I'm reading a passage from Plato's Republic which was adapted by my textbook author. I have some questions about the use of verbal adjectives in this sentence (ἀποδοτέον and χρηστέον).

Καὶ ταῖς γυναιξὶ ταύτᾱς τὰς τέχνᾱς καὶ τὰ περὶ τὸν πόλεμον ἀποδοτέον καὶ χρηστέον κατὰ ταὐτά. (adapted version)

καὶ ταῖς γυναιξὶν ἄρα τούτω τὼ τέχνα καὶ τὰ περὶ τὸν πόλεμον ἀποδοτέον καὶ χρηστέον κατὰ ταὐτά. (Plat. Repub. 5.452a)

I just looked at the English translation on Perseus, and see that they used the pronoun "we" to translate the verbal adjectives. Following their choice makes it easy.

And we must assign these arts to the women, and the offices of war, and employ them in the same way.

Easy... except that my textbook never mentions the fact that they can have an implied subject. Could anyone explain how this works? Can verbal adjectives have an implied subject when they are impersonal? Is it only when they are impersonal? Do you derive the subject from context (in this case, "we", since it makes sense contextually)?

Verbal adjectives are so complicated, because on the one hand they are passive, but often you translate them actively... and then there's this other business with an implied subject!

  • 2
    P.S. I think it is good that you mentioned "Greek" in the title. This may be helpful to people who go through the list of questions and who aren't interested in Greek.
    – Cerberus
    Feb 18, 2017 at 15:40

1 Answer 1


As you say, one can explicate an implied agent from passive verbs based on context. The most literal (but probably unusable) translation would be "there is to be assigned". Usually the impersonal pronoun one can be used to make it somewhat more palpable. Whenever context supplies enough information that we know who or what is supposed to do the assigning, we can use a more specific pronoun, such as, in this case, we.

This applies to other Indo-European languages as well. Message to all students: the premises must be vacated before 10 PM → you must vacate. Etc.

  • Thanks for your answer. That makes sense. I'm glad to know that my intuition was correct: that there is an implied "we" as a subject.
    – ktm5124
    Feb 21, 2017 at 20:14

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