Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by panettonea, Jun 6, 2013.

  1. panettonea Senior Member

    A book I have gives only four examples of optatives:

    1) Να ΄ρχότανε να τον βλέπαμε.
    2) Ας τον δω κι ας πεθάνω.
    3) Μακάρι/Που να μην τον είχα συναντήσει.
    4) Εύχομαι να μην τον ξαναδώ.

    Could anyone please point me to a Web page that gives a few more examples? Μακάρι να είχα άλλα παραδείγματα. ;)
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2013
  2. panettonea Senior Member

    Since nobody has found any other examples yet, let me ask this. Is the following sentence idiomatic?

    Ήθελα να ήμουν πλούσιος.
  3. Perseas Senior Member

    Yes, but it refers to the past. That is: "Όταν ήμουν νέος, ήθελα να ήμουν πλούσιος" -"When I was young ..."

    If you refer to the present: "Θα ήθελα να ήμουν/είμαι πλούσιος".

    Other examples:
    Ας γινόταν κάτι επιτέλους.
    Να είσαι πάντα καλά.
    Μακάρι να γράψω καλά στις εξετάσεις.
    Πήγαινε στην ευχή (του Θεού).

    You may also see in books the wish (ευχή) being introduced with "είθε να", "άμποτε να", but these words are not used any more.
  4. panettonea Senior Member

    Thanks, Perseas. I guess using ήμουν makes the improbability of the wish seem stronger?

    Let me try to translate your examples:

    Let something finally happen/be done.
    Be well/in good health always.
    I hope I do well on the exams.
    Go in the blessing of the Lord.

    I've actually seen είθε να somewhere, but not the second one.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2013
  5. Perseas Senior Member

    I think all the translated sentences render correctly the meaning of the sentences in Greek.

    Personally, I don't see any difference.:)
  6. panettonea Senior Member

    Thanks. I was just hoping to be somewhere in the ballpark. :)

    My book does say this: "The subjunctive used here (1) with an imperfective past tense verb expresses a strong wish for something which is unlikely to happen." It was referring to the first example in my first post, in contrast with the other three. But maybe that doesn't necessarily apply in all cases with the imperfect.
  7. Perseas Senior Member

    Yes, as a rule what your book says is correct. This is also what my book says. Also, in this example I admit I can see it clearly enough: "Να ΄ρχότανε να τον βλέπαμε."

    In these examples "Μακάρι να ήμουν πλούσιος" and "Θα ήθελα να ήμουν πλούσιος", I can also see the strong wish for something which is unlikely to happen.
    I think that this "Θα ήθελα να..." make the wish in the whole sentence "Θα ήθελα να είμαι πλούσιος" seem more strong.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2013
  8. panettonea Senior Member

    As opposed to maybe the case without the Θα?

    Actually, perhaps it's the wish itself, regardless of the wording, that conveys the unlikelihood the most. I mean, what percentage of people in this world are actually rich? :)
  9. Tassos

    Tassos Senior Member

    If you use Ήθελα να ήμουν πλούσιος to express the wish to be rich now or sometime in the future, it is wrong. You have to include the θα in the beginning.

    When said like that, it unequivocally means what Perseas wrote.
    In a nutshell:
    "Once in my life I wanted to be rich and now
    I don't want it anymore or
    I know 100% that I can't be or
    I don't care"
  10. Perseas Senior Member

    ...more strong and unlikely to happen as opposed to "Θέλω να είμαι πλούσιος", I meant to say.
  11. panettonea Senior Member

    Thanks. Would Ήθελα να είμαι πλούσιος carry those same basic meanings?
  12. panettonea Senior Member

    OK, I can see that.
  13. panettonea Senior Member

    OK, Tassos, I just came across something interesting. In a book by Anne Farmakides (A Manual of Modern Greek, I), she includes these two sentences and translations:

    Ήθελα να ήμουν μικρός............I wish I were little
    Ήθελα να είχα παιχνίδια............I wish I had toys

    Ι had instructions on how to view the book on a popular Web site, but they got yanked. :eek: :D Anyway, it's possible to go to the popular Web site and look inside the book to see the text for yourself. These sentences are at the bottom of p. 81.

    Is Farmakides just plain wrong here? The book was written in 1983, I believe--don't know if that would make a huge difference. I actually own the book--it's a pretty good one. Incidentally, she founded the Modern Greek program at McGill University in Montreal and used to teach there for decades. If she's still alive, she's probably in her late 80s. It's kind of funny that in a newspaper article, she once said that Greek was one of the easiest languages to learn, and also the most melodious. No bias there, I'm sure. ;)
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  14. Perseas Senior Member

    I understand "Ήθελα να..." as "I wanted to ..." .
    "Ήθελα" is past, whereas "I wish" is present.
  15. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    As a side note, I had a look at the pages of that manual that are available online. The first page I looked at, in the Greek-English glossary, had "χάνω" (I lose) translated as "loose" and "ωάριο" (ovum) translated as "ovule", for no obvious reason. I would not put a lot of trust in the English used in the book.
  16. panettonea Senior Member

    That seems to make the most sense. I wonder what she was thinking, though?
  17. panettonea Senior Member

    I've read the whole book, and while there are definitely typos, etc., most of them are fairly minor. For instance, the examples you mention fall more under that category. And one definition of "ovule" is "a small ovum." Incidentally, I searched for "loose" in the book on that Web site, but nothing turned up. However, their search engine often fails to pick up valid results. :) The matter we're referring to is far different, but of course Farmakides's translation could still be completely wrong.

    One other key point. She makes an important distinction in translation here:

    Ήθελα να είμαι μικρός = I wanted to be little
    Ήθελα να ήμουν μικρός = I wish I were little [italics mine]

    She includes several other contrasting pairs as well. So, whether she's right, wrong, or somewhere in between :), I think her translations here are intentional. If Farmakides has since moved back to Greece and is still alive, maybe one of you-all can track her down to see what she meant there. ;)
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  18. Live2Learn Senior Member

    English - USA
    Here's an example in context where the two are used together:

    "Και αμέσως η γνώμη μου άλλαξε για τα παιδιά αυτά. Τους συμπάθησα επειδή, σε αντίθεση με τους υπόλοιπους, μένουν πιστοί στις ιδέες τους. Ήταν τόσο παράξενο που ξαναζωντάνευε μπροστά μου η εποχή πίστευαν σε ιδέες και έδιναν μάχες γι αυτές. Χαμογέλασα από ευτυχία, αλλά και από ανακούφιση αφού άδικα φοβόμουν, και λανθασμένα πίστεψα τα όσα άκουσα. Ήθελα να ήμουν και εγώ ένας από αυτούς, ήθελα να είμαι και εγώ στις γραμμές τους." http://elamcy.com/wordpress/?p=5744

    Is is possible that a distinction between the two is made more often in Cypriot Greek?
  19. Perseas Senior Member

    First of all, the use of "ήθελα..." indicates that both actions took place in the past. It's important to realize that. Τhe writer expressed a desire in the past, and that's why he chose "ήθελα". "I wish I were.." as translation would refer to the present.

    Personally, I don't see a distinction in the meaning between "... να ήμουν" and "... να είμαι" (as I said in post #5). The writer could have written as well: "ήθελα να είμαι και εγώ ένας από αυτούς" or "ήθελα να ήμουν κι εγώ στις γραμμές τους."
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  20. panettonea Senior Member

    Thanks for finding that.

    Well, Farmakides was apparently from Athens. And I don't mean Athens, Georgia. ;)
  21. panettonea Senior Member

    Is it possible that the nuances Farmakides was trying to convey are a thing of the past, and that they don't really translate into 21st-century Greek?
  22. Perseas Senior Member

    "ήθελα" was always the past of "θέλω". :) I really don't know. The only think I can think of is that "ήθελα" might sometimes function as a short form of "θα ήθελα", but this would be very informal.
  23. panettonea Senior Member

    Well, they say that Elvis is dead too, but some folks remain skeptical. :D

    Maybe that explains it, and perhaps such a short form wasn't considered so informal decades ago. Or maybe Farmakides simply had too much coffee the morning she wrote that page, and her proofreader was vacationing on the Greek islands. ;)

    I wonder if any of her students ever questioned her about that--surely someone must have.
  24. Αγγελος Senior Member

    I may be splitting hairs here, but there could be a slight difference: I wished I were one of them (which I wasn't), I wished I could join their ranks (which wasn't impossible).

    May I also remind you of Krystallis' well-known lines:
    Ήθελα να 'μουν τσέλιγκας, να 'μουν κι ένας σκουτέρης,
    να πάω να ζήσω στο μαντρί, στην ερημιά, στα δάσα,
    να 'χω κοπάδι πρόβατα, να 'χω κοπάδι γίδια....
    where the meaning is clearly "Now, obliged by circumstances to live in Athens, I wish I could be a master shepherd and own a flock of sheep and goats".
  25. Perseas Senior Member


    Should we teach English speakers that "I wish I were/could..." translates as "Ήθελα να..." or they can choose freely between "Θα ήθελα να..." and "Ήθελα να..."? I am sure that if they used "Ήθελα να..." to express "I wish I..." , that would be considered wrong. My replies above were written in that sense.
    Yes, Krystallis (who died in 1894) and Farmakides in her book really use "ήθελα" in this unusual/uncommon form. Perhaps you could also hear rarely in conversations people saying "ήθελα" (instead of "θα ήθελα", which is the standard).
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2013
  26. panettonea Senior Member

    It's also important to remember that Farmakides uses "Ήθελα να..." to express "I wish I..." only when the verb that follows is in the imperfect.

    I believe Farmakides was born in the 1920s--apparently she passed away only a few years ago. Anyway, perhaps both his Greek and hers could be filed under the term "Dinosaur Greek." ;)

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