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2173. A complex sentence consists of a principal sentence and one or more subordinate, or dependent, sentences. The principal sentence, as each subordinate sentence, has its own subject and predicate. The principal sentence of a complex sentence is called the principal clause, the subordinate sentence is called the subordinate clause. The principal clause may precede or follow the subordinate clause.

2174. The principal clause may have any form of the simple sentence.

a. Parentheses belonging to the thought of the entire sentence, but standing in no close grammatical relation to it, count as principal clauses. So οἶμαι, δοκῶ, φημί, ὁρᾷς; οἶδα, οἶδ᾽ ὅτι certainly (2585), εὖ ἴσθι know well, αἰτοῦμαί σε I beseech thee; πῶς (πόσον) δοκεῖς; and πῶς οἴει; in the comic poets and Euripides, etc. Some of these expressions are almost adverbial.

2175. The subordinate clause is always introduced by a subordinating conjunction, as εἰ if, ἐπεί since or when, ὅτι that, ἕως until, etc.

2176. A finite mood in a subordinate clause may be influenced by the tense of the principal clause. If the verb of the principal clause stands in a secondary tense, the verb of the subordinate clause is often optative instead of indicative or subjunctive, as it would have been after a primary tense. Dependence of mood after a secondary tense is never indicated by the subjunctive.

2177. Each tense in a subordinate clause denotes stage of action; the time is only relative to that of the leading verb. A subordinate clause may be marked by change of person in verb and pronoun.

2178. A subordinate clause in English may be expressed in Greek by a predicate adjective or substantive. Cp. 1169, 2647.

2179. A subordinate clause may be coördinate in structure.

““ἐπεὶ δ᾽ ἠσθένει Δα_ρεῖος καὶ ὑπώπτευε τελευτὴν τοῦ βίου, ἐβούλετό οἱ τὼ παῖδε παρεῖναιbut when Darius was ill and suspected that his end was near, he wished his two sons to be by himX. A. 1.1.1.

a. So a relative clause, though properly subordinate, may be equivalent to a coördinating clause: εἰ δ᾽ ὑ_μεῖς ἄλλο τι γνώσεσθε, μὴ γένοιτο, τίν᾽ οἴεσθ᾽ αὐτὴν ψυ_χὴν ἕξειν; but if you decide otherwise, —and may this never come to pass!— what do you think will be her feelings? D. 28.21. In such cases ὅς is equivalent to καὶ οὗτος, οὗτος δέ, οὗτος γάρ.

2180. A clause dependent upon the principal clause may itself be followed by a clause dependent upon itself (a sub-dependent clause).

οἱ δ᾽ ἔλεγον (principal clause) ὅτι περὶ σπονδῶν ἥκοιεν ἄνδρες (dependent clause) οἵτινες ἱκανοὶ ἔσονται . . . ἀπαγγεῖλαι (sub-dependent clause) and they said that they had come with regard to a truce and were men who were competent to . . . report X. A. 2.3.4.

2181. A verb common to two clauses is generally placed in one clause and omitted from the other (so especially in comparative and relative clauses).

ἥπερ (τύχη) ἀεὶ βέλτι_ον (scil. ἐπιμελεῖται) ἡμεῖς ἡμῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιμελούμεθα fortune, which always cares better for us than we for ourselves D. 4.12. Also as in English: τι δὲ μέλλετε (πρά_σσειν), . . . εὐθὺς . . . πρά_σσετε but whatever you intend, do it at once T. 7.15. In comparative clauses with οὐχ ὥσπερ (or ὡς) the main and the subordinate clause are sometimes compressed, the predicate of the clause with οὐχ being supplied from the ὥσπερ clause, which is made independent; as οὐχ (οὐδὲν ἂν ἐγίγνετο) ““ὥσπερ νῦν τούτων οὐδὲν γίγνεται περὶ αὐτόνit would not be as now, when none of these things is done for himP. S. 189c.


2182. The subject of the dependent clause is often anticipated and made the object of the verb of the principal clause. This transference, which gives a more prominent place to the subject of the subordinate clause, is called anticipation or prolepsis (πρόληψις taking before).

““δέδοικα δ᾽ αὐτὴν μή τι βουλεύσῃ νέονbut I fear lest she may devise something untowardE. Med. 37, ““ᾔδει αὐτὸν ὅτι μέσον ἔχοι τοῦ Περσικοῦ στρατεύματοςhe knew that he held the centre of the Persian armyX. A. 1.8.21, ““ἐπεμέλετο αὐτῶν ὅπως ἀεὶ ἀνδράποδα διατελοῖενhe took care that they should always continue to be slavesX. C. 8.1.44. Note ὁρᾷς τὸν εὐτράπεζον ὡς ἡδὺς βίος thou seest how sweet is the luxurious life E. fr. 1052. 3.

a. Anticipation is especially common after verbs of saying, seeing, hearing, knowing, fearing, effecting.

b. When a subordinate clause defines a verbal idea consisting of a verb and a substantive, its subject may pass into the principal clause as a genitive depending on the substantive of that clause: ““ἦλθε δὲ καὶ τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις εὐθὺς ἀγγελία_ τῶ πόλεων ὅτι ἀφεστᾶσιand there came straightway to the Athenians also the report that the cities had revoltedT. 1.61 (= ὅτι αἱ πόλεις ἀφεστᾶσι).

c. The subject of the dependent clause may be put first in its own clause: ““ἐπιχειρήσωμεν εἰπεῖν, ἀνδρεία_ τί ποτ᾽ ἐστίνlet us try to say what courage isP. Lach. 190d.

d. The object of the subordinate clause may be anticipated and made the object of the principal clause. Thus, ““εἰρώτα_ Δα_ρεῖος τὴν τέχνην εἰ ἐπίσταιτοDarius asked if he understood the artHdt. 3.130.

e. A still freer use is seen in ἐθαύμαζεν αὐτὸν Λύ_σανδρος ὡς καλὰ τὰ δένδρα εἴη Lysander marvelled at the beauty of his trees (for τὰ δένδρα αὐτοῦ ὡς κτλ.) X. O. 4. <*>.


2183. The mood of a subordinate clause which is intimately connected with the thought of the clause on which it depends, is often assimilated to the mood of that clause. Such subordinate clauses may be simply dependent or sub-dependent (2180).

a. This idiom is most marked in Unreal and Less Vivid Future conditions where the mood of the protasis is the same as that of the principal clause. It is also very common when a past indicative or an optative attracts the mood of a subordinate clause introduced by a relative word referring to indefinite persons or things or to an indefinite time or place. But subordinate clauses standing in a less close relation to the main clause, because they do not continue the same mental attitude but present a new shade of thought, retain their mood unassimilated; e.g. a relative clause, or a temporal clause expressing purpose, after an unreal condition may stand in the optative (Is. 4.11, P. R. 600e). On the other hand, there are many cases where the writer may, or may not, adopt modal assimilation without any great difference of meaning. The following sections give the chief occurrences of mood-assimilation apart from that found in Unreal and Less Vivid Future conditions (2302, 2329):

2184. An indicative referring simply to the present or past remains unassimilated.

““ξυνενέγκοι μὲν ταῦτα ὡς βουλόμεθαmay this result as we desireT. 6.20, ““νι_κῴη δ᾽ τι πᾶσιν μέλλει συνοίσεινbut may that prevail which is likely to be for the common wealD. 4.51, ἐπειδὰν διαπρά_ξωμαι δέομαι, ἥξω when I shall have transacted what I want, I will return X. A. 2.3.29.

2185. Assimilation to the Indicative.—The subordinate clause takes a past tense of the indicative in dependence on a past tense of the indicative (or its equivalent) denoting unreality.

a. Conditional relative clauses: εἰ μὲν γὰρ ἦν μοι χρήματα, ἐτι_μησάμην ἂν χρημάτων ὅσα ἔμελλον ἐκτείσειν for if I had money, I should have assessed my penalty at the full sum that I was likely to pay P. A. 38b, ““εἰ . . . κατεμαρτύρουν μὴ σαφῶς ᾔδη ἀκοῇ δὲ ἠπιστάμην, δεινὰ ἂν ἔφη πάσχειν ὑπ᾽ ἐμοῦif I brought in as evidence against him matters which I did not know certainly but had learned by hearsay, he would have said that he was suffering a grave injustice at my handsAnt. 5.74.

b. Temporal clauses: ““οὐκ ἂν ἐπαυόμην . . ., ἕως ἀπεπειρά_θην τῆς σοφία_ς ταυτησί_I would not have ceased until I had made trial of this wisdomP. Crat. 396c, ““ἐχρῆν . . . μὴ πρότερον περὶ τῶν ὁμολογουμένων συμβουλεύειν, πρὶν πρὶν περὶ τῶν ἀμφισβητουμένων ἡμᾶς ἐδίδαξανthey ought not to have given advice concerning the matters of common agreement before they instructed us on the matters in disputeI. 4.19.

c. Final clauses: here the principal clause is an unfulfilled wish, an unfulfilled apodosis, or a question with οὐ; and the indicative in the final clause denotes that the purpose was not or cannot be attained, and cannot be reached by the will of the speaker. Thus, εἰ γὰρ ὤφελον οἷοί τε εἶναι οἱ πολλοὶ τὰ μέγιστα κακὰ ἐργάζεσθαι, ἵνα οἷοί τε ἦσαν καὶ ἀγαθὰ τὰ μέγιστα would that the many were able to work the greatest evil in order that they might be able (as they are not) to work also the greatest good P. Cr. 44d, ““ἐβουλόμην ἂν Σίμωνα τὴν αὐτὴν γνώμην ἐμοὶ ἔχειν ἵνα . . . ῥᾳδίως ἔγνωτε τὰ δίκαιαI should have liked Simon to be of the same opinion as myself in order that you might easily have rendered a just verdictL. 3.21, ““ἔδει τὰ ἐνέχυρα τότε λαβεῖν, ὡς μηδ᾽ ει᾽ ἐβούλετο ἐδύνατο ἐξαπατᾶνI ought to have taken security at the time in order that he could not have deceived us even if he wishedX. A. 7.6.23, τί δῆτ᾽ οὐκ ἔρρι_ψ᾽ ἐμαυτὸν τῆσδ᾽ ἀπὸ πέτρα_ς, ὅπως τῶν πάντων πόνων ἀπηλλάγην; why indeed did I not hurl myself from this rock, that I might have been freed from all these toils? A. Pr. 747.

N. 1.—In this (post-Homeric) construction, ἵνα is the regular conjunction in prose; ὡς and ὅπως are rare. ἄν is very rarely added and is suspected (Is. 11.6, P. L. 959e).

N. 2.—Assimilation does not take place when the final clause is the essential thing and sets forth a real future purpose of the agent of the leading verb, or does not show whether or not the purpose was realized. This occurs especially after ἵνα = eo consilio ut, rarely after ὅπως (X. A. 7.6.16); after ὡς only in poetry and Xenophon. The subjunctive or optative is used when the purpose of the agent, and not the non-fulfilment of the action, is emphasized. Thus, ““καίτοι χρῆν σε . . . τοῦτον μὴ γράφειν ἐκεῖνον λύ_ειν, οὐχ, ἵν᾽ βούλει σὺ γένηται, πάντα τὰ πρά_γματα συνταράξαιyou ought either not to have proposed this law or to have repealed the other; not to have thrown everything into confusion to accomplish your desireD. 24.44.

d. Causal clauses (rarely, as D. 50.67). Modal assimilation never takes place in indirect questions or in clauses dependent on a verb of fearing.

2186. Assimilation to the Optative.—When an optative of the principal clause refers to future time (potential optative and optative of wish), the subordinate clause takes the optative by assimilation in the following cases.

a. Conditional relative clauses (regularly): πῶς γὰρ ἄν (1832) τις, γε μὴ ἐπίσταιτο, ταῦτα σοφὸς εἴη; for how could any one be wise in that which he does not know? X. M. 4.6.7, τίς μι_σεῖν δύναιτ᾽ ἄν ὑφ᾽ οὗ εἰδείη καλός τε καὶ ἀγαθὸς νομιζόμενος; who could hate one by whom he knew that he was regarded as both beautiful and good? X. S. 8. 17, ““ἔρδοι τις ἣν ἕκαστος εἰδείη τέχνηνwould that every man would practise the craft that he understoodAr. Vesp. 1431, τίς ἂν . . . μόλοι (1832), ““ὅστις διαγγείλειε τἀ_μ᾽ εἴσω κακάwould that some one would come to report within my tale of woeE. Hel. 435.

N. 1.—If the relative has a definite antecedent, assimilation does not take place; but not all relative clauses with an indefinite antecedent are assimilated. Cp. ““ὥσπερ ἂν ὑ_μῶν ἕκαστος αἰσχυνθείη τὴν τάξιν λιπεῖν ἣν ἂν ταχθῇ ἐν τῷ πολέμῳas each one of you would be ashamed to leave the post to which he may be appointed in warAes. 3.7.

N. 2.—A relative clause depending on an infinitive rarely takes the optative: ““ἀλλὰ τοῦ μὲν αὐτὸν λέγειν μὴ σαφῶς εἰδείη εἵργεσθαι δεῖone should abstain from saying oneself what one does not know for certainX. C. 1.6.19. (See 2573.)

b. Temporal clauses (regularly): τεθναίην, ὅτε μοι μηκέτι ταῦτα μέλοι may I die when these things no longer delight me Mimnermus 1. 2, ““ μὲν ἑκὼν πεινῶν φάγοι ἂν ὁπότε βούλοιτοhe who starves of his own free will can eat whenever he wishesX. M. 2.1.18, εἰ δὲ πάνυ σπουδάζοι φαγεῖν, εἴποιμ᾽ ἂν ὅτι παρὰ ταῖς γυναιξίν ἐστιν, ἕως παρατείναιμι τοῦτον κτλ. but if he was very desirous of eating, I would tell him thathe was with the womenuntil I had tortured him, etc. X. C. 1.3.11, ““ὄλοιο μήπω, πρὶν μάθοιμιperish not yet . . . until I learnS. Ph. 961. But ““οὐκ ἂν ἀπέλθοιμι πρὶν ἂν παντάπα_σιν ἀγορὰ_ λυθῇI shall not be leaving until the gathering in the market-place is quite dispersedX. O. 12.1.

c. Final and object clauses (rarely in prose, but occasionally after an optative of wish in poetry): πειρῴμην (ἂν) μὴ πρόσω ὑ_μῶν εἶναι, ἵνα, εἴ που καιρὸς εἴη, ἐπιφανείην I will try to keep not far away from you, in order that, if there should be any occasion, I may show myself X. C. 2.4.17 (and five other cases in Xen.); ““ἔλθοι ὅπως γένοιτο τῶνδ᾽ ἐμοὶ λυτήριοςmay she come to prove my liberator from this afflictionA. Eum. 297. Ordinarily the subjunctive or future indicative is retained, as ““ὀκνοίην ἂν εἰς τὰ πλοῖα ἐμβαίνειν Κῦρος ἡμῖν δοίη μὴ ἡμᾶς . . . καταδύ_σῃI should hesitate to embark on the vessels which Cyrus might give us lest he sink usX. A. 1.3.17, ““τεθναίην, δίκην ἐπιθεὶς τῷ ἀδικοῦντι, ἵνα μὴ ἐνθάδε μένω καταγέλαστοςlet me die, when I have punished him who has done me wrong, that I may not remain here a laughing-stockP. A. 28d.

d. Indirect questions, when the direct question was a deliberative subjunctive: ““οὐκ ἂν ἔχοις ἐξελθὼν τι χρῷο σαυτῷif you should escape, you would not know what to do with yourselfP. Cr. 45b ( = τί χρῶμαι;). But when a direct question or a direct quotation stood in the indicative, that mood is retained, as ““εἰ ἀποδειχθείη τίνας χρὴ ἡγεῖσθαι τοῦ πλαισίουif it should be settled who must lead the squareX. A. 3.2.36.

e. Very rarely in relative clauses of purpose (P. R. 578e possibly); after ὥστε (X. C. 5.5.30), and in dependent statements with ὅτι or ὡς (X. C. 3.1.28).

f. Assimilation and non-assimilation may occur in the same sentence (E. Bacch. 1384 ff.)

2187. An optative referring to general past time in a general supposition usually assimilates the mood of a conditional relative or temporal clause depending on that optative.

ἔχαιρεν ὁπότε τάχιστα τυχόντας ὧν δέοιντο ἀποπέμποι but he was wont to rejoice whenever he dismissed without delay his petitioners with their requests granted (lit. obtaining what they wanted) X. Ag. 9. 2. But the indicative may remain unassimilated, as ““ἐκάλει δὲ καὶ ἐτί_μα_ ὁπότε τινὰς ἴδοι τοιοῦτόν τι ποιήσαντας αὐτὸς ἐβούλετο ποιεῖνand he was wont to honour with an invitation any whom he saw practising anything that he himself wished them to doX. C. 2.1.30.

So when the optative refers to past time through dependence on a verb of past time, as ““προσκαλῶν τοὺς φίλους ἐσπουδαιολογεῖτο ὡς δηλοίη οὓς τι_μᾷsummoning his friends he used to carry on a serious conversation with them in order to show whom he honouredX. A. 1.9.28 (here τι_μῴη would be possible).

2188. Assimilation to the Subjunctive.—Conditional relative clauses and temporal clauses referring to future or general present time, if dependent on a subjunctive, take the subjunctive.

a. In reference to future time: τῶν πρα_γμάτων τοὺς βουλευομένους (ἡγεῖσθαι δεῖ), ““ἵν᾽ ἃ_ν ἐκείνοις δοκῇ, ταῦτα πρά_ττηταιmen of counsel must guide events in order that what they resolve shall be accomplishedD. 4.39.

b. In reference to general present time: ““οὐδ᾽, ἐπειδὰν ὧν ἂν πρίηται κύ_ριος γένηται, τῷ προδότῃ συμβούλῳ περὶ τῶν λοιπῶν ἔτι χρῆταιnor when he has become master of what he purchases, does he any longer employ the traitor to advise him concerning his plans for the futureD. 18.47. But the indicative may occur (D. 22.22).

hide References (55 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (55):
    • Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon, 7
    • Aeschylus, Eumenides, 297
    • Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, 747
    • Antiphon, On the murder of Herodes, 74
    • Aristophanes, Wasps, 1431
    • Demosthenes, Philippic 1, 51
    • Demosthenes, Philippic 1, 12
    • Demosthenes, Philippic 1, 39
    • Demosthenes, On the Crown, 47
    • Demosthenes, Against Androtion, 22
    • Demosthenes, Against Timocrates, 44
    • Demosthenes, Against Aphobus 2, 21
    • Demosthenes, Against Polycles, 67
    • Euripides, Bacchae, 1384
    • Euripides, Helen, 435
    • Euripides, Medea, 37
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.130
    • Isaeus, Nicostratus, 11
    • Isaeus, Hagnias, 6
    • Isocrates, Panegyricus, 19
    • Lysias, Against Simon, 21
    • Plato, Laws, 959e
    • Plato, Republic, 578e
    • Plato, Republic, 600e
    • Plato, Apology, 38b
    • Plato, Apology, 28d
    • Plato, Crito, 44d
    • Plato, Crito, 45b
    • Plato, Cratylus, 396c
    • Plato, Symposium, 189c
    • Plato, Laches, 190d
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.61
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.20
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.1.1
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.8.21
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.9.28
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 2.3.29
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 2.3.4
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 7.6.16
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.3.17
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 3.2.36
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 7.6.23
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 1.3.11
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 1.6.19
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 2.4.17
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 3.1.28
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 5.5.30
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 2.1.30
    • Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 8.1.44
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 2.1.18
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 4.6.7
    • Xenophon, Economics, 12.1
    • Xenophon, Symposium, 8
    • Sophocles, Philoctetes, 961
    • Thucydides, Histories, 7.15
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