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τοῦ with infinitive: goal as satellite

Syntactical Level

μέλλει γὰρ Ἡρώδης ζητεῖν τὸ παιδίον τοῦ ἀπολέσαι αὐτό.

‘Herod intended to seek the child and kill it.’ ( Matthew 2.13)

τοῦ with the infinitive (or accusativus cum infinitivo) signals a goal as a satellite.

Historical background

This construction occurs from Thucydides onwards. The choice for a genitive to express goal is unexpected, which seems to suggest that some form of ellipsis is involved. Duhoux suspects that the use of the genitive derives from constructions with verbs and nouns of ‘trying’, ‘longing’ or ‘striving’. According to Smyth the origin is probably to be found in the genitive of cause, considering that in some cases cause and goal are closely related: ἡ πᾶσ᾽ ἀπάτη συνεσκευάσθη τοῦ περὶ Φωκέᾱς ὀλέθρου (Dem. 19.27) ‘The whole fraud was contrived for the purpose of bringing the Phocians to ruin.’


Most grammars see this construction as typical of Thucydides. Other classical authors tend to opt for ὑπέρ or ἕνεκα with an infinitive and an article. In the New Testament this construction also occurs 35 times.

Example Sentences: 

ἀγγελίαν ἔπεμπον ἐπὶ τὰς ἐν τῇ Μιλήτῳ ναῦς τοῦ ξυμπαρακομισθῆναι

They sent a message to the fleet in Milete to convoy them along the coast. ֍

τοῦ δὲ μένειν τὴν σκηνὴν ὑπέκειντο κίονες εἰκοσαπήχεις περίχρυσοι.

In order to hold the tent in place tall, gilded pillars were placed underneath it.

ἐξῆλθεν ὁ σπείρων τοῦ σπεῖραι τὸν σπόρον αὐτοῦ.

A sower set out to sow his seed.