No PPVI – no passive, or just no passive for simple aspect?

I’ve been revisiting my Greek verb paradigm notes, and writing out exemplar verbs just to test my memory. I realized as I came across one that I’m not so certain about it. The verb is ἐθέλω, and it is missing principal parts V and VI:

ἐθέλω, ἐθελήσω, ἠθέλησα, ἠθέληκα, -, –

An interesting thing to note is that the perfect and pluperfect active both start in ἠ- (there is no middle/passive perfect or pluperfect, thanks to the missing PP V), but that does not so much trouble me. What I am in a quandary about is whether this verb has a passive at all – or is just lacking a passive aorist and future – due to the missing PP VI. I am not sure what the general rule is (if there is one), nor the reality for this specific verb. My textbook seems silent on this detail.

It would be easy enough to come up with the “forms” of the present indicative passive, for example, since they are the same as for the middle voice:

ἐθέλομαι, ἐθέλῃ/ει, ἐθέλεται, ἐθελόμεθα, ἐθέλεσθε, ἐθέλονται

I guess the question is, does a verb only have a passive voice if there is a distinct aorist passive? I can see how a verb could have active and middle voices, and no passive – only adding the passive when there is a distinct aorist/future. I can imagine the principal parts formulated so the presence of an aorist passive declares the verb to have a passive voice. I can even imagine that at one time the Greek passive was only simple aspect – aorist and future (itself derived from the aorist) – and then they rounded out the passive tenses by using the middle forms. But that is all in the imagination. Would love something a little more concrete…

If you can clear this up for me, I’d be grateful.


About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to No PPVI – no passive, or just no passive for simple aspect?

  1. Mike Aubrey says:

    Actually there are several verbs with we have one root that’s activa tantum and another that’s media tantum.

    The best example is ειμι vs. γιγνομαι, but this one works well too. Consider it the active only version of βουλομαι. The book you’d want to read — perhaps interlibrary load (?) — is Rutgar Allan’s The Middle Voice in Ancient Greek. Another alternative would be Klaiman’s Grammatical Voice in the Cambridge Studies in Linguistics Series.

    • George says:

      So what you are saying is that ἐθέλω has no middle voice of its own, as well as having no passive? Can one determine this from the principal parts (is there some sort of rule), or is that just something one has to “know” on a case-by-case basis?

      I definitely see how ἐθέλω and βούλομαι dovetail nicely, as you suggest. Both have the idea of wanting or desiring, with the former more being willing (or “not unwilling”) to do what another has wished or desired, and the latter being indicative of a more personally felt want or desire, adding that reflexive quality to the subject. Makes sense that the first would be active and the second middle, complementing one another.

      Thanks for the book suggestions. I’ve heard tell of the volume by Rutgar Allan (maybe through your blog?). I haven’t sat down with my copy of Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek, yet. Does Fanning address deponency and the like? I realize it isn’t exactly the same topic as tense and aspect.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s