Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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Past Tenses in Indirect Discourse.—The following rules govern past tenses in indirect discourse.

a. The potential indicative with ἄν, the indicative in a condition denoting unreality with ἄν or without ἄν (as ἐχρῆν, ἔδει, etc.), always remain unchanged in order to prevent confusion with the optative of the direct form.

ἀπελογοῦντο ὡς οὐκ ἄν ποτε οὕτω μῶροι ἦσαν . . . εἰ ᾔδεσαν they pleaded that they never would have been so foolish, if they had known X. H. 5.4.22 ( = οὐκ ἂν ἦμεν, εἰ ᾖσμεν), (ἔλεγεν) ὅτι κρεῖττον ἦν αὐτῷ τότε ἀποθανεῖν he said that it would have been better for him to die then L. 10.25 ( = κρεῖττον ἦν μοι).

b. The imperfect and pluperfect in simple sentences usually remain unchanged after secondary tenses to prevent ambiguity; but when there is no doubt that a past tense stood in the direct form, the imperfect passes into the present optative, the pluperfect into the perfect optative. In subordinate clauses both tenses are retained unaltered.

ἤκουσεν ὅτι πολλάκις πρὸς τὸν Ἰνδὸν οἱ Χαλδαῖοι ἐπορεύοντο he heard that the Chaldaeans often went to the Indian king X. C. 3.2.27, εἶχε γὰρ λέγειν καὶ ὅτι μόνοι τῶν Ἑλλήνων βασιλεῖ συνεμάχοντο ἐν Πλαταιαῖς, καὶ ὅτι ὕστερον οὐδεπώποτε στρατεύσαιντο (cp. c) ἐπὶ βασιλέα_ for he was able to say both that alone of the Greeks they had fought on the side of the king at Plataea and that later they had never at any time taken the field against the king X. H. 7.1.34 ( = συνεμαχόμεθα, ἐστρατευσάμεθα), τὰ πεπρα_γμένα διηγοῦντο, ὅτι αὐτοὶ μὲν . . . πλέοιεν, τὴν δὲ ἀναίρεσιν τῶν ναυα_γῶν προστάξαιεν they related what had occurred to the effect that they were themselves sailing against the enemy and that they had given orāers for the rescue of the men on the wrecks X. H. 1.7.5 ( = ἐπλέομεν, προσετάξαμεν).

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N.—The change to the optative is not made when the time of the action of imperfect (and pluperfect) is earlier than that of a coőrdinated verb in the same quoted sentence; as ἔλεγέν τ' ὡς φιλαθήναιος ἦν καὶ τἀ_ν Σάμῳ πρῶτος κατείποι he said that he both had been a lover of Athens and that (afterwards) he was the first to tell what had happened at Samos Ar. Vesp. 282.

c. The aorist indicative without ἄν in a simple sentence or in a principal clause may be changed to the aorist optative after a secondary tense; but in subordinate clauses (except those denoting cause, N. 3) it remains unchanged to avoid ambiguity with the aorist optative, which usually represents the aorist subjunctive.

ἀπεκρι_νάμην αὐτῷ ὅτι . . . οὐ λάβοιμι I answered him that I did not take D. 50.36 ( = οὐκ ἔλαβον), τοῖς ἰδίοις χρήσεσθαι ἔφη, ἃ ὁ πατὴρ αὐτῷ ἔδωκεν he said that he would use his own money that his father had given him X. H. 1.5.3 ( = χρήσομαι, ἔδωκεν).

N. 1.—The retention of the aorist indicative is here the essential point of difference between subordinate clauses and principal clauses or simple sentences.

N. 2.—In a subordinate clause the time of the aorist usually expresses an action prior to that of the leading verb.

N. 3.—In causal clauses with ὅτι or ὡς a dependent aorist indicative may become aorist optative; as εἶχε γὰρ λέγειν . . . ὡς Λακεδαιμόνιοι διὰ τοῦτο πολεμήσειαν αὐτοῖς, ὅτι οὐκ ἐθελήσαιεν μετ' Ἀ_γησιλά_ου ἐλθεῖν ἐπ' αὐτόν for he was able to say that the Lacedaemonians had gone to war with them (the Thebans) for the reason that they (the Thebans) had not been willing to attack him (the Persian king) in company with Agesilaus X. H. 7.1.34 (direct ἐπολέμησαν ἡμῖν, ὅτι οὐκ ἠθελήσαμεν). Rarely in temporal clauses with ἐπεί (X. C. 5.3.26).


Inserted Statement of Fact.—When the present or perfect indicative would have stood in the direct discourse, a past tense of historical narration is often used as a statement of fact by the writer from his own point of view, though the rest of the sentence may be given in indirect discourse after a secondary tense from the point of view of the subject of the leading verb.

ᾔδει ὅτι οὐχ οἷόν τ' ἦν αὐτῇ σωθῆναι she knew that it was not possible for her to be saved Ant. 1.8 ( = οὐχ οἷόν τ' ἐστὶ ἐμοὶ σωθῆναι. With ἦν the sentence virtually has the force of οὐχ οἷόν τ' ἧν σωθῆναι καὶ ᾔδει she could not be saved and she knew it). So ἔλεγον οὐ καλῶς τὴν Ἑλλάσα ἐλευθεροῦν αὐτόν, εἰ ἄνδρας διέφθειρεν they said that he was not freeing Greece in the right way if he put men to death T. 3.32 ( = ἐλευθεροῖς, διαφθείρεις), τοὺς φυγάδας ἐκέλευσε σὺν αὐτῷ στρατεύεσθαι, ὑποσχόμενος αὐτοῖς, εἰ καλῶς καταπρά_ξειεν ἐφ' ἃ ἐστρατεύετο, μὴ πρόσθεν παύσεσθαι πρὶν αὐτοὺς καταγάγοι οἴκαδε he urged the exiles to make the expedition with him, promising them that, if he should succeed in accomplishing the purposes of his campaign, he would not cease until he had brought them back to their homes X. A. 1.2.2 ( = ἢν καταπρά_ξω ἐφ' ἃ στρατεύομαι, οὐ παύσομαι πρὶν ἂν καταγάγω), ἀποθανὼν ἐδήλωσεν ὅτι οὐκ ἀληθῆ ταῦτα ἦν he showed by his death that this was not true L. 19.52 ( = ἐστί), ἔφη εἶναι παρ' ἑαυτῷ ὅσον μὴ ἦν ἀνηλωμένον he said that he had in his possession all that had not been expended D. 48.16 ( = παρ' ἐμοί ἐστιν ὅσον μὴ ἔστιν ἀνηλωμένον), ἐν πολλῇ δὴ ἀπορίᾳ ἦσαν οἱ Ἕλληνες,

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ἐννοούμενοι μὲν ὅτι ἐπὶ ταῖς βασιλέως θύραις ἦσαν the Greeks were accordingly in great perplexity on reflecting that they were at the king's gates X. A. 3.1.2 (i.e. they were there in fact and they knew it).

a. The use of past tenses of historical narration instead of present tenses of direct discourse occurs, in simple sentences, especially after verbs of knowing, perceiving, showing, and verbs of emotion (rarely after verbs of saying w. ὅτι).

b. Such inserted statements of fact are often difficult to distinguish from indicatives in indirect discourse; and the two forms of expression may occur in the same sentence (X. C. 4.2.35- cross36). The common explanation of the use of the imperfect and pluperfect for the present and perfect is that Greek had the same assimilation of tense as English.

c. Except in indirect questions, the optative of indirect discourse is unknown to Homer. (εἰπεῖν ὡς ἔλθοι ω 237 may be considered as interrogative.) After primary or secondary tenses Homer employs, in the dependent clause, the same past tense that would have been used in an independent clause, from the point of view of the speaker, and not the tense which would have been used in direct discourse from the point of view of the subject of the main clause. Thus, γίγνωσκον δ ( = ὅτι) δὴ κακὰ μήδετο I knew that he was planning evil γ 166 (i.e κακὰ ἐμήδετο καὶ ἐγίγνωσκον he was planning evil and I knew it). In Attic we should commonly have μήδεται or μήδοιτο. After secondary tenses the future is usually expressed in Homer by ἔμελλον and the infinitive, as οὐδὲ τὸ ᾔδη, ὃ οὐ πείσεσθαι ἔμελλεν nor did he know this, that she had no thought to comply γ 146.

d. That this use of statements of fact standing outside indirect discourse is optional only, is seen from a comparison of the first example in 2624 with καλῶς γὰρ ᾔδειν ὡς ἐγὼ ταύτῃ κράτιστός εἰμι for he knew full well that I am first-rate in this line Ar. Vesp. 635 and with ᾔδει αὐτὸν ὅτι μέσον ἔχοι τοῦ Περσικοῦ στρατεύματος he knew that he held the centre of the Persian army X. A. 1.8.21.


An optative with or without ἄν is regularly retained after ὅτι (ὡς).

ἐδίδασκον ὡς . . . συνεστρατεύοντο ὅποι ἡγοῖντο they showed that they always followed them in their campaigns wherever they led X. H. 5.2.8 ( = συνεστρατευόμεθα, ὅποι ἡγοῖσθε, cp. cross2568), ἀπεκρί_νατο . . . ὅτι πρόσθεν ἂν ἀποθάνοιεν ἢ τὰ ὅπλα παραδοίησαν he replied that they would sooner die than surrender their arms X. A. 2.1.10 ( = ἂν ἀποθάνοιμεν, παραδοῖμεν).


In some cases the optative with ἄν in temporal and relative sentences is used to represent the subjunctive with ἄν; but many scholars expel ἄν.

παρήγγειλαν αὐτοῖς μὴ πρότερον ἐπιτίθεσθαι πρὶν ἂν τῶν σφετέρων ἢ πέσοι τις ἢ τρωθείη they gave orders to them that they should not attack before some one of their number had either fallen or been wounded X. H. 2.4.18. Cp. cross2421.


An optative occasioned by indirect discourse may stand after a primary tense when it is implied that the thought quoted has been expressed in the past.

λέγει ὁ λόγος ὅτι Νεοπτόλεμος Νέστορα ἔροιτο the story goes that Neoptolemus asked Nestor P. Hipp. M. 286b. This may be expressed by λέγεται εἰπεῖν ὅτι. Cp. λέγεται εἰπεῖν ὅτι βούλοιτο it is reported that he said that he wished X. C. 1.4.25.

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a. The historical present is a secondary tense: οἱ δὲ πεμφθέντες λέγουσι Κύ_ρῳ ὅτι μι_σοῖεν τοὺς Ἀσσυρίους and those who had been sent told Cyrus that they hated the Assyrians X. C. 4.2.4.


Indirect discourse may be introduced by ὅτι (ὡς) and then pass into the infinitive as if the introductory verb had required the infinitive.

ἡ δὲ ἀπεκρί_νατο ὅτι βούλοιτο μὲν ἅπαντα τῷ πατρὶ χαρίζεσθαι, ἄ_κοντα μέντοι τὸν παῖδα χαλεπὸν εἶναι νομίζειν ( = νομίζοι) καταλιπεῖν she answered that she wished to do everything to oblige her father, but that she considered it unkind to leave the child behind against his inclination X. C. 1.3.13.

a. It is unusual to have the infinitive first, and then ὅτι (T. 5.65).

b. One and the same clause may even begin with ὅτι (ὡς) and then (sometimes after a parenthesis) be continued by an infinitive, less often by a participle. Thus, ἀκούω ὅτι (omitted in one Ms.) καὶ συνθηρευτά_ς τινας τῶν παίδων σοι γενέσθαι αὐτοῦ I hear too that some of his sons became your companions in the chase X. C. 2.4.15. Continuation with a participle in T. 4.37.


An optative dependent on ὅτι (ὡς) may be followed, in a parenthetical or appended clause (often introduced by γάρ or οὖν), by an independent optative, which is used as if it itself directly depended on ὅτι (ὡς).

ἔλεγον πολλοὶ . . . ὅτι παντὸς ἄξια λέγοι Σεύθης· χειμὼν γὰρ εἴη καὶ οὔτε οἴκαδε ἀποπλεῖν τῷ ταῦτα βουλομένῳ δυνατὸν εἴη κτλ. many said that what Seuthes said was of much value; for it was winter and neither was it possible for any one who so desired to sail home, etc. X. A. 7.3.13 (here we might have had χειμῶνα γὰρ εἶναι by cross2628).

a. Such an independent optative may also follow an infinitive in indirect discourse (L. 13.78), an indicative after ὅτι (Is. 8.22), or a participle (Is. 9.5). After an optative in indirect discourse the appended clause may contain an indicative (X. A. 6.2.10, I. 17.21).


An infinitive in indirect discourse may follow a sentence which merely involves the idea of indirect statement.

ὁ δὲ αὐτοὺς εἰς Λακεδαίμονα ἐκέλευεν ἰέναι· οὐ γὰρ εἶναι κύ_ριος αὐτός he recommended them to go to Lacedaemon; for (he said that) he was not himself empowered to act X. H. 2.2.12.


In subordinate temporal and relative clauses the infinitive is often used for the indicative or optative by attraction to an infinitive standing in the principal clause after a verb of saying. In some cases ἔφη may be mentally inserted.

ἔφη . . . ἐπειδὴ δὲ γενέσθαι ἐπὶ τῇ οἰκίᾳ τῇ Ἀγάθωνος, ἀνεῳγμένην καταλαμβάνειν τὴν θύραν he said that, when he arrived at the house of Agathon, he found the door open P. S. 174d ( = ἐπειδὴ ἐγενόμην, καταλαμβάνω). See also the sentence quoted in 1228 b, end. So οὗτοι δὲ ἔλεγον ὅτι πολλοὺς φαίη Ἀριαῖος εἶναι Πέρσα_ς ἑαυτοῦ βελτί_ους, οὓς οὐκ ἂν ἀνασχέσθαι αὐτοῦ βασιλεύοντος and they said that Ariaeus said that there were many Persians better than himself, who would not endure

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his being king X. A. 2.2.1 ( = πολλοί εἰσι ἐμαυτοῦ βελτί_ους, οἳ οὐκ. ἂν ἀνάσχοιντο ἐμοῦ β.). Here the relative is equivalent, in sense, to καὶ τούτους. The infinitive occurs even in clauses with εἰ (T. 4.98, and often in Hdt.), and with διότι (Hdt. 3.55).

a. The infinitive is rare in such relative clauses as διορίζουσι σαφῶς ἐν οἷς ἐξεῖναι ἀποκτιννύναι they make a clear distinction in cases where it is permitted to kill D. 23.74.


For the sake of variation, a mood of the direct form may be used in the same sentence with a mood of the indirect. The main verb may be kept in the direct form, while the subordinate verb becomes optative, or, less often, the subordinate verb may be retained in the direct form though the main verb becomes optative.

οὗτοι ἔλεγον ὅτι Κῦρος μὲν τέθνηκεν, Ἀριαῖος δὲ πεφευγὼς . . . εἴη these said that Cyrus was dead but that Ariaeus had fled X. A. 2.1.3 (here we might have had τεθνήκοι or πέφευγε), αἱ δὲ ἀπεκρί_ναντο ὅτι οὐκ ἐνταῦθα εἴη, ἀλλ' ἀπέχει ὅσον παρασάγγην and they replied that he was not there but was a parasang distant 4. 5. 10 (here we might have ἐστί or ἀπέχοι), ἐδόκει δῆλον εἶναι ὅτι αἱρήσονται αὐτὸν εἴ τις ἐπιψηφίζοι it seemed to be clear that they would elect him if any one should put it to vote X. A. 6.1.25 (here we might have αἱρήσοιντο or ἐὰ_ν ἐπιψηφίζ, ἔλεξας . . . ὅτι μέγιστον εἴη μαθεῖν ὅπως δεῖ ἐξεργάζεσθαι ἕκαστα you said that it was essential to learn how it is necessary to conduct each process X. O. 15.2 (here ἐστί or δέοι might have been used), παρήγγειλαν, ἐπειδὴ δειπνήσαιεν, . . . ἀναπαύεσθαι καὶ ἕπεσθαι, ἡνίκ' ἄν τις παραγγέλλῃ they gave orders that, when they had supped, they should rest and follow when any one gave the command X. A. 3.5.18 (here we might have had ἐπειδὰν δειπνήσωσι or ἡνίκα παραγγέλλοι). Other examples 2619. Subjunctive (in some Mss.), then optative: X. A. 7.7.57.


The idea conveyed by an imperative or a hortatory (or even deliberative) subjunctive of direct discourse may be set forth in the infinitive by a statement as to what ought to be.

a. In an infinitive dependent on a verb of will or desire (such as ask, command, advise, forbid, etc. cross1992) which does not properly take the construction of indirect discourse.

εἷς δὲ δὴ εἶπε ( cross1997) . . . στρατηγοὺς μὲν ἑλέσθαι ἄλλους and some one urged that they choose other generals X. A. 1.3.14 (cp. ἕλεσθε or ἕλωμεν), ἀπηγόρευε μηδένα βάλλειν he forbade any one to shoot X. C. 1.4.14 (cp. μηδεὶς βαλλέτω).

N.—Here may be placed the infinitive after ἡγοῦμαι, νομίζω, οἴομαι in the sense of δοκῶ I think it proper (or necessary); as ᾤοντο ἀπιέναι they thought that they should retire X. H. 4.7.4 (cp. ἀπίωμεν).

b. In an infinitive dependent on ἔφη χρῆναι (δεῖν), as ἔφη . . . χρῆναι πλεῖν ἐπὶ Συρα_κούσα_ς he said that they ought to sail to Syracuse T. 4.69.

c. In the simple infinitive, as τὰ_ς μὲν ἐπιστολὰ_ς . . . ἀνέγνωσαν, ἐν αἷς πολλῶν ἄλλων γεγραμμένων κεφάλαιον ἦν πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους οὐ γιγνώσκειν ὅ τι βούλονται . . . εἰ οὖν τι βούλονται σαφὲς λέγειν, πέμψαι μετὰ τοῦ Πέρσου ἄνδρας ὡς αὐτόν they read the dispatches, in which of much besides therein written to the Lacedaemonians the substance was that the king did not understand what they wanted; if therefore

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they wished to make explicit statements, let them send men to him in company with the Persian T. 4.50. Cp. T. 1.27. 1 μένειν μενέτω.


Long sentences (and even some short complex sentences), or a series of sentences, in indirect discourse depending on a single verb of saying or thinking, are uncongenial to the animated character of Greek, which resists the formal regularity of Latin. Some long speeches in indirect discourse do, however, appear, e.g. Andoc. 1. 3842, Thuc. 6. 49, Xen. C. 8. 1. 10-11, Plato R. 614 b (the entire Symposium is given in reported form). To effect variety and to ensure clearness by relieving the strain on the leading verb, Greek has various devices.

a. ἔφη (ἔλεξε, εἶπεν, ἤρετο) is repeated, e.g. T. 7.48.

b. The indirect form is abandoned for the direct form, e.g. X. A. 1.3.14, 1. 9. 25, 4. 8. 10; often with a change, or repetition, of the verb of saying (X. A. 5.6.37, X. H. 2.1.25).

c. ἔφη χρῆναι (δεῖν) or ἐκέλευσε is inserted or repeated (T. 6.49. 4).

N. 1.—Transition from direct to indirect discourse is rare (X. A. 7.1.39, cp. X. C. 3.2.25).

N. 2.—An interrogative clause always depends immediately on the introductory verb, hence such clauses do not occur in the course of a long sentence in indirect discourse.


ἔφη γὰρ εἶναι μὲν ἀνδράποδόν οἱ ἐπὶ Λαυρίῳ, δεῖν δὲ κομίσασθαι ἀποφορά_ν. ἀναστὰ_ς δὲ πρῲ ψευσθεὶς τῆς ὥρα_ς βαδίζειν· εἶναι δὲ πανσέληνον. ἐπεὶ δὲ παρὰ τὸ προπύλαιον τοῦ Διονύ_σου ἦν, ὁρᾶν ἀνθρώπους πολλοὺς ἀπὸ τοῦ Ὠιδείου καταβαίνοντας εἰς τὴν ὀρχήστρα_ν· δείσα_ς δὲ αὐτούς, εἰσελθὼν ὑπὸ τὴν σκιὰ_ν καθέζεσθαι μεταξὺ τοῦ κίονος καὶ τῆς στήλης ἐφ' ᾗ ὁ στρατηγός ἐστιν ὁ χαλκοῦς. ὁρᾶν δὲ ἀνθρώπους τὸν μὲν ἀριθμὸν μάλιστα τρια_κοσίους, ἑστάναι δὲ κύκλῳ ἀνὰ πέντε καὶ δέκα ἄνδρας, τοὺς δὲ ἀνὰ εἴκοσιν· ὁρῶν δὲ αὐτ ῶν πρὸς τὴν σελήνην τὰ πρόσωπα τῶν πλείστων γιγνώσκειν. καὶ πρῶτον μέν, ὦ ἄνδρες, τοῦθ' ὑπέθετο δεινότατον πρᾶγμα, οἶμαι, ὅπως ἐν ἐκείνῳ εἴη ὅντινα βούλοιτο Ἀθηναίων φάναι τῶν ἀνδρῶν τούτων εἶναι, ὅντινα δὲ μὴ βούλοιτο, λέγειν ὅτι οὐκ ἦν. ἰδὼν δὲ ταῦτ' ἔφη ἐπὶ Λαύριον ἰέναι, καὶ τῇ ὑστεραίᾳ ἀκούειν ὅτι οἱ Ἑρμαῖ εἶεν περικεκομμένοι· γνῶναι οὖν εὐθὺς ὅτι τούτων εἴη τῶν ἀνδρῶν τὸ ἔργον. ἥκων δὲ εἰς ἄστυ ζητητά_ς τε ἤδη ᾑρημένους καταλαμβάνειν καὶ μήνυ_τρα κεκηρυ_γμένα ἑκατὸν μνᾶς.—Andocides 1. 38. For Dioclides said that he had a slave at Laurium, and that he had to fetch a payment due him. Rising early he mistook the time and set out, and there was a full moon. When he was by the gateway of the sanctuary of Dionysus, he saw a body of men coming down from the Odeum into the orchestra, and through fear of them he betook himself into the shade and sat down between the column and the block on which the Bronze General stands. He saw about three hundred men, some standing round about in groups of fifteen, others in groups of twenty. On seeing them in the moonlight he recognized the faces of most. In the first place, gentlemen, he has concocted this most extraordinary tale, in order, as I believe, that it might be in his power to include among these men any Athenian he wished, or to exclude any he did not wish. On seeing this he said he went to Laurium, and on the day after heard that the statues of Hermes had been mutilated. So he knew forthwith that it was the work of these men. On his return to the city he found that commissioners of inquiry had already been appointed and that a hundred minae had been offered as a reward.

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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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