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Subjunctive in interrogative main or subordinate clause: deliberative question


τί οὖν πίθωμαι δῆτά σοι;

‘Why should I believe you?’ (Aristoph. Cl. 87)

In (direct or indirect) interrogative sentences the subjunctive signals that the speaker (who is always the subject) is in doubt as to whether or not he should carry out the action.

Translation tips

The translation usually begins with should/could we/...

Syntactic usage (not possible optativus obliquus)

The deliberative subjunctive is in the first person, sometimes in the third person when the speaker is referring to himself (usually with τίς). The second person is only used to repeat a question.
In indirect questions the deliberative subjunctive may be freely used with the third person.


In the corpus of Chanet some 6 % of the subjunctives are deliberative (bron: Duhoux).
Where the ratio between the aspects is concerned Duhoux gives the following figures (from McWorther and Fanning):
- Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides: 73,2 % aorist ~ 26,8 % present
- New Testament: 95,1 % aorist ~ 4,9 % present

Example Sentences: 

ὅρα δὲ τί δρῶμεν

But see what we must do. ֍

νῦν δὲ πόθεν ἄρξωμαι λέγων, ἢ τίνος πρῶτον μνησθῶ;

Where shall I begin my story? What shall I mention first?

τὸ τούτων αἴτιον ἐγὼ ὑμῖν εἴπω;

Shall I tell you the reason for this?

βασιλεῦ, κότερα ἀληθείῃ χρήσωμαι πρὸς σὲ ἢ ἡδονῇ;

King, should I tell you the truth or should I tell you what pleases you?