Herbert Weir Smyth [n.d.], A Greek Grammar for Colleges; Machine readable text [info] [word count] [Smyth].
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μή AND μὴ οὐ WITH THE INFINITIVE REDUNDANT OR SYMPATHETIC NEGATIVE I. With the Infinitive depending on Verbs of Negative Meaning 2739

Verbs and expressions of negative meaning, such as deny, refuse, hinder, forbid, avoid, often take the infinitive with a redundant μή to confirm the negative idea of the leading verb.

With this compare: “First he denied you had in him no right” (Shakesp., Com. of Er. 4. 2. 7); and “La pluie . . . empêche qu'on ne se promène” (Racine); “Verbot ihnen Jesus, dass sie Niemand sagen sollten” (St. Mark 9. 9).

καταρνῇ μὴ δεδρα_κέναι τάδε; dost thou deny that thou hast done this? S. Ant. 442, ἀποκωλῦσαι τοὺς Ἕλληνας μὴ ἐλθεῖν to hinder the Greeks from coming X. A. 6.4.24, κήρῦκα προέπεμψεν αὐτοῖς . . . ἀπεροῦντα μὴ πλεῖν they sent a herald to forbid them to sail T. 1.29, εὐλαβήσεσθε μὴ πολλῶν ἐναντίον λέγειν you will beware of speaking in public P. Eu. 304a, ἀπέσχοντο μὴ ἐπὶ τὴν ἑκατέρων γῆν στρατεῦσαι they abstained from marching upon each other's territory T. 5.25.


The redundant μή is used after ἀμφιλέγω and ἀμφισβητῶ dispute, ἀνατίθεμαι retract an opinion, ἀντιλέγω speak against, ἀπαγορεύω and ἀπειπεῖν forbid, ἀπιστῶ doubt, ἀπογιγνώσκω abandon an intention, ἀποκρύπτομαι conceal, ἀπολύ_ω acquit, ἀποστερῶ deprive, ἀποστρέφω divert, ἀποχειροτονῶ and ἀποψηφίζομαι vote against, ἀρνοῦμαι (and compounds, and ἄπαρνός εἰμι, ἔξαρνός εἰμι) deny, διαμάχομαι refuse, εἴργω and ἐμποδών εἰμι prevent, ἐναντιοῦμαι oppose, εὐλαβοῦμαι beware of, ἔχω and ἀπέχω prevent, ἀντέχω, ἀπέχομαι, ἐπέχω, κατέχω abstain from, κωλύ_ω (and compounds) hinder, μεταβουλεύομαι alter one's plans, μεταγιγνώκω change one's mind, ὄκνον παρέχω make hesilate, φεύγω (and compounds) escape, avoid, disclaim, φυλάττομαι guard against, etc.


Also after the following verbs: ἀπαυδῶ forbid, ἀπεύχομαι deprecor, ἀποδοκεῖ resolve not, ἀπροσδόκητός εἰμι do not expect, ἀφαιροῦμαι prevent, ἀφί_ημι acquit, δέδοικα and φοβοῦμαι fear, ἐρύ_κω hinder, καταδεῖ lack, μεταδοκεῖ μοι change one's mind, παύω put an end to, ῥύομαι and σῴζω save from, ὑπεκτρέχω escape from, ὑφί_εμαι give up, etc.


When a verb of denying, refusing, hindering, forbidding, etc., is itself negatived, either directly or by appearing in a question expecting a negative answer, the infinitive has μὴ οὐ. Here both the introductory clause and the dependent clause have virtually an affirmative sense.

οὐδεὶς πώποτ' ἀντεῖπεν μὴ οὐ καλῶς ἔχειν αὐτούς (τοὺς νόμους) no one ever denied that they (the laws) were excellent D. 24.24, τίνα οἴει ἀπαρνήσεσθαι μὴ οὐχὶ καὶ αὐτὸν ἐπίστασθαι τὰ δίκαια; who, think you, will deny that he too understands what is just? P. G. 461c ( = οὐδεὶς ἀπαρνήσεται). But μὴ οὐ is not used after οὔ φημι, οὐκ ἐῶ, οὐκ ἐθέλω ( cross2692 a).

a. μὴ οὐ with the infinitive here, and elsewhere, is used only when the introductory word or words has an actual or a virtual negative. Since, in ἀρνοῦμαι μὴ ταῦτα δοᾶσαι I deny that I did this, μή confirms the negative idea in ἀρνοῦμαι, so

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in οὐκ ἀρνοῦμαι μὴ οὐ ταῦτα δρᾶσαι I do not deny that I did this, οὐ after the strengthening μή confirms the οὐ prefixed to the leading verb. Cp. “Je ne nie pas que je ne sois infiniment flatté” (Voltaire). In the first sentence μή repeats the ‘negative result’ of ἀρνοῦμαι (single sympathetic negative, untranslatable); in the second sentence οὐ is repeated with the infinitive to sum up the effect of οὐκ ἀρνοῦμαι (double sympathetic negative; both untranslatable). After verbs negative in meaning (deny, etc.) μή and μὴ οὐ cannot be translated in modern English (see cross2739). After verbs not negative in character but preceded by a negative, and after virtually negative expressions, μή or μὴ οὐ has a negative force ( cross2745, cross2746).

b. μὴ οὐ with the infinitive regularly indicates a certain pressure of interest on the part of the person involved.


After deny, speak against, doubt, etc., followed by ὡς or ὅτι, a redundant οὐ is often inserted. Thus, ὡς μὲν οὐκ ἀληθῆ ταῦτ' ἐστίν, οὐχ ἕξετ' ἀντιλέγειν that this is true you will not be able to deny D. 8.31.

a. Here the ὡς clause is an internal accusative (accusative of content) after ἀντιλέγειν. Originally the meaning seems to have been ‘you will not be able to deny in this way—this is not true’ where οὐ is not redundant.


Summary of Constructions after Verbs of Hindering, etc.

After verbs signifying (or suggesting) to hinder and the like, the infinitive admits the article τό or τοῦ (the ablatival genitive, cross1392). Hence we have a variety of constructions, which are here classed under formal types. The simple infinitive is more closely connected with the leading verb than the infinitive with τὸ μή or τὸ μὴ οὐ, which often denotes the result (cp. ὥστε μή) of the action of the leading verb and is either an accusative of respect or a simple object infinitive. The genitive of the infinitive is very rare with κωλύ_ω and its compounds.

a. Some scholars regard the infinitive with the negative as an internal accusative, not as a simple object infinitive; and the infinitive without the negative as an external accusative.

1. εἴργει με μὴ γράφειν (the usual construction: examples cross2739).

2. εἴργει με γράφειν (less common). Since the redundant μή is not obligatory, we have the simple infinitive as object ( cross1989), as εἰ τοῦτό τις εἴργει δρᾶν ὄκνος if some scruple prevents us from doing this P. Soph. 242a, ὃν θανεῖν ἐρρυ_σάμην whom I saved from death E. Alc. 11, οἱ θεῶν ἡμᾶς ὅρκοι κωλύ_ουσι πολεμίους εἶναι ἀλλήλοις the oaths sworn in the name of the gods prevent our being enemies to each other X. A. 2.5.7, and so usually with κωλύ_ω (cp. cross2744. 7).

3. εἴργει με τὸ μὴ γράφειν (rather common; cp. cross1): εἶργον τὸ μὴ . . . κακουργεῖν they prevented them from doing damage T. 3.1, οἷοί τε ἦσαν κατέχειν τὸ μὴ δακρύ_ειν they were able to restrain their weeping P. Ph. 117c.

4. εἴργει με τὸ γράφειν (not uncommon; cp. cross2): ἐπέσχον τὸ εὐθέως τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις ἐπιχειρεῖν they refrained from immediately attacking the Athenians T. 7.33, ἔστιν τις, ὅς σε κωλύ_σει τὸ δρᾶν there is some one who will prevent thee from the deed S. Ph. 1241.

5. εἴργει με τοῦ μὴ γράφειν, with the ablatival genitive, 1392 (not so common as 3): πᾶς γὰρ ἀσκὸς δύο ἄνδρας ἕξει τοῦ μὴ καταδῦναι for each skin-bag will pre-

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vent two men from sinking X. A. 3.5.11. Other cases are: Hdt. 1.86, T. 1.76, X. C. 2.4.13, 2. 4. 23, 3. 3. 31, I. 7.17, 12. 80, 15. 122, P. L. 637c, 832 b, D. 23.149, 33. 25. Observe that this idiom does not have the logical meaning ‘from not,’ which we should expect. Some write τὸ μή or μή alone.

6. εἴργει με τοῦ γράφειν (not common, and very rare with κωλύ_ω, as X. A. 1.6.2): τοῦ δὲ δρα_πετεύειν δεσμοῖς ἀπείργουσι; do they prevent their slaves from running away by fetters? X. M. 2.1.16, ἐπέσχομεν τοῦ δακρύ_ειν we desisted from weeping P. Ph. 117e (cp. cross3).

7. οὐκ εἴργει με γράφειν (not very common, but more often with οὐ κωλύ_ω; cp. cross2): οὐδὲ διακωλύ_ουσι ποιεῖν ὧν ἂν ἐπιθυ_μῇς; nor will they prevent you from doing what you desire? P. Lys. 207e, τί κωλύ_ει ( = οὐδὲν κ.) καὶ τὰ ἄκρα ἡμῖν κελεύειν Κῦρον προκαταλαβεῖν; what hinders our ordering Cyrus to take also the heights in advance for us? X. A. 1.3.16, ταῦτά τινες οὐκ ἐξαρνοῦνται πρά_ττειν certain people do not deny that they are doing these things Aes. 3.250.

8. οὐκ εἴργει με μὴ οὐ γράφειν (the regular construction): οὐκ ἀμφισβητῶ μὴ οὐχὶ σὲ σοφώτερον ἢ ἐμέ I do not dispute that you are wiser than I P. Hipp. Minor 369 d, οὐδὲν ἐδύνατο ἀντέχειν μὴ οὐ χαρίζεσθαι he was not able to resist granting the favour X. C. 1.4.2, τί ἐμποδὼν ( = οὐδὲν ἐμποδών) μὴ οὐχὶ . . . ὑβριζομένους ἀποθανεῖν; what hinders our being put to death ignominiously? X. A. 3.1.13, τί δῆτα μέλλεις μὴ οὐ γεγωνίσκειν τὸ πᾶν; why pray dost thou hesitate to declare the whole? A. Pr. 627.

9. οὐκ εἴργει με τὸ μὴ γράφειν (since occasionally the sympathetic οὐ is not added; cp. cross3): καὶ φημὶ δρᾶσαι κοὐκ ἀπαρνοῦμαι τὸ μή (δρᾶσαι) I both assent that I did the deed and do not deny that I did it S. Ant. 443, τίς . . . σοῦ ἀπελείφθη τὸ μή σοι ἀκολουθεῖν; who failed to follow you? X. C. 5.1.25.

10. οὐκ εἴργει με τὸ μὴ οὐ γράφειν (very common; cp. cross8): οὐκ ἐναντιώσομαι τὸ μὴ οὐ γεγωνεῖν πᾶν I will not refuse to declare all A. Pr. 786, τὸ μὲν οὖν μὴ οὐχὶ ἡδέα εἶναι τὰ ἡδέα λὁγος οὐδεὶς ἀμφισβητεῖ no argument disputes that sweet things are sweet P. Phil. 13a.

Very unusual constructions are

11. οὐκ εἴργει τὸ γράφειν (οὐκ ἂν ἀρνοίμην τὸ δρᾶν I will not refuse the deed S. Ph. 118).

12. οὐκ εἴργει μὴ γράφειν (οὔτ' ἠμφεσβήτησε μὴ σχεῖν neither did he deny that he had the money D. 27.15).

13. οὐκ εἴργει τοῦ μὴ οὐ γράφειν (once only: E. Hipp. 48, where τὸ μὴ οὐ is read by some).

On the negative after ὥστε, see cross2759.

II. μὴ οὐ with the Infinitive depending on Negatived Verbs 2745

Any infinitive that would take μή, takes μὴ οὐ (with a negative force), if dependent on a negatived verb. Here οὐ is the sympathetic negative and is untranslatable.

οὐκ ἂν πιθοίμην μὴ οὐ τάδ' ἐκμαθεῖν σαφῶς I cannot consent not to learn this exactly as it is S. O. T. 1065.


μὴ οὐ with the infinitive thus often follows verbs and other

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expressions formed by οὐ (or α-privative) with a positive word and denoting what is impossible, improbable, wrong, senseless, and the like.

οὐδεὶς οἷός τ' ἐστὶν ἄλλως λέγων μὴ οὐ καταγέλαστος εἶναι no one by speaking otherwise can avoid being ridiculous P. G. 509a, ὑπέσχου ζητήσειν ὡς οὐχ ὅσιόν σοι ὂν μὴ οὐ βοηθεῖν δικαιοσύνῃ you promised to make the inquiry on the ground that it would not be right for you not to assist justice P. R. 427e, πάνυ ἀνόητον ἡγοῦμαι εἶναί σοι μὴ οὐ καὶ τοῦτο χαρίζεσθαι I think it is utterly senseless for me not to grant you this favour also P. S. 218c.


Such expressions are, e.g. οὐχ ὅσιός τ' εἰμί, οὐχ ὁ̄όν τ' ἐστί, οὐχ ἱκανός εἰμι, οὐκ ἔστι, ἀδύνατός εἰμι, οὐ δίκαιόν ἐστι, οὐχ ὅσιόν ἐστι, οὐ προσδοκία_ ἐστί, ἄλογόν ἐστι, οὐκ ἀνεκτόν ἐστι, ἄνοιά ἐστι, and many others.


Some expressions denoting repugnance to the moral sense involve a negative idea, and may have the same construction. Thus, ὥστε πᾶσιν αἰσχύ_νην εἶναι μὴ οὐ συσπουδάζειν so that all were ashamed not (i.e. felt it was not right) to coöperate zealously X. A. 2.3.11. So with αἰσχρόν ἐστι ( = οὐ καλόν ἐστι), δεινόν ἐστι.


Instead of μὴ οὐ we find also μή, τὸ μή, τοῦ μή, τὸ μὴ οὐ (but not τοῦ μὴ οὐ).

a. μή (rarely; cp. cross2744. 1): ἔλεγον ὅτι . . . οὐ δυνήσοιντο μὴ πείθεσθαι τοῖς Οηβαίοις they said that they could not help submitting to the Thebans X. H. 6.1.1, αἰσχρὸν . . . γίγνεται ἐμέ γε μὴ ἐθέλειν it is disgraceful for me at least not to be willing P. G. 458d.

b. τὸ μή (cp. cross2744. 3): ἔφη . . . οὐχ οἷόν τ' εἶναι τὸ μὴ ἀποκτεῖναί με he said it was not possible not to condemn me to death P. A. 29c.

c. τοῦ μή (cp. cross2744. 5): ἡ ἀπορία_ τοῦ μὴ ἡσυχάζειν the inability to rest T. 2.49.

d. τὸ μὴ οὐ (cp. cross2744. cross10): οὐ μέντοι ἔπειθέ γε τὸ μὴ οὐ μεγαλοπά_γμων . . . εἶναι he could not, however, persuade them that he was not a man who entertained grand designs X. H. 5.2.36, ἄλογον τὸ μὴ οὐ τέμνειν διχῇ it is irrational not to make a two-fold division P. Soph. 219e.

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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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