Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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The infinitive is in part a verb, in part a substantive.

a. Many substantives are closely related to verbs, but not all verbs can form substantives. All verbs can, however, form infinitives.

b. The word infinitive denotes a verbal form without any limitations (finis) of number and person.


The infinitive is like a verb herein:

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a. It shows the distinctions of voice and tense (but not those of number and person). Having tenses, it can express different stages of action (action simply occurring, continuing, or finished); whereas the corresponding substantive sets forth the abstract idea without these distinctions. Contrast ποιεῖν, ποιήσειν, ποιῆσαι, πεποιηκέναι with ποίησις making.

b. It can have a subject before it and a predicate after it, and it can have an object in the genitive, dative, or accusative like the corresponding finite verb. Infinitives scarcely ever stand in the subjective genitive; and the object of an infinitive never stands in the objective genitive.

c. It is modified by adverbs, not by adjectives.

d. It may take ἄν and with that particle represent ἄν with the indicative ( cross1784 ff.) or ἄν with the optative ( cross1824).

e. It forms clauses of result with ὥστε, and temporal clauses with πρίν, etc.


The infinitive is like a substantive herein:

a. It may be the subject or object of a verb.

b. With the (neuter) article it shows all the case forms (except the vocative): τὸ (τοῦ, τῷ, τὸ) λύ_ειν, λύ_σειν, etc.

c. It may be governed by prepositions: πρὸ τοῦ λύ_ειν.


The infinitive was originally a verbal noun in the dative (in part possibly also in the locative) case. The use to express purpose ( cross2008) is a survival of the primitive meaning, from which all the other widely diverging uses were developed in a manner no longer always clear to us. But the to or for meaning seen in μανθάνειν ἥκομεν we have come to learn (for learning) can also be discerned in δύναμαι ἰδεῖν I have power for seeing, then I can see. Cp. cross2000, cross2006 a. As early as Homer, when the datival meaning had been in part obscured, the infinitive was employed as nominative (as subject) and accusative (as object). After Homer, the infinitive came to be used with the neuter article, the substantive idea thus gaining in definiteness. The article must be used when the infinitive stands as an object in the genitive or dative, and when it depends on prepositions.


The infinitive is used as subject, as predicate, and to supplement the meaning of words and clauses.


The negative of the infinitive is μή; but οὐ, used with a finite mood in direct discourse, is retained when that mood becomes infinitive in indirect discourse. Sometimes, however, μή is used in place of this οὐ ( cross2723 ff.).

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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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