Ancient Greek grammar

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Ancient Greek grammar (here mainly referring to that of the Attic dialect) is morphologically complex and preserves several features of Proto-Indo-European morphology. Nouns, adjectives, pronouns, articles, numerals and especially verbs are all highly inflected. This article is an introduction to this morphological complexity.


Main article: Greek diacritics

The Classical Greek script did not use accents. Accents were devised in the Hellenistic era by scholars who wanted to make it easier for foreigners to learn Greek. The general use of these accents began during the Byzantine Empire. Modern Greek has used only two diacritics since 1982, namely the diaeresis and the acute.

The Ancient Greek script has seven diacritics (two breathings, three accents, a trema, and the Iota subscript).


  • The rough breathing (Greek: δασεῖα, Latin: spiritus asper) (), written over a vowel letter or ρ, marks the sound /h/ at the beginning of a word, preceding the vowel. At the beginning of a word, the vowel υ and the letter ρ always have the rough breathing.
  • The smooth breathing (Greek: ψιλή, Latin: spiritus lenis) (᾿) marks the absence of the /h/ sound.


Main article: Ancient Greek accent
  • The acute accent (Greek: ὀξεῖα) (΄) is used on long or short vowels or at the third syllable from the end. If there is a long vowel before a long vowel it will take an acute accent. e.g.: κώμη (kṓmē "village"), ἄνθρωπος (ánthrōpos "human").
  • The grave accent (Greek: βαρεῖα) (`) is used on long or short vowels and replaces the acute accent but only on the last syllable. However it is not used when the next word causes an inclination of the accent and also when a punctuation mark follows. e.g.: ὁ καλὸς ποιμὴν ποιμαίνει (ho kalòs poimḕn poimaínei "the good shepherd herds") but ἔλαφός τις (élaphós tis "a deer")—the word τις is behaving as if it is one word with ἔλαφος—and ἐλθέ, Ἰωάννη (elthé, Iōánnē "come, John").
  • The circumflex (Greek: περισπωμένη), displayed as either a tilde (˜) or an inverted breve ( ̑) is used on long vowels. It is on long syllables before short syllables and on nouns in the genitive and the dative case whose final syllable is accented. Also, it is often placed where a contraction has taken place: e.g.: τιμάειν > τιμᾶν (timân "to honor"); κῆπος (kêpos "garden"); nominative αὐγή (augḗ "dawn"), genitive αὐγῆς (augês) and αὐγῶν (augôn), dative αὐγῇ (augêi) and αὐγαῖς (augaîs).




Main article: Ancient Greek nouns

In Ancient Greek, all nouns, including proper nouns, are classified according to grammatical gender as masculine, feminine or neuter and present forms in five distinct morphological cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative and vocative). Furthermore, common nouns present distinct forms in the singular, dual and plural number. The set of forms that any particular noun will present for each case and number is determined by the declension that it follows. The form of the declension is additionally determined by the final letter or letters in the stem.

Definite article[edit]

Attic Greek has a definite article, but no indefinite article. The definite article agrees with its associated noun in number, gender and case. Proper names usually take a definite article, as do abstract nouns. Adjectives are either placed between the article and noun or after the noun, in which case the article is repeated before the adjective. Dependent genitive noun phrases are positioned in exactly the same way, even though this frequently results in splitting the article and noun by a long dependent phrase. For example, τὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἔργον tò toû anthrṓpou érgon, literally "the (of the man) deed", or "The deed of the man." In earlier Greek, for instance Homeric Greek, there was no definite article as such, the corresponding forms still having their original use as demonstrative pronouns.

The definite article is declined thus:[1][2]

Masculine Feminine Neuter
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual [ar 1] Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative (ho) τώ (tṓ) οἱ (hoi) (hē) τώ (tṓ) αἱ (hai) τό (tó) τώ (tṓ) τά (tá)
Genitive τοῦ (toû) τοῖν (toîn) τῶν (tôn) τῆς (tês) τοῖν (toîn) τῶν (tôn) τοῦ (toû) τοῖν (toîn) τῶν (tôn)
Dative τῷ (tôi) τοῖν (toîn) τοῖς (toîs) τῇ (têi) τοῖν (toîn) ταῖς (taîs) τῷ (tôi) τοῖν (toîn) τοῖς (toîs)
Accusative τόν (tón) τώ (tṓ) τούς (toús) τήν (tḗn) τώ (tṓ) τάς (tás) τό (tó) τώ (tṓ) τά (tá)
  1. ^ The forms τά (tā́) and ταῖν (taîn) for feminine duals also exist.[2]


Main article: Ancient Greek verbs

Verbs have four moods (indicative, imperative, subjunctive and optative), three voices (active, middle and passive), as well as three persons (first, second and third) and three numbers (singular, dual, and plural). Verbs are conjugated in four main combinations of tense and aspect (present, future, perfect, and aorist), with a full complement of moods for each of these main "tenses", except for the following restrictions:

  • There is no future subjunctive or future imperative.
  • There are separate passive-voice forms (distinct from the middle) only in the future and aorist.

In addition, for each of the four "tenses", there exist, in each voice, an infinitive and participles. There is also an imperfect indicative that can be constructed from the present using a prefix (the "augment") and the secondary endings. A pluperfect and future perfect indicative also exist, but are rather rare. The distinction of the "tenses" in moods other than the indicative is predominantly one of aspect rather than time. The Ancient Greek verbal system preserves nearly all the complexities of Proto-Indo-European (PIE).

A distinction is traditionally made between the so-called athematic verbs, with endings affixed directly to the root (also called mi-verbs) and the thematic class of verbs that present a "thematic" vowel /o/ or /e/ before the ending. All athematic roots end in a vowel except for /es-/ "be". The endings are classified into primary (those used in the present, future, perfect and rare future perfect of the indicative, as well as in the subjunctive) and secondary (used in the aorist, imperfect, and pluperfect of the indicative, as well as in the optative). Ancient Greek also preserves the PIE middle voice; the passive voice that occurs in the future and aorist is an innovation.

Dependence of moods and tenses[edit]


Ancient Greek has both (a) the articular infinitive (infinitive with the article) and (b) the infinitive without the article.

a). The articular infinitive often corresponds to a cognate verbal substantive. It uses the neuter singular article and has the character and function of both a substantive and a verbal form. It can be used in any case (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative) and thus have the construction of any normal substantive: it can be subject, object (direct of indirect), predicate (rarely), apposition; it may have an adnominal or adverbial use (e.g. to be in a possessive structure as an objective genitive, or to form a genitive of cause); it may form an exclamation (in poetry); it can also be the object of a preposition in any oblique case and denote many adverbial relations; finally, it can denote purpose, oftener a negative one.

κακόν ἐστι τὸ παρανομεῖν (= ἡ παρανομία; nominative subject of the verb ἐστί)
It is bad to break the law(s) (= transgression of law is a bad thing)
τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ ἀδικεῖν (predicate in nominative), τὸ πλέον τῶν ἄλλων ζητεῖν ἔχειν (nominative apposition to the demonstrative pronoun τοῦτο)
this is injustice: to seek to have more than other people.
μέγα φρονεῖ ἐπὶ τῷ δύνασθαι λέγειν (dative complement of the preposition ἐπί, denoting cause)
He takes pride in being able to speak (= his ability to speak)
τὸ σιγᾶν κρεῖττόν ἐστι τοῦ λαλεῖν (genitive of comparison depended on comparative grade κρεῖττον)
keeping silence is better than speaking
ἐτειχίσθη Ἀταλάντη... τοῦ μὴ ληστὰς κακουργεῖν τὴν Εὔβοιαν (genitive of purpose)
Αtalante was fortified to prevent pirates from ravaging Euboea.

b). The infinitive without the article is of two sorts: the dynamic infinitive and the declarative infinitive[3][4] (traditionally they are also said to be used not in indirect discourse and in indirect discourse respectively.[5])

1. A so-called dynamic infinitive may depend on verbs of will or desire to do something (ἐθέλω or βούλομαι "to be willing, wish" αἱροῦμαι "choose, prefer", μέλλω "to be about, or: delay", κελεύω "urge, command", ἐπιτάσσω "order", ψηφίζομαι "vote", ἐῶ "allow", δέομαι "beg" etc.), verbs of will or desire not to do anything (δέδοικα/δέδια "fear", φοβοῦμαι "be afraid", ἀπέχομαι "abstain from", αἰσχύνομαι "to be ashamed", ἀπαγορεύω "forbid", κωλύω "hinder, prevent" etc.) and verbs or verbal expressions denoting ability, fitness, necessity, capacity, etc. (δύναμαι, ἔχω "be able to", ἐπίσταμαι, γιγνώσκω "know how to" μανθάνω "learn to", δυνατὸς εἰμί, ἱκανὸς εἰμί "I am able to", δίκαιον ἐστί "it is right to", ἀνάγκη ἐστί "it is necessary to", ὥρα ἐστί "it is time to" etc.). It can also be found after adjectives (and sometimes derived adverbs) of kindred meaning (δεινός "skillful", δυνατός "able", οἷός τε "able", ἱκανός "sufficient, capable" etc.). It stands as the object (direct or indirect) or the subject of such verbs or verbal expressions, or it defines the meaning of an adjective almost as an accusative of respect. An infinitive of that kind denotes only stage of action, not actual tense,[6] and can be in any tense stem (mostly in the present and aorist, the perfect being rare enough) except the future one (only the verb μέλλω "I am about to" may take a dynamic future infinitive).[7]

The difference between the present and the aorist infinitive is the stage of action, not the tense—despite their tense stem, such infinitives always have a future reference, because of the volitive meaning of their main verb. More specifically, an infinitive in the present verb stem emphasizes the process or course of the state of affairs, and in many cases has an immediative semantic force, while an infinitive in the aorist verb stem emphasizes the completion of the state of affairs, expressing a well-defined or well-delineated state of affairs.[8]

Present dynamic infinitive (continuing stage of action):

βούλομαί σε εἰς τὰς Ἀθήνας ἰέναι.
I want (for) you to go (=every time, or=to start/keep going to Athens etc.).
ἀνάγκη ἐστὶ μάχεσθαι.
It is necessary to fight.

Aorist dynamic infinitive (completed stage of action):

βούλομαί σε εἰς τὰς Ἀθήνας 'ἐλθεῖν.
I want (for) you to go to Athens. (just once, a simple and sole occurrence of going)
αἰσχύνομαι ὑμῖν εἰπεῖν τἀληθῆ.
I'm ashamed to tell you the truth. (simple occurrence, as in the previous example)

2. A so-called declarative infinitive[9] is mostly used in connexion with verbs (or verbal expressions) of saying, thinking and (sometimes) perceiving such as λέγω, φημί, ἀποκρίνομαι, ὑπισχνοῦμαι, ὁμολογῶ, ἀκούω, ὁρῶ etc. and it is usually used in oratio obliqua (in indirect speech or discourse). The latter means that it represents a corresponding finite form of the oratio recta (of the direct discourse), thus a declarative infinitive denotes both tense and stage of action. But the present infinitive represents either a present indicative or an imperfect one, and a perfect infinitive either a perfect indicative or a pluperfect one. A declarative infinitive with the particle ἂν can also be a representative of a potential indicative or potential optative of the corresponding tense.[10]

ᾤετο ἀποθανεῖσθαι. Future infinitive = future indicative.
He was thinking that he would die. (direct form: ἀποθανοῦμαι "I will die". )
ᾤοντο ὑμᾶς ἀποθανεῖν. Aorist infinitive = aorist indicative.
They were thinking that you died. (direct form: ἀπέθανον "they died".)
ἔφην σε ἀφικνεῖσθαι. Present infinitive = either present or imperfect indicative, according to context.
I said that you were arriving (at the very moment), or: I said that you had been arriving (some time ago) (direct forms: ἀφικνεῖται "He is arriving" and ἀφικνεῖτο "He was arriving", respectively).

(Same as above for perfect infinitive.)

ἔφασαν ἂν ἀποθανεῖν, εἰ τὰ ὅπλα παραδοῖεν. Potential infinitive = potential optative.
They said that they might die, if they surrender their arms (direct form: ἂν ἀποθάνοιμεν, εἰ... "we may die if...".).
ἔφασαν ἂν ἀποθανεῖν, εἰ τὰ ὅπλα παρέδοσαν. Potential infinitive = potential/unreal indicative.
They said that they would had been dead, if they had surrendered their arms. (direct form: ἂν ἀπεθάνομεν, εἰ... "we would have died if...".)

Verbs that usually have a future reference, such as ὄμνυμι "swear", ὑπισχνοῦμαι "promise", ἐλπίζω "hope", ἀπειλέω "threaten", προσδοκάω "expect" etc., either take the declarative infinitive (mostly the future, but less often also the present, aorist or perfect infinitive, even the infinitive with ἀν representing a potential optative or indicative), and in this case indirect discourse is employed, or they are followed by the dynamic aorist (less often the present) infinitive, and they are construed just like any verb of will, desire etc.[11][12] The same constructional alternation is available in English (complementary that clause or infinitive with to), as shown below.

ὄμνυμι τὰ χρήματα ἀποδώσειν.
I swear that I will give back the money.
ὄμνυμι τὰ χρήματα ἀποδοῦναι.
I swear to give the money back.

But in the last example another reading is also possible, considering ἀποδοῦναι to be a declarative infinitive : "I swear that I gave the money back."

Subject of the infinitive[edit]

When the infinitive has a subject of its own (that is, when the subject of the infinitive is not co-referential either with the subject or the object of the governing verb), then this word stands in the accusative case. When the subject of the infinitive is the same as the subject of the governing verb (when the subjects are co-referential), then it is usually neither expressed nor repeated with the infinitive. This omission is noticed also when the subject of the infinitive, although not the subject of the governing verb, is construed in a higher syntactic construction, e.g. as the object of the governing verb in any oblique case, or as a dative of interest with an impersonal verb or verbal expression. But even in this case an accusative may be present or—more usually—understood by a predicate adjective, participle etc. in the accusative.

No coreference, with the subject in the accusative (the infinitival clause is put in square brackets []):

λέγουσίν τινες [Σωκράτη σοφὸν εἶναι].
Some people say [that Socrates is (or: was) wise].
νομίζουσιν [Σωκράτη σοφὸν εἶναι].
They consider [Socrates to be (or: to have been) wise].
Oratio Recta: Σωκράτης σοφός ἐστιν (or ἦν). "Socrates is (or: was) wise."

Coreference, with the subject → subject omitted and understood in the nominative:

(ὑμεῖς) νομίζετε [τοὺς πολεμίους ἂν νικῆσαι].
You think [that you could beat your enemy].
Oratio Recta: Τοὺς πολεμίους ἂν νικήσαιμεν. "We could beat our enemy."
[Πέρσης] ἔφη [εἶναι].
He said [he was a Persian].
(Πέρσης is a predicate noun in the nominative, showing case agreement with an understood and omitted nominative).

Coreference, with a word construed with the governing verb in a higher syntactic level:

νῦν σοι ἔξεστιν [ἀνδρὶ γενέσθαι].
Now it is possible for you [to become a man].
(Predicate noun ἀνδρί "a man" in case agreement with the dative σοι "for you".)
ἐδέοντο τοῦ Κύρου [ὡς προθυμοτάτου πρὸς τὸν πόλεμον γενέσθαι].
They were begging Cyrus [to be as willing as possible for war].
(Predicate adjective ὡς προθυμοτάτου in case agreement with the genitive object τοῦ Κύρου.)

(Traditionally this is called dativus cum infinitivo or genitivus cum infinitivo (dative with the infinitive or genitive with the infinitive) and is considered to be a case attraction, the dative or genitive being used instead of a predicate in the accusative: ἄνδρα, ὡς προθυμότατον. See also below.)

Coreference, with a word construed with the governing verb, but subject understood in the accusative:

Λακεδαιμονίοις ἔξεστιν [ὑμῖν φίλους γενέσθαι].
It is possible for Lacedaemonians [to become friends to you].
(Predicate adjective φίλους is in the accusative, in case agreement with an understood and omitted accusative subject Λακεδαιμονίους.)
δεόμεθ᾽ οὖν ὑμῶν [ἀκροάσασθαι τῶν λεγομένων, ἐνθυμηθέντας ὅτι...]
(Participle ἐνθυμηθέντας in the accusative, agreeing in case with an omitted accusative ὑμᾶς.)


The participle is a verbal adjective and has many functions in Ancient Greek. It can be active, middle or passive and can be found in present, future, aorist and perfect tense stems. In general its main use is to express an action, situation etc. that accompanies the action, situation etc. expressed by the main verb.[13]

Three main syntactic uses of the participle can be distinguished: (a) the participle as a modifier of a noun (attributive participle) (b) the participle used as an obligatory constituent (argument) of a verb (supplementary participle), (c) the participle as an adverbial satellite of a verbal predicate (circumstantial or adverbial participle.[14]

(a) The attributive participle is often, though not always, used with the article (which can be either generic or particular), it functions as a common adjective, it can be in every tense stem, and it is on a par with -and thus often translated as- a relative clause:[15]

οὗτός ἐστι ὁ κλέψας τὸν χιτῶνα.
This is who stole the chiton.
ἔχων ὄνον τις ἐπώλησεν αὐτόν.
Someone who had a donkey sold it.

Like any adjective it can be used substantively, by omission of an understood noun (easily recoverable from the context):

οἴκαδε βουλόμενος ἀπιέναι (sc. ἀνὴρ man or στρατιώτης soldier)…
Whoever (= any man or soldier who) wants to go home…

Many participles of this sort are equivalent to -and thus translated as- nouns, e.g.:

ὁ φεύγων = the person put on exile, or the person accused, i.e. the exile, or the defendant
τὸ μέλλον = the thing that is going to happen, i.e. the future
ὁ κλέπτων = the person that steals, i.e. the thief

An adverbial notion may be inherent in an attributive participle; usual notions are those of purpose or consequence (in future tense) and condition (in all tense stems but the future, with negation μή).

Νόμον δημοσίᾳ τὸν ταῦτα κωλύσοντα τέθεινται τουτονί.
They have publicly enacted this specigic law, which is to prevent (: in order this specific law to prevent) these things.
 :Ὁ μὴ δαρεὶς οὐ παιδεύεται.
Whoever is not unflogged (:if anyone is unflogged) can’t be trained.

(b) The supplementary participle is always without the article (predicative position of the article is employed) and can be in any tense stem. This participle has two major uses: (1) in indirect discourse, and (2) not in indirect discourse.

(1) When in indirect discourse the participle corresponds to a particular tense and mood of a declarative sentence: simple indicative of any tense, and, if accompanied by the particle ἄν, potential optative or potential indicative. Verbs taking such participle are:

i) those meaning sense, knowledge, learning, memory and the contrary verbs such as: ὁράω see that, ἀκούω, hear that αἰσθάνομαι perceive, understand that, γιγνώσκω perceive, realize that, (κατα)λαμβάνω find (on arrival) that, εὑρίσκω find that, αἱρέω catch, detect someone doing something (passive: ἁλίσκομαι), μανθάνω learn, know that, οἶδα know that, σύνοιδα know (as a witness) that, ἐπίσταμαι know that, (ἀπο-, ἐπι-) δείκνυμι show, explain, point out that, τίθημι “consider that” μέμνημαι remember that, ἐπιλανθάνομαι forget that etc. In many of the above cases this participle is interchangeable with a complementary declarative clause introduced by ὅτι or ὡς (a “that” clause).

τίθημί σε ὁμολογοῦντα, ἐπειδὴ οὐκ ἀποκρίνῃ.
I consider you to agree with me, since you don’t give me any reply.

ii) verbs of presentation, i.e. verbs meaning announce, show, prove etc. such as: ἀγγέλλω report that, δείκνυμι point out, display that, ἐλέγχω bring convicting proves that etc.

The main structures available are the following:

a. The participle’s subject is coreferent with the verb’s subject, and the participle is put in the nominative case, agreeing with it (we are dealing with a so-called ‘’nominative plus participle’’ construction):

ὁρῶσιν [ἀδύνατοι ὄντες περιγενέσθαι]
They see [that they are in no position to get the upper hand]. Direct form: "ἀδύνατοί ἐσμεν περιγενέσθαι". We are in no position to get the upper hand.

NOTE: sometimes, mainly for the sake of contrast of emphasis, there is an accusative reflexive pronoun standing as subject of the participle, and thus the participle is also put in the accusative.

ἑώρων [τοῖς τε ἐπιχειρήμασιν οὐ κατορθοῦντες] [καὶ τοὺς στρατιώτας ἀχθομένους τῇ μονῇ.
They were seeing that [they were not having success in their designs,and that the soldiers also were weary of staying].

Here neither emphasis nor contrast is laid upon, and the first construction is a nominative plus pariticiple while the second an accusative plus participle one.

b. The participle has a subject of its own (there is no coreference) and both the participle and its subject are put in the accusative case, just like an accusative plus infinitive construction. This is the case where the argument of the verb is not the noun, even though it seems to be an accusative object, but the verbal notion expressed by the participle itself:[16]

αἰσθάνομαί [τινας παραβαίνοντας τοὺς νόμους].
I understand [that some people break the laws. Direct form: "παραβαίνουσί τινες τοὺς νόμους". Some people break the law.
ἀπέδειξε [Λύσανδρον κτείναντα Φιλοκλέα].
He proved that Lysander killed Philocles.

In each of the above sentences, if the participle is taken away, then the remaining construction is ungrammatical, considering that each verb retains its initial meaning. This proves that the noun phrase is an argument of the participle, and by no means of the verb:

αἰσθάνομαί* τινας. ‘’I understand* some people’’.
ἀπέδειξε* Λύσανδρον. ‘’He proved* Lysander’’.

It must have been made clear by the above examples that those verbs are bivalent ones, ie. they have no other semantic argument except their subject and the complementary participle.

Compare the English: He proved Lysander to have killed Philocles vs. He proved that Lysander killed Philocles; in modern linguistic terms, in the latter phrase structure subject-to-object raising is considered to be employed. It is also argued that the same stands for the use of this kind of participles in Greek. On the contrary, with verbs like ὁράω “see”, ἀκούω “hear”, εὑρίσκω “find” etc. there is also possible a construction that has nothing to do with indirect speech, but is a mere description of a sensory input:

εἶδον αὐτοὺς [πελάζοντας].
They saw them approaching. (Not: They saw [that they were approaching].)
ηὗρε τοὺς ἄνδρας [διεφθαρμένους].
He found the men [already put to death]. (Not: He found out [that the men had already been put to death].)
ἤκουσα αὐτοῦ [καὶ περὶ φίλων διαλεγομένου].
I heard him [discussing about friendship too].

On the above sentences αὐτούς, αὐτοῦ and τοὺς ἄνδρας are second arguments of the verbs εἶδον, ἤκουσε and ηὗρε respectively, while the participles are added as their third arguments (in modern linguistic terms called secondary predicates’’ or small clauses). Compare the last example with the following, where the participle and its noun are put not into the genitive but into the accusative construction:

ἤκουσε [Κῦρον ἐν Κυλικίᾳ ὄντα].
He heard [that Cyrus was in Cilicia].

Especially with verbs taking either the genitive plus participle or the accusative plus participle construction, the semantic difference between these two options is important; with the accusative an indirect speech mechanism is invoked, while with the genitive plus participle only the physical perception of an action is brought into play. But with verbs that (almost) always take the accusative the distinction must be made only on the ground of some semantic properties of the noun in accusative (eg. [+visible], [+ findable] etc.), the argument structure of the main verb or/and even by contextual parameters exclusively.

(2) When the participle is not in indirect discourse the following constructions are possible:

i) It is part of a predicate formed out by a copula verb, used mostly as an auxiliary verb; such verbs are: εἰμί “be”, γίγνομαι “become”, rarely ὑπάρχω “happen to be”.

προσεοικότες γίγνονται τοῖς γονεῦσιν οἱ παῖδες.
The children take after their parents.

ii) It forms a predicate with a quasi-copular verb that expresses a way of being, like δῆλός εἰμι, φαίνομαι/φανερός εἰμι be manifest, λανθάνω be hidden, unobserved, unseen, unnoticed, unaware etc., οἴχομαι be gone, away or absent, τυγχάνω happen to be, φθάνω be beforehand with etc. Semantically, with all these verbs it is the participle itself that expresses the main action, while in many cases the quasi-copular verb qualifies this action almost like an adverbial constituent.

ὁ δ' ἄρα ἐτύγχανεν ὢν εἰς φρόνησιν οὐδὲν βελτίων βατράχου γυρίνου, μὴ ὅτι ἄλλου του ἀνθρώπων.
He was after all in the very moment no better in intellect than a frog’s tadpole, to say nothing of being better than any other man.
δῆλος ἦν ἐπιθυμῶν προσελθεῖν.
It was evident that he wanted to come/ Evidently he wanted to come.

All these verbs always have a subject that is corefential with the subject of the participle; only the verbs λανθάνω and φθάνω may have an accusative object, denoting the person from whom someone/something is kept hidden or the person that someone overtakes in the action expressed by the participle.

ἔλαθεν αὐτὸν ἀπελθών.
He left without being noticed by him.
ὁ δὲ Λύσανδρος ἔφθη τὸν Παυσανίαν ἐν τῷ Ἁλιάρτῳ γενόμενος.
Lysander was beforehand with Pausanias in coming to Aliartus/ Lysander came to Aliartus before Pausanias.

NOTE: some of those verbs (such as verbs of presentation: δῆλός εἰμι, φανερός εἰμι, φαίνομαι etc.) may also be used as governing verbs in indirect discourse clausal constructions introduced by the particles ὅτι or ὡς. iii) It is the complement of verbs denoting ‘’’commencement, continuation (patience, tolerance) or termination (fatigue) of an action’’’, and it is always in the present tense stem; such verbs are: ὑπάρχω begin, take the initiative in, ἄρχομαι start, begin, παύω cause to cease, stop from, παύομαι cease, stop, λήγω leave off, cease, ἀπαγορεύω give up, κάμνω be tired or weary, διαβιῶ spend my whole life, διαμένω, διάγω, διαγίγνομαι, oὐ διαλείπω, διατελῶ continue, keep up, etc., ἀνέχομαι tolerate, περιοράω overlook etc. With these verbs the participle’s subject is coreferent with the verb’s subject, if there is no object in the structure, or else with the object, and the participle agrees in case (nominative or accusative) with this word.

ἄρξομαι διδάσκων περὶ τοῦ θείου.
I will start teaching about god.
οὐκ ἀνέχομαί σε ὑβρίζοντα.
I don't tolerate you insulting me.
ἔπαυσεν δὲ τοὺς συμμάχους ὑμῶν ἀφισταμένους.
He stopped your allies from revolting from you.

iii) A supplementary participle can be used with verbs expressing passions of the soul, such as ἀγανακτῶ be vexed, αἰσχύνομαι be ashamed, ἥδομαι be pleased, χαίρω be happy, λυποῦμαι be sorry, ὀργίζομαι get angry etc.

χαίρω ὁρῶν σε ὑγιῆ.
I am glad to see you healthy.
ἀγανακτεῖ ὑπομένων τὰς ὕβρεις.
He is vexed tolerating the insults.

iv) Finally, it is used with some verbs not easy to classify: εὖ/καλῶς/κακῶς/δίκαια/δεινὰ ποιῶ behave well, honourably, fairly, badly, χαρίζομαι gratify, favour, ἀδικῶ do wrong, νικῶ defeat, περιγίγνομαι prevail, survive, κρατῶ have the better of, ἡττῶμαι be worsted by, λείπομαι be left behind, fall short.

καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοὺς γέροντας ἐπιμελοῦντες.
You are doing well by taking care of the old men.

(c) The circumstantial participle, used as a satellite of another verbal form, is always without the article (i.e. it is put in the predicative position). It is added to a noun or pronoun to denote the circumstance under which the action of another verbal form (a finite verb or an infinitive/another participle) takes place. The action of the main verb is the main one.

It is also called adverbial because it qualifies the main verb like any other adverb, adverbially used adjective, adverbial prepositional phrase, adverbial clause or supplementary predicate. In most cases it has the force of a dependent clause denoting time, cause, purpose, supposition, opposition, concession. Often it denotes manner-means or any other attendant circumstance.

Two main constructions can be distinguished:

i) the participle agrees in case (and most of the times in gender and number) with a noun or pronoun that is an argument of the main verb, usually subject, direct or indirect object or dative of interest of any kind. In this case the subject of the participle is coreferent to that verbal argument (participium conjuctum). ii) participial phrases, composed by the participle and a subject, which form a full new predicate, additional to the verb predicate.

Two subtypes can be distinguished:

(1) Genitive absolute: the participle and a noun or pronoun (it’s subject) stand in the genitive case; in this construction normally the subject of the participle has no coreference to any other verbal argument, especially the subject. (2) Accusative absolute: it is found when the verb in which the participle belongs is impersonal or so used, or when it is an impersonal expression; in this case the subject of the participle is usually an infinitive, as it would be if an impersonal verb in some finite mood was used. The participle is always in the neuter gender. Nevertheless, it is possible for a personal verb’s participle to stand with its subject in the accusative absolute construction, if only it is preceded by the particles ὡς or ὥσπερ and expresses cause or conditional comparison respectively.

USE OF TENSES: Normally all circumstantial participles, according to the grammatical tense stem used for their morphological formation, express only time relative to that of the main verb, but they always express stage of action. Nevertheless, the future stem is only used for denoting purpose, and seldom for denoting future cause (in the latter case normally the particle ὡς precedes the participle).

Kinds of circumstantial participles:

  • The temporal participle is used in the present tense stem or the aorist one. It expresses a simultaneous or an anterior action. It is usually found with temporal adverbs such as ἅμα while, simultaneously, ἐνταῦθα then, ἔπειτα after, εὐθύς immediately, ἤδη already, μεταξύ meanwhile.
ἀποπλεύσας εἰς Λάμψακον τὰς ναῦς ἐπεσκεύαζεν.
After having sailed to Lampsacus he repaired the ships.
ἐπαιάνιζον ἅμα πλέοντες.
They were singing the paean while they were sailing.
  • The causal participle is used with every tense stem (rarely future). It is usually translated as a causal clause or nominative absolute.
ὁρῶν αὐτοὺς λυπουμένους ὑπεσχόμην γράψειν τὴν ἐπιστολήν.
As I saw that they were sad I promised to write the letter.
εἰδώς σε ἱκανὸν ὄντα οὐ φοβοῦμαι.
As I know that you are competent, I am not afraid.
  • The final (telic) participle (expresses purpose) is used with the future tense stem. It forms the negation with μή. If the participle is modifying a verb that expresses movement, then it usually stands alone. If the verb does not express a movement then the participle is often found with the particle ὡς.
ἀνεχώρησεν ἀπαγγελῶν τὰ γεγονότα
He left in order to announce the events.
ψεύδεται ὡς κρύψων τὴν ἀλήθειαν.
He lies in order to hide the truth.
ἔπεμψεν Ἀριστοτέλη ἀγγελοῦντα τὰς σπονδάς.
He sent Aristotle in order for him to announce the agreements (Aristotle will announce).


The gerundive is a passive verbal adjective that indicates the necessity for the action of the verb to be performed. It takes the nominative endings -τέος, -τέᾱ, -τέον, declining like a normal first/second declension adjective. Its stem is normally of the same form as the aorist passive, but with φ changed to π and χ to κ, e.g.

παύω → παυστέος (to be stopped)
λαμβάνω → ληπτέος (to be taken)

Gerundives may be used as straightforward adjectives, with the agent, if any, in the dative:

βοῦς θυστέος ἐστίν
An ox must be sacrificed

They may also be used to express impersonal necessity

ποιητέον (ἐστί) ...
It is necessary to do...

Time and aspect[edit]

One of the most notable features that Ancient Greek has inherited from Proto-Indo-European is its use of verb "tense" to express both tense proper (present, past, or future) and the aspect of the time (as ongoing, simply taking place, or completed with a lasting result). The aspectual relation is expressed by the tenses in all the moods, while the temporal relation is only expressed in the indicative and to a more limited extent in the other moods (also called the dependent moods).

With regard to the time relation that they express in the indicative, the seven tense-aspects are divided into two categories:

This classification, which properly applies only to forms of the indicative, is also extended to the dependent moods in the cases where they express the same time relation as the indicative. The time relation expressed by a verb's tense may be present, past or future with reference to the time of the utterance or with reference to the time of another verb with which the verb in question is connected. Compare for instance ἀληθές ἐστιν "it's true" with εἶπον ὅτι ἀληθὲς εἴη "I said that it was true" or "I said 'it's true'."

A verb also expresses one of three possible aspects, irrespective of the mood it may be in:

  • Imperfective aspect: indicating an ongoing, continuous, or repeated action. The present and the imperfect convey this aspect.
  • Perfective aspect (traditionally also called aorist aspect in Greek grammar): indicating that the action is started and concluded at the same time, or that the action is focused on a single point in time, or that the action simply occurs without reference to its duration or lasting effect. The aorist conveys this aspect in all moods.
  • Perfect (traditionally also often called perfective, but not to be confused with the above): indicating that the action is completed with a result that remains into the time being considered. The perfect (in all moods) as well as the pluperfect and future perfect carry this combination of relative tense and aspect.

Mood of the dependent verb[edit]

The rules on mood sequence (consecutio modorum) determine the mood of verbs in subordinate clauses in a way analogous to but more flexible than the Latin rules on time sequence (consecutio temporum) that determine their tense.

Putting aside special cases and exceptions, these rules can be formulated as follows:

  • In dependent sentences, where the construction allows both the subjunctive and the optative, the subjunctive is used if the leading verb is primary, and the optative if it is secondary. E.g. πράττουσιν ἃ ἂν βούλωνται, "they do whatever they want"; but ἐπραττον ἃ βούλοιντο, "they did whatever they wanted".
  • Similarly, where the construction allows both the indicative and the optative, the indicative follows primary, and the optative follows secondary tenses. E.g. λέγουσιν ὅτι τοῦτο βούλονται, "they say they want this"; εἶπον ὅτι τοῦτο βούλοιντο, "they said they wanted this".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BRANDÃO, Jacynto L.; SARAIVA, Maria O. de Q.; and LAGE, Celina F. Ελληνικά: introdução ao grego antigo. Belo Horizonte (Brazil): Editora UFMG, 2005. p. 44, 67 and 512.
  2. ^ a b FREIRE, Antônio. Gramática Grega. São Paulo (Brazil): Martins Fontes, 1987. p. 17.
  3. ^ Madvig, J.N., Syntax der griechishen Sprache, besonders der attishen Sprachform, für Shulen. Braunsweig 1847, pp. 187ff.
  4. ^ Rijksbaron, Albert. University of Chicago Press, 2006, pp. 96ff., §§31ff.
  5. ^ Smyth, Herbert Weir, Greek Grammar, Harvard University Press, 1984 (renewed), pp.442ff.,§§ 1988ff.A Greek Grammar for Colleges by Herbert Weir Smyth.
  6. ^ Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb by William Watson Goodwin.
  7. ^ Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb by William Watson Goodwin.
  8. ^ Rijksbaron, Albert. University of Chicago Press, 2006, pp. 102-103, §33.1, and pp. 44–45, §16.2.
  9. ^ Rijksbaron, Albert. University of Chicago Press, 2006, pp. 106ff., §33.2.
  10. ^ A Greek Grammar for Colleges by Herbert Weir Smyth §§ 2019 and 2023.
  11. ^ Rijksbaron, Albert. University of Chicago Press, 2006, p. 109, §33.1, and pp. 44–45, §16.2.
  12. ^ A Greek Grammar for Colleges by Herbert Weir Smyth §§1998, 1999, 2024
  13. ^ Ricksbaron, pp. 116 and so forth.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Rijksbaron, Albert. University of Chicago Press, 2006, p. 118, note 2.

External links[edit]