particle or from the context; in the aorist, the idea of relative past time can come only from the particle or the context. (See 103 with examples, and 104.) The Greek often uses the less precise aorist subjunctive and optative (see 95) where the perfect would be preferred but for its cumbrous forms; and we sometimes give the aorist more precision than really belongs to it in itself by translating it as a perfect or future perfect. (See the last six examples under 90.) The following example illustrates the distinction between the perfect and aorist subjunctive:—

Ὃν μὲν ἂν ἴδῃ ἀγνῶτα κύων, χαλεπαίνει: ὃν δ᾽ ἂν γνώριμον ἴδῃ, ἀσπάζεται, κἂν μηδὲν πώποτε ὑπ αὐτοῦ ἀγαθὸν πεπόνθῃ,” “whomsoever he sees whom he knows, he fawns upon, even if he has hitherto received no kindness from him.” PLAT. Rep. 376A. Compare this with ἐὰν ἀγαθόν τι πάθῃ ὑπό τινος, ἀσπάζεται, if he ever happens to receive any kindness from any one, he always fawns upon him; and ἐπειδὰν ἀγαθόν τι πάθῃ, ἀσπάζεται, after he has received any kindness, he always fawns upon him.

92. The present subjunctive with μή or ὅπως μή after verbs of fearing, though it generally refers to a future object of fear, may also denote what may hereafter prove to be an object of fear. E.g.

In all these cases the present indicative would be required if the object of fear were really present (369, 1).

Compare the examples of the perfect subjunctive in 103.

93. In a few passages of Homer the aorist subjunctive with μή seems to express a similar fear that something may prove to have already happened; as “δείδοικα μή σε παρείπῃ,” “I fear it may prove that she persuaded you,” Il. i. 555. So Il. x. 98,μὴ κοιμήσωνται ἄταρ λάθωνται” , and x. 538,δείδοικα μή τι πάθωσι” , I fear lest it may prove that they have met some harm. The reference to the past here cannot come from any past force of the aorist subjunctive itself, but is probably an inference drawn from the context. As the later language would use a perfect subjunctive in such cases, these aorists seem to be instances of an earlier laxity of usage, like the use of ἀπόλοιτό κε for both would have perished and would perish (440).

In Il. x. 537 there is a similar case of the aorist optative in a wish: αἲ γὰρ δὴ ὧδ᾽ ἄφαρ ἐκ Τρώων ἐλασαίατο μώνυχας ἵππους, i.e. may it prove that they have driven the horses away from the Trojans (95).


94. The present and aorist optative in independent sentences (in wishes and with ἄν), and in all conditional sentences except past general conditions (462; 532), express future time, the relation of which to the future expressed by other moods is explained in 12, 13, and 16. (Some Homeric present or past unreal conditions and present wishes are exceptions: see 438-441.) In all final constructions the optative (which is used only after past tenses) represents the subjunctive after primary tenses, and is future relatively to the leading verb. E.g. Εἴθε τοῦτο εἴη (utinam sit), O that this may be. Εἴθε μὴ ταῦτα πάσχοιεν, may they not suffer these things (with a view to the progress of their suffering). But εἴθε μὴ ταῦτα πάθοιεν, may they not suffer these things (viewed collectively). “Εἴθε σὺ τοιοῦτος ὢν φίλος ἡμῖν γένοιο,” “may you become a friend to us.” XEN. Hell. iv. 1, 38 Μὴ γένοιτο, may it not happen. See examples of the optative with ἄν below.

95. The aorist optative with ἐπειδή or ἐπεί, after that, is referred by the meaning of the particle to time preceding that of the leading verb, like the aorist subjunctive in 90; so that ἐπειδὴ ἴδοι ἀπῄει means after he had seen he (always) went away. This gives the aorist in translation the force of a pluperfect. So after words meaning until, and in the other cases mentioned in 90. E.g.

In PLAT. Rep. 331 C,εἴ τις λάβοι παρὰ φίλου ἀνδρὸς σωφρονοῦντος ὅπλα, εἰ μανεὶς ἀπαιτοῖ” , is thus given by Cicero (Offic. iii. 95):Si gladium quis apud te sanae mentis deposuerit, repetat insaniens” ; and there can be no doubt that εἰληφὼς εἴη (the equivalent of deposuerit) would have been more exact than λάβοι in Greek (see 91). For a peculiar aorist optative in Il. x. 537, see above (93, end).


96. A present or aorist infinitive (without ἄν) not in indirect discourse is still a verbal noun so far that it expresses no time except such as is implied in the context. Thus, when it depends on a verb of wishing or commanding or any other verb whose natural object is a future action, or when it expresses purpose, it is future without regard to its tense; as, in βούλομαι νικᾶν (or νικῆσαι), I wish to be victorious (or to gain victory), the infinitive expresses time only so far as the noun νίκην would in βούλομαι νίκην. Likewise, when the present or aorist infinitive (without ἄν) has the article, except in the rare cases in which it stands in indirect discourse (794), it has no reference to time in itself; as in τὸ γνῶναι ἐπιστήμην λαβεῖν ἐστιν, to learn is to obtain knowledge, where γνῶναι expresses time only as the noun γνῶσις would in its place. E.g.

No account is here taken of the infinitive with ἄν (204).

97. The distinction between the present and aorist infinitive is well illustrated by Aristotle, when he says of pleasure, Nic. Eth. x. 3. 4ἡσθῆναι μὲν γὰρ ἔστι ταχέως ὥσπερ ὀργισθῆναι, ἥδεσθαι δ᾽ οὒ, οὐδὲ πρὸς ἕτερον: βαδίζειν, δὲ καὶ αὔξεσθαι καὶ πάντα τὰ τοιαῦτα. μεταβάλλειν μὲν οὖν εἰς τὴν ἡδονὴν ταχέως καὶ βραδέως ἔστιν, ἐνεργεῖν δὲ κατ᾽ αὐτὴν οὐκ ἔστι ταχέως, λέγω δ᾽ ἥδεσθαι” . We may BECOME pleased (ἡσθῆναι) quickly, as we may get angry quickly; but we cannot BE pleased (ἥδεσθαι) quickly, even as compared with another person, although we can thus walk and grow and do such things. We may then change into a state of pleasure quickly or slowly, but we cannot actually enjoy the pleasure, I mean BE PLEASED (ἥδεσθαι), quickly.

So in PLAT. Theaet. 155 C, Socrates says, ἄνευ τοῦ γίγνεσθαι γενέσθαι ἀδύνατον (sc. ἐμὲ ἐλάττω), i.e. without going through the process of becoming (γίγνεσθαι) smaller, it is impossible for me to get (γενέσθαι) smaller.

98. Χράω, ἀναιρέω, θεσπίζω, and other verbs signifying to give an oracular response, generally take the present or the aorist infinitive, expressing the command or warning of the oracle, where we might expect the future in indirect discourse (135). These verbs here take the ordinary construction of verbs of commanding, advising, and warning. E.g.

But we find ἀνεῖλεν ἔσεσθαι, THUC. i. 118; χρήσαντος κρατήσειν, LYCURG. 99; ἐκέχρηστο βασιλεύσειν, HDT. ii. 147; as indirect discourse.

99. Even verbs of saying and thinking, as λέγω when it signifies to command, and δοκεῖ, it seems good, may take the present or aorist infinitive not in indirect discourse, like other verbs of the same meaning. Εἶπον seldom takes the infinitive, except when it signifies to command (753). The context will always distinguish these cases from indirect quotations. E.g.

Ἔδοξε in the sense it was resolved, introducing a decree, is followed by the present or aorist (not future) infinitive.

100. Verbs of hoping, expecting, promising, and swearing form an intermediate class between those that take the infinitive in indirect discourse and other verbs (136). When they refer to a future object, they naturally take the future infinitive, but may also have the present or aorist infinitive (not in indirect discourse) like verbs of wishing, etc. Thus he promised to give may be ὑπέσχετο διδόναι (or δοῦναι) as well as ὑπέσχετο δώσειν.

To facilitate comparison, the examples of the present and aorist infinitive thus used are given with those of the future in 136.

101. The present αἴτιός εἰμι, I am the cause, is often used with reference to the past, where logically a past tense would be needed; as αἴτιός ἐστι τούτῳ θανεῖν, he is the cause of his death, instead of αἴτιος ἦν τούτῳ θανεῖν, he was the cause of his death. This may make an ordinary aorist infinitive appear like a verb of past time. E.g.


102. As the perfect indicative represents an act as finished at the present time, so the perfect of any of the dependent moods properly represents an act as finished at the time (present, past, or future) at which the present of that mood would represent it as going on.

103. The perfect subjunctive and optative are very often expressed in the active, and almost always in the passive and middle, by the perfect participle with and εἴην; and this combination of a present and a perfect makes the time denoted especially clear. Where the present would denote future time, the perfect denotes future-perfect time. E.g.

104. The perfect subjunctive in protasis corresponds exactly to the Latin future perfect indicative; but the Greek seldom uses this cumbrous perfect, preferring the less precise aorist (91). The perfect optative, in both protasis and apodosis, corresponds to the Latin perfect subjunctive; but it is seldom used, for a similar reason (95).

The perfect optative can hardly be accurately expressed in English. For when we use the English forms would have suffered and should have suffered to translate the perfect optative, these are merely vaguer expressions for will and shall have suffered. (See the examples above.) I should have suffered is commonly past in English, being equivalent to ἔπαθον ἄν; but here it is future, and is therefore liable to be misunderstood. There is no more reference to past time, however, in the perfect optative with ἄν, than there is in the future perfect indicative (77) in such expressions as “μάτην ἐμοὶ κεκλαύσεται,” “I shall have had my whippings for nothing (referring to those received in his boyhood),” AR. Nub. 1436.

105. The perfect imperative is most common in the third person singular of the passive, where it expresses a command that something just done or about to be done shall be decisive and final. It is thus equivalent to the perfect participle with ἔστω. E.g.

The third person plural in the same sense could be expressed by the perfect participle with ἔστων, as in PLAT. Rep. 502 A,οὗτοι τοίνυν τοῦτο πεπεισμένοι ἔστων” , grant then that these have been persuaded of this.

106. On this principle the perfect imperative is used in mathematical language, to imply that something is to be considered as proved or assumed once for all, or that lines drawn or points fixed are to remain as data for a following demonstration. E.g. “Εἰλήφθω ἐπὶ τῆς ΑΒ τυχὸν σημεῖον τὸ Δ, καὶ ἀφῃρήσθω ἀπὸ τῆς ΑΓ τῇ ΑΔ ἴση ΑΕ” “let any point D be assumed as taken in the line AB, and AE, equal to AD, as cut off from AC.” EUCL. i. 9

107. The perfect imperative of the second person is rare; when it is used, it seems to be a little more emphatic than the present or aorist. E.g.

108. In verbs whose perfect has the force of a present (49) the perfect imperative is the ordinary form; as μέμνησο, κεκλήσθω, ἕσταθι, ἑστάτω, τέθναθι, τεθνάτω, ἴστω. So “κεχήνατε,AR. Ach. 133 ; “μὴ κεκράγατε,Vesp. 415 . The perfect imperative active seems to have been used only in such verbs. Occasionally we find the periphrastic form with the participle and εἰμί, as “ἔστω ξυμβεβηκυῖα, Leg. 736

109. The perfect infinitive not in indirect discourse generally represents an act as finished when the present would represent it as going on (96). E.g.

See [ARISTOT.] Nic. vi. 2. 6:οὐκ ἔστι δὲ προαιρετὸν οὐδὲν γεγονὸς, οἷον οὐδεὶς προαιρεῖται Ἴλιον πεπορθηκέναι” , but nothing past can be purposed; for example, nobody purposes to have sacked Ilium, i.e. the expression προαιροῦμαι Ἴλιον πεπορθηκέναι would be nonsense. This illustrates well the restricted use of the perfect infinitive.

110. The perfect infinitive sometimes signifies that the action is to be decisive and permanent (like the perfect imperative, 105); and sometimes it seems to be merely more emphatic than the present or aorist infinitive. E.g.


111. The future is used in the dependent moods only in the optative and the infinitive, and in these it is never regular except in indirect discourse and kindred constructions and in the periphrastic form with μέλλω (73).

For the future optative in indirect discourse see 128-134; for the future infinitive in indirect discourse see 135 and 136.

112. In constructions out of indirect discourse the present and aorist infinitive can always refer to future time if the context requires it (96), so that the future infinitive is here rarely needed. Therefore, after verbs which naturally have a future action as their object but yet do not introduce indirect discourse,—as those of commanding, wishing, etc. (684),—the present or aorist infinitive (not the future) is regularly used. Thus the Greek expresses they wish to do this not by βούλονται τοῦτο ποιήσειν, but by βούλονται τοῦτο ποιεῖν (or ποιῆσαι). So the infinitive in other future expressions, as after ὥστε and in its final sense, is generally present or aorist. (For the single exception after μέλλω, see 73.)

113. On the other hand, when it was desired to make the reference to the future especially prominent, the future infinitive could be used exceptionally in all these cases. Thus we sometimes find the future after verbs signifying to be able, to wish, to be unwilling, and the like; sometimes also in a final sense or with ὥστε and ἐφ᾽ ᾧτε; and sometimes when the infinitive with the article refers to future time. This use of the future is a partial adoption of the form of indirect discourse in other constructions. It was a particularly favourite usage with Thucydides. E.g.

See also THUC. iv. 115 and 121, THUC. v. 35, THUC. vii. 11, THUC. viii. 55 and 74; and Krüger's note on i. 27, where these passages are cited. In several of these there is some MS. authority for the aorist infinitive.

114. The future perfect infinitive occurs only in indirect discourse (137), except in verbs whose perfect has the sense of a present (82).

Optative and Infinitive of Indirect Discourse.

115. When the optative and infinitive are in indirect discourse, each tense represents the corresponding tense of the direct discourse; the present including also the imperfect, and the perfect also the pluperfect.

See the general principles of indirect discourse (667). The optative is included here only as it is used after past tenses to represent an indicative or subjunctive of the direct discourse. No cases of the optative or infinitive with ἄν are considered here: for these see Chapter III. For the meaning of the term “indirect discourse” as applied to the infinitive, see 684.

Present Optative.

116. The present optative in indirect discourse may represent the following forms of direct discourse:—

1. The present indicative of a leading verb. E.g.

2. The present indicative or subjunctive of a dependent verb. E.g.

3. The present subjunctive in a question of appeal (287). E.g.

4. The imperfect indicative of a leading verb. E.g.

This is the rare imperfect optative (673). The imperfect indicative is regularly retained in such cases, and is always retained in a dependent clause of a quotation (689, 2).

Present Infinitive.

117. (As Present.) The present infinitive in indirect discourse generally represents a present indicative of the direct form. E.g. See other examples under 683.

118. Verbs of hoping and swearing may thus take the present infinitive in indirect discourse. This must be distinguished from the more common use of the present and aorist infinitive (not in indirect discourse) after these verbs, referring to the future (100; 136). E.g.

Compare the first two examples with “ἐλπίζει δύνατος εἶναι” “he hopes to be able,” PLAT. Rep. 573 C ; and the last with “ὀμόσαι εἶναι μὲν τὴν ἀρχὴν κοινὴν, πάντας δ᾽ ὑμῖν ἀποδοῦναι τὴν χώραν” “to swear that the dominion shall be common, and that all shall surrender the land,” DEM. xxiii. 170. (See 136 and the examples.)

119.As Imperfect.) The present infinitive may also represent an imperfect indicative of the direct discourse, thus supplying the want of an imperfect infinitive. E.g.