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Concise conditional clauses

Syntactical Level

μὴ κακολόγει τοὺς πλησίον· εἰ δὲ μή, ἀκούσῃ ἐφ᾿ οἷς λυπηθήσῃ

‘Do not speak ill of your neighbours; otherwise you will hear hurtful things.’ (Χείλων )

A conditional clause may lack a predicate, specifically in the following two cases:

  1. firstly, the predicate of the conditional clause can be omitted if it is the same as that of the main clause (= ellipsis);
  2. secondly, the word group εἰ μή (also εἰ, εἰ μὴ εἰ or μὴ εἰ) can precede a substantive or participle as a particle introducing a concise (usually negated) condition.

Translation tips

εἰ δὲ μή ‘if not’, εἰ μή ‘unless, except’, εἰ μὴ εἰ ‘unless if, except if’, εἰ μὴ δία ‘unless through, except through’

Example Sentences: 

οἰκέτας μεθύοντας μὴ κολάζειν· εἰ δὲ μή, δόξεις παροινεῖν

Do not punish drunk slaves; if you do, it will seem as if you are behaving like a drunkard.

ὅστις οὖν ἐλεύθερος εἶναι βούλεται, μήτε θελέτω τι μήτε φευγέτω τι τῶν ἐπ᾽ ἄλλοις· εἰ δὲ μή, δουλεύειν ἀνάγκη

So whoever wishes to be free should not wish anything or avoid anything. Otherwise one is doomed to slavery.

εἴ τις εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν, εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπάγει.

If anyone is destined for imprisonment, he shall be imprisoned.