Infinitive: subject

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γυναῖκα θάπτειν κρεῖσσόν ἐστιν ἢ γαμεῖν

Het is beter een vrouw te begraven dan ermee te trouwen.

Menandros, Spreuken 95


The infinitive generally signals the role of patient as a subject, although in theory every semantic role of the subject can be expressed by an infinitive or infinitive clause.

Lexical usage

As subject the infinitive is used with (semi)impersonal verbs and expressions such as:

  • δεῖ, χρή, ἀναγκαῖον 'it is necessary'
  • δοκεῖ, καλόν 'it is good' en αἰσχρόν 'it is shameful'
  • ἔστι, ἔξεστι, οἷόν τέ ἐστι, δυνατόν 'it is possible' en ἀδύνατον (or ἀδύνατα) 'it is impossible'
  • πρέπει, προσήκει, ἄξιον, δίκαιον 'it is fitting, it is seemly'
  • συμβαίνει 'it happens'
  • ὥρᾱ and καιρός 'it is time'.

Syntactic behaviour

The predicate NP is usually put in the neuter singular; rarely in the neuter plural.

Historical background

Etymologically the Greek infinitive goes back to a construction expressing goal. In its use with ὥρα and καιρός '(it is) time to...' the infinitive still clearly is a dative of goal. The same is true of the infinitive with δεῖ and χρή: δεῖ ἱππέων μάχεσθαι 'horsemen are needed in order to fight' > δεῖ ἱππεῦσι μάχεσθαι 'fighting is necessary for the horsemen' (therefore: 'the horsemen need to fight').

Example Sentences: 


καὶ ξυνέβη μοι φεύγειν τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ ἔτη εἴκοσι

En het overkwam mij dat ik twintig jaar verbannen was uit mijn eigen land.



αἱρετώτερόν σοι ἔστω λίθον εἰκῇ βάλλειν ἢ λόγον ἀργόν

Laat het voor jou verkieslijker zijn in het wilde weg een steen te gooien dan een doelloos woord te spreken.

Ioannes Stobaios, Bloemlezing 3.34.11.2



κακὸν τὸ πίνειν· ἀπὸ γὰρ οἴνου γίγνεται | καὶ θυροκοπῆσαι καὶ πατάξαι καὶ βαλεῖν, | κἄπειτ’ ἀποτίνειν ἀργύριον ἐκ κραιπάλης

Drinken is slecht; want van wijn komt het dat men deuren kapotslaat, klopt en gooit, en dat men daarna in geld betaalt voor de kater.