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Infinitive in main clause: command

Syntactical Level

ἔχε καὶ πιεῖν κεκραμένον τρία καὶ δύο

‘Take and drink this mix of three-two (water-wine)!’ (Aristoph. Kn. 1187)

The infinitive signals a command in all contexts where the imperative can be used.

Lexical usage

The usual opening of a letter is the imperative infinitive χαίρειν 'greetings' or 'dear...'. Other openings include εὖ πράττειν and ὑγιαίνειν (see Luc. Laps. 5-6).

Syntactic usage

The imperative infinitive usually relates to a subject in the second person, although in legal texts the third person is also found. If expressed, the subject takes the nominative.

Historical background

The use of the infinitive in imperative main clauses goes back to its use as an adverbial expressing goal. The expression of goal then came to be used independently. Imperative infinitives were in use as early as Homer.
In its sigmatic form the M aor. imperat., 2nd sg. was originally an imperative infinitive, albeit with a recessive accent: παίδευσαι 'bring up!' ~ παιδεῦσαι 'to bring up'.


This usage is well-established in archaic poetry, and often has formal connotations in prose.
In the archaic poetry of Homer and Hesiod the imperative infinitive was in common use (encompassing some 5,7% of the infinitives in Homer). Despite its decreased frequency in the classical period (with, for instance, 0,3% of the infinitives in Herodotus) the infinitive still expresses commands in the Pontic variety of Modern Greek even today.

Example Sentences: 

ὄς κ’ ἐλευθέρο̄ι ἒ̄ δο̄́λο̄ι μέλλε̄ι ἀν

πιμο̄λε̄̀ν, πρὸ δίκας με̄̀ ἄγεν. αἰ δ

έ κ’ ἄγε̄ι, καταδικακσάτο̄ το̑ ἐλευθέρ

εὖ πράττειν καὶ σπουδαίως ζῆν

Be well and live well [the greeting Epicurus preferred over the usual χαίρειν] ֍

σὺ μέντοι ἥσυχος εἶναι κατελθὼν ἐς τὴν σεωυτοῦ.

But you, be quiet when you have returned to your land.

ἀλλὰ σὺ τὸν ἐπέεσσι καθάπτεσθαι μαλακοῖσιν

But you must lay hold of him with flattering words.