Lesson 41: Function Words/Negatives


610. On the basis of the morphological description of the Greek language, words may be divided into three broad categories: (1) those belonging to the nominal system; (2) those belonging to the verbal system; and (3) those not inflected (§011). Two major components of the third group (§014) are (3a) adverbs, and (3b) prepositions. These two subgroups have already been tentatively considered in various connections. Aside from adverbs and prepositions, the remaining words in the third, uninflected category were termed (3c) particles (§014.4). The term particle is only a convenient designation for a highly diversified group of words which requires precise and manifold subclassification. In this and the following lessons we shall deal with: (1) negatives, (2) conjunctions, (3) sentence connectors, and (4) subordinators.

611. Negatives, conjunctions, sentence connectors, and subordinators may be termed function words (Fries: 87-109) or structure signaling words (Roberts, 1958: 151f., 224ff.). The point of these labels is that such words are nearly lexically empty, i.e. they have little or no dictionary meaning of their own. However, they are grammatically significant in indicating the structure of sentences and parts of sentences (cf. §§001ff.). Some of them are so common as to require acquaintance at the grossest level of the language. This simply means that one must learn how they function early in the process. One may guess at the meaning of lexically full words, or leave them blank when reading (cf. §003), but one must know the grammatical "meaning" of function words to be able to proceed at all. It is the case, of course, that some function words are more pervasive and significant than others.

612. In the analysis of sentences thus far function words have either been put in brackets or parentheses and ignored. It will be recalled that adverbs and prepositions, which also belong to the third, uninflected category, have been marked:

adverbs A
prepositions p (followed by the designation for the case and type of word group)

For the remainder of the particles capital letters may be employed:

Ν Negative particles
Β Subordinators
C Conjunctions
D Sentence connectors

Adverbs are lexically full words, so they have been given a separate designation. The choice of p for prepositions was self-evident. Among the remaining function words (other than prepositions, which are also function words), Ν was suggested by the English word negative, C by the name conjunction, D by the name determiner; Β is arbitrary.


613. Negatives are a pervasive feature of every language. Here we shall consider only negative adverbs. Negatives that are bound morphemes (e.g. α-privative in such words as ἄ-καρπος, -ov un-fruitful; ἀ-θάνατος, -ov im-mortal) , and negative pronominal adjectives will be considered in other connections.

Negatives do have lexical meaning, but they are also often important structure signaling devices. We shall consider the whole range of negative usage, in broadest outline.

614. The common negatives are οὐ (οὐκ, οὐχ) and μή. Combinations of these two and compounds of which one or the other is a part are also frequent.

614.1 οὐ appears before a following consonant. When a vowel with smooth breathing follows, οὐκ is employed. Before rough breathing ούχ is used. μή is not affected by the following sound.

614.2 A common combination of negatives is οὐ μή, which is a more definite and for the most part more emphatic form of negation than a simple negative. The two negatives in this case do not cancel each other out. Bl-D §365.

614.3 Examples of compounds with οὐ:

οὐδέ (οὐ + δέ) and not, nor
οὐδέποτε (οὐ + δέ + ποτέ) never
οὐκέτι (οὐκ + ἔτι) no more, no longer
οὔπω (οὐ + πω) not yet

Cf. the pronominal adjective οὐδείς (οὐ + δέ + εἷς) no one.

Examples of compounds with μή:

μηδέ (μή + δέ) and not, nor
μηδέποτε (μή + δέ + ποτε) never
μηκέτι (μή + ἔτι) no longer
Ν. -κ- is by analogy with οὐκέτι
μήτε (μή + τε) and not

Cf. the pronominal adjective μηδείς (μή + δέ + εἷς) no one.

615. oὐ and μή most often negate the finite verb in a sentence or clause.

615.1 As a general rule, οὐ negates the indicative mood, μή the other moods, including the infinitive and participle. Bl-D §426.

615.2 Where οὐ or μή negates the finite verb, the negative appears regularly just before the verb. The group consisting of negative and verb may be marked Ν → 2.

1n+ Ν → 2 p5b
(1) ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐμὸς / οὐ χωρεῖ / ἐν ὑμῖν Jn 8:37
My word has no place in you
Ν →       2-1
(2) οὐχ ἡμαρτήκαμεν 1 Jn 1:10
We have not sinned

A postpositive particle (a particle that may not stand first in its clause or word group), however, may intervene between negative and verb:

Ν → D 2-1 p4n+
(3) οὐ [γὰρ] βλέπεις / εἰς πρόσωπον ἀνθρώπων Mk 12:14
[For] you do not regard the appearance of man

The particle ἄv (§§6740, 857) may also intervene:

3n+ Ν → Η   2-1
(4) Χριστοῦ δοῦλος / οὐκ ἄν ἤμην   Gal 1:10
I would not (in that case, then) be a servant of Christ

Note: Η is used to mark nuance words and sentence modalizers.

615.3 The rule regarding the position of the simple negative (§615.1) applies also to the emphatic double negative, οὐ μή:

4n NN →   2-1 p4n+
(5) θάνατον / οὐ μὴ θεωρήσῃ / εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα Jn 8:51
He shall certainly not see death forever

615.4 Compound negatives also regularly immediately precede the verb:

Ν →       2 1n+
(6) οὔπω ἐληλύθει / ἡ ὥρα αὐτοῦ Jn 8:20
His hour had not yet come
1a C 1a Ν → 2
(7) κοινὸν (ἢ) ἀκάθαρτον / ουδέποτε εἰσῆλθεν /
εἰς τὸ στόμα μου Acts 11:8
A common or unclean thing has never gone into my mouth

616. οὐ and μή may negate elements in the sentence other than the verb. When they do, they immediately precede the element they negate.

C 4n+ Ν → 3g
(8) καὶ) τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ / μὴ τηρῶν ... 1 Jn 2:4
and not keeping his commandments ...

Note: μή negates the participle (§615.1).

1a+ (N→1a) 3a p4n
(9) οὐ πολλοὶ / σοφοὶ / κατὰ σάρκα,
1a+ (N→1a) 3a
οὐ πολλοὶ / δυνατοί,
1a+ (N→1a) 3a
οὐ πολλοὶ, / εὐγενεῖς 1 Cor 1:26
Not many (were) wise by human standards,
Not many (were) powerful,
Not many (were) well-born

617. Negatives participate in a variety of structure signaling devices. Cf. §§212-214.

617.1 οὐ (οὐ μή) may be followed by ἀλλά: not ... but ... (negative statement followed by a contrary positive statement; cf. German nicht ... sondern ...).

1b 4n NC → 2 C 2-1
(10) ἐγὼ / δαιμόνιον / οὐκ ἔχω (ἀλλὰ) τιμῶ /
τὸν πατέρα μου Jn 8:49
I do not have a demon, but I honor my father

Note: When Ν is conjunctive, it may be marked ΝC.

1g+ NNC → 2
(11) ὁ ἀκολουθῶν ἐμοὶ / οὐ μὴ περιπατήσῃ / ἐν τῇ
p5n+ C 2-1 4n+
σκοτίᾳ, (ἀλλ') ἕξει / τὸ φῶς τῆς ζωῆς Jn 8:12
The one following me shall certainly not walk in
darkness, but shall have the light of life

Bl-D §448 (1).

617.2 οὐ ... ἀλλά ... is sometimes expanded as οὐ (μόνον) ... ἀλλὰ (καί) ..., not only ... but also (but even) ...

Ν → p6b+ D 4aA C
(12) ... οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων [δὲ] μόνον / (ἀλλὰ)
A p6n+
καὶ / περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου 1 Jn 2:2
... and not only for ours, but also for [the sins] of the whole world

617.3 οὔτε ... οὔτε ... (μήτε ... μήτε ...) correlate comparable grammatical elements within the sentence, e.g.

NC→ 4b 2-1 NC 4n+
(13) οὔτε ἐμὲ / οἴδατε / οὔτε τὸν πατέρα μου Jn 8:19
You know neither me nor my father

In (13) οὔτε ... οὔτε ... joins two objects to a single verb. Similarly, οὔτε ... οὔτε ... may correlate two or more subjects (Rom 8:39), two verbs (Lk 12:24), two adverbial phrases initiated by prepositions (Mt 12:32). μήτε is used where μή is appropriate (§615.1), e.g. with participles:

2 D 1n NC → 3g NC → 3g
(14) ἦλθεν [γὰρ] / Ἰωάννης / μήτε ἐσθίων / μήτε πίνων Mt 11:18
For John came neither eating nor drinking

These uses of οὔτε and μήτε correspond to some uses of the conjunctions καί and τε (§§622, 625).

617.4 οὐδέ and μηδέ are negative conjunctions which, in strict usage (Attic prose), join clauses (included sentences) and sentences (independent sentences) of the same kind. This means that οὐδέ and μηδέ, when conjunctive, regularly follow another negative (when not conjunctive, οὐδέ and μηδέ mean not even).

NC → 2-1 NC → 2-1 NC → 2-1
(15) οὐ σπείρουσιν οὐδέ θερίζουσιν οὐδέ συναγούσιν /
εἰς ἀποθήκας
They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns

But strict usage is not uniformly observed, so that οὐδέ (μηδέ) are also used to join other grammatical elements (cf. οὔτε, §617.3):

NC → 2-1 4n+ NC →4d+
(16) μὴ ἀγαπᾶτε / τὸν κόσμον μηδὲ τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ 1 Jn 2:15
Do not love the world nor the things in the world

In (16) μηδέ connects a second object with the verb negated by μή.

617.5 Various other combinations of negatives (and conjunctions) are possible, of which the following are merely illustrative.

A NC → 2-1 5n+ C 5n+
(17) εὐθέως / οὐ προσανεθέμην / σαρκὶ (καὶ) αἵματι, /
NC → 2-1 p4n
οὐδὲ ἀνῆλθον / εἰς, Ἰεροσόλυμα / πρὸς τοὺς πρὸ
ἐμοῦ ἀποστόλους, /
C           2-1 p4n
(ἀλλὰ) ἀπῆλθον / εἰς Ἀραβίαν Gal 1:16f
I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood (= anyone), nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia

The combination οὐκ ...οὐδὲ ... ἀλλὰ ... appears also in Gal 1:1. In Gal 1:11f. the sequence is οὐκ ... οὐδὲ ... οὔτε ... ἀλλὰ .... In stricter usage the third item, οὔτε, would be replaced by οὐδέ (§617.4).

A negative pronominal adjective may be followed by a series of negatives:

C        1d 2c p5n+
(18) καὶ) οὐδείς / ἐδύνατο / ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ
NC p6n+
οὐδὲ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς
ΝC p6n+
οὐδὲ ὑποκάτω τῆς γῆς
i 4n+
ἀνοῖξαι / τὸ βιβλίον
NC →     i 4d
οὔτὲ βλέπειν / αὐτό Rev 5:3
And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it

617.6 Rom 6:12-14 contains a number of negatives and conjunctions illustrative of some common usages:

(19) μὴ οὖν βασιλευέτω ..., μηδὲ παριστάνετε
... ἀλλὰ παραστήσατε ....
... οὐ κυριεύσει, οὐ γὰρ ... ἀλλὰ ...
Let not ... therefore reign . . . , do not
yield ... but yield ... will not
have dominion, since not ... but ...

The overall structure of the five sentences involved is made evident by the sequence of negatives together with the conjunction ἀλλά.

617.7 οὐ and μή, and the strengthened forms, οὐχί and μήτι, are employed as question signaling devices. The choice of negative indicates the answer expected: οὐ (οὐχί) anticipates a positive answer (whether or not it is forthcoming), μή (μήτι) expects a negative answer. As signals of questions, these negatives stand regularly at the head of their sentence or clause. μή is followed in this case by the indicative (cf. §615.1).

NQ 1n 2pass p6b
(20) μὴ / Παῦλος / ἐσταυρώθη / ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν; 1 Cor 1:13
Paul was not crucified for you, was he?

The question expects a negative answer: certainly not. Notice that in English the kind of answer expected is indicated by the placement of the negative.

Paul was not crucified for you, was he? (No)
Paul was crucified for you, was he not? (Yes)

The same nuance is achieved in Greek by the negative chosen.

With (20) compare

NQ A 2 1b s4
(21) οὐ / καλῶς / λέγομεν / ἡμεῖς / ὅτι Σαμαρίτης
εἶ σύ; Jn 8:48
Did we not rightly say that you are a Samaritan?

where the answer, Yes, we did, is assumed.

The same nuances are expressed by μήτι and οὐχί, respectively:

NQ 2-1 4b
(22) μήτι / ἀποκτενεῖ / ἑαυτόν; Jn 8:22
He won't kill himself, will he? (No, probably not)
NQ 2 1n+ 4n+
(23) οὐχὶ / ἐμώρανεν / ὁ θεὸς / τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ
κόσμου; 1 Cor 1:20
Did not God make foolish the wisdom of the world? (Yes, he did)

Q is the designation for question signaling words (§526). When Ν also signals a question, it may be marked Ν as in (20)-(23).