Re: Tense in non-indicative moods

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Dec 01 1995 - 15:34:32 EST

At 8:08 PM 11/30/95, Kenneth Litwak wrote:
> Porter in his Idioms book makes the case that tense is irrelevant
>to the meaning of the non-indicative moods. Present negated imperatives
>do not mean "Stop doing x" and aorist negated imperatives don't mean
>"don't do x". They have no clear distinction that I can tell from
>what I've read so far. This both trashes everything I learned about
>the non-indicative moods and much that I have read in commentaries,
>leaving me wondering if I understand Greek at all if he's right and
>wondering what to make of tenses and moods since he seems to be
>reducing them all into one pot of "verbs" with no meaningful
>distinctions that I can see in understanding them, execept
>whether something is complete or not. Is this understanding of the
>non-indicative moods generally accepted by modern grammarians and if so,
>what of all the works that revolve around such distinctions? Does that
>mean that there aren't any rules left for distingushing tenses or moods
>in verbs, such that futures and pluperfects are the same? I'm not
>trying to use hyperbole. Poerter argued against any tense having any
>time relation, so that leaves one wondering what good six tenses

I guess I'm going to have to READ Porter rather than read what people claim
about his book. But it's going to take a hard sell to get me to believe
that tense doesn't make any difference in the 3rd person imperatives of Mk


I have always believed that the aorist imperatives are to be understood as
referring to a single critical and decisive choice, the present imperative
to an action to begin now and to continue. Would Porter argue otherwise?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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