Past Potential.—The past tenses (usually the aorist, less commonly the imperfect) of the indicative with ἄν (κέν) denote past potentiality, probability (cautious statement), or necessity:
ὃ οὐκ ἂν ᾤοντο
ὑπό κεν ταλασίφρονά περ δέος εἷλεν
a. This is especially frequent with τὶς and with the ideal second person (cp.
b. The potential optative ( cross1829) in Homer refers also to the past.1785
A protasis may often be extracted from a participle, or is intimated in some other word; but there is no reference to any definite condition, hence a definite ellipsis is not to be supplied.1786
Unreal Indicative.—The indicative of the historical tenses with ἄν (κέν) may denote unreality:
τότε δ' αὐτὸ τὸ πρᾶγμ' ἂν ἐκρί_νετο ἐφ' αὑτοῦ
καί κεν πολὺ κέρδιον ἦεν
This use of the indicative with ἄν to denote unreality is not inherent in the meaning of the past tenses of that mood, but has been developed from the
The imperfect refers to the present or the past, the aorist to the past (rarely to the present), the pluperfect to the present (less commonly to the past).1789
ἐβουλόμην ἄν (
Iterative Indicative (repeated action).—The imperfect and aorist with ἄν are used to express repeated or customary past action (post-Homeric):
This construction is connected with the past potential and denoted originally what could or would take place under certain past circumstances. Thus, ἀναλαμβάνων οὖν αὐτῶν τὰ ποιήματα . . . διηρώτων ἂν αὐτοὺς τί λέγοιεν
In Herodotus this construction is used with the iterative forms: κλαίεσκε ἄν
Homer and the early poets use ἄν (κέν) with the future indicative with a conditional or limiting force: καί κέ τις ὧδ' ἐρέει
ἄν is not used with the present and perfect indicative.
Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].