Lesson 29: Verbs/Subjunctive, Optative


0440. In lessons 24-27 (§§365-4241) were treated the form-sets which together comprise the inflection of the Greek verb in the indicative mood. The indicative forms of the verb may serve as the basis for elaborating the non-indicative moods (subjunctive, optative, imperative, infinitive, participle), i.e. the non-indicative moods are to be presented from the perspective of the way or ways in which they contrast, formally, with the corresponding indicative forms. Knowledge of the fundamental characteristics of the indicative system will make it possible to abbreviate greatly the elaboration of the non-indicative moods.

The subjunctive (lesson 29), the infinitive and the participle (lesson 30) are in common use in hellenistic Greek; the imperative (lesson 30) and especially the optative (lesson 29) are much less common. The optative is so rare, in fact, that it hardly repays learning the inflectional system in any detail.

440. Generalizations touching the non-indicative moods may be helpful.

440.1 Since tense as time is not primarily relevant to the non-indicative moods (it would be well to review §§0309-3120 at this point), it can be expected that they will appear only in the present, aorist and perfect 'tenses' ('tense' here means aspect, §§0309ff.).

440.2 The non-indicative forms of the verb are formed, for the most part, on the appropriate tense bases or stems (principal parts), except that the aorist base of the non-indicative moods lacks augment (principal Parts III and VI). Cf. the formation of the future passive on the aorist passive stem, §§393-3940. The augment, of course, signals past time (§§311, 0335).

440.3 It may be expected that a number of paradigms for the non-indicative moods will be defective, and that the tendency to form tenses periphrastically will increase (contraction of the inflective range of the language, simplification of the verbal system).

A. The Inflection of the Verb in the Subjunctive Mood

441. The characteristic feature of the subjunctive is the long thematic or variable vowels ω/η, which replace the short variable vowels ο/ε used in thematic conjugations in the indicative (§§322,3661). Since all subjunctives are thematic, this feature is the key to the subjunctive.

442. The contours of the subjunctive system may be indicated by the following:

442.1 There are only present, aorist and perfect subjunctives (§303), owing to the fact that only tense as aspect and not tense as time is relevant to the non-indicative moods (§§3031.7-9, 310, 3100.2).

442.2 The perfect subjunctive, other than for the verb οἶδα, is formed periphrastically (§300.3), i.e. with the perfect participle and the present subjunctive of the verb εἰμί (be) . The perfect subjunctive is rare (§3031.8). One has therefore to reckon only with finite forms of the present and aorist subjunctive.

442.3 All subjunctives are built on their respective tense stems, less augment (§340.2): the present on the present stem, the aorist on the aorist stem, less augment (the perfect is formed periphrastically, §442.2).

442.4 Primary personal endings (§318) are employed throughout.

442.5 All subjunctives are conjugated thematically with long variable vowel ω/η (there are no athematic conjugations).

4420. Summary. The present and aorist subjunctives are built on the present and aorist tense stems respectively (less augment), and are formed by suffixing a long thematic vowel ω/η, plus primary personal endings; the perfect subjunctive is formed peri-phrastically.

443. The subjunctive system. The simplicity of the subjunctive system may be seen in the following representative paradigms, based on five verbs:

Present, first aorist, perfect, aorist passive subjunctives of:

                    λύω, λύσω, ἔλυσα, λέλυκα, λέλυμμαι, ἐλύθην

Second aorist active/middle subjunctive of:

                   λείπω, -λείψω, ἔλιπον, -λέλοιπα, -λέλειμμαι, -ελείφθην

Second aorist passive subjunctive of:

                    γράφω, γράψω, ἔγραψα, γέγραφα, γέγραμμαι, ἐγράφην

The subjunctives of:

                     εἰμί and οἶδα

  Present Present    Future
  Indic. Subj.    Indic.
  Active Active    Active
Sg. 1.    λύω λύω    λύσω
2.    λύεις λύῃς    λύσεις
3.    λύει λύῃ    λύσει
PI. 1.    λύομεν λύωμεν    λύσομεν
2.    λύετε λύητε    λύσετε
3.    λύουσι (ν) λύωσι (ν)    λύσουσι (ν)
  Mid. -Pass . Mid. -Pass.    Middle
Sg. 1.    λύομαι λύωμαι    λύσομαι
2.    λύῃ λύῃ    λύσῃ
3.    λύεται λύηται    λύσεται
Pl. 1.    λυόμεθα λυώμεθα    λυσόμεθα
2.    λύεσθε λύησθε    λύσεσθε
3.    λύονται λύωνται    λύσονται
Sg. 1.   
2.    ᾖς
P1. 1.    ὦμεν
2.    ἦτε
3.    ὦσι
                             AORIST    PERFECT                
    First Aor. Second Aor.
    Subj. Subj.  
    Active Active    Active
    λύσω λίπω    λελυκὼς     ὦ
    λύσῃς λίπῃς          "            ᾖς
    λύσῃ λίπῃ          "            ᾖ
    λύσωμεν λίπωμεν    λελυκότες  ὦμεν
    λύσητε λίπητε          "            ἦτε
    λύσωσι (ν) λίπωσι (ν)          "            ὦσι (ν)
    Middle Middle    Mid.-Pass.
    λύσωμαι λίπωμαι    λελυμένος   ὦ
    λύσῃ λίπῃ              etc.
    λύσηται λίπηται  
    λυσώμεθα λιπώμεθα  
    λύσησθε λίπησθε  
    λύσωνται λίπωνται  
  First Aor.
  Passive Passive Passive
  Indic.        (οἶδα)
Sg. 1.    ἐλύθην λυθῶ γραφῶ    εἰδῶ
2.    ἐλύθης λυθῇς γραφῇς    εἰδῇς
3.    ἐλύθη λυθῇ γραπῇ    εἰδῇ
Pl. 1.    ἐλύθημεν λυθῶμεν γφαφῶμεν    εἰδῶμεν
2.    ἐλύθητε λυθῆτε γραφῆτε    εἰδῆτε
3.    ἐλύθησαν λυθῶσι (ν) γραφῶσι (ν)    εἰδῶσι (ν)

4430. Mnemonic hints:

4430.1 It may be observed that in all the form-sets of the subjunctive represented, the pattern of theme vowel plus primary ending is identical for each set, including εἰμί and οἶδα, e.g. active second singular is always -ῃς, active third singular always -ῃ, etc.

4430.2 The only forms showing iota subscript with theme vowel are: second and third singular active (-ῃς, -ῃ) and second singular middle (-passive) (-ῃ). In all other forms the theme vowel is ω or ε.

4430.3 The theme vowel ω replaces ο of thematic conjugations in the indicative; η replaces ε.

4430.4 The future indicative active and middle is included for comparison because the first aorist subjunctive active and middle will look like the future indicative, except for theme vowel.

4430.5 The second aorist subjunctive, active/middle and passive, will look like the present subjunctive, except for difference in stem and accent.

4431. Notes:

4431.1 In the first aorist active/middle, the tense formative -σα is replaced by -σω/-ση, i.e. the α is lost. For this reason, and because the augment has also been dropped, the first aorist subjunctive closely resembles the future indicative active/middle.

4431.2 The aorist passive tense formative in the subjunctive is actually -θε- or -ε- (rather than -θη-, -η-): the ε contracts in each case with ω or η, yielding -ῶ- or -ῆ- (the accent falls on the contracted syllable).

4431.3 The difference between first and second perfect does not enter into the perfect subjunctive, except for the presence or absence of -κ- in the participle, since the perfect subjunctive is formed periphrastically.

444. The bulk of the subjunctive system is covered by the representative paradigms given in §443. A few form-sets that do not follow the same consistent pattern necessitate taking a closer look at: 1) contract verbs in the present tense, 2) μι.-verbs in the present tense, 3) athematic or "root' aorists.

444.1 The subjunctive of contract verbs. The subjunctive of contract verbs in -έω follows the regular pattern (§443) precisely, i.e. for -ει- of the indicative substitute -η-, and for -ου- of the indicative -ω-. The present subjunctive of contract verbs in -άω is identical with the indicative forms (§368) , owing to the rules of contraction. The present subjunctive of verbs in -όω has been assimilated to the indicative (§368) , on the analogy of verbs in -άω, although a few 'Attic' forms occur, i.e. -ω- where -ου- occurs in the indicative (the subjunctive of -όω verbs is not well attested).

444.2 The present subjunctive of μι-verbs. Μι-verbs with stems ending in η/α, η/ε, and υ (ἵστημι, τίθημι, δείκνυμι, §§370f.) follow the regular pattern (§443) in forming the present subjunctive, i.e. ω and η (or ῳ) throughout. Μι-verbs with stems in ω/ο (δίδωμι, §§370f.), however, show ω (or ῳ) throughout, with by-forms διδοῖς, διδοῖ in the active second and third singular appearing occasionally (but not in the NT).

444.3 The athematic aorist subjunctive. Verbs having a 'root' aorist (§§411, 412) form the subjunctive for the most part according to the regular pattern (§443) : verbs with stems in η (α, ε) follow the regular alternation of ω and η; verbs with stems in ω (ο), show ω (ῳ) throughout (δίδωμι, γινώσκω), with by-forms in -οις, -οι in the active second and third singular (cf. §444.2).

B. Inflection of the Verb in the Optative Mood

0445. The optative has strongly retreated in hellenistic Greek by comparison with classical Greek. There are only 67 instances in the New Testament, a number of which appear in stereotyped phrases, e.g. μὴ γένοιτο, "God forbid," literally "may it not be" (Paul 14 times, Lk 20:16). The tense is either present or aorist, the person usually third singular.

445. The characteristic feature of the optative is the mood sign -ι-, which is joined with thematic or other vowel (-ιη- in athematic inflection). In the optative it never appears as subscript.

446. The contours of the optative system may be indicated by the following:

446.1 The optative is confined for all practical purposes, in hellenistic Greek, to the present and aorist tenses (§§300.2, 303, 3031.7-8).

446.2 The optative is built on the appropriate tense stem, less augment (§340.2).

446.3 Secondary personal endings are employed, except for the first singular -μι (a primary ending, §318), which is used in place of -v everywhere but in the athematic aorist inflection.

446.4 The mood formative is -ι- or -ιη-.

447. The optative in the present, first and second aorist. The mood sign -ι- is joined to the theme vowel ο (always ο, not variable) in the present and second aorist, and to the σα of the first aorist tense formative; secondary endings (except first singular -μι) are suffixed.

Present and Second Aorist                              First Aorist            
  Active Active
Sg. 1.    -οι,-μι -σαι,-μι
2.    -οι-ς -σαι,-ς
3.    -οι -σαι
PI. 1.    -οι-μεν -σαι-μεν
2.    -οι-ο (-οι-σο) -σαι-ο (-αι-σο)
3.    -οιε-ν -σαιε-ν
  Middle (-Passive) Middle
Sg. 1.    -οι-μην -σαι-μην
2.    -οι-ο (-οι-σο) -σαι-ο (-αι-σο)
3.    -οι-το -σαι-το
Pl. 1.    -οι-μεθα -σαι-μεθα
2.    -οι-σθε -σαι-σθε
3.    -οι-ντο -σαι-ντο

4470. Notes:

4470.1 The middle (-passive) second singular loses the σ of the personal ending between vowels (§§3190.5, 930.21).

4470.2 The mood sign of the third plural active is actually -ιε­- (cf. -ιη- in the athematic inflection).

↓ 4471. No forms of the present optative from contract or μι-verbs occur in the New Testament, with the exception of δυναίμην, δύναιτο from δύναμαι, I am able, and the third singular εἴη from εἰμί. Such forms, for the most part, are easily identified.

448. The athematic aorist optative (active). In the athematic inflection of verbs in the aorist tense (active, middle), the mood sign -ιη- is joined to the short stem vowel of the verb, and secondary endings suffixed:

ἵστημι, ἕστην (στα-)
Sg. 1. σταίην Pl. 1. σταίημεν
2. σταίης 2. σταίητε
3. σταίη 3. σταίησαν

Verbs with other stem vowels would be modified accordingly, e.g. θείην, (τίθημι, θε-), ἀφείην (ἀφίημι, ἀφε-), δοίην (δίδωμι, δο-), γνοίην (γινώσκω, γνο-).

4480. Notes:

4480.1 The first singular is the regular secondary ending -ν. (As a general rule: mood formative -ι-, add -μι; mood formative -ιη-, add -ν.)

4480.2 The third plural is the alternate secondary ending of the third plural (§319), employed also with μι-verbs in the imperfect indicative (§404.3), 'root' aorists (§411), the pluperfect (§415), and the aorist passive (§420).

↓ 4481. The single athematic aorist middle in the New Testament is ὀναίμην (Philemon 20), from ὀνίνημι. The aorist middle forms, however, are 'regular' in following the inflection pattern of the singular (Smyth §416).

449. Aorist passive optative. The aorist passive optative is formed by suffixing the mood formative -ιη- to the tense formative -θε- (-ε-) and adding secondary active endings. (On the tense formative -θε-, with short vowel, cf. the subjunctive, §4431.2) The aorist passive stem is also divested of augment, of course.

Sg. 1.    -θείην (-είην) PI. 1.    -θείημεν (-είημεν)           
2.    -θείης (-είης) 2.    -θείητε (-είητε)
3,    -θείη (-είη) 3.    -θείησαν (-είησαν)