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εἰ with secondary indicative: counterfactual condition
πλείονα δ᾿ ἂν ἔτι τούτων εἰρήκειμεν, εἰ πλείων παρῆν οἶνος ἡμῖν.
‘We should have discussed more than that, if we had had more wine.’ (Plut. Pyrrh. 8)
A subordinate clause in a secondary tense of the indicative, introduced by εἰ without ἄν, signals a counterfactual condition as a satellite. The main clause usually contains the same secondary indicative with ἄν.
If the speaker juxtaposes two conditions, he uses one of the two following constructions:
- (compatible with each other) εἴτε… εἴτε… ‘whether… or…’
- (excluding each other) εἰ μέν… εἰ δέ… ‘if… but if…’
The stems in the conditional clause only signify aspect, not time:
- present stem (for infective aspect);
- aorist stem (for confective aspect);
- perfect (for resultative aspect).
In Homer counterfactual conditions are expressed in a different way:
- in the present: optative;
- in the past: secondary indicative.
In traditional grammars the counterfactual condition is called irrealis.
χρώματα ὁ θεὸς εἰ πεποιήκει, δύναμιν δὲ θεατικὴν αὐτῶν μὴ πεποιήκει, τί ἂν ἦν ὄφελος;
If God had made colours, but not the possibility to observe them, what would have been the use of them?