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The Verb: Middle Voice

Synopsis Endings Future
Deponents fobe/omai xra&omai
Advantage Intransitives Exercises

 

Synopsis

 

A verb is in the active voice when the subject of the sentence performs the action of the verb which affects the direct object:
  • John defends Mary
  • the women wash the body
When the sentence is turned round so that the object is the subject and the passive recipient of the action, then the verb is in the passive voice:
  • Mary is defended by John
  • the body is washed by the women
[Here is-defended and is-washed are viewed in Greek as passive forms of defend and wash, and are translated by single words without is.]

 

When the action of the verb returns to the subject, directly as reflexive:
  • John defends himself
  • the women wash themselves
or more indirectly:
  • the athlete carries off - for himself - the prize
then the verb is in the middle voice.

 


The active endings in the present tense are:

 

lu&- w
eij
ei

 

omen
ete
ousi(n)

 


And the middle endings are:

 

lu&- omai
h| (or ei)
etai

 

omeqa
esqe
ontai

 


 

The future middle, like the future active, inserts -s- before the ending for lu&-s-omai.

 

These (above) middle endings are particularly important because they give the pattern for a large number of middle deponent verbs,
i.e. verbs which are active in meaning but middle in form.
The most common are:
bou&lomai I want
gi/gnomai I become
de/xomai I receive
e0rga&zomai I work
e3pomai I follow
eu!xomai I pray
ma&xomai I fight
poreu&omai I travel, march
a)pokri/nomai I answer

 

 

There are a few -e- middle deponents which follow the usual rules of contraction as:

 

fobe/-omai I fear, I am afraid (active fobe/w = I fear)
 

present

 

 

fob ou~mai
fob h~|
fob ei=tai
fob ou&meqa
fob ei=sqe
fob ou~ntai

 

Similarly:
a)fikne/omai I arrive (at)
h(ge/omai I lead (cf. hegemony)

 

A common -a- middle verb is:

qea&omai

I watch, contemplate

(and so qe/atron - theatre, a place for watching)

 


 

xra&omai

I make use of is irregular:
(hence xrh&mata - useful things, money)
xrw~mai
xrh~|
xrh~tai
xrw&meqa
xrh~sqe
xrw~ntai

 


Some verbs have both an active and a middle form which can each take an object.
The middle form has a slightly different sense, but usually implies some advantage for the subject:

 

lu&w au)to&n I release him
lu&omai au)to&n

 

I ransom him

 

(and so gain)

 

fe/rw tou~to I carry this
fe/romai tou~to

 

I carry this off, I win

 

ai9rw~ tou~to I take this
ai9rou~mai tou~to

 

I take this for myself, I choose

 

danei/zw ti I lend something
danei/zomai ti

 

I borrow something

 

(for myself)

 

also:
poiw~ tou~to I make this
poiou~mai au)to_n peri\ pollou~

 

I value him highly

 


Other verbs do not take an external object in the middle form
(i.e. they are intransitive)
since the reflexive object is contained in the middle form:

 

pau&w au)to&n I stop him
pau&omai gra&fwn I stop (myself) writing
e0gei/rw au)to&n I wake him up
e)gei/romai I wake (myself) up
lou&w tou~to I wash this
lou&omai I wash myself, bathe
fai/nw tou~to I show this
fai/nomai I show myself, seem
pei/qw au)to&n I persuade him
pei/qomai au)tw~| I am obedient to him
kaqi/zw au)to&n I sit him down
kaqi/zomai I sit down
o)rgi/zw au)to&n I make him angry
o)rgi/zomai

 

I lose my temper

 


Exercises:

9(i)

Put these active verb forms into the middle and translate:

active

middle

lou&w      
e0gei/rei      
lu&omen      
fe/rete      
fai/nousi      

Now check your ANSWERS here.

9(ii)

Translate the following, using the correct form of the middle verb given:

 

we want bou&lomai  
they answer a)pokri/nomai  
you receive de/xomai  
they arrive a)fikne/omai  
he is fighting ma&xomai  
are you afraid? fobe/omai  
he is not leading h(ge/omai  
we do not follow e3pomai  
     

Now check your ANSWERS here.

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