Re: eis to onoma, etc.

From: Sara R. Johnson (
Date: Fri May 02 1997 - 14:39:16 EDT

<much thoughtful discussion of prepositions snipped>

I must say that the method which has worked best for me over time, when
dealing with Greek prepositions, is (with apologies to Alice) "A
preposition means what the context wants it to mean, no more and no less."

This may sound flippant, but I've honestly found it to be the least
stressful and most generally accurate working rule... Learn the basic
meanings of the prepositions as found in any textbook, so you'll know what
the possible limits are, and then assume (within those limits) that a
preposition means what it appears most naturally to mean in the context.
I'm not all that sure that there is any real semantic difference between
eis, en and epi in the examples given. (Some of the other examples given
-- dia, uper -- do have more distinctive meanings, though.)

That's not to say that one might not discover subtle shades of meaning
through extended analysis. But somehow, I rather doubt that native
speakers were consciously or unconsciously engaged in that level of

Then again, I also found it a lot easier to read Aeschylus' *Agamemnon*
when I stopped assuming that nouns were not allowed to function as verbs
and vice versa. ;-)

Sara R. Johnson
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Religion and Classics
University of Rochester

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:14 EDT