Infinitive with Impersonal Verbs

Book Nav

233. Impersonal Verbs. The infinitive is used with ἔστι there is (means, rοοm, οccasiοn, etc.), ἔοικε it is fit, πέπρωται it is determined, εἵμαρτο it was fated. For ἔστι cp.

Il. 14.313 κεῖσε μὲν ἔστι καὶ ὕστερον ὁρμηθῆναι

Od. 15.392 αἵδε δὲ νύκτες ἀθέσφατοι· ἔστι μὲν εὕδειν,
                   ἔστι δὲ τερπομένοισιν ἀκούειν
                   there is (enοugh) for sleeping and for listening

It is very common with a negative: οὐκ ἔστι, οὔ πως ἔστι, etc., meaning there is nο way, it may not be that, etc.

The impersonal use is also found in phrases of the two kinds noticed in § 162.4.

(a) With a neuter adjective.

ἀργαλέον δέ μοί ἐστι θέσθαι κτλ.
it is difficult for me to make, etc.

μόριμον δέ οἵ ἐστʼ ἀλέασθαι
it is fated for him to escape

So with αἰσχρόν, νεμεσσητόν, αἴσιμον, ἄρκιον, βέλτερον, and the like.

(b) With an abstract noun.

Il. 14.80 οὐ γάρ τις νέμεσις φυγέειν κακόν
              there is nο wrong in escaping ill

Od. 5. 345 ὅθι τοι μοῖρʼ ἐστὶν ἀλύξαι
                  where it is your fate tο, etc.

Il. 33 ἀλλὰ καὶ ὥρη εὕδειν
         there is a time for, etc.

So with αἴσα, μόρος, θέμις, χρεώ, ἀνάγκη, αἰδώς, δέος, ἐλπωρή, etc., followed by an infinitive to express what the fate, need, shame, etc., brings about, or in what it consists.

These examples throw light on twο much-debated passages

Il. 2.291 ἦ μὴν καὶ πόνος ἐστὶν ἀνιηθέντα νέεσθαι
              verily there is toil for α man to return in vexation

i. e. "I admit that the toil is enough to provoke any one to return." Thus understood, the expression is a slightly bold use of the form of sentence that we have in ὥρη ἐστὶν εὕδειν, μοῖρα ἐστὶν ἀλύξαι, θυμός ἐστιν ἀναίτιον αἰτιάασθαι, etc. The other interpretation, "it is toil to return vexed," though apparently easier, is not really more Homeric; and it certainly does not fit the context so well.

Il. 7.238 οἶδ’ ἐπὶ δεξιά, οἶδʼ ἐπʼ ἀριστερὰ ναωμῆσαι βῶν
              ἀζαλέην, τό μοι ἔστι ταλαύρινον πολεμίζειν
              I know how to turn my shield of seasοned οx-hide
              to the right and to the left, wherefοre I have that
              wherewith to war in stout-shielded fashion

(= I have a good claim to the title of ταλαύριvοs πολεμιστής, elsewhere an epithet of Ares). Here ἔστι is used as in ἔστιν εὕδειν, etc.

In Il. 13.99-101 ἦ μέγα θαῦμα τόδʼ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῶμαι, Τρῶας ἐφ’ ἡμετέρας ἰέναι νέας the infinitive follows θαῦμα, or rather the whole phrase θαῦμα τόδε ὁρῶμαι (= θαῦμά ἐστι) : ὁράω does not take an infinitive. (§ 245).

Suggested Citation

D.B. Monro, A Grammar of the Homeric Dialect. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7.