Tenses of the Infinitive

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238. So long as the infinitive is merely a verbal noun, it does not express anything about the time of the action as past, present, or future. But when it is virtually a predication, the idea of time comes in.

Il. 5.659 ἀλλʼ οἷόν τινά φασι βίην Ἡρακληείην
             ("what they say he was")

Cp. Od. 8.181.

Il. 14.454 οὐ μὰν αὖτʼ ὀΐω . . . ἅλιον πηδῆσαι ἄκοντα,
                ἀλλά τις Ἀργείων κόμισε χροΐ

The future infinitive is used with φημί, ὀΐω, ἔλπομαι, ὑπισχνέομαι, ὄμνυμι and other verbs implying expectation or praise; also with μέλλω when it means to be about to.

When the infinitive expresses, not simple expectation as to the future, but fitness, obligation, necessity, or the like (§ 231.2), the aorist or present is used. Thus Il. 13.262 οὐ γὰρ ὀΐω πολεμίζειν means, not "I do not think I shall fight," but I do not think fit, I have nο mind, to fight.

Il. 3.98 φρονέω διακρινθήμεναι
             my mind is (= δοκεῖ μοι) that they should be parted

Il. 9. 508 φρονέω τετιμῆσθαι
                I claim to be honored

Il. 22.235 νοέω φρεσὶ τιμήσασθαι
                 I see (understand) that I should honor you
                 (= I purpose to honor you)

Il. 24.560 νοέω δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς Ἓκτορά τοι λῦσαι

and so in a prophecy

Od. 2.171 φημὶ τελευτηθῆναι ἅπαντα
                  I say that all must be accomplished


Il. 13.565 ὅς ῥʼ εὖ εἰδὼς κῆρʼ ὀλοὴν ἐπὶ νηὸς ἔβαινε,
                πολλάκι γάρ οἱ ἔειπε γέρων ἀγαθὸς Πολύϊδος
                νούσῳ ὑπʼ ἀργαλέῃ φθίσθαι οἶς ἐν μεγάροισιν
                 that he must perish (according to his fate.)

So with μοῖρα and θέσφατόν ἐστι; also with μέλλω when it means tο be likely.

Il. 11.364 μέλλεις εὔχεσθαι
                to whom it is like that you pray

Od. 9.475 οὐκ ἄρʼ ἔμελλες ἀνάλκιδος ἀνδρὸς ἑταίρους ἔδμεναι
                  he proves to be nο helpless man whose comrades you ate

Il. 21.83 μέλλω που ἀπέχθεσθαι
              it must be that I am become hateful

II. 18.362 μέλλει βροτὸς τελέσσαι
                a man is likely to accomplish
                (i. e. it may be expected of him)

The instances in which a present or aorist infinitive appears to be used of future time may be variously accounted for. The infinitive ἰέναι has a future sense in Il. 17.709 οὐδέ μιν οἴω νῦν ἰέναι κτλ.; so Il. 20.365, Od. 15.214. Again in Od. 9.495 καὶ δὴ φάμεν αὐτόθʼ ὀλέσθαι the aorist is used for the sake of vividness—we thought "we are lost;" cp. Il. 9.413 ὤλετο μέν μοι νόστος (§ 78). Similarly, Il. 3.112 ἐλπόμενοι παύσασθαι may be hoping that they had ceased (by the fact of the proposed duel. Cp. Il. 7.199, 16.281.

Od. 13.173 ὃς ἔφασκε Ποσειδάωνʼ ἀγάσασθαι
                   whο said that Poseidon was moved to indignation
                    (= ὅτι ἠγάσσατο)

In several places the reading is uncertain, the future being of the same metrical value as the aorist or the present (-εσθαι and -ασθαι, -ιξειν and -ιζειν, etc.). In such cases the evidence of the ancient grammarians and the MSS. is usually indecisive, and we are justified in writing the future throughout, according to the general rule.

Il. 3.28 φάτο γὰρ τίσεσθαι
            (so Ven. A.; most MSS. τίσασθαι)

Hence we may read φάτο γὰρ τίσεσθαι in Od. 20.121.

Il. 22.118 (ἄλλʼ) ἀποδάσσεσθαι
                (so Aristarchus; most MSS. -ασθαι).

Il. 22.120 μή τι κατακρύειν, ἀλλʼ ἄνδιχα πάντα δάσεσθαι
                (MSS. -ασθαι).

Il. 23.773 ἔμελλον ἐπαΐξεσθαι
                (the best MSS. have -ασθαι)

Il. 20.85 (ὑπίσχεο) ἐναντίβιον πτολεμίξειν
              (so A. D.; other MSS. πολεμίζειν).

Il. 16.830 ἦ που ἔφησθα πόλιν κεραϊξέμεν
                (MSS. -ιζέμεν)

Od. 2.373 ὄμοσον μὴ . . . τάδε μυθήσεσθαι
                 (so Ar.; MSS. -ασθαι)

Twο exceptions remain

Od. 2.280 ἐλπωρή τοι ἔπειτα τελευτῆσαι τάδε ἔργα
                 (τελευτήσειν in one of Ludwich's MSS.)

Il. 12.407 ἐπεί οἱ θυμὸς ἐέλπετο κῦδος ἀρέσθαι
                (Some good authorities give ἐέλδετο.)[fn]See Madvig, Bemerkungen über einige Punkte der griech. Wortfügungslehre, p. 34; Cοbet, Misc. Crit. p. 328.[/fn]

The only example of an infinitive representing an optative is

Il. 9.684 καὶ δʼ ἂν τοῖς ἄλλοισιν ἔφη παραμυθήσασθαι

which is the report of the speech (v. 417) καὶ δʼ ἂν . . . παραμυθησαίμην. But cp. Od. 3.125.

οὐδέ κε φαίης . . . μυθήσασθαι
you would not think that . . . would speak

Suggested Citation

D.B. Monro, A Grammar of the Homeric Dialect. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7. https://dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/monro/tenses-infinitive