Adverbials in the Acc Neut Sing

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sun Oct 4 07:38:42 EDT 1998

At 9:19 PM -0500 10/3/98, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>If this is the case then what is the difference between the adverbial function
>in a clause and what are called verb complements (e.g., subject, object,
>indirect object). It seems that it doesn't require much of a logical leap to
>consider these complements as adverbial in function since they all LIMIT the
>main verb. I guess what I am asking for is a working definition of the verb
>complement that would help me distinguish it from a working definition of the
>adverbial function.

I'm going to piggy-back onto Clay's response to Maurice Taraschi to suggest
a further answer and to supplement what I wrote in response to the original
question, all too briefly, yesterday. I would agree that Maurice seemed to
suggest that almost any case form could function as an adverb; I would not
say that (I certainly can't think offhand of any nominative case form
that's used as an adverb, nor a genitive either, for that matter, unless
it's with a preposition in a phrase such as DIA hHMERWN or KAQ' hOLOU).
There are datives of adjectives that are used so frequently that their
nouns may be omitted such as TAUTHi (scil. THi hODWi).

Nevertheless, I'd repeat that the accusative case of a noun or adjective or
even of a larger phrase is essentially adverbial and that this is closely
related to the essential LIMITING function of the accusative case. Two of
the more common categories of accusatives are SPECIFICATION (e.g. TACUS
HLASAN, "they marched for five days"). As for accusatives in the neuter
functioning directly as adverbs, one sees numerous expressions
substantivized with the neuter article: TO KATA MEROS (though KATA MEROS
could be used by itself for "partially" Greek and especially Hellenistic
Greek seems to prefer to put prepositional phrases used adverbially into
substantival form with the neuter article, and one should understand these
neuter substantives as being in the accusative), TO KAQ' hOLOU, etc. Even
what we are taught in terms of standard grammatical paradigms involves the
neuter sg. (not uncommonly pl.) acc. as a standard adverbial form in the
comparative and superlative: e.g. ALHQESTERON, ALHQESTATA. The standard
adverb for AGAQOS (if one doesn't use KALWS) is EU, which is the n. sg. of
a very old adjective that is occasionally seen in Homer, EUS.

I don't know that I'd want, at least without seeing your other "working
definitions," Clay, to venture a "working definition of an adverb" beyond
saying that it is a word or phrase that LIMITS the range of meaning of a
verb, adjective, or another adverb. As for "complement," I'd never thought
of using the term "complement" for a subject, but I think it might be more
meaningful to speak of "objects" as complements--more meaningful to speak
of "direct complement" rather than "direct object" and of "indirect
complement" rather than "indirect complement." That would permit us to
understand an instrumental dative used with XRWMAI as a direct complement,
e.g. BIBLIOIS XRHTAI, "he uses books". But this is a whole area of
discussion I'd rather avoid at present--the whole question of the most
useful categories of terminology for grammar; I'd rather keep using
traditional terms as long as I think they actually convey a
commonly-understood meaning.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at OR cconrad at

More information about the B-Greek mailing list