Clauses of comparison: manner or degree as modifier (or satellite)


A finite subordinate clause, introduced by one of the conjunctions given below, signals a manner or degree based on a comparison as a modifier, often called a clause of comparison. Less commonly this clause occurs as a satellite.

Lexical usage

Nature of the governing word

The governing word of the construction, whether this is a noun or an adjective, pronoun or adverb, expresses a measurable manner (‘How...?’), property (‘How...?’), quantity (‘How many...?’) or degree (‘In how far...?’).

Introductory words

Of all the conjunctions with this role only καθάπερ and ὥσπερ are exclusively comparative. The other conjunctions can also fulfil a different semantic role:

  • [time, goal or cause] ὡς;
  • [goal] ὅπως;
  • [result] ὥστε (current in Ionic, as in Herodotus, and elsewhere poetic; often in tragedy);
  • [cause] ἅτε (only in epic and early poetry, as in Homer and Pindarus), also ἠῦτε (only in Homer) or εὖτε.

In many cases clauses of comparison are introduced by the relative variant of a correlative pronoun (such as ὅσος or οἷος) or adverb (such as ᾗ, ᾗπερ of ὅπῃ).

Syntactic behaviour (no oblique optative)

The moods are the same as in the relative clause: indicative for a neutral manner, subjunctive with ἄν for a plausible manner, optative with ἄν for a possible manner, optative (without ἄν) for an repeated manner, secondary indicative with ἄν for a counterfactual manner. The indicative is the most common by far.
If the predicate of the subordinate clause is the same as that of the main clause it is often omitted. The subject of this omitted predicate can take the case of the other element of the comparison: οὐδαμοῦ γὰρ ἔστιν Ἀγόρατον Ἀθηναῖον εἶναι ὥσπερ Θρασύβουλον (Lys. 13.72) ‘For it is altogether impossible that Agoratus is an Athenian like Thrasybulus.’ The complete comparison, without ellipsis, would have been ... ὥσπερ Θρασύβουλός ἐστιν.

Historical background

In Homer's epics the choice of conjunctions is limited to ἠύτε and ὡς (the latter also in the form ὡς... περ).


A comparative clause is often anticipated in the main clause by correlative pronouns or adverbs:

  • οὕτως, ὧδε, ὡσαύτως, τοιοῦτον (non-Attic: τοῖον)… ὡς, ὥσπερ ‘zo… als’
  • τοσοῦτον, τοσούτῳ (non-Attic: τόσον)… ὅσον, ὅσῳ ‘zo groot… als’

The conjunctions ὡς and ὥσπερ can also be anticipated by ἴσος ‘equal (to)’, ὁ αὐτός ‘the same (as)’ or ὁμοίως ‘in the same way (as)’.
Moreover, compare the construction: ‘the more ...’ (with a comparative or - less often - a superlative taken up into the clause of comparison. In this case one comparative is often left implicit.

Example Sentences: 

οὐκοῦν καὶ χρημάτων, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ὁ τοιοῦτος νέος μὲν ὢν καταφρονοῖ ἄν, ὅσῳ δὲ πρεσβύτερος γίγνοιτο, μᾶλλον ἀεὶ ἀσπάζοιτο ἂν

“Als jongeman kan zo iemand dan wel geld minachten,” zei ik, “maar hoe ouder hij wordt, des te meer respect kreeg hij ervoor.”

ἄν τις ἀποκτείνῃ ... τὸν ἀνδροφόνον ... τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἐνεχέσθω καθάπερ ἂν τὸν Ἀθηναῖον ἀποκτείνῃ

Als iemand een moordenaar vermoordt, dan moet hij dezelfde straffen ondergaan alsof hij een Athener vermoordt.

νομίζων, ὅσῳ μὲν θᾶττον ἔλθοι, τοσούτῳ ἀπαρασκευαστοτέρῳ βασιλεῖ μαχεῖσθαι, ὅσῳ δὲ σχολαιότερον, τοσούτῳ πλέον συναγείρεσθαι βασιλεῖ στράτευμα

in de mening dat, hoe sneller hij optrok, des te onvoorbereider hij tegen de koning strijd zou leveren, en dat, hoe trager hij optrok, des te groter het leger zou zijn dat zich rond de koning verzamelde

κατέπεφνε δειπνίσσας, ὥς τίς τε κατέκτανε βοῦν ἐπὶ φάτνῃ

Hij vermoordde hem tijdens het diner, zoals iemand een rund boven zijn voederbak zou ombrengen.

μὴ ζήτει τὰ γινόμενα γίνεσθαι ὡς θέλεις, ἀλλὰ θέλε τὰ γινόμενα ὡς γίνεται καὶ εὑρήσεις

Streef er niet naar dat de gebeurtenissen verlopen zoals jij het wenst, maar wens de gebeurtenissen zoals ze verlopen, en je zult ze vinden.

καὶ τὸν παρελθόντα χρόνον οὕτω τυγχάνω βεβιωκὼς μέχρι ταύτης τῆς ἡμέρας ὥσπερ προσήκει τοὺς εὐσεβεῖς καὶ θεοφιλεῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων

Ook in het verleden en tot op de dag van vandaag heb ik zo geleefd als vrome en godvruchtige mensen past.