Conditionals (2d class)

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Thu Oct 22 12:29:03 EDT 1998

At 10:46 AM -0500 10/22/98, Rodney J. Decker wrote:
>Without getting bogged down in the appropriate classification, I have a
>query re. what if often called a 2d class condition (EI + ind., AN + 2dry
>tense/indic.). Wallace's grammar (695 n.22) points out that there are no NT
>exs. of 2d class conditions in which the speaker believes something to be
>true, but assumes it to be false for purposes of argument. He implies that
>this sort of statement either can or does exist outside the NT (either in
>koine or classical Greek), especially in sarcastic contexts. Can anyone put
>me on the track of such a use? A citation and/or source would be appreciated.
>The theoretical example that he suggests to illus. this sort of use is: "If
>the Dallas Cowboys had done better in 1995, they would have gone to the
>Super Bowl in 1996." Unfortunately, my cognizance of such matters is too
>limited to allow a clear conception of his illus.!
>(I get the digest of b-greek, so a direct cc: to me in addition to a reply
>to the list would be both appreciated and helpful in my study this afternoon.)

This is simply a counterfactual condition; it's quite common in Classical
Attic Greek: its most common forms are (a) present counterfactual: EI +
impf. indic. in protasis, impf. indic. + AN in apodosis; (b) past
counterfactual: EI + aor. indic. in protasis, aor. indic. + AN in apodosis.
See Smyth, ##2302-2320.

Examples of (a) Xen., Cyrop. 1.2.16: TAUTA DE OUK AN EDUNANTO POIEIN, EI MH
KAI DIAITHI METRIAi ECRWNTO, "But they would not be able to do this, if
they were not also following a temperate diet"; (b) Xen., Anabasis 6.6.15
have done this, if I had not ordered him."

There are also all sorts of mixtures possible, but this is the simplest
form of this. I haven't checked it, but it seems to me that NT Koine
sometimes uses a simple imperfect (without an AN) to express probability.

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

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