Verbal Nouns

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84. Infinitives and participles are not properly speaking verbs—since they do not contain a subject and predicate—but nouns: the infinitive is a kind of substantive and the participle an adjective. In certain respects however they belong to the scheme of the verb.

  1. They answer in form and meaning to the tense stems; each tense stem has in general an infinitive and a participle formed from it.
  2. They are distinguished as active and middle (or passive) in sense.
  3. They are construed with the same oblique cases of nouns, and the same adverbs and adverbial phrases, as the corresponding verbs.

85. The infinitive active is formed

  1. In athematic tenses (except the aorist in -σᾰ) by the suffixes -μεναι, -μεν, -εναι, -ναι.

    Of these -μεναι is the most usual

    μιγή- μεναι

    -μεν occurs after short vowels


    also in ἔμμεν (five times, but always where we may write ἔμμενʼ), ἴδ-μεν (Il. 11.719), and ζευγ-νῦ-μεν (Il. 16.145), in which the long υ is irregular.

    The full suffix -έναι only occurs in ἰ-έναι; but there are many other infinitives in -ναι, all of them containing a long vowel or diphthong in which an ε may be supposed to have been absorbed.

    δοῦναι (for δο-έναι, see Max Müller, Chips, iv. 56)
    διδοῦναι (Il. 24.425).

    The original form of the suffix seems to have been -ϝεναι.

    From εἰμί (ἐσ-) are formed ἔμμεναι, ἔμμεν, ἔμεναι, ἔμεν, and εἶναι. Of these ἔμεναι, ἔμεν are irregular; they follow the analogy of θέμεναι, etc. Cp. the 1st plural ἐμέν (Soph. El. 21). From εἶ-μι are formed ἴ-μεναι, ἴ-μεν, and ἰ-έναι. In one place (Il. 20.365) ἴμεναι is scanned with ῑ—perhaps in imitation of ἔμμεναι (Solmsen, K. Z. xxix. 72).

    The common Attic present infinitives ἱστά-ναι, τιθέ-ναι, διδό-ναι, δεικ-νύ-ναι, etc., as well as the perfect infinitives in -έναι, are entirely unknown in Homer.

  2. In thematic tenses by -έ-μεναι, -έ-μεν, -ειν; as εἰπ-έ-μεναι, εἰπ-έ-μεν, βάλλ-ειν.

    The ending -ε-ειν only occurs in the thematic aorist, and is anomalous; compare βαλ-έ-ειν (stem βαλε-) and βάλλ-ειν (stem βαλλε-). The original ending was doubtless

    stem βαλε-, inf. βαλέ-εν, contr. βαλεῖν
    stem βάλλε-, inf. βάλλε-εν, contr. βάλλειν

    In the aorist the meter usually allows us to restore -έεν (see Renner, Curt. Stud. i. 2. p. 33).

    It is possible that the forms βαλέ-ειν, etc., are genuine, since -εεν might pass into -εειν from the analogy of the present infinitive in -ειν, just as in the Rhodian dialect -έμεν became -έμειν. Leo Meyer (Vergl. Gr. ii. 284) proposed to read βαλέ-μεν, etc. But, as Renner points out (l. c.), the change from -εεν to -εειν is very much slighter, indeed is a mere matter of spelling. Original βαλέμεν, etc. would probably have been retained.

  3. The aorist in -σᾰ forms -σαι, as στῆ-σαι.
  4. The infinitive middle is formed by -σθαι.


    The infinitive is originally a case form of an abstract noun (nomen actionis). Thus -μεναι consists of the nominal suffix -μεν (§ 114) with the dative ending -αι: ἴδ-μεν-αι "for knowing" (Sanskrit vid-mán-e). Similarly δοῦναι is δο-ϝεν-αι (dā-νán-e) "for giving." Probably the infinitives in -σαι and -σθαι also are datives (Max Müller, l.c.). Infinitives in -μεν and -εν appear to be locatives formed without case ending (§ 99). If so, the infinitives in -μεν and -εν (-ειν) originally differed in meaning from those in -μεναι, -εναι, etc. In Greek, however, the sense of the infinitive as a case form is lost, so that the different forms are all construed in exactly the same way.

86. The Participle. The aorist, the present, and the future tense stems form the active participle by the suffix -ντ-. Thus we have

Athematic: στα-ντ-, τιθε-ντ-
Thematic: βαλο-ντ-, στη-σο-ντ-, etc.

The vowel before -ντ- is always short, as γνο-ντ-, μιγε-ντ-.

The perfect stem takes -οτ or -οσ (originally -ϝοτ, -ϝοσ), feminine -υιᾰ (for -υσ-ι̯ᾰ, the
-ῠσ originally a weak form for -ϝοσ). The middle participle is formed by -μενος, which in the perfect is accented -μένος.

For the verbal adjectives in -το-ς, see § 114. The verbal in -τέος is post-Homeric.

Suggested Citation

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