[B-Greek] Emphasis with Active Voice

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Wed Jul 18 05:34:56 EDT 2007

On Jul 18, 2007, at 12:08 AM, Delbert Flora wrote:

> Working my way through some of Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, I  
> am wondering about Voice. Wallace gives very similiar definitions  
> between Active and Middle Voices:
> of the Active Voice == the subject performs or experiences the  
> action. (Under Active)
> of the Middle Voice == the subject performs or experiences the  
> action. (Under Middle)
> With the Middle, the emphasis is upon the subject's participation.  
> What would be the Active's emphasis?
> Also, in what way do these two voices overlap? Obviously based on  
> Wallace's definitions they must be very similiar in some usages.

The traditional explanations of Greek voice usage are problematic in  
several ways, not least in the failure to distinguish FORM (Active or  
Middle-Passive morphology) from FUNCTION (role of the subject as  
agent, patient, experiencer, beneficiary; transitive or  
intransitive). The fact is that there are some verbs that have Active  
FORM but that function much as do most Middle-Passives (e.g. PASCW,  
PIPTW, APOQNHiSKW) and that there are quite a few verbs with Middle- 
Passive FORM that function much as do Active verbs with the  
difference that these verbs have a subject that is an agent, an  
object that is a patient, and a beneficiary that is co-referential  
with the subject (e.g. LUETAI hO NEANIAS TON hIPPON ("the lad unties  
his horse"); this is different from LUEI hO NEANIAS TON hIPPON where  
the lad in question performs the action of untying the horse but is  
not himself expressly indicated as the beneficiary of the action.

The ancient Greek voice system is quite complex but traditional  
accounts of it in text and reference books are often more confusing  
than helpful. Some have found useful my short introductory account,  
"Active, Middle, and Passive: Understanding Ancient Greek Voice" --  
it can be read online or downloaded from my web-page


or directly at


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

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