Trivial (but interesting?) grammatical question

From: Randy Leedy (
Date: Sat Feb 05 2000 - 11:19:38 EST

A grammatical dispute has arisen between a colleague and myself that I
cannot find treated in detail in my grammars (of Wallace, BDF,
Robertson, and Turner, only Robertson mentions the topic briefly on p.
1397). The personal inquiries I have made so far (including a private
exchange with Carl Conrad) have, with varying degrees of dogmatism,
sided with my colleague.

Here's the question; I'd be interested to see if there's ANYONE on my
side, and whether there may be a discussion that I haven't yet located
in one of the grammars.

The question is how to view the grammatical function of a nominative
substantive with a first- or second-person verb. For example, I Cor

He is adamant that hOI PANTES must be taken as an appositive to the
understood subject of METECOMEN. I have no great objection to doing
so, but I can't help the feeling that this view imposes an English
construct on the Greek. I find myself wanting to say that the
nominative is not inherently third person and can be taken in
agreement with the verb as its subject, just as would be done if the
verb were 3rd-person. It seems to me perhaps not quite true to Greek
idiom to force the supply of an elliptical pronoun for this phrase to
modify or rename. Again, if the verb were 3rd-person (hOI GAR PANTES
EK TOU hENOS ARTOU METECOUSIN), I doubt that anyone would seriously
object to calling hOI PANTES the subject, even if, technically, they
might say that it is more accurate to view it as appositional to the
subject implied by the personal ending of the verb. What solid basis
is there for objecting to calling it the subject of a 1st- or
2nd-person verb? Are substantives that are not explicitly 1st- or
2nd-person inherently 3rd-person? If so, then it seems that a problem
still remains: if a 3rd-person substantive cannot be the subject of a
1st- or 2nd-person verb (due to disagreement), then how can it rename
a 1st- or 2nd-person pronoun? Is agreement in person not necessary for
this grammatical construct? All in all, it seems simpler to me to call
the nominative substantive the subject regardless of the person of the

As I indicated earlier, I'm not dogmatic in my position as he is in
his. This is because I'm going purely on personal intuition. I've
never seen this topic discussed anywhere and so I have no solid and
widely-informed analysis to go on; my own is tentative. Further, his
view is a little more attractive to me in that it's easier to explain
to students.

In the passage referenced, I don't think there is any difference in
meaning whatsoever that attaches to this decision, and I can't imagine
that there's a passage anywhere were there IS any potential difference
in meaning. So this is grammatical trivia pure and simple, but because
my colleague has made an issue of it I'd appreciate any support I can
drum up before I concede!

One of the reasons I think B-Greek is a good place to float this
question is the fact that the list is populated with a good number of
people who are native speakers and good grammarians of living
languages other than English. I wonder how grammarians of languages
like Spanish, which inflects verb forms with personal endings that
make explicit subject pronouns frequently unnecessary, would view a
construction like this in their own language. For example, if one were
to put an English sentence such as "We teachers enjoy snow days, too"
into a language that does not require an explicit 1st-person pronoun,
would "teachers" tend to be viewed as subject or as appositive? I see
no reason why my question should be a matter of interest solely within
the Greek language; it seems to be to have broader linguistic bearings
on issues of language in general.

Hope this post isn't too full of typos. The clock isn't letting me
proofread. I'd appreciate CCs on any responses; my B-Greek
subscription is to the digest version.

Blessings in Christ (Acts 3:26),

Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University

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 - 15:40:56 EDT