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Infinitive with epistemic modality


καὶ μηδεὶς ὑπολάβῃ με δυσκόλως ἔχειν

‘And nobody should think that I am hard to please.’ (Isoc. 4.129)

The declarative infinitive signals a patient as an argument (subject or object). This is the case with verbs of saying and supposing.

Lexical usage

Verbs of saying

ἀρνέομαι ‘to deny’, ἐπαγγέλλομαι, ὑπισχνέομαι ‘to promise’, λέγω ‘to say’, μαρτυρέω ‘to testify’, ὄμνυμι ‘to swear’, ὁμολογέω, συγχωρέω ‘to admit’, φάσκω, φημί ‘to claim’ etc.

Verbs of supposing

δοκέω, ἡγέομαι, νομίζω, οἴομαι ‘to deem, find’, εἰκάζω ‘to guess’, ἐλπίζω ‘to hope, expect’, κρίνω ‘to judge’, πέπεισμαι ‘to be convinced’, πιστεύω ‘to trust’, προσδοκάω ‘to expect’, ὑποπτεύω ‘to suspect’ etc.

Syntactic usage

Subject in case of coreference

When the subject of the main verb and that of the infinitive are identical, the infinitive is used on its own; when the subjects differ, the subject of the infinitive is put in the accusative case (accusativus cum infinitivo).

The expression of temporality

Since it stands in the place of the indicative in direct speech, this infinitive expresses time. This means that the aorist infinitive always refers to the past. The future infinitive only occurs as a declarative infinitive and never as a dynamic infinitive.

The particle ἄν

The particle ἄν can stand with the declarative infinitive, in contrast to the dynamic infinitive (since the latter is deontic). The context must decide whether the intended modality is possibility or counterfactuality, since due to the use of the infinitive in indirect speech it is formally impossible to tell whether an optative or a secondary indicative was used in direct speech.

The negation: usually οὐ

As a rule the negation is οὐ, although μή sometimes replaces οὐ if the main verb implies a wish or expresses determination. This is the case, for instance, after an imperative (e.g. νόμιζε μηδὲν βέβαιον εἶναι ‘Assume that nothing is stable.’).


The use of tenses and moods

When the main verb is in the aorist the infinitive has the tendency to take the aorist too. This tendency is reversed if the main verb is in the optative. A main verb in the perfect is usually followed by a present infinitive.

Example Sentences: 

ἃ τοὺς μὲν εἰδότας ἡγεῖτο καλοὺς κἀγαθοὺς εἶναι, τοὺς δ᾽ ἀγνοοῦντας ἀνδραποδώδεις ἂν δικαίως κεκλῆσθαι

And he thought that those who knew this were beautiful and good, but that the ignorant could justifiably bear the name 'slaves'. [provisional translation]

πατρὸς μὲν δὴ ὁ Κῦρος λέγεται γενέσθαι Καμβύσου Περσῶν βασιλέως

It is claimed that Kyros was the son of Kambyses, the Persian king. [provisional translation] ֍

σάφ᾽ οἶδα βούλεσθαί σ᾽ ἄν. ἀλλὰ ποῦ τόδε;

οὐκ ἔστι τοὺς θανόντας ἐς φάος μολεῖν.

I know very well that you would desire that, but why is that so? It is not possible for the dead to come to life.

δύο γὰρ ἑτέρους οὐκ ἂν εὑρεθῆναι δοκῶ ῥήτορας ἐκ μὲν ἀδόξων καὶ μικρῶν ἰσχυροὺς καὶ μεγάλους γενομένους.

I do not believe you could find two other orators who would have been capable of becoming strong and powerful starting from such an insignificant background. ֍

οὕτως ᾤετο μέγα πρὸς πίστιν εἶναι τὸν τόνον καὶ τὴν ὐπόκρισιν τῶν λεγόντων.

So important did he consider the versimilitude of the tone and the delivery of the narratives. ֍

Δημοσθένης λέγεται (...) καὶ τὴν Πυθίαν ὑπονοεῖν ὡς φιλιππίζουσαν.

Demosthenes says he suspected that the priestess of Pythia's sympathies lay with Philip. ֍