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Imperfect or aorist indicative in main clause with ἄν: iterativity


ταῖς ἀδελφαῖς ἀγοράσαι χιτώνιον ἐκέλευσεν ἂν

‘Sometimes he begged me to buy undergarments for his sisters.’ (Aristoph. Pl. 984-985)

The imperfect or aorist indicative, accompanied by ἄν, signals iterativity in the past.

Syntactic usage

Subordinate clauses (relative, temporal or conditional clauses, as well as indirect questions) dependent on this type of main clause will usually take the optative.

Historical background

There is no evidence for this usage in the main clause before the fifth century B.C.E.


Iterativity in the past is expressed in this way particularly by Herodotus and in Attic texts.

Example Sentences: 

διηρώτων ἂν αὐτοὺς τί λέγοιεν

I kept asking them what they were saying. [provisional translation] ֍

καὶ πολλάκις ἔνδον ἂν οὖσαι ἠκούσαμεν ἄν τι κακῶς ὑμᾶς βουλευσαμένους μέγα πρᾶγμα

And often, as housewives, we heard how you, men, made a wretched decision about a state case. [provisional translation]

ὁπότε δὲ διάσχοιεν αἱ πλευραὶ τοῦ πλαισίου, τὸ μέσον ἂν ἐξεπίμπλασαν

Every time the flanks of the right corner broke up, the [fast-moving contingents] filled the centre. ֍

ἀλλ’ ὅ τι μάθοιμ’ ἑκάστοτε,

ἐπελανθανόμην ἂν εὐθὺς ὑπὸ πλήθους ἐτῶν.

Whatever I learnt anywhere, I always immediately forgot over the many years. ֍