A definition of subjunctive in Modern Greek??

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by larshgf, Apr 1, 2017.

  1. larshgf

    larshgf Member


    I am one of those "I go to eveningschool once a week" novices who have tried to learn Modern Greek for the past 10 years. Still cant speak the language but travel in Greece and have a lot of fun when I - now and then - study the grammar of this (in my opinion) difficult language.
    These days I am reading about the subjunctive of Modern Greek. And I must admit that I find the subject difficult.

    The classical way to present subjunctive is να + verb (non-past imperfective, non-past perfective and perfektum) using the negative particle μην. But I have seen other grammars of MG using past in connection wit να.

    Some autors claim that there is not such a thing like subjunctive MG. This Modus makes more difficulties for the learner because the definition is vague.

    Is there a precise and generally accepted definition of subjunctive and how does this modus help us in our efforts of learning Modern Greek??

    Best Regards
    Lars - DK
  2. Perseas Senior Member


    Typically, the subjunctive has a present, an aorist and a perfect, active and passive. The subjunctive is normally constructed with να or ας or other conjuctions or particles, like για να, μόλις etc.
    If you see να + imperfect/past, typically it is not regarded as subjunctive but as indicative, although it may express states of unreality such as wish, emotion, possibility... Some modern grammars classify this usage however as subjunctive mood.
    The particle να has many uses and meanings in Greek. Να may be a particle in a main clause, initiate a sub clause or be used to point out someone or ....
    Here are some examples: να - Wiktionary
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2017
  3. larshgf

    larshgf Member

    Thank you very much for the answer Perseas!

    If I understand you right the subjunctive is only in present, aorist and a perfect. So allthough να + imperfect/past altså might express wish, emotion, possibility it is not a TRUE subjunctive. So what is the value of knowing subjunctive if the definition is SO vague? Also different situations with the particle να might express some modalities etc etc.

    For me this is a confusing situation and it does not facilitate my learning process. I have looked in different books...........

    Classical view of subjunctive:
    Μανόλη Τριανταφυλλίδη: Νεοελληνική Γραμματική (used in the greek schools) or
    Ιορδανίδου Άννα: Τα ρήματα της νέας ελληνικής (the "yellow verbbook")

    "Extended" view of subjunctive:
    David Holton, Peter Mackridge, Irene Philippaki-Warburton: Greek: An Essential Grammar (Routledge Essential Grammars)
    Maria Tsiotsiou-Moore: Compendium of 1850 Modern Greek Verbs

    The traditional supposition of a subjunctive mood in Modern Greek creates unsumountable difficulties:
    Rolf Hesse: Syntax if the Modern Greek Verbal System.

    I might go with Rolf Hesse and forget all about Subjunctive as it is not a "productive" factor when you try to learn Modern Greek.
    Can anybody convince me that I am wrong?
  4. διαφορετικός

    διαφορετικός Senior Member

    Swiss German - Switzerland
    The subjunctive is a part of modern Greek language. If you don't use the subjunctive forms of the verbs (and use the indicative instead), you will produce incorrect Greek sentences sooner or later. So the subjunctive is a productive factor for correct Greek sentences. Which part of this reasoning is wrong according to Rolf Hesse?
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
  5. Christo Tamarin

    Christo Tamarin Senior Member

    My personal perception is that a mapping to the Slavic grammar could give a good explanation. I do not know where this may be described. It may be wrong, of course.

    The term "subjunctive" is not used. Instead, there are imperfective and perfective forms (called aspect in Slavic). The forms for the 2nd person Sing. are listed in the table (εσύ).

    Tense-Mood \Aspect Imperfective Perfective Imperfective Perfect Perfective Perfect <> Imperfective Perfective Imperfective Perfect Perfective Perfect
    Present Tense γράφεις (να,ας) γράψεις έχεις γράφει έχεις γράψει <> τρώ(γει)ς (να,ας) φάγεις έχεις τρώει έχεις φάες
    Past Tense έγραφες έγραψες είχες γράφει είχες γράψει <> έτρωγες έφαγες είχες τρώει είχες φάει
    Future Tense θα γράφεις θα γράψεις θα έχεις γράφει θα έχεις γράψει <> θα τρώ(γει)ς θα φά(γει)ς θα έχεις τρώει θα έχεις φάει
    Future in the Past θα έγραφες θα έγραψες θα είχες γράφει θα είχες γράψει <> θα έτρωγες θα έφαγες θα είχες τρώει θα είχες φάει
    Imperative Mood γράφε! γράψε! - - <> τρώγε! φάγε! - -

    An "approach by duplication" could also be applied to the Greek verbal system. Please do not consider the Imperative Mood anymore.

    Starting with Imperfective Present, we may apply any of the following "transformations":
    • duplication by aspect imperfective to perfective
    • duplication by subaspect normal to perfect
    • duplication by tense present to past
    • duplication by tense to future (θα-duplication)
    • duplication by voice active to passive (not shown in the above table)
    In this way, for the 2nd person Sing. (εσύ), 32 forms are produced.

    I have a question: What about the Imperfective Perfect? Does it exist? I believe, yes, it does. However, I am not a native speaker anyway. This was a point of view of a speaker of Bulgarian. Please note that both (modern) Greek and Bulgarian are members of the Balkansprachbund.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2017
  6. larshgf

    larshgf Member

    As far as I understand this is rather a question of whether there should be a subjunctive in Modern Greek or not. You can still use the να expressions without declaring that this is in Subjunctive mood.

    According to Rolf Hesse:
    1. The impossibility of distinguishing a "present indicative" from a "present subjunctive"
    2. The impossibility of attaching any modal sense that justifies the name of subjunctive to expressions like: μόλις πιω, ζαλίζομαι 'as soon as I drink, I feel dizzy' and λες να έρθει; 'do you think he'll come?' (compare λες να ήρθε 'do you think he has come?) or to the normal future: Δεν θα βρέξει 'it will not rain'.
    3. The hesitation in many grammars as to whether the form with or without να are to be termed subjunctive.
    4. A real modal distinction can be found between the two negatives δεν and μη(ν) when negating finite verbs, but both are used with the so-called subjunctive forms: αν δεν πληρώσεις 'if you do not pay'; μην πληρώσεις 'don't pay!'.

    (See Rolf Hesse: Syntax of the Modern Greek Verbal System, Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2003)
  7. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    That's how modern philology concerning Modern Greek approaches Greek verbs, they have a perfective and imperfective form, although older linguists/philologists still use the ancient terminology of indicative, subjunctive moods etc.
    No, the Imperfective perfect doesn't exist, and I agree with you the Balkansprachbund must have played a significant role
  8. διαφορετικός

    διαφορετικός Senior Member

    Swiss German - Switzerland
    Thanks, Lars. Well, I am unable to contradict you.
  9. larshgf

    larshgf Member

    It seems that the essence of the problem is whether subjunctive as a grammatical category can be defined by morphological or syntactic means. In the Greek language there is no morphology that support a subjunctive mood and the syntax with να etc seems to be vaguely defined.

    I thank all of you for your contributions to this discussion. Very interesting in my opinion.
  10. Αγγελος Senior Member

    Without having read Rolf Hesse's works, I, too, have come to the conclusion that the notion of the subjunctive mood can be dispensed with in the analysis of Modern Greek.
    Of course, forms like [αν] έρθει, [μόλις] φύγει, etc. - what is traditionally called the subjunctive aorist - have to be somehow labeled and analysed, and I believe the alternative analysis is to consider them as forms of the perfective future which have dropped the θα particle. I suppose a rule could be stated to the effect that θα is always dropped after να and ας and usually dropped after αν, όταν, άμα and a bunch of other conjunctions (it is possible, though somewhat inelegant, to say αν θα τον δεις, όταν θα γυρίσω, etc.)
  11. Αγγελος Senior Member

    In answer to Christo Tamarin:
    There is no imperfective perfect in Greek. Forms like "έχεις γράφει" or "είχες τρώει" simply do not exist.
    Also, there is, curiously enough, no distinction of aspect in the conditional. "Αν με πλήρωνε, θα το έκανα πιο συχνά" (="If he paid me , I would do it more often") is formally identical with "Αν με πλήρωνε, θα το ξανάκανα" (="If he paid me , I would do it again"). The form θα έγραψε, which you quote, is not conditional but πιθανολογική: it means "I suppose he wrote", and there is a parallel imperfective form:
    -- Γιατί δεν σήκωσε το τηλέφωνο; (=Why didn't he answer the phone?)
    -- Θα κοιμόταν (=I guess he was asleep - imperfective)
    -- Θα αποκοιμήθηκε (=I guess he fell asleep - perfective)
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2017
  12. Christo Tamarin

    Christo Tamarin Senior Member

    Anyway, Google can find such forms which sound very natural to me being a Slavophone: "σκέφτηκε ότι δεν είχε τρώει σωστά".
  13. Perseas Senior Member

    Νο Greek would ever say "είχε τρώει". ;) If you saw this on internet, it's probably written by a non-Greek.
  14. Αγγελος Senior Member

    Google finds exactly ONE occurrence of "σκέφτηκε ότι δεν είχε τρώει σωστά", and that is found in a Chinese webpage that has obviously been machine-translated into Greek and doesn't make any sense whatsoever. Believe us, Christo, such forms DO NOT EXIST in Greek. I defy you to find a single genuine instance (i.e. one that is not a misprint or a rendition of a foreigner's speech) anywhere.
  15. jasminasul

    jasminasul Senior Member

    Spanish Andalusia
    Hello forum,

    Like Lars, I started learning Greek by myself six months ago and although I can read books fluently now I'm baffled by this.

    Το διαμέρισμά σας είναι... για να δω, το 15. let me see?
    Όχι, μουρμούρισε ξανά, δε νομίζω να είναι τόσο απλά τα πράγματα, να είσαι σίγουρος. be sure?
    Ας φωνάξουμε πάλι τον Πιερ Μισέλ, να δούμε ποια εξήγηση θα μας δώσει για το κουμπί, to give us?

    I've found this site but I'm trying to find examples since I learn by repetition, I'm hopeless with grammar. Do you know of any books or websites where I can find sample sentences or exercises for each structure?
  16. Αγγελος Senior Member

    1. There are two different words για in Greek.
    One is the preposition, whose most frequent meaning is 'for', and which can be combined with να + 'subjunctive' to mean 'in order to': ήρθα εδώ για να σε δω = I came here in order to see you.
    The other one, stressed in speech and sometimes (though not in the official spelling) spelt with an accent, γιά, is a hortatory particle, meaning that it stimulates people (also the speaker himself) into doing something: Για δες! = hey, look here! για πες μου = come, tell me... για να φάμε τίποτα! = let's have something to eat! [not distinguished in writing from the phrase meaning "in order to have something to eat", even though the intonation is completely different]
    The expressions για να δω, για να δούμε are extremely common and mean precisely "let me/us see".

    2. να + 'subjunctive' can always be used in lieu of the imperative, not only when there are no imperative forms (είμαι does not really have an imperative, so there is no other way of saying "be sure of that"), but even when an imperative would be perfectly possible. Να φύγεις! is e.g. a perfectly idiomatic alternative to φύγε! =go away.

    3. να δούμε in this sentence is simply short for για να δούμε = in order to see. θα μας δώσει is an ordinary future. "Let us call Pierre Michel once more, to see what explanation he can offer about the button."

    The uses of να are unfortunately numerous and complicated.
  17. bearded

    bearded Senior Member

    If I'm not mistaken, historically 'tha' is derived from ''thelo na'' (thelo with a meaning like English 'will', originally 'want', then used for future). Therefore the Greek future is originally a kind of subjunctive.
  18. jasminasul

    jasminasul Senior Member

    Spanish Andalusia
    Thank you Αγγελος, my head hurts now :)
  19. Αγγελος Senior Member

    Of course, which is why the future is formed with θα + the subjunctive, just as in English it is formed with a modal auxiliary + the infinitive ("I shall be", "you will go"...) But that doesn't make the Greek future "a kind of subjunctive", any more than the English future is originally a kind of infinitive!
  20. Perseas Senior Member

    Actually, when "θέλω να" was used to form the future tense, "θέλω" had the meaning of "μέλλει", "πρόκειται" or "πρέπει", i.e. be about to, shall, will.
    For example: Είναι ο Μήτρος άρρωστος και θέλει (= μέλλει) να πεθάνη. (Passow's Romaic songs).
    The meaning, according to my grammar book, is: Μ. is ill and he is going to die.

    In contemporary use "θέλει να" means of course "wants to".
    Last edited: May 18, 2018
  21. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    Ah, as in Ρωμιός γεννήθηκα, Ρωμιός θε να πεθάνω, meaning "I was born a Greek and I will die a Greek".

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