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This is a question about how a specific type of unattainable (counterfactual) wish about the present is expressed in Greek.

I'm looking for a good way of translating sentences like the following into Greek:

Whenever I think of Socrates, I wish he were still alive.

There are some common ways of expressing present counterfactual wishes in Greek, but they don't seem to fit in this case. For example, this construction:

εἴθε / εἰ γὰρ παρῆσθα! "I wish you were here! If only you were here!"

-- is only used in exclamations, not in sentences like mine where "I wish" is a description of the speaker's state of mind, not an exclamatory expression (it can't be replaced with "if only"). The same seems to be true of the construction with ὤφελον + inf., also meaning "if only".

On the other hand there are examples of the imperfect of βούλομαι used for a present counterfactual wish, with or without ἄν, e.g.:

ἐβουλόμην οὐκ ἐρίζειν ἐνθάδε “I wish I were not contending here”
ἐβουλόμην ἂν Σίμωνα τὴν αὐτὴν γνώμην ἐμοὶ ἔχειν “I wish S. were of the same mind as myself”

But this too seems somehow unsuitable in this case. In the above examples the imperfect makes some sense as something like "I would have liked", or "what I wanted, though I didn't get it, was..." -- i.e. there seems to some kind of preteriteness that licenses the imperfect, which isn't the case with my sentence.

The most straightforward option would simply be:

βούλομαι Σωκράτη ζῆν "I want S. to be alive"

Maybe this is grammatically correct, but I'm not sure it's the most natural way a Greek would have phrased this.

So, how would my sentence be most naturally phrased in Greek? Can anyone find a reasonably close parallel in a Greek author?

  • I would use the imperfect, but I'm having trouble finding an exact parallel. "ἤθελον Σωκράτη ζῶν τυχεῖν" maybe? – brianpck May 17 '17 at 21:50
  • Not sure if the above is even grammatical--do you know if the participle in that case should be accusative? – brianpck May 17 '17 at 21:53
  • @brianpck, the participle should definitely agree with Σωκράτη (otherwise it refers to the "I"). Btw, for "meet" the usual phrasing is ἐντυγχάνω + dat. or τυγχάνω + gen. – TKR May 17 '17 at 22:13
  • I was actually using a different sense of the word: τυγχάνω + participle = "I happen to be + participle": my sentence was supposed to mean "I wish that Socrates happened to be alive." – brianpck May 17 '17 at 22:22
  • My Greek knowledge is lamentably passive, though: please correct it! :) – brianpck May 17 '17 at 22:22

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