Re: Infinitives as finite verbs

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Sun Apr 13 1997 - 23:58:45 EDT

At 9:10 AM +0200 4/9/97, Jan Haugland wrote:
>> It also seems that the
>>subject of the infinitive is in the nominative several times. That's
>>not supposed tobe legal as far as I've been taught. Have I missed
>>something? Thanks.
>I'm a complete Greek novice, so I may certainly have missed something, but
>since we learn as we go I will give your question a try.
>An infinitive *purpose-verb* steers/makes (not sure how this is properly
>expressed in English) the subject to be in accusative. However, in other
>cases, when all verbs point to the same subject, it does not make an
>accusative but nominative.
>See one example -- which I incidentally read right now -- from Platon's
>"Phaidon" II6a "hHGOUMENOI ... ORPHANOI DIAXEIN" (not certain about
>transliteration). Don't know any NT examples myself.

I have a paper (about 25 pages I think) on exactly this topic. It may be
downloaded from the Hellenistic Greek Linguistics pages (I don't remember
the URL). I argue that we can predict EXACTLY when the subject of an
infinitive may be nominative on the basis of two criteria: (1) if the
subject of the infinitive and the subject of the governing finite verb
refer to the same person, and (2) the infinitival clause is a *complement*
of the governing finite verb. Both must be true in order for the subject of
the infinitive to be nominative. If either is not the case, the subject of
the infinitive will be accusative case.

I believe this system works in 100% of the occurrances of the infinitive
with an explicitly stated subject in the New Testament. In the few cases of
a dative subject cited in the reference grammars, the dative case noun does
not actually function as a subject of the infinitive, but if the subject of
the infinitive *were* stated, it would refer to the same person. The dative
case noun is assigned dative case because of its relationship to the
governing FINITE verb, not because of any relationship to the infinitive.

By the way, you will not find an explanation of this in any of the major
Greek grammars.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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