Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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OPTATIVE WITH ἄν 1824

Potential Optative.—The potential optative with ἄν states a future possibility, propriety, or likelihood, as an opinion of the speaker; and may be translated by may, might, can (especially with a negative), must, would, should (rarely will, shall). So in Latin velim, videas, cognoscas, credas.

γνοίης δ' ἂν ὅτι τοῦθ' οὕτως ἔχει you may see that this is so X. C. 1.6.21, ἅπαντες ἂν ὁμολογήσειαν all would agree I. 11.5, ἡδέως ἂν ἐροίμην I (would gladly ask) should like to ask D. 18.64, οὐκ ἂν λάβοις thou canst not take S. Ph. 103, λέγοιμ' ἂν τάδε I will tell this A. Supp. 928. The second person singular is often indefinite (one), as γνοίης ἄν (cognoscas) = γνοίη τις ἄν.

a. The potential optative ranges from possibility to fixed resolve. The aorist optative with ἄν and a negative is very common.

b. When stress is laid on the idea of possibility and power, necessity and obligation, Greek uses δύναμαι, δεῖ or χρή with the infinitive (statement of fact).

c. The potential optative with ἄν is also used in dependent sentences; in purpose clauses ( cross2202 b), in object clauses after verbs of effort ( cross2216) and verbs of fearing ( cross2232), in causal clauses ( cross2243), in result clauses ( cross2278), in the apodosis of conditional (see cross2356) and conditional relative sentences ( cross2566). In indirect discourse the infinitive with ἄν or the participle with ἄν may represent the optative with ἄν ( cross1845 ff.).

1825

Usually these optatives are not limited by any definite condition present to the mind, and it is unnecessary to supply any protasis in thought. In some cases a protasis is dormant in a word of the sentence (such as δικαίως, εἰκότως). Thus, in οὓς ἀχαρίστους εἶναι δικαίως ἂν ὑπολαμβάνοιτε whom you would justly consider to be ungrateful Aes. 3.196, δικαίως may stand for εἰ δικαίως ὑπολαμβάνοιτε: if you should consider the matter justly. So οὔτε ἐσθίουσι πλείω ἢ

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δύνανται φέρειν· διαρραγεῖεν γὰρ ἄν κτλ. they neither eat more than they can bear, for otherwise (if they should eat more: εἰ ἐσθίοιεν πλείω) they would burst X. C. 8.2.21. The potential optative is also used as the main clause of less vivid conditions ( cross2329) in which the protasis has the optative by assimilation to the mood of the apodosis.

1826

The potential optative with ἄν is used to soften the statement of an opinion or fact, or to express irony: ἕτερόν τι τοῦτ' ἂν εἴη this is (would be) another matter D. 20.116, νοσοῖμ' ἄν, εἰ νόσημα τοὺς ἐχθροὺς στυγεῖν I must be mad, if it is madness to hate one's foes A. Pr. 978. So often with ἴσως or τάχα perhaps.

a. With a negative, the potential optative may have the force of a strong assertion: οὐ γὰρ ἂν ἀπέλθοιμ', ἀλλὰ κόψω τὴν θύρα_ν for I will not go away, but I will knock at the door Ar. Ach. 236.

1827

βουλοίμην ἄν (velim) is often used as a softened optative of wish: βουλοίμην ἂν τοῦτο οὕτω γενέσθαι I could wish that this might be the result (οὕτω γένοιτο may it result thus) P. A. 19a. For ἐβουλόμην ἄν see cross1789.

1828

The present and aorist are used of what will be, or what will prove to be, true (future realization of a present fact): ἀρετὴ ἄρα, ὡς ἔοικεν, ὑγίειά τις ἂν εἴη virtue then, it seems, will (prove to) be a kind of health P. R. 444d. The perfect is used of what will prove to be the case as regards a completed action: πῶς ἂν λελήθοι; how can it have escaped my knowledge? X. S. 3. 6. Usually the perfect is here equivalent to the present.

1829

The present and aorist are rarely used of the past: (a) in Hom. of past possibility: καί νύ κεν ἔνθ' ἀπόλοιτο and now he might have perished E 311 (Attic ἀπώλετο ἄν, cross1784), ἀλλὰ τί κεν ῥέξαιμι; but what could I do? T 90. (b) in Hdt. of a mild assertion: ταῦτα μὲν καὶ φθόνῳ ἂν εἴποιεν they may have said this out of envy 9. 71, εἴησαν δ' ἂν οὖτοι Κρῆτες these would prove to be (might be, must have been) Cretans 1. 2. Both uses are doubtful in Attic prose.

1830

The potential optative with ἄν may be used, in a sense akin to that of the imperative, to express a command, exhortation, or request: λέγοις ἂν τὴν δέησιν tell me (you may tell) your request P. Par. 126a, προάγοις ἄν move on P. Phae. 229b. This courteous formula is used even where a harsh command might be expected: χωροῖς ἂν εἴσω σὺν τάχει go within with all speed S. El. 1491.

a. In ποῖ δῆτ' ἂν τραποίμην; whither pray shall I turn? Ar. Ran. 296 the use is akin to the deliberative subjunctive ( cross1805) or deliberative future ( cross1916).

1831

The potential optative with ἄν is used in questions: τίς οὐκ ἂν ὁμολογήσειεν; who would not agree? (οὐδείς: scil. οὐκ ἂν ὁμολογήσειε) X. M. 1.1.5. So even the optative of wish: τί δ' ὅρκῳ τῷδε μὴ μμένων πάθοις; but if thou dost not abide by thy oath what dost thou invoke upon thyself? E. Med. 754 (lit. mayest thou suffer what?).

1832

πῶς ἄν, τίς ἄν with the potential optative may be used to express a wish (especially in the tragic poets): πῶς ἂν ὀλοίμα_ν oh, would that I might die E. Med. 97, τίς ἂν ἐν τάχει μόλοι μοῖρα oh, that some fate would speedily come A. Ag. 1448. Properly this usage is not a wish, but is simply a question how the wish may be fulfilled.

1833

The potential optative with ἄν (especially with negatives) may ex

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change with the indicative: φημὶ καὶ οὐκ ἂν ἀρνηθείην I assert and cannot deny D. 21.191. It is often stronger, though more courteous, than the future indicative: οὐκ ἂν πέρα_ φράσαιμι I will speak no more S. O. T. 343.

1834

The future optative with ἄν occurs only in a few suspected passages.

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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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