Lesson 43: Function Words/Sentence Connectors


630. Sentence connectors join sentences and clauses (cf. §620) . As a rule, they are less crucial than conjunctions at the gross level of language. That is only to say that one can more easily put brackets around them and read on without losing the sense. Nevertheless, it is important to have some notion of the connective function of some common sentence connectors fairly early in the learning process, since such words carry the weight of intersentence grammar.

630.1 It should be recalled that some conjunctions also function as sentence connectors, e.g. καί (§§621; 622), ἤ (§626), ἀλλά (§§617; 628).

630.2 The common sentence connectors include:

ὁ δέ
μὲν ... δέ ...

631. δέ, γάρ, and οὖν are the most common of the sentence connectors. The beginning student an get along very well with just these three in hand, plus the conjunctions treated above (§§620-628). All three are postpositive, i.e. cannot stand first in their own word group; they normally come second, but may appear as the third or even the fourth element.

632. δέ is a mildly adversative connector: it indicates the general contrast of a clause or sentence with one preceding. Its English counterparts are but, however, yet. But δέ is so commonly used that the contrastive nuance in the majority of instances is nearly or wholly absent. In that case, it has merely copulative force, like καί , and. In some instances it is merely transitional: now, then. /

The strong adversative mate to δέ is ἀλλά. In its adversative role, δέ corresponds roughly to German aber (general contrast), ἀλλά to sondern (directly contrary).

632.1 δέ indicating contrast:

C NC -> 2-1 4d
(1) καὶ οὐκ ἐγνώκατε / αὐτόν,
1b D 2 4d
ἐγὼ / [δὲ] οἶδα / αὐτόν Jn 8:55
And you have not known him,
but I know him

Cf. οὐ... ἀλλά, §617.

632.2 δέ without contrastive force:

A D 3g 2-1
(2) ἐκεῖθεν [δὲ] ἀναστὰς / ἀπῆλθεν / εἰς τὸ
ὅρια Τύρου Mk 7:24
And from there he arose and went away to the regions of Tyre

For other nuances of δέ, s. Bauer s.v. On these and other minor adversative connectors, s. Bl-D §§447-450.

633. γάρ is a causal connector, indicating that its sentence states the cause or reason for something stated previously. In this sense its English counterpart is for. But, like δέ, γάρ has a wider range of functions: it can also indicate inference (like οὖν), continuation (like δέ), or explanation.

633.1 γάρ indicating cause or reason:

2-1 s4
(3) οἴδαμεν / ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐλήλυθας διδάσκαλος
1b D 2c 4n+
οὐδείς [γὰρ] δύναται / ταῦτα τὰ σημεία /
i s s
ποιεῖν / ἃ σὺ ποιεῖς, / ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ ὁ θεός μετ' αὐτοῦ. Jn 3:2
We know that you, a teacher, have come from God;
for no one can do these signs that you do,
unless God is with him

633.2 To questions γαρ often adds a nuance not easily translated into English, but for which words like then, pray, what!, why! come close, γάρ introduces the reason for the skeptical tone in (4):

1d 2 S4
(4) ἄλλοι / ἔλεγον / οὗτός ἐστιν ό Χριστός·
1d D 2 S4
οἱ [δὲ] ἔλεγον, / μὴ γὰρ ἐκ τῆς Γαλιλαίας
ὁ Χριστὸς ἔρχεται; Jn 7:41
Others said, "This is the Christ."
Still others replied, "What! The Christ is
not to come from Galilee, is he?"

Bl-D §452.

634.1 oὖν is a consecutive (inferential) connector, indicating that the sentence in which it appears is a result of or inference from something preceding. English counterparts are: so, therefore, consequently, accordingly, then. Once again, like δέ and γᾶρ, οὖν also has a wider range of functions. In historical narrative particularly, oὖv may be used to continue a subject (continuative), resume a subject (resumptive), or mark a transition to something new (transitional).

634.2 Other inferential particles are ἄρα (not to be confused with interrogative ἆρα), and the strengthened forms ἄραγε and ἄρα οὖν. These connectors are not necessarily postpositive, i.e. may stand first in the sentence, contrary to classical usage.

634.3 οὖν indicating inference:

2-1 4n+
(5) ἀγαπᾶτε / τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν ...
2 D 1b 3a
ἔσεσθε [οὖν] ὑμεῖς / τέλειοι Mt 5:44-48
Love your enemies ...
Then you shall be perfect

634.4 οὖν indicating transition:

2 D 5d 1n+
(6) εἶπον [οὖν] αὐτῷ / οἱ Φαρισαῖοι, ... Jn 8:13
Then the Pharisees said to him, . . .

Bl-D §451.

635. The functions of δέ were considered in a general way in §632 (with and without contrastive force). A few more specialized functions of δέ are worth noting.

635.1 In narrative and especially in dialogue, δέ is used with the article (without other substantive) to indicate a change in subject or speaker. In (7) such a shift is twice indicated by this device:

(7) [Ἰησοῦς] φέρετέ μοι δηνάριον ἵνα ἴδω.
οἱ δὲ ἤνεγκαν.
καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, τίνος ἡ εἰκὼν αὕτη καὶ ἡ ἐπιγραφή;
οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ, Καίσαρος.
ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῦς, ...
Mk 12:15b-17a
[Jesus:] "Bring me a denarius that I may see."
They brought [one] And he says to them, "Whose likeness and inscription
is this?"
They said to him, "Caesar's." Then Jesus said to them, ...

οἱ δέ twice signals the change in subject or speaker. Both times no other substantive occurs. In the third instance, Ἰησοῦς stands in apposition to ὁ δέ to relieve the strain on the reader's memory.

635.2 Just as ἀλλά may be correlated with a preceding οὐ (§617), δέ may be correlated with a preceding μέν (an affirmative particle with no single or near English equivalent). μέν ... δέ ... generally implies something like on the one hand ... on the other ..., though this way of putting it in English is sometimes too strong. In (8) μέν ... δέ ... point to the two things set over against each other:

(8) οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς λογίζεσθε ἑαυτοὺς εἶναι
νεκροὺς μὲν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ
ζῶντας δὲ τῷ θεῷ
Rom 6:11
So you also must consider yourselves to be
dead to sin
but living to God

Bl-D §447(2).

635.3 μέν sometimes appears by itself, without correlative δέ; in that case the contrast may be supplied from the context, or it may actually be expressed but not signaled by δέ. Bl-D §447(3)-(5).

635.4 The combination μὲν οὖν, however, is merely continuative: then, so (common in Acts). Bl-D §451(1).