You are here

Genitive: standard of comparison as object

Syntactical Level

γλώσσης μάλιστα πανταχοῦ πειρῶ κρατεῖν

‘Especially try to keep your tongue in control at all times.’ (Men. Mon. 80)

The genitive signals an object with verbs indicating care, order or rule, as well as verbs of 'excelling' and 'being inferior to' (cf. the use of the genitive for the expression of a basis of comparison).

Lexical usage

Verbs of excelling or being inferior to

- διαφέρω ‘to differ (from)’
- Many of these verbs are derived from or compounds with comparatives (e.g. πλεονεκτέω ‘to have the advantage (over)’, ἡττάομαι, ἐλαττόομαι, μειόομαι ‘to be worse (than)’, ὑστερέω ‘to be later (than)’).
- Many verbs of 'excelling’ are compounds with a preposition, including:

  • προ- (e.g. προαιρέομαι ‘choose (over)’, προέχω ‘to be better (than)’);
  • περι- (e.g. περιγίγνομαι ‘to excel’, περίειμι ‘to be better (than)’);
  • ὑπερ- (e.g. ὑπερβαίνω, ὑπερβάλλω ‘to excel’, ὑπερέχω ‘to be better (than)’).
Verbs of ruling

ἄρχω ‘to rule (over)’, βασιλεύω ‘to be king (of)’, δεσπόζω ‘to be master (of)’, ἡγέομαι ‘to lead’ [+ dat. ‘to show the way (to)’], κρατέω ‘to be master (of)’ [+ acc. ‘to defeat’], στρατηγέω ‘to lead’, τυραννέω ‘to be monarch (of)’
- often compounds with prefixes such as ἐπι- (e.g. ἐπιστατέω ‘to be ruler of’).

Verbs of caring

- ἀμελέω ‘to neglect’, ἐπιμελέομαι ‘to care (for)’, φροντίζω ‘to be concerned (with)’, ὀλιγωρέω ‘to ignore’.


Note that a standard of comparison in the genitive always implies an unequal relationship. If the two parts of the comparison are equal the dative is used.

Example Sentences: 

αἱ συμφοραὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἄρχουσι καὶ οὐκὶ ὥνθρωποι τῶν συμφορέων.

The events control the people and not the other way round.

τὸ δὲ ἀνέχεσθαι τοῦ χρόνου καὶ μήτε τοῦ βάρους τῶν χειρῶν ἡττᾶσθαι μήτε τοῦ πνεύματος ἐνδεᾶ γίγνεσθαι μήτε τῷ καύματι ἄχθεσθαι, τὸ δὲ εἶναι γενναῖον

Continually persevering and neither yielding to the weight of their fists, nor to be out of breath or oppressed by the heat: that he regarded as a wonderful achievement. ֍

ἐρωτηθεὶς τίνι διαφέρουσιν οἱ πεπαιδευμένοι τῶν ἀπαιδεύτων, ὅσῳ, εἶπεν, οἱ ζῶντες τῶν τεθνεώτων.

When he was asked to what extent educated people differed from uneducated people, Aristotle replied: as much as the living differ from the dead. ֍

καὶ τῆς κενώσεως ἄρα φροντιστέον αὐτῆς μόνης, ἀμελητέον δὲ τῆς γενέσεως;

Should we only concern ourselves with (Christian) emptying or perhaps rather with birth?