Is δέ an adversative or copulative particle?

This is the Greek analogue of my Latin question "Is autem an adversative or copulative particle?"

1 Answer 1


The simple answer is both. Here is the outline of what Perseus’ word study tool says:

δέ ,
A. but: adversative and copulative Particle,

I. answering to μέν [... (adversative) ...]

II. without preceding μέν,

  1. adversative, expressing dist. opposition [...]
  2. copulative, [...]
B. POSITION of δέ [...]

The fact is that we should accept these classifications grano salis addito. Autem is much stronger, δέ is much weaker, but they both escape our rigid grids. There isn’t an adversative δέ contrasted to a copulative one. There is only one δέ which occupies its own area of possible uses, happily ignoring the fact that some grammarians have drawn boundaries through that area. I’d say that δέ adds new elements to the discourse. Those new elements might be in sharp contrast to the old ones (a contrast possibly anticipated by μέν), or be simply a rather unexpected addition, or even be a consequence of the preceding material, provided that there is an element of novelty.

Edit: I would like to clarify that the “novelty” I am talking about has nothing to do with a linguistic analysis based on topics and comments. Sometimes comments are referred to as new information, but in fact noun phrases marked with δέ are very often topics. When using the word “new”, I assume nothing about the theme-rheme structure of the sentence.

  • Just as a side note, "topic/comment" doesn't really map on to "old/new" -- you can have a topic that's new to the discourse.
    – TKR
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 3:36

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