Infinitive: idiomatic disjunct

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Certain idiomatic infinitives signal a disjunct. Their semantic roles are very diverse.

Lexical usage

Verbs of ‘speaking’:

  • ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, ὡς εἰπεῖν 'that is to say, one might almost say' (>100)
  • (ὡς) ἁπλῶς εἰπεῖν, ὡς συνελόντι εἰπεῖν, ὡς ἐν βραχεῖ / διὰ βραχέων εἰπεῖν, ὡς συντόμως εἰπεῖν ‘in a word, in short’ (>50)
  • ὡς ἐπὶ πᾶν εἰπεῖν, τὸ σύμπαν εἰπεῖν, ὡς ἐν κεφαλαίῳ εἰπεῖν, ὡς δὲ καθόλου εἰπεῖν, ὡς τύπῳ εἰπεῖν ‘generally speaking’ (>20)
  • σχεδὸν (ὡς) εἰπεῖν ‘one might almost say, nearly (Latin: paene dixerim)’ (>10)
  • σὺν θεῷ εἰπεῖν ‘for God's sake’


The above expressions are not only used with εἰπεῖν, but also with λέγειν, φράζειν and εἰρῆσθαι (e.g. ὡς ἐν τύπῳ εἰρῆσθαι ‘in general’).
The copula εἶναι (which is never declined further):

  • ἑκὼν (declinable) εἶναι ‘willingly, voluntarily’ (usually in the context of a negation) (>30)
  • τὸ κατὰ τοῦτον (or ἐπὶ τούτῳ) εἶναι ‘as far as he is concerned’
  • ὡς . . . εἶναι ‘as far as ... is concerned’
  • τὸ νῦν εἶναι ‘at this moment’


Other verbs:

  • (ὡς) ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν, ὡς ἐμοὶ κρῖναι ‘as it seems to me, in my opinion’ (>50; almost exclusively in Pausanias)
  • ὀλίγου (δεῖν), μῑκροῦ (δεῖν) ‘almost, practically, as good as’ (>50)
  • (ὡς) εἰκάσαι ‘presumably, apparently’
  • (ὡς) συμβάλλειν ‘by way of comparison’
  • (ὡς) ἀκοῦσαι ‘from what I hear’
  • ὅσον γέ μ᾽ εἰδέναι ‘as far as I known’
  • ὡς ὑμομνῆσαι ‘to return to’

Syntactic behaviour

If the semantic role is that of instrument, the infinitive is usually preceded by ὡς.

Historical background

According to Eduard Bornemann and Ernst Risch this use of the infinitive has its origin in the meanings of the dative.

Frequential information

De frequenties in het bovenstaande overzicht zijn berekend aan de hand van Perseus under Philologic. Het spreekt voor zich dat weinig frequente constructies niet actief gekend moeten zijn.

Example Sentences: 


οὐδὲ ξένοις ἑκὼν εἶναι γέλωτα παρέχεις

Je brengt vreemdelingen ook niet doelbewust aan het lachen.



ἀληθές γε ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν οὐδὲν εἰρήκασιν

Ik zou haast zeggen, ze spraken geen waar woord.



τὸ δὲ εὖρος ἡ διάμετρος αὐτοῦ τέσσαρας παρέχοιτο ἂν ὡς εἰκάσαι πήχεις

Its diameter across its breadth, it seems, is about four cubits.