I've seen in various places (example) the statement that prepositions like ἐν, συν, and ἐκ change forms before certain consonants, so we would have ἐμ before βμπφψ, and ἐγ before γκξχ. But looking through the wikisource version of Homer, I don't find these at all. Instead, I find all the following:

ἐν βουλῇ, ἐν μεγάροισι, ἐν πυρὶ, ἐν φρεσὶ, ἐν ψαμάθοισι

ἐν γαστρὶ, ἐν κλισίῃ, ἐν ξυνοχῇσιν, ἐν χερὶ

There is lots of the meter-helping form ενὶ and a small number of the ones like εἰν ἀγορῇ and εἰνὶ θρόνῳ.

Are these phonetic rules only followed in other dialects, such as koine or Attic? Or is this just a convention about pronunciation and/or spelling, which can be arbitrarily chosen according to some "house style" of a particular scribe or modern editor?

  • BTW ἐκ doesn't (in standard spelling) change form depending on the following consonant, though it does become ἐξ before a vowel. It's just ἐν and σύν, plus irregularly and rarely ἀνά and κατά (e.g. ἀμβαίνω = ἀναβαίνω, καδδύω = καταδύω).
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 19:37

1 Answer 1


It does not actually state that. It says that when they're used as prefixes:

When the prepositions ἐν and σύν are used as prefixes, they retain these forms when the verb begins with a vowel. When the verb begins with a consonant, they ASSIMILATE with this consonant.

So ἐν βουλῇ is right, because ἐν is a preposition. But take ἐν, add it to βόλος, make it a single word, and you get ἔμβολος.

  • 1
    Thanks. I feel really dumb :-)
    – user3597
    Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 13:25
  • 1
    @BenCrowell Nah, it's all part of the learning process. Cheers.
    – cmw
    Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 15:07
  • 3
    It should be added that this restriction is probably mostly a spelling convention -- there are lots of inscriptional spellings where this happens with prepositions (e.g. ΕΜ ΒΟΛΕΙ).
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 18:01

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