Re: GAR and Paratactic Connectors

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Oct 14 1999 - 09:01:11 EDT

At 6:43 AM -0500 10/14/99, Steven Craig Miller wrote:
>To: George, Clayton, Carl, et al.,
>George Goolde: << ... But as Carl also pointed out in another post, GAR
>always has the force of explaining what preceded. >>
>Clayton Stirling Bartholomew: << Always is a very inclusive word. Does GAR
>really always have this force? >>
>Carl W. Conrad: << I'm from Missouri, Clay; can you show me where it
>DOESN'T have an implicit, "That's because ..." sense? >>
>At Mt 27:23 we find: TI GAR KAKON EPOIHSEN; The NRSV translates GAR as
>'why': "Why, what evil has he done?" Instead of "explaining what preceded,"
>here it asks a question about what preceded. <g>

Am I going to have to "explain" what "explain" means? The NRSV's
translation conveys the force of the GAR in more normal conversational
English. To be sure this "why" is an interjection rather than the
interrogative adverb that we would punctuate with a question mark, but it
is an expression of surprise at what one has just heard from another, and
it does indicate that what one is saying bears a causal relationship to
what preceded it. This is Pilate's response to the crowd's screaming
STAURWQHTW! The implicit force of the Greek GAR is: "What evil has he done,
to make you insist that he be crucified?" The explanatory force is there.
Here, in case you missed it, is what I originally said, to which Clay takes
exception (or it may be that he's taking exception to George's statement of
what I stated?):

>Well, for my part, I don't think I'd ever quite call GAR a paratactic
>connector, even if it appears in the opening sentence of what we would
>punctuate as a new paragraph or in stichomythia in tragedy or comedy: it
>ALWAYS indicates that what is stated in its clause is somehow explanatory
>of what immediately preceded it. In dramatic stichomythia one often sees it
>in a response to a previous speaker's question, in which context it tends
>to mean: "Yes, and the reason for that is ..." I tend to urge students not
>to use "for" as the English equivalent of first resort but rather to try,
>"That's because ..." and then go on to put it into what works best in the
>context in question.

I would add that another idiomatic English alternative I've suggested to
students for GAR to get away from "for" is "after all." That would work
nicely in Mt 27:23.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:43 EDT