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[*] 234. The neutral optatives like Il. iv. 18 are rare even in Homer, the language having already distinguished the two meanings in sense, and marked them in most cases by external signs. The optative expressing what may happen in the future took the particle κέ or ἄν, and was negatived by οὐ, denoting the relations which we express by our potential mood with may, can, might, could, would, and should. Thus ἕλοιμί κε ἤ κεν ἁλοίην, I may slay or I may be slain, Il. xxii. 253; ἀνὴρ δέ κεν οὔ τι Διὸς νόον εἰρύσσαιτο, a man cannot contend against the will of Zeus, Il. viii. 143.1 On the other hand, the simple optative (without κέ or ἄν) was more and more restricted to the expression of a wish or exhortation, and was negatived by μή; as μὴ γένοιτο, may it not happen, “πίθοιό μοι,” “listen to me” (Hom. Od. iv. 193) , as opposed to οὐκ ἂν γένοιτο, it could not happen. The potential forms ἔλθοιμι ἄν and ἴδοιμι ἄν differ from the more absolute future indicative and the old subjunctive forms ἔλθω and ἴδω, I shall go and I shall see, by expressing a future act as dependent on some future circumstances or conditions, which may be more or less distinctly implied. The freedom of the earlier language extended the use of the potential optative to present and sometimes even to past time. See 438 and 440.
1 When the idea of ability, possibility, or necessity is the chief element in the expression, and is not (as above) merely auxiliary, it is expressed by a special verb like δύναμαι, δεῖ, or χρή. Especially, the idea of obligation is generally expressed by δεῖ or χρή with the infinitive; as “τοῦδε χρὴ κλύειν,” “him we must obey,” SOPH. Ant. 666.
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