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Infinitive in the main clause: exclamation (often with τό)


τῆς τύχης, τὸ ἐμὲ νῦν κληθέντα δεῦρο τυχεῖν

‘What an accident, that I was called here just now!’ (Xen. Cyrop. 2.2.3)

The infinitive, with or without the article τό, signals an exclamation which is presented as real. The speaker is amazed by or indignant about the state of affairs.

Translation tips

A good English translation will also use the infinitive as the main verb (e.g. παθεῖν ταῦτα ‘To have to undergo this!’) or a finite subordinate clause, introduced by that (e.g. ἐμὲ παθεῖν ταῦτα ‘That I must undergo this!’).

Syntactic usage

If the infinitive has a subject, this subject takes the accusative.

Historical background

This use of the infinitive is attested from the fifth century B.C. onwards, especially in drama.


This infinitive is often preceded by one or more interjections (e.g. φεῦ ‘alas!’) or by a genitive of exclamation (e.g. τῆς τύχης ‘what a misfortune!’).

Example Sentences: 

ἐμὲ παθεῖν τάδε, φεῦ,

ἐμὲ παλαιόφρονα, κατά τε γᾶν οἰκεῖν,

ἀτίετον, φεῦ, μύσος

τὸ δ’ ἐμὲ κορώνῃ πειθόμενον τὸν ἄθλιον

ὁδοῦ περιελθεῖν στάδια πλεῖν ἢ χίλια

I, miserable one, trusting in my crow, have travelled a way of more than a thousand stadia. ֍

φεῦ τὸ καὶ λαβεῖν πρόσφθεγμα

τοιοῦδ’ ἀνδρὸς ἐν χρόνῳ μακρῷ.

Oh, to hear this greeting from such a man after such a long time!

ἀλλὰ τῆς ἐμῆς κάκης

τὸ καὶ προσέσθαι μαλθακοὺς λόγους φρενί.

Alas, how weak of me to let those sweet words into my heart. ֍