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385. Subjunctive in half-questions.

In Plato , but rarely elsewhere in Attic, we find a number of hesitating half-questions with “μή” or “μὴ οὐ” and the present subjunctive. These seem to depend on the state of apprehension engendered by the situation. The effect is that of a doubtful affirmation, or negation, as the case may be. See “μή” and “μὴ οὐ”.1

μὴ ἀγροικότερον τὸ ἀληθὲς εἰπεῖν”, PLATO, Gorg. 462E; It's rather bad form, I fear, to speak the truth.ἀλλὰ μὴ οὐ τοῦτ᾽ χαλεπὸν . . . θάνατον ἐκφυγεῖν”, PLATO, Apol. 39A; But that's not the trouble, I apprehend, the escaping death.

DEM.1.26:μὴ λίαν πικρὸν εἰπεῖν ” (but Blass: “μὴ λίαν πικρὸν εἰπεῖν”;).

PLATO, Apol. 39A (see above). Gorg. 462 E (see above).2

XEN. Mem. 4.2.12: “μὴ οὖν, ἔφη Εὐθύδημος, οὐ δύνωμαι” (Kühner: “δύναμαι”) “ἐγὼ τὰ τῆς δικαιοσύνης ἔργα ἐξηγήσασθαι”;

HDT.5.79:ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον μὴ οὐ τοῦτο τὸ χρηστήριον” .

For the suppression of a verb of fear or apprehension, see Verbs of Fear.

1 A. J. P. xvii (1896), 516-7.

2 According to Weber, Entwickelungsgeschichte der Absichtssätze, p. 192, there are in Plato 31 instances of this use, which are distributed as follows: Apology 1, Symposium 2, Cratylus 8, Crito 3, Gorgias 1, Laws 1, Lysis 3, Meno 3, Parmenides .4, Phaedo 2, Lovers 1, Theaetetus 1, Theages 1. This does not include four, more or less disputed, passages in which the sentence may be interrogative: Parmen. 163D. Phaedo, 64 C. Rpb. 603 C. Sisyph. 387 D. (Weber, ibid.)

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