Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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A complex sentence consists of a principal sentence and one or more subordinate, or dependent, sentences. The principal sentence, as each subordinate sentence, has its own subject and predicate. The principal sentence of a complex sentence is called the principal clause, the subordinate sentence is called the subordinate clause. The principal clause may precede or follow the subordinate clause.


The principal clause may have any form of the simple sentence.

a. Parentheses belonging to the thought of the entire sentence, but standing in no close grammatical relation to it, count as principal clauses. So οἶμαι, δοκῶ, φημί, ὁρᾷς; οἶδα, οἶδ' ὅτι certainly ( cross2585), εὖ ἴσθι know well, αἰτοῦμαί σε I beseech thee; πῶς (πόσον) δοκεῖς; and πῶς οἴει; in the comic poets and Euripides, etc. Some of these expressions are almost adverbial.


The subordinate clause is always introduced by a subordinating conjunction, as εἰ if, ἐπεί since or when, ὅτι that, ἕως until, etc.


A finite mood in a subordinate clause may be influenced by the tense of the principal clause. If the verb of the principal clause stands in a secondary tense, the verb of the subordinate clause is often optative instead of indicative or subjunctive, as it would have been after a primary tense. Dependence of mood after a secondary tense is never indicated by the subjunctive.


Each tense in a subordinate clause denotes stage of action; the time is only relative to that of the leading verb. A subordinate clause may be marked by change of person in verb and pronoun.


A subordinate clause in English may be expressed in Greek by a predicate adjective or substantive. Cp. cross1169, cross2647.


A subordinate clause may be coördinate in structure.

ἐπεὶ δ' ἠσθένει Δα_ρεῖος καὶ ὑπώπτευε τελευτὴν τοῦ βίου, ἐβούλετό οἱ τὼ παῖδε παρεῖναι but when Darius was ill and suspected that his end was near, he wished his two sons to be by him X. A. 1.1.1.

a. So a relative clause, though properly subordinate, may be equivalent to a coördinating clause: εἰ δ' ὑ_μεῖς ἄλλο τι γνώσεσθε, ὃ μὴ γένοιτο, τίν' οἴεσθ' αὐτὴν ψυ_χὴν ἕξειν; but if you decide otherwise, —and may this never come to pass!— what do you think will be her feelings? D. 28.21. In such cases ὅς is equivalent to καὶ οὗτος, οὗτος δέ, οὗτος γάρ.


A clause dependent upon the principal clause may itself be followed by a clause dependent upon itself (a sub-dependent clause).

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οἱ δ' ἔλεγον (principal clause) ὅτι περὶ σπονδῶν ἥκοιεν ἄνδρες (dependent clause) οἵτινες ἱκανοὶ ἔσονται . . . ἀπαγγεῖλαι (sub-dependent clause) and they said that they had come with regard to a truce and were men who were competent to . . . report X. A. 2.3.4.


A verb common to two clauses is generally placed in one clause and omitted from the other (so especially in comparative and relative clauses).

ἥπερ (τύχη) ἀεὶ βέλτι_ον (scil. ἐπιμελεῖται) ἢ ἡμεῖς ἡμῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιμελούμεθα fortune, which always cares better for us than we for ourselves D. 4.12. Also as in English: ὅ τι δὲ μέλλετε (πρά_σσειν), . . . εὐθὺς . . . πρά_σσετε but whatever you intend, do it at once T. 7.15. In comparative clauses with οὐχ ὥσπερ (or ὡς) the main and the subordinate clause are sometimes compressed, the predicate of the clause with οὐχ being supplied from the ὥσπερ clause, which is made independent; as οὐχ (οὐδὲν ἂν ἐγίγνετο) ὥσπερ νῦν τούτων οὐδὲν γίγνεται περὶ αὐτόν it would not be as now, when none of these things is done for him P. S. 189c.


The subject of the dependent clause is often anticipated and made the object of the verb of the principal clause. This transference, which gives a more prominent place to the subject of the subordinate clause, is called anticipation or prolepsis (πρόληψις taking before).

δέδοικα δ' αὐτὴν μή τι βουλεύσῃ νέον but I fear lest she may devise something untoward E. Med. 37, ᾔδει αὐτὸν ὅτι μέσον ἔχοι τοῦ Περσικοῦ στρατεύματος he knew that he held the centre of the Persian army X. A. 1.8.21, ἐπεμέλετο αὐτῶν ὅπως ἀεὶ ἀνδράποδα διατελοῖεν he took care that they should always continue to be slaves X. C. 8.1.44. Note ὁρᾷς τὸν εὐτράπεζον ὡς ἡδὺς βίος thou seest how sweet is the luxurious life E. fr. 1052. 3.

a. Anticipation is especially common after verbs of saying, seeing, hearing, knowing, fearing, effecting.

b. When a subordinate clause defines a verbal idea consisting of a verb and a substantive, its subject may pass into the principal clause as a genitive depending on the substantive of that clause: ἦλθε δὲ καὶ τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις εὐθὺς ἡ ἀγγελία_ τῶ πόλεων ὅτι ἀφεστᾶσι and there came straightway to the Athenians also the report that the cities had revolted T. 1.61 (= ὅτι αἱ πόλεις ἀφεστᾶσι).

c. The subject of the dependent clause may be put first in its own clause: ἐπιχειρήσωμεν εἰπεῖν, ἀνδρεία_ τί ποτ' ἐστίν let us try to say what courage is P. Lach. 190d.

d. The object of the subordinate clause may be anticipated and made the object of the principal clause. Thus, εἰρώτα_ ὁ Δα_ρεῖος τὴν τέχνην εἰ ἐπίσταιτο Darius asked if he understood the art Hdt. 3.130.

e. A still freer use is seen in ἐθαύμαζεν αὐτὸν ὁ Λύ_σανδρος ὡς καλὰ τὰ δένδρα εἴη Lysander marvelled at the beauty of his trees (for τὰ δένδρα αὐτοῦ ὡς κτλ.) X. O. 4. 21.

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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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