Personal Endings

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3. There are three main sets of personal endings

  1. Those used in the tenses called "principal" (the present, perfect, and future indicative), and in the subjunctive; these are called the primary endings.
  2. Those used in the "historical tenses" (the imperfect, aorist, and pluperfect), and in the optative; these are called the secondary endings.
  3. The endings of the imperative.

4. The further modifications which the endings undergo depend chiefly upon the final letter of the stem. In certain forms the ending is preceded by Ο or Ε: that is to say, Ο before the nasals μ, ν, and Ε before other letters; e.g. τύπτο-μεν, τύπτε-τε, τύπτο-ντι (older and Doric form of τύπτουσι). We shall call this the thematic vowel[fn]This vowel has also been termed the "connecting" or "auxiliary" vowel—names given on the supposition that it is originally euphonic, inserted in order to allow the stem and the ending to be distinctly heard in pronunciation. The name "thematic" implies a different theory; viz. that it serves to form a "theme" from a simpler element or "root," as λεγ-ε from the root λεγ-; see Curt. Chron. p. 40. On this theory the stem λεγ-ε, λεγ-ο is originally the same as the theme or stem of the noun λόγο-ς. See the remarks of Brugmann, Grundriss, ii. § 8, n. 1.

In the former edition the -ω of the 1st sing. was explained as -ο-μι (Sanskrit -ᾱ-mi). It is now generally thought that -ω and -μι are originally distinct, and represent respectively the thematic and athematic endings of the primitive Indo-European verb. If so, the Sanskrit -āmι has extended from the athematic to the thematic conjugation; and similarly the -ομαι of Greek φέρομαι (Sanskrit bhare). See Meyer, G. G. p.404.[/fn], and the stems which contain it thematic stems. The term will naturally include the corresponding subjunctives, in which the final letter of the stem varies in the same way between η and ω, as τύπτω-μεν, τύπτη-τε, etc., and the 1st singular in -ω. These long vowels doubtless represent a primitive contraction of the thematic vowel with some other element: but the exact process can hardly be determined.

The forms which do not contain this variable ε or ο are called athematic. Among these, again, we have to distinguish a group of tenses with stems ending in -ᾰ, viz. the perfect, the 1st aorist, and some forms peculiar to the Ionic dialect, as the pluperfect (e. g. ᾔδεα I knew), the imperfect ἦα I was, ἤϊα I went. In these stems the -ᾰ changes in the 3rd singular to -ε(ν).[fn]The ᾰ of these stems is of course quite different from the final vowel of the stem in such forms as φα-μέν, ἵστα-μαι, τέτλα-θι, where it is part of the verb stem or "root".[/fn]

The distinction between thematic and athematic applies in strictness only to forms, but may generally be extended to tenses and moods. Thus the present and imperfect of τύπτω are thematic, the same tenses of φημί are athematic. In every verb the future is thematic, the optative is athematic, etc. But the distinction does not apply to "verbs" (in the collective sense of the term), because almost every verb is made up of forms of both kinds.

5. In the following table of the personal endings found in Homer the endings distinguished by larger type are those of the athematic tenses. The endings in smaller type are, first, those of the forms with ᾰ, and, under them again, those of the thematic forms. In the dual and plural (except the 3rd plural) the endings are the same throughout.

Paradigm chart of personal endings found in Homer

Remarks on the Table of Personal Endings

1st Sing.: On the subjunctive in -ω-μι see § 82, and on the optatives which take -μι in the 1st singular see § 83.

2nd Sing.: The original -σι remains only in ἐσ-σί you are.

The form εἶς (or enclitic εἰς) is read in nine places, but there is only one (Od. 17.388) in which the meter does not allow ἔσσʼ to be read instead. Probably, therefore, ἐσσί is the genuine Homeric form. The Attic εἶ is not found in Homer.

The ending -σθα occurs in the perfect οἶσθα you know (οἶδας in Od. 1.337, is a very doubtful reading), pluperfect ᾔδησθα (Od. 19.93), the imperfect ἦσθα and ἔησθα you were, ἔφησθα you said, and the present εἶσθα you will go, τίθησθα (Od. 9.404, 24.476), διδοῖσθα (Il. 19.270), perhaps φῇσθα (Od. 14.149): also in some subjunctives, ἐθέλῃσθα, εἴπῃσθα, βουλεύῃσθα (Il. 9.99), ἴῃσθα (Il. 10.67); and in the optatives βάλοισθα (Il. 15.571), κλαίοισθα (Il. 24.619), and προφύγοισθα (Od. 22.325).

The history of this -σθα can still be traced. Originally -θα (Sanskrit
-tha) was the ending of the 2nd singular perfect indicative: hence οἶσθα for οἰδ-θα (Sanskrit vettha for ved-tha), and ἦσ-θα (Sanskrit âsitha) properly perfect from the root ἐσ-. Having in these cases appeared accidentally as an ending -σθα, it was transferred in this form to other tenses and moods.[fn]On this point recent writers have gone back to the explanation given by Bopp, Vergl. Gr. II. pp. 292, 498.[/fn] The forms ἦσθας, οἶσθας which appear in some MSS are due to the common 2nd singular in -ᾰς. Aristarchus rejected them in Homer.

In the middle the σ of -σαι, -σο when it follows a vowel is generally lost: so always in the secondary tenses, as ἐμάρνα-ο, δαίνυ-ο, ἔσσυ-ο, ἐείσα-ο, contracted ἐκρέμω (Il. 15.18), ἐπεφράσω (Il. 21.410), ἐκτήσω (Od. 24.193)—for which, however, the meter allows us to write ἐκρέμαʼ, etc., and the optative -οι-ο. In the present and perfect indicative and the imperative the usage is not uniform.

  • δύνα-σαι
    (Il. 1.393)
  • ὄνο-σαι
    (Od. 17.378)
  • παρ-ίστα-σαι
    (Il. 10.279, Od. 17.450)
  • ὑπο-δάμνα-σαι
    (Od. 16.95)
  • δαίνυ-σαι
    (Od. 21.290)
  • μέμνη-σαι
    (Il. 23.648)
  • ἵστα-σο[fn]Imperative; seven times.[/fn]
  • ὄνη-σο
    (Od. 19.68)
  • κεῖ-σο
    (Il. 21.122)


  • μέμνη-αι
    (Il. 21.442)
  • μέμνῃ
    (Il.15.18[fn]Where we may read μέμνη᾿.[/fn])
  • βέβληαι[fn]Three places in the Iliad.[/fn]
  • δίζη-αι
    (Od. 11.100)
  • θέ-ο[fn]Imperative.[/fn]
    (Od. 10.333)
  • φά-ο
    (Od. 18.171)
  • μάρνα-ο
    (Il. 15.475)
  • παρ-ίστα-ο
    (Il. 10.291[fn]According to Aristarchus, παρ-ίστα-σο MSS.[/fn])

The loss of σ was in accordance with Greek phonetic law, and originally universal; but new forms in -σαι, -σο were produced on the analogy of forms such as λέξο (for λεχ-σο), ἧσο (for ἡσ-σο), πέπυσσαι (for πεπυθ-σαι), τέτυξο, etc., in which the σ is preserved by the preceding consonant.

Verbs in -εω, which would properly form -εεαι, -εεο, sometimes suffer Hyphaeresis (cp. § 105.4),and drop one ε; as μύθεαι (Od. 2.202), ἀπο-αίρεο, ἔκλεο. But we find also μυθεῖαι (Od. 8.180), νεῖαι (Od. 11.114, 12.141) where it is possible to substitute the uncontracted μυθέεαι, νέεαι-and αἰδεῖο (Il. 24.503).

In the imperative the ending -θι is common in athematic tenses.

ἴ-θι, στῆ-θι, κλῦ-θι, κέκλυ-θι, ἕστα-θι, ὄρνυ-θι, φάνη-θι (Il. 18.198)
δίδω-θι (Od. 3.380)
ἐμπίπλη-θι (Il. 23.311)

We find -ς in θέ-ς, δό-ς, πρόε-ς (προ-ίημι), and the thematic ἐνί-σπε-ς tell (cp. Attic σχέ-ς).

In the forms ἵστη (Il. 21.313), δαίνῡ (Il. 9.70), δείκνῡ (Hes. Th. 526), the long final vowel probably comes by analogy from the present and imperfect singular forms (by the "proportion" imperfect ἔλεγε-ς, ἔλεγε: imperative λέγε:: ἵστης, ἵστη: ἵστη). For the forms καθ-ίστα, τίθει, δίδου, etc., see § 18.

3rd singular: The original -τι remains only in ἔσ-τι(ν), in which the phonetic change of -τι to -σι is prevented by the preceding -σ-. On the subjunctives in -ῃ-σι see § 82.

3rd plural: The ending -ᾱσι (for -αντι) is found in ἔ-ᾱσι (for *ἔσ-ασι) they are and ἴ-ᾱσι they go.

Stems in α, ε, ο, υ form -ᾱσι, -εισι, -ουσι, -ῡσι (for -α-ντι, etc.), as φασί, ἱστᾶσι, τιθεῖσι, διδοῦσι, ζευγνῦσι (not τιθέ-ασι, etc., as in Attic). On the accent of these forms, see § 87.2.

The perfect active has -ᾱσι and -ᾰσι. The latter occurs only twice in Homer, πεφύκ-ᾰσι (Od. 7.114), λελόγχᾰσιν (Od. 11.304); for other examples in Ionic see Curt. Verb. ii.166. In these forms the ᾰ belongs to the ending, since -ᾰσι is for -ᾰτι, which corresponds to the -ντι of the Doric φα-ντί, λέγο-ντι (as -ᾰται in the middle to -νται). The forms with -ᾱσι belong to two essentially distinct groups; see § 7.

The secondary -ᾰν (for -αντ) is found in all aorists which form the 1st singular in -ᾰ. It may also be traced in the imperfect of εἰμί, in the form ἦν (Hes. Th. 321, 825), for ἦαν (Sanskrit âsan).

Athematic -ν occurs in the forms

  • ἔφᾰ-ν
  • ἔβᾰ-ν
  • ἔστᾰ-ν
  • φθᾰ-ν
  • ἔδῠ-ν (Il. 11.263)
  • ἐφῠ-ν (Od. 10.397)
  • ἔκτᾰ-ν
  • ἵε-ν[fn]Imperfect; in ξύν-ιεν, μέθ-ιεν.[/fn]
  • πρό-τιθε-ν[fn]Read by Aristarchus in Od. 1.112.[/fn]
  • ἔδιδο-ν (H. Cer. 327)

and many passive aorists, as ἔβλα-βε-ν, δι-έτμαγε-ν, ἄγε-ν, ἄλε-ν, δάμε-ν, πάγε-ν, ἤγερθε-ν, κόσμηθε-ν, κατ-έκταθε-ν. On the form μιάνθην (Il. 4.146) see § 40. In these tenses -ν is commoner in Homer than -σᾰν. But -σᾰν is the only ending found in the two imperfects ἦ-σαν and ἤϊ-σαν, ἴ-σαν, and in the pluperfect: see § 68.

Ιn the middle, the forms -ᾰται, -ᾰτο are regular after consonants and the vowel ι (including the diphthongs ει, ῃ, οι, etc.); the forms -νται, -ντο after ᾰ, ε, ο. After υ, η both forms are found.

εἰρύ-αται, εἰρύ-ατο, but λέλυ-νται, κέχυ-νται

βεβλή-αται (Il. 11.656), but μέμνη-ντο, ξύμβλη-ιτο

even ἧντο (Il. 3.153) as well as ἥ-ατο ( for *ἥσ-ατο).

The imperative endings -τωσαν, -σθωσαν are post-Homeric.

1st Dual. -μεθον occurs only once, in περιδώμεθον, Il. 23.485. Elmsley (on Ar. Ach. 733) maintained that this form was a fiction of the grammarians. It is defended by G. Curtius (Verb. Il. 97f.), and there seems no valid reason for rejecting it.

2nd and 3rd Dual. In the historical tenses, according to the ancient grammarians, the regular endings are

2nd dual active -τον; middle -σθον
3rd dual active -την; middle -σθην

This scheme, however, is open to some doubt, for

  1. Homer has three instances of the 3rd dual imperfect in -τον, where the meter does not admit of -την, viz. διώκε-τον (Il. 10.363), ἐτεύχε-τον (Il. 13.345), λαφύσσετον (Il. 18.583). Three others in -σθον occur as various readings, where the meter admits of either -σθον or -σθην, viz. ἀφίκε-σθον, read by some ancient critics (probably Zenodotus) in Il. 13.613; θωρήσσε-σθον, the reading of A. (the Cod. Venetus) and Eust. in Il. 16.218; πέτε-σθον, a marginal variant of A. in Il. 23.506.
  2. Three forms of the 2nd dual in -την were read in the text of Zenodotus, viz. καμέ-την (Il. 8.448), λαβέ-την (Il. 10.545), ἠθελέ-την (Il. 11.782). Aristarchus read κάμε-τον, λάβε-τον, ἠθέλε-τον. The meter gives no help to a decision.
  3. In Attic the examples of the 2nd dual in -την, -σθην are so common that Elmsley (on Ar. Ach. 733) held these to be the only correct forms, thus making the dual of historical tenses uniformly end in -ην, as the dual of the principal tenses ends in -ον. Cobet maintains the same view (Misc. Crit. pp. 279 ff.). But the account of the Greek grammarians is strikingly borne out by the forms of the Sanskrit dual. In Sanskrit we find that in the historical tenses the 2nd dual ends in -tam, 3rd dual in -tâm, answering perfectly to the Greek -τον, -την. This, therefore, is to be regarded as the original rule. The exceptions which have been quoted are evidently due to the tendency towards uniformity: and it is to be noticed that this tendency seems to have acted in Homer in the direction of making all duals end in -τον, -σθον, whereas in Attic the tendency was to extend the endings -την, -σθην to the 2nd person.

The imperative ending -των is found in ἔστων (Il. 1.338) and κομείτων (Il. 8.109). As to ἔστων in Od. 1.273, where it is usually taken as a plural, see § 173.

Suggested Citation

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