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οὐ μή with aorist subjunctive in the main clause: strong negation


ἀλλ’ οὐ μὴ εἴπητε φρένας ἔχοντες

‘No, you will not speak with any sense!’ (Epict. Disc. 3.7.8)

The aorist subjunctive, preceded by οὐ μή, signals a strong negation in the future.

Historical background

This is a typically Attic construction. Historically the double negation may be explained as a case of insubordination, i.e. in which an (obligatory) subordinate clause becomes a main clause through ellipsis of the main verb: οὐ [φόβος / κίνδυνος ἐστι] μὴ φαῦλον ἦ ‘[There is no fear] that it is stupid.’ Since in the original construction μή was a subordinating conjunction, only the negation οὐ can be replaced by a negative adverb or pronoun (οὐκέτι, οὐδείς etc.).


The present subjunctive also occurs, although much less frequently than the aorist.

Example Sentences: 

λέγε θαρρήσας· ὡς τὰς σπονδὰς οὐ μὴ πρότεροι παραβῶμεν

Speak boldly; for it is out of the question that we should be the first to violate the treaty.

οὐ γάρ σε μὴ γήρᾳ τε καὶ χρόνῳ μακρῷ

γνῶσ’, οὐδ’ ὑποπτεύσουσιν, ὧδ’ ἠνθισμένον

For they will certainly not recogise you due to your age and the long interval of time, and they will not suspect you thus decked with white hair.

ἂν δ’ αὐτοὺς οἱ Τρῶες μὴ ἀποκτείνωσιν, οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνωσιν;

And if the Trojans do not kill them [the Greeks], will they really not die? ֍

τὸν ἄνδρ᾽ ἐκεῖνον οὔ τι μὴ λίπω ποτέ.

Never ever will I leave that man.