[b-greek] the case of the subject of an infinitival clause

From: Chet Creider (creider@csd.uwo.ca)
Date: Sat Sep 29 2001 - 13:16:05 EDT

The following was touched off by the recent discussion involving AUTOS
and attributive and so-called PREDICATE position, but involves a different
matter, the case of the subject of infinitives. AUTOS, however, plays
a role in some of the examples.

I apologise for the length of the question, but since at least one
person on the list makes use of North & Hillard, I thought it best
to precede my question with a discussion of an error they make. Readers
wishing to skip to the question itself may search for "II." and should
ignore section III.

North&Hillard (p.50):
[24. II Verbs of saying and thinking may also be followed by the
Accusative with the Infinitive, as in Latin.
        But in Greek if the subject of the Infinitive is the same
as the subject of the principal verb, it is expressed only where
emphasis or contrast is required, and, if expressed, it is in the

The last clause is not true (see below for examples). N&H don't give
any examples, but with a little work, I think I have tracked down the
source of the error:

[from the syntax part of Abbott & Mansfield, _A Primer of Greek Grammar_
(p.207): "The Subject of the Infinitive, if it is the same as that of the
principal Verb, is placed in the Nominative:
        OUK EFH AUTOS ALLA NIKIAN STRATHGEIV He said that he was not in
        command, but Nicias.]

My copies of these works are Duckworth reprints and no original date of
publication is given, but in Goodwin's 1894 (2nd edition of first edition
of 1879) _Greek Grammar_ the original of the example given by A&M is
given. Since Goodwin & Gulick (1930) does not change this passage, I'll
refer you to the page/paragraph of this version (G&G), pp.202-3, para.
923: "When the subject of an infinitive is omitted because it is the same
as the subject nominative of the leading verb, adjective words and nouns
which would agree with the omitted subject are assimilated to the preceding
nominative, E.g....OUK EFH AUTOS ALL' EKEINON STRATHGEIV he (Cleon) said
that not (he) himself, but he (Nicias) was general...AUTOS being adjective
and EKEINOS substantive (Thuc 4,28)."

[NB: Goodwin is _not_ saying that autos is a subject; rather he is
using this as an example of nominative agreement with an unexpressed
subject of an infinitive.]

It seems clear that the British school grammar error arose from a
misanalysis of this sentence. How or when this was first done, I have
no idea.

Smyth discusses the same sentence on p.439, para. 1974a (of the 1958
revised edition) and explicitly states that "AUTOS...is not the expressed
subject of the infinitive, but AUTOS of direct discourse (AUTOS TUPHSEIS,

In sum, the rules governing agreement when the subject of the infinitive
is the same as a main clause subject seem to be these:

(1) if the subject of the infinitive is not expressed, agreeing elements
(predicate nouns, adjectives, participles, etc.) are in the nominative.

(2) the only exception to this is when the subject of the infinitive is
emphasized, and in that case, it is in the accusative and any agreeing
elements are also then in the accusative. Smyth states this very clearly
(p. 439, para 1974): "A pronoun subject of the infinitive, if...identical
with the subjectof the main verb, is generally expressed when emphatic,
and stands in the accusative (cases of the nominative are rare and

In addition to the examples Smyth gives in that paragraph (plus some
Homeric examples I give below), there is a lovely example from Plato on the
following page in Smyth (p.440, para. 1976): "HMIN DE POIOUSI DOKEIV SFAS
PANTODAPOUS FAINESTHAI they manage it so that they seem to us to appear
in various forms (P.R. 381 e)"

Here the subject of the main clause (they) is not expressed but is the
same as SFAS, which is in the _accusative_, and the agreeing element,
PANTODAPOUS, is of course also accusative.

The above rules appear to have been constant at least from Homer through the
Attic period. However, there is at least one exception in the New Testament:

HUCOMHN ANAQEMA EIVAI AUTOS EGW "I wished myself to be (the) accursed (one)"
(Rom. 9.3)

Does anyone know of any others?

Here are some counterexamples to North & Hillard's claim from Homer:

        but of those others it is I who is better by far

        since I think I am not so very inexperienced, born and raised
        in Salamis

        for I say neither am I forgetful of valour

Chet Creider

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