Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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The chief uses of the independent subjunctive are the hortatory ( cross1797), the prohibitive ( cross1800), and the deliberative ( cross1805).

a. The name subjunctive is due to the belief of the ancient grammarians that the mood was always subordinate. Thus, εἴπω shall I speak? ( cross1805) was explained as due to the omission of a preceding βούλει, i.e. do you wish that I speak?


The independent subjunctive refers to future time. It has three main uses: (1) the voluntative, expressing the will of the speaker. This is akin to the imperative. (2) The deliberative. This is possibly a form of the voluntative. (3) The anticipatory (or futural). This anticipates an action as an immediate future possibility. Whether the anticipatory is a form of the voluntative is uncertain (cp. ich will sehen, je veux voir, dialectal il veut pleuvoir).


Hortatory Subjunctive.—The hortatory subjunctive (present or aorist) is used to express a request or a proposal (negative μή).

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a. Usually in the first person plural: νῦν ἴωμεν καὶ ἀκούσωμεν τοῦ ἀνδρός let us go now and hear the man P. Prot. 314 b, μήπω ἐκεῖσε ἴωμεν let's not go there yet 311 a. ἄγε, φέρε (δή), in Hom. ἄγε (δή), sometimes precedes, as ἄγε σκοπῶμεν come, let us consider X. C. 5.5.15. ἴθι (δή) rarely precedes.

b. Less frequently in the first person singular, which is usually preceded (in affirmative sentences) by φέρε (δή), in Hom. by ἄγε (δή): φέρε δὴ περὶ τοῦ ψηφίσματος εἴπω let me now speak about the bill D. 19.234.


The first person singular in negative exhortations (rare and poetic) may convey a warning or a threat: μή σε, γέρον, κοίλῃσιν παρὰ νηυσὶ κιχείω old man, let me not find thee by the hollow ships A 26. This use is often regarded as prohibitive ( cross1800).


The hortatory use of the subjunctive compensates for the absence of an imperative of the first person.


Prohibitive Subjunctive.—The subjunctive (in the second and third persons of the aorist) is often used to express prohibitions (negative μή).

a. Usually in the second person: μηδὲν ἀθυ_μήσητε do not lose heart X. A. 5.4.19. For the aorist subjunctive the present imperative may be employed ( cross1840): μὴ ποιήσῃς (or μὴ ποίει) ταῦτα do not do this (not μὴ ποιῇς).

b. Less commonly in the third person, which usually represents the second: ὑπολάβῃ δὲ μηδείς and let no one suppose T. 6.84 ( = μὴ ὑπολάβητε do not suppose).

c. The third person of the present subjunctive is rare: μὴ τοίνυν τις οἴηται ( = μὴ οἰώμεθα) let not any one think P. L. 861 E.

N.—οὐ μή with the subjunctive of the second person in the dramatic poets occasionally expresses a strong prohibition: οὐ μὴ ληρήσῃς don't talk nonsense Ar. Nub. 367.


Doubtful Assertion.—The present subjunctive with μή may express a doubtful assertion, with μὴ οὐ a doubtful negation. The idea of apprehension or anxiety (real or assumed) is due to the situation. A touch of irony often marks this use, which is chiefly Platonic. With μή (of what may be true): μὴ ἀγροικότερον ᾖ τὸ ἀληθὲς εἰπεῖν I suspect it's rather bad form (lit. too rude) to tell the truth P. G. 462e. With μὴ οὐ (of what may not be true): ἀλλὰ μὴ οὐχ οὕτως ἔχῃ but I rather think this may not be so P. Crat. 436b, μὴ οὐκ ᾖ διδακτὸν ἀρετή virtue is perhaps not a thing to be taught P. Men. 94e.


In Hom. μή with the independent subjunctive is used to indicate fear and warning, or to suggest danger: μή τι χολωσάμενος ῥέξῃ κακὸν υἷας Ἀχαιῶν may he not (as I fear he may) in his anger do aught to injure the sons of the Achaeans B 195. Usually with the aorist, rarely with the present subjunctive (ο 19). The constructions of 1801, 1802 are used as object clauses after verbs of fearing ( cross2221).


ὅπως μή is occasionally so used with the aorist subjunctive, and with an idea of command: ὅπως μὴ φήσῃ τις may no one say (as I fear he may) X. S. 4. 8. See cross1921.


From the use in 1801 is probably developed the construction of οὐ μή

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with the aorist (less often the present) subjunctive to denote an emphatic denial; as οὐ μὴ παύσωμαι φιλοσοφῶν I will not cease from searching for wisdom P. A. 29d, οὐκέτι μὴ δύνηται βασιλεὺς ἡμᾶς καταλαβεῖν the king will no longer be able to overtake us X. A. 2.2.12.


Deliberative Subjunctive.—The deliberative subjunctive (present or aorist) is used in questions when the speaker asks what he is to do or say (negative μή).

a. Usually in the first person: εἴπωμεν ἢ σι_γῶμεν; shall we speak or keep silence? E. Ion 758, τί δρά_σω; ποῖ φύγω; what am I to do? whither shall I fly? E. Med. 1271, μὴ φῶμεν; shall we not say? P. R. 554b.

b. The (rare) second person is used in repeating a question: A. τί σοι πιθώμεθα; B. ὅ τι πίθησθε; A. In what shall we take your advice? B. In what shall you take my advice? Ar. Av. 164.

c. The third person is generally used to represent the first person; commonly with τὶς, as τί τις εἶναι τοῦτο φῇ; how shall anyone say this is so? ( = τί φῶμεν;) D. 19.88.

N.—The subjunctive question does not refer to a future fact, but to what is, under the present circumstances, advantageous or proper to do or say.


βούλει, βούλεσθε (poet. θέλεις, θέλετε) do you wish often precede the subjunctive: βούλει σοι εἴπω; do you wish me to say to you? P. G. 521d. This is a fusion of two distinct questions: βούλει do you wish? and εἴπω shall I say?


The deliberative subjunctive may be replaced by a periphrasis with δεῖ or χρή and the infinitive, or by the verbal adjective in -τέον ἐστί. Thus, ἡμεῖς δὲ προσμένωμεν; ἢ τί χρὴ ποιεῖν; and shall we wait? or what must we do? S. Tr. 390, τί ποιητέον; ( = τί ποιῶμεν;) what are we to do? Ar. P. 922.

a. For the deliberative future see cross1916.


Deliberation in the past may be expressed by ἔδει, χρῆν (ἐχρῆν), ἔμελλον with the infinitive, and by -τέον (verbal adj.) ἦν.


The Negative in Questions.—The use of μή (not οὐ) in questions is due to the fact that the construction of 1805 is simply the interrogative form of the hortatory subjunctive: φῶμεν let us say, μὴ φῶμεν; are we not to say? Distinguish πότερον βία_ν φῶμεν ἢ μὴ φῶμεν εἶναι; shall we say that it is force or that it is not? X. M. 1.2.45, from φῶμεν ταῦτ' ὀρθῶς λέγεσθαι ἢ οὔ shall we say that this is well said or not? (οὔ οὐκ ὀρθῶς λέγεσθαι) P. G. 514c.


Anticipatory Subjunctive (Homeric Subjunctive).—In Homer the subjunctive is often closely akin to the future indicative, and refers by anticipation to a future event (negative οὐ): οὐ γάρ πω τοίους ἴδον ἀ_νέρας, οὐδὲ ἴδωμαι for never yet saw I such men, nor shall I see them A 262, καί νύ τις ὧδ' εἴπῃσι and one will say ξ 275. ἄν (κέν) usually limits this subjunctive in Hom. ( cross1813).

a. This futural subjunctive is retained in Attic only in subordinate clauses ( cross2327), and in τί πάθω ( cross1811).


The subjunctive is used in τί πάθω; what will become of me; what am I to do? (lit. what shall I undergo?) as P. Eu. 302d. So τί γένωμαι; quid me fiet? Thus, ὤ μοι ἐγώ, τί πάθω; τί νύ μοι μήκιστα γένηται; ah, woe's me!

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what is to become of me? what will happen unto me at the last? ε 465. The subjunctive here is not deliberative, but refers to a future event.


The subjunctive without ἄν is also used in dependent clauses of purpose ( cross2196), after verbs of fearing ( cross2225), in the protasis of conditional ( cross2327, cross2339) and conditional relative sentences ( cross2567 b).

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Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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