I'm working on an exercise where I translate this Greek sentence to English.

οὐ θαυμάσῃ εἰ θεός τις φανεῖται ἀπὸ τῆς μηχανῆς;

My translation:

Won't you be amazed if some god will appear from the machine?

According to the Greek Word Study Tool on Perseus, there are three possible parsings of θαυμάσῃ. It could be future middle indicative, aorist active subjunctive, or aorist middle subjunctive.

Does the adverb οὐ always imply that the verb is indicative? Does this fact alone rule out the subjunctive parsings?

Also, I feel like this would be more idiomatic:

Won't you be amazed if some god appears from the machine?

Is it okay to translate a verb in the future tense this way? ("appears" as opposed to "will appear"). Is this a difference between Greek and English, where, in English, a present tense verb in a subordinate clause can have future meaning, provided that the main verb is in the future tense?


3 Answers 3


A subjunctive is practically never negated with οὐ.

The only systematic exception I can find -- and even this is rare -- is in Homer, where the use of the subjunctive is somewhat different from Attic; some subjunctives in Homer are more or less synonymous with future forms, and these are negated with οὐ. But this doesn't happen in Attic. The main uses of independent subjunctives are the hortatory, the prohibitive, and the deliberative, and they are all negated with μή; so are the subordinate subjunctives (final clause, protasis of conditional, etc.) (There's also μὴ οὐ, which can appear with a subordinate subjunctive, but that's obviously not the case here.)

So the form in your sentence is definitely future middle 2sg. Even if there was no negation, this would be the obvious choice as there seems no reason for a subjunctive in this sentence.

For your second question, which is really about English rather than Greek -- yes, idiomatic English is "if some god appears" despite the future sense. English conditional protases generally use the present form for future reference, which is just an illogical quirk of English.

By the way, what textbook is this sentence from? I must say I would take issue with the use of εἰ + future indicative (the so-called "emotional future" or "future most vivid" type of condition) unless there's some good reason for it in the context. This type of condition has a specific pragmatic nuance and is not generally appropriate for ordinary future conditions, especially in the third person. I'd have expected ἐάν + subjunctive (or else εἰ + optative, with optative and ἄν in the main clause).

  • Do you really think θαυμάσῃ could be an indicative outside of Doric? Whence, then, the lengthened vowel?
    – Cerberus
    Feb 10, 2017 at 1:34
  • @Cerberus, it's a regular 2sg. fut. mid., just like λύσῃ (also spelled λύσει).
    – TKR
    Feb 10, 2017 at 1:36
  • Gosh, I always assumed that the lengthened forms from the future stem were all subjunctive. But it seems there is one and only one exception, that of the 2nd person singular middle future indicative. Apparently, the other future indicative endings never have the lengthened vowel, nor does the active 3rd person λύσει have this alternative form λύσῃ. Very interesting! I wonder how that came about.
    – Cerberus
    Feb 10, 2017 at 1:45
  • @Cerberus, as usual, it's the fault of a sound change, in this cause the loss of intervocalic s: the ending was originally -e-sai (parallel with -e-tai), but when s dropped out the resulting -eai contracted into -ῃ. The fact that this later changed to -ει suggests that the Greeks shared your dismay.
    – TKR
    Feb 10, 2017 at 1:48
  • So you're saying that the middle ending -e-sai originally contracted to -ῃ even in, say, the forms from the present stem? Incidentally, I tried searching the Perseus corpus for λύσῃ but at first glance seemed to get subjunctive instances. Perhaps I should ask a Question about this!
    – Cerberus
    Feb 10, 2017 at 2:00

Pretty much never.

LSJ's entry on οὐ mentions οὐ + subjunctive only once:

...with subj[unctive] in fut[ure] sense, only in Ep[ic], “οὐ γάρ τίς με βίῃ γε ἑκὼν ἀέκοντα δίηται” 7.197; “οὐκ ἄν τοι χραίς μῃ κίθαρις” 3.54, cf. 11.387.

To elaborate: the subjunctive mood in Epic can have a meaning closer to the Classical future tense. When this happens, and the subjunctive verb expresses something relatively definite, it will take οὐ.

There can also be some weirdness in negative fear clauses, since they're already using μὴ for a different purpose. But this is an edge case which doesn't often happen.

Anywhere else, the subjunctive should take μὴ, as it expresses a possibility rather than a reality. More detail is available in Smyth if you want to go down that rabbit hole.

EDIT: Wow, two other answers saying the same thing while I was typing! I really need to get faster at this.


I don't believe it is possible. A quick scan of the article in Liddell Scott Jones gave only this:

  1. with subj. in fut. sense, only in Ep., “οὐ γάρ τίς με βίῃ γε ἑκὼν ἀέκοντα δίηται” 7.197; “οὐκ ἄν τοι χραίς μῃ κίθαρις” 3.54, cf. 11.387.

However, θαυμάσῃ is not normally indicative:

ῃ ... is usually given as the proper spelling in the texts of the tragic poets, whereas ει is printed in the texts of prose and comedy. ... -ει is sometimes called Attic and Ionic in contrast to -ῃ of the other dialects, including the Koiné. — Smyth (thanks to TKR above for the link)

In an exercise, I think it must have been intended as a subjunctive. At first glance, I think all instances in the Perseus corpus of θαυμάσῃ in Attic or Ionic prose look like subjunctives. Note that tragedy conventionally uses Doric forms in the chorus.

So I think the exercise really intended μὴ.

Lastly, the future in the conditional clause seems odd, especially in combination with a subjunctive in the main clause. I would not expect this combination in an exercise (but I can't be 100% sure).

  • 1
    The Perseus word study tool is wrong to say θαυμάσῃ is Doric only: if you go to the LSJ entry you'll find that the middle future θαυμάσομαι (of which this would be a 2sg. form) is attested in Plato and the tragedians.
    – TKR
    Feb 10, 2017 at 1:33
  • Looking through the Perseus results, the Euthyphro θαυμάσῃ looks to be indicative; why it isn't spelled -ει, I don't know. I'm inclined to think the exercise intended indicative, because a subjunctive doesn't seem to make sense here.
    – TKR
    Feb 12, 2017 at 2:58

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