This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
[*] 235. In most cases the limiting condition involved in the potential optative is not present to the mind in any definite form, and can be expressed in English only by such words as perchance, possibly, or probably, or by the auxiliaries could, would, should, might, etc. with the vague conditions which these imply (like if he should try, if he pleased, if he could, if what is natural should happen, etc.) Sometimes a more general condition is implied, like in any possible case; as οὐκ ἂν δεχοίμην τοῦτο, I would not accept this (on any terms); here the expression becomes nearly absolute, and may often be translated by our future, as οὐκ ἂν μεθείμην τοῦ θρόνου, I will not give up the throne (AR. Ran. 830), or (in positive sentences) by must, as πάντες θαυμάζοιεν ἂν τοῦτο, all must admire this. The optative thus used with no conscious feeling of any definite condition, but still implying that the statement is conditioned and not absolute, is the simplest and most primitive potential optative. It is equivalent to the Latin potential subjunctive, as credas, dicas, cernas, putes, etc., you may believe, say, perceive, think, etc. The Homeric language has six forms, all expressing futurity with different degrees of absoluteness and distinctness; as ὄψομαι, ὄψομαί κε, ἴδωμαι, ἴδωμαί κε, ἰδοίμην, ἰδοίμην κε (or ἄν), containing every step from I shall see to I should see. Of these only the first and the last (with a tradition of the second) survived the Homeric period, and the others (especially the fifth) were already disappearing during that period (240), being found unnecessary as the language became settled, and as the optative with κέ or ἄν became more fixed as a future potential form.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.