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Perfect Imperative

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Perfect Imperative

Postby Cursus » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:42 pm

I'm aware of the present and aorist imperatives and their differences, but when would the perfect imperative be used, and how should it be translated? My books show it as a form, but I'm not finding any information on it. And out of curiosity, how commonly is one likely to encounter it?
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Re: Perfect Imperative

Postby Markos » Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:32 pm

It's not very common. One thinks of Mk 4:39.
Mk 4:39: καὶ εἶπεν τῇ θαλάσσῃ, σιώπα, πεφίμωσο...

Elsewhere (1:25) Mark uses φιμώθητι.
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Re: Perfect Imperative

Postby Cursus » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:01 pm

So I see that it means, "be still," but why is the perfect imperative used here rather than a present or aorist? The perfect refers to a past action with an ongoing effect in the present, so it seems like a present imperative would have the desired effect: "be still [and continue being that way]!" But since it's its own form, I'm guessing it's less clear-cut than that.
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Re: Perfect Imperative

Postby Markos » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:28 pm

Hi, Cursus.
Cursus wrote:...why is the perfect imperative used here rather than a present or aorist?

I don't believe we are in a position to answer this.

Paul Derouda, though, has asked and answered similar questions, so maybe we should ask him. :)
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Re: Perfect Imperative

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:29 pm

Ha ;) It's true I've been scratching my head quite a lot about Greek aspect. Mostly I've spent my time with the aorist/imperfect distinction, but since you're asking, I'll tell you what I think about these perfects here as well...

First, the aorist imperative. φιμώθητι I think basically means "shut up!" (yes, it's passive, but let's no go to that). It's a single, punctual, delimited event, "STOP talking".

Then we have the present imperative, like σιώπα. There we have a durative action, "KEEP silent". "Don't talk and keep it that way!".

(I used the rude expression "shut up" because I think the common English expression "be quiet" is a bit ambiguous; I think that according to context, it could be closer either to the Greek aorist (shut up!) or with the present ("keep quiet!").)

The perfect basically represents a present state that results from a past action. πεφίμωσο would then mean "KEEP your mouth SHUT". It's close to the present in the sense that the action is durative (keep...), but there's the further nuance that it implies a past action that resulted in that durative state. Or this is how I see it.

Of course, when translating, you have to consider in each case whether you bring all these nuances into the target language, or whether that would be overtranslation...

Mk 4:39: καὶ εἶπεν τῇ θαλάσσῃ, σιώπα, πεφίμωσο...
"And he said to the sea, be quiet, keep your mouth shut!" (Do seas have mouths?) :)

Mk 1:25: Φιμώθητι καὶ ἔξελθε
"Shut up and get out!"
Last edited by Paul Derouda on Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Perfect Imperative

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:44 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:First, the aorist imperative. φιμώθητι I think basically means "shut up!" (yes, it's passive, but let's no go to that). It's a single, punctual, delimited event, "STOP talking".



It is passive because the subject is affected by the action.
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Re: Perfect Imperative

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:19 pm

This brought to my mind a passage with the perfect imperative that has troubled me a lot. It's from the Iliad, the moment when Achilles has finally killed Hector, and he speaks triumphantly to his dead archenemy:

(Il. 22.364-366)
τὸν καὶ τεθνηῶτα προσηύδα δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς·
τέθναθι· κῆρα δ’ ἐγὼ τότε δέξομαι ὁππότε κεν δὴ
Ζεὺς ἐθέλῃ τελέσαι ἠδ’ ἀθάνατοι θεοὶ ἄλλοι.

Translation give by Perseus (The old Loeb?):
"And to him even in his death spake goodly Achilles: "Lie thou dead; my fate will I accept whenso Zeus willeth to bring it to pass and the other immortal gods."

Irene de Jong, in her Green and Yellow Cambridge commentary, translates τέθναθι "be dead".

I checked about 15 major translations into different languages, and they all basically give "Die!". I don't think this is very appealing, why would Achilles say that to Hector who's already dead? "Lie dead", "be dead" seems closer to the Greek to me, but they're not very natural.

However, I think for τέθναθι the closest idiomatic English equivalent would be "stay dead!" Hector is finally dead, Achilles is triumphant and is taunting him, "stay dead!" makes all the sense in the world to me. What do you think? Am I wrong?
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Re: Perfect Imperative

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Sep 04, 2014 7:26 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote:
Paul Derouda wrote:First, the aorist imperative. φιμώθητι I think basically means "shut up!" (yes, it's passive, but let's no go to that). It's a single, punctual, delimited event, "STOP talking".



It is passive because the subject is affected by the action.

Yes, I suppose so, "Be muzzled!" or something like that...
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Re: Perfect Imperative

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Thu Sep 04, 2014 8:30 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:
C. S. Bartholomew wrote:
Paul Derouda wrote:First, the aorist imperative. φιμώθητι I think basically means "shut up!" (yes, it's passive, but let's no go to that). It's a single, punctual, delimited event, "STOP talking".



It is passive because the subject is affected by the action.

Yes, I suppose so, "Be muzzled!" or something like that...


The agent is also the patient.
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Re: Perfect Imperative

Postby Cursus » Fri Sep 05, 2014 12:48 am

Paul and Markos, thank you for that info and particularly for the examples of this creature in the wild. At least I know that it's not something to worry about seeing very often. I appreciate the help!
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