Subjunctive in main clause with or without ἄν: plausibility [Homer]

In Homer a main clause in the subjunctive (with or without κε(ν) or ἄν) represents a state of affairs as plausible.
A state of affairs can be plausible for two reasons:
- because circumstances indicate that the state of affairs will take place (one-off);
- because the state of affairs is of such a kind that it can take place frequently (repeatable).

Syntactic behaviour

The negation is οὐ when the verb is not accompanied by ἄν; when ἄν is used it is μή.
Where its meaning is concerned the Homeric subjunctive in the main clause approaches the future indicative. In the classical period the future indicative (one-off plausibility) or a different indicative tense (repeatable plausibility) is preferred.

Historical background

Already in epic poetry the subjunctive in the main clause is subject to competition from the indicative (in many cases the future). The tendency to restrict the use of the subjunctive to subordinate clauses means that in the classical period it is only used in deliberative or deontic modalities in the main clause.

Other information

In traditional grammars there is much terminological confusion around the different forms of plausibility (umbrella term: eventualis):

  • one-off plausibility = futuralis
  • repeatable plausibility = generalis, iterativus
Example Sentences: