In their discussions of the formation of the infinitive, both Pharr and White remark on the contraction of -εεν to -ειν, but I don't understand why this would apply to most of the examples that come out to be -ειν. White offers the specific example of λύω, showing the formation of its infinitive as λυε+εν -> λύειν. But I don't understand where the extra ε even comes from. The stem is λυ, not λυε.

I spun this question off, as suggested by cmw, from a longer question that was unwieldy.

1 Answer 1


λύω is a thematic verb—its root is λυ-, but its present stem includes the thematic vowel: λυ-ε/ο-. This vowel merged into the -ω of the first-person ending before the development of the later contraction rules as far as the accent goes, but the fact that -ω is a thematic ending is enough to tell us it's there without even looking at the rest of the paradigm.

For the infinitive, this vowel takes the e-grade (ε-grade, if you prefer) and contracts with the active infinitive ending -εν.

  • Thanks, that's very helpful. Is this usage of "stem" in contradistinction to "root" widely undertsood? E.g., this en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_verbs WP article has stuff like "athematic [verbs] (in which the endings are attached directly to the stem...)" Are there other cases besides the infinitives in which, if we want to inflect verbs correctly, we need to be aware of this kind of prehistoric contraction?
    – user3597
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 17:49

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