Re: 3rd Aorist or Athematic Aorist

Carl W. Conrad (
Wed, 30 Oct 1996 08:01:51 -0600

<x-rich>At 7:36 AM -0600 10/29/96, wrote:

>Thanks for the help on the 3rd/Athematic. Chris is still struggling

>understand his instructor in this area. Below is his E-mail to me.
Can we

>help her out?


>Thanks again,




>Here is the ENTIRE description of the "3rd Aorist" in Franks

>incomprehensible) Grammar. Frank is a great teacher of Greek in a

>group reading the text, but the introductory Biblical Greek grammar he

>is horrible:

I won't cite the whole long e-mail from his friend that Jim has
forwarded; I just want to say that, upon reading it, I can readily
understand how confusing the textbook is; there is nothing in all that
cited material that is inaccurate, but the terminology is misleading;
the same aorist forms are referred to in some instances as "second"
aorists, in other instances as "third." I try to be consistent when I
first introduce what the textbook which I use (JACT _Reading
Greek_--basically a classical Attic textbook) prefers to call "Strong
Aorists." I say that there are two older types of aorist that are not
different in aspect from the "Weak" (Sigmatic or Alpha type) but that
have each their own distinctive formative pattern: the Thematic or O/E
vowel type with endings in -ON, -ES, -E(N), etc. and the Athematic or
Nonthematic type with endings (-N, -S, -, etc.) linked directly to a
vocalic (usually long-vowel) stem. I then go on to note that most Greek
grammars lump these two different formative types together under the
title, "Second Aorist," but that for purposes of clear distinction I
prefer to use the term "Second Aorist" strictly for the Thematic O/E
type, while using "Third Aorist" for the Athematic type. It should be
added here, however, that there is yet another tiny but important
category of aorist formation comprising the four major irregular -MI
verbs that have aorist sg. in -KA, -KAS, -KE(N) linked to long-vowel
stems, but aorist pl. with endings -MEN, -TE, -SAN linked directly to
short-vowel stems. These are closer in nature to the "Third Aorist"
type, but they really are unique enough that they have to be learned by
themselves, as everyone knows (to his or her own grief!).

To which I shall only add the little passage from _Through the Looking
Glass_ which wonderfully applies to Greek verbs:

<fontfamily><param>Monaco</param> "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty
said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to
mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many
different things."

"The question is," said, Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master --
that's all!"

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty
Dumpty began again. "They've a temper, some of them -- particularly
verbs: they're the proudest - adjectives you can do anything with, but
verbs - ; however, I can manage the whole lot of them!
Impenetrability! That's what I say!"


Carl W. Conrad

Department of Classics, Washington University

One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130

(314) 935-4018 OR