Use of the Moods.
This chapter treats of all constructions which require any
other form of the finite verb than the simple indicative in absolute
assertions and direct questions (2)
. The infinitive and participle are included
here so far as either of them is used in indirect discourse, in protasis
or apodosis, and in other constructions (as with πρίν
) in which the finite moods also are
These constructions are discussed under the following
I. The potential optative and indicative.
II. The imperative and subjunctive in commands, exhortations,
and prohibitions.—Subjunctive and indicative with μή
and μὴ οὐ
in cautious assertions.—
and ὅπως μή
with the independent
future indicative or subjunctive.
III. The subjunctive (like the future indicative) in
independent sentences.—The interrogative subjunctive.
IV. Οὐ μή
the subjunctive or future indicative.
V. Final and object clauses after ἵνα, ὡς, ὅπως, ὄφρα
, and μή
VI. Conditional sentences.
VII. Relative and temporal sentences, including consecutive
sentences with ὥστε
VIII. Indirect discourse.
IX. Causal sentences.
X. Expressions of a wish.
Section I: The Potential Optative and Indicative.
We find fully established in the Homeric language a use of
the optative and the past tenses of the indicative with ἄν
, which expresses the action of the verb
as dependent on circumstances or conditions; as ἔλθοι ἄν
, he might
Such an optative or indicative is called potential.
I. Potential Optative.
It has already been seen (13)
that Homer sometimes uses the optative in a
weak future sense, without κέ
express a concession or permission. Such neutral forms seem to form a
connecting link between the simple optative in wishes and the optative
, partaking to a
certain extent of the nature of both. (For a full discussion of these
forms and their relations, see Appendix I.) Such expressions seem to
show that the early language used forms like ἔλθοιμι
in two senses, I may go
and I may see
, or may I go
and may I
, corresponding to ἔλθω
their two Homeric senses I shall go
I shall see
, or let me go
and let me see
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
, 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
, Il. xxii. 253
; ἀνὴρ δέ κεν οὔ τι Διὸς νόον
, a man cannot contend
against the will of Zeus
, Il. viii. 143.1
On the other hand, the simple optative (without
) was more and more
restricted to the expression of a wish or exhortation, and was negatived
as μὴ γένοιτο
, may it not happen
“listen to me”
(Hom. Od. iv.
, as opposed to οὐκ ἂν
, it could not
The potential forms ἔλθοιμι ἄν
and ἴδοιμι ἄν
differ from the more absolute future
indicative and the old subjunctive forms ἔλθω
, I shall
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
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
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
, 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,
), containing every step from I shall
to I should see.
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
became more fixed as a future potential form.
In the following examples of the potential optative no
definite form of condition is present to the mind:—
“Ἐμοὶ δὲ τότ᾽ ἂν πολὺ
“but it would at that time (be likely to)
profit me far more.”
“Φεύγωμεν: ἔτι γάρ κεν
ἀλύξαιμεν κακὸν ἦμαρ,
“let us flee; for perchance we may still
escape the evil day.”
“Πλησίον ἀλλήλων: καί κεν
“the rocks are close together: you might
perhaps shoot an arrow across the space.”
“Οὐκοῦν πόροις ἂν τήνδε
“would you then grant me this favour?”
“πᾶν γὰρ ἂν .πύθοιό μου,
“for you can learn anything (you please) from
“Τί τόνδ᾽ ἂν εἴποις
“what else could you say of this man?”
. Πολλὰς ἂν
“you can find many devices.”
Ἕψομαί τοι καὶ οὐκ ἂν
“I will follow you and in no case will I be left
HDT. iv. 97.
) ὡς οὐδενὶ ἂν τρόπῳ ἔλθοιεν οἱ
. THUC. vi. 35.
Ἔνθα πολλὴν μὲν σωφροσύνην
καταμάθοι ἄν τις
. XEN. An. i. 9, 3.
So Mem. i. 3
, Mem. 5
, Mem. iii. 5
, Mem. 1
and 7. Δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν
, you cannot step twice into the
(saying of Heraclitus). PLAT. Crat. 402A.
Οὐ μὴν ἔστι καλλίων ὁδὸς
οὐδ᾽ ἂν γένοιτο,
“there is none and there could be none.”
so 64 B.
“you can hear.”
Δειξάτω ὡς οἱ Θετταλοὶ νῦν
οὐκ ἂν ἐλεύθεροι γένοιντο ἄσμενοι,
“let him show that they would not now gladly
DEM. ii. 8.
Ἡδέως δ᾽ ἂν ἔγωγ᾽ ἐροίμην
“but I would gladly ask Leptines.”
Id. xx. 129.
Εἰ ἠγνόησε ταῦτα, γένοιτο γὰρ
ἂν καὶ τοῦτο
, if he did not know
,—and it might easily so
Οὔτ᾽ ἂν οὗτος ἔχοι λέγειν
οὔθ᾽ ὑμεῖς πεισθείητε
. Id. Ib. xxii. 17.
Ποῖ οὖν τραποίμεθ᾽ ἂν ἔτι;
“ in what other direction could we possibly turn?”
Οὐκ ἂν μεθείμην τοῦ θρόνου,
“I will not give up the throne.”
So οὐκ ἂν
, AESCH. Eum. 228.
Τίς οὐκ ἂν ἀγάσαιτο τῶν
ἀνδρῶν ἐκείνων τῆς ἀρετῆς;
who would not admire the valour of these
(i.e. every one must admire their
). DEM. xviii. 204.
I should like
, is used like velim.
For ἐβουλόμην ἄν
The potential optative in the second person may have the
force of a mild command or exhortation. E.g.
So probably Il. ii. 250
: τῷ οὐκ ἂν βασιλῆας ἀνὰ στόμ᾽ ἔχων
, therefore you must not
take kings upon your tongue and talk
(or do not take
Occasionally the potential optative expresses what may
hereafter prove to be true or to have been true. E.g. Ποῦ δῆτ᾽ ἂν εἶεν οἱ ξένοι;
where may the strangers be?
(i.e. where is it likely to turn out that they are?
SOPH. El. 1450.