Module 8

Prepositions and Prefixes

© 2021 Philip S. Peek, CC BY 4.0 https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0264.09

Prepositions

A Greek preposition (πρόθεσις) has the same definition and the same function as does its English counterpart. Prepositions are typically one to two syllable words that take a noun or pronoun as an object. Consider these English examples:

in a great civil war;

on a great battle-field;

of that war;

above our poor power;

to the unfinished work;

for the great task;

from the earth;

and take note of the preposition and its object, which are referred to as a prepositional phrase. Prepositional phrases are a common building block for creating meaning both in Greek and in English.

Consider the following passage from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and note how frequently prepositions occur (bold marks a preposition and underline its object):

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

In eight sentences there are twenty-three prepositional phrases. The preposition comes before its object almost every time. Leaving out the prepositional phrases, reread the passage, noting how much meaning is lost.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money, and nothing particular to interest me, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part. It is a way I have. Whenever I find myself growing grim; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing and bringing; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me—then, I account it high time to get as soon as I can. This is my substitute. Cato throws himself; I quietly take. There is nothing surprising. If they but knew it, almost all men, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings.

Consider the following Greek passage from Herodotos’ Histories:

ἀναχθέντες δὲ ἐκ τῆς Κρότωνος οἱ Πέρσαι ἐκπίπτουσι τῇσι νηυσὶ ἐς Ἰηπυγίην, καί σφεας δουλεύοντας ἐνθαῦτα Γίλλος ἀνὴρ Ταραντῖνος φυγὰς ῥυσάμενος ἀπήγαγε παρὰ βασιλέα Δαρεῖον. δὲ ἀντὶ τούτων ἕτοιμος ἦν διδόναι τοῦτο τι βούλοιτο αὐτός. [2] Γίλλος δὲ αἱρέεται κάτοδόν οἱ ἐς Τάραντα γενέσθαι, προαπηγησάμενος τὴν συμφορήν· ἵνα δὲ μὴ συνταράξῃ τὴν Ἑλλάδα, ἢν δι᾽ αὐτὸν στόλος μέγας πλέῃ ἐπὶ τὴν Ἰταλίην, Κνιδίους μούνους ἀποχρᾶν οἱ ἔφη τοὺς κατάγοντας γίνεσθαι, δοκέων ἀπὸ τούτων ἐόντων τοῖσι Ταραντίνοισι φίλων μάλιστα τὴν κάτοδόν οἱ ἔσεσθαι. [3] Δαρεῖος δὲ ὑποδεξάμενος ἐπετέλεε· πέμψας γὰρ ἄγγελον ἐς Κνίδον, κατάγειν σφέας ἐκέλευε Γίλλον ἐς Τάραντα. πειθόμενοι δὲ Δαρείῳ, Κνίδιοι Ταραντίνους οὐκ ὦν ἔπειθον, βίην δ ἀδύνατοι ἦσαν προσφέρειν. [4] ταῦτα μέν νυν οὕτω ἐπρήχθη· οὗτοι δὲ πρῶτοι ἐκ τῆς Ἀσίης ἐς τὴν Ἑλλάδα ἀπίκοντο Πέρσαι, καὶ οὗτοι διὰ τοιόνδε πρῆγμα κατάσκοποι ἐγένοντο.

In this paragraph of similar length there are thirteen prepositions. Because much meaning is created in Greek through the use of case endings on nouns and pronouns, Greek prepositions do not occur as frequently as they do in English. Nonetheless the point to take from the above is that the prepositional phrase is an important building block for creating meaning in Greek and in English. Learning to recognize prepositions and their objects and understanding how to translate them are key skills to acquire.

Practice Picking out Prepositions. From this excerpt of Moby Dick, practice picking out the prepositions and their objects. Check your answers with those in the Answer Key.

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster—tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?

In doing the above exercise, aim for mastery—understand what a preposition and its object are and be able to pick out prepositions and objects from any sentence written in English. Since the meaning and function of English and Greek prepositions are the same, you will be able to transfer your knowledge of the preposition in English to your understanding of it in Greek.

Greek Prepositions

Remember that in Greek and in English prepositions must take an object. If there is no object, then the word is not a preposition. In Greek the object may be in the accusative (acc.), genitive (gen.), or dative (dat.) cases, whose endings you will learn shortly. Some prepositions take only one case as their object. ἐκ only takes an object in the genitive case:

ἐκ

out of

+

an object in the genitive case

Other prepositions take objects in all three cases, such as ἀμφί:

ἀμφί

about

+

an object in the genitive case

around

+

an object in the dative case

around

+

an object in the accusative case

Below is a list of the most frequently occurring prepositions. Memorize them. You will encounter them frequently in the rest of this book and they are not glossed. Note that in some cases the definitions are simplified. See the glossary for more complete ones.

Preposition

Additional Info.

English Equivalent

Case of Object

ἅμα

at the same time as

+

dative

ἀνά

on, upon, onto

+

genitive or dative

up to, throughout

+

accusative

ἀπό

from, away from

+

genitive

διά

through, throughout

+

genitive

by

+

genitive

on account of

+

accusative

εἰς or ἐς

(proclitic)

to, into, against

+

accusative

ἐκ

(proclitic)

from, out of, by

+

genitive

ἐν

(proclitic)

in, on, at, among

+

dative

ἕνεκα or εἵνεκα

on account of

+

genitive

for the sake of

+

genitive

ἐπί

on, upon

+

genitive

in the time of

+

genitive

towards

+

genitive

on, at, next to

+

dative

on, to, against, for

+

accusative

κατά

down from

+

genitive

down toward

+

genitive

under

+

genitive

against

+

genitive

during

+

accusative

throughout

+

accusative

by, according to

+

accusative

μετά

with

+

genitive

after

+

accusative

μέχρι

up to, until

+

genitive

meanwhile

+

genitive

παρά

from

+

genitive

at, beside

+

dative

to, toward

+

accusative

contrary to

+

accusative

περί

about, concerning

+

genitive

around, concerning

+

dative

around, concerning

+

accusative

πρό

before, in front of

+

genitive

on behalf of

+

genitive

πρός

facing

+

genitive

from

+

genitive

in the eyes of

+

genitive

by

+

genitive

at, near

+

dative

in addition

+

dative

towards

+

accusative

against

+

accusative

in regard to

+

accusative

σύν or ξύν

with, with help of

+

dative

ὑπέρ

above, over

+

genitive

on behalf of

+

genitive

over, above, beyond

+

accusative

ὑπό

by

+

genitive

under

+

genitive

under

+

dative

subject to

+

dative

under

+

accusative

during

+

accusative

toward

+

accusative

  1. The preposition ἕνεκα or εἵνεκα usually has its object placed before it, though the object may also follow as it does for most prepositions: ἕνεκα ὑγιείας for the sake of health or ὑγιείας ἕνεκα for the sake of health. εἵνεκα instead of ἕνεκα is found in the epic and Ionic dialects and in poetry.
  2. Both εἰς and ἐς are used by Homer and by the Ionic poets. Herodotos, writing in a mixed Ionic dialect, prefers ἐς. Attic inscriptions have εἰς, which Attic prose prefers. In Attic tragedy, εἰς is slightly more common than ἐς. Aeolic poets preferred εἰς before vowels and ἐς before consonants.
  3. Proclitics are monosyllabic words, lacking an accent, and are pronounced closely with the word that follows them. Common proclitics are the adverb οὐ; the conjunctions εἰ and ὡς; the prepositions εἰς, ἐν, ἐκ; and these forms of the article: ὁ, ἡ, οἱ, αἱ.

Word Order

As in English, in Greek the object of a preposition typically comes right after it, ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ in the road. The object, τῇ ὁδῷ, follows the preposition ἐν. At times words intervene between the preposition and its object, διὰ Διὸς πῦρ through the fire of Zeus. The noun Διός, of Zeus, possesses πῦρ fire and comes between the preposition διά through and its object πῦρ fire. Note that for the preposition εἵνεκα or ἕνεκα typical word order is object followed by εἵνεκα or νεκα, as noted above.

Anastrophe of the Disyllabic Preposition

In the majority of instances the object follows the preposition. In some instances the order is reversed and a preposition of two syllables follows the object, as in this example, κάλλους πέρι concerning beauty. Note that when anastrophe occurs, the accent shifts from the ultima to the penult, περί to πέρι.

Prepositions and Motion

For the genitive, dative, and accusative cases, a general rule of motion applies in many instances.

The rules of motion are three and they are only generally true. In each the preposition is bolded and its object is underlined.

A preposition with its object in the genitive case can express motion away from:

ἔρχονται ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς

they go from the land.

A preposition with its object in the dative case can express place where:

ἵστημι ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ

I stand in the road.

A preposition with its object in the accusative case can express motion towards or against:

ρχόμεθα εἰς τὴν γῆν

we go to the land.

In poetry the preposition may be omitted altogether. When you encounter prepositional phrases in the wild, keep in mind the general rule of motion.

Practice Identifying Prepositions. From this excerpt of Herodotos’ Histories (Ι.215) practice picking out the prepositions ἐν, ἐς, and περί. Check your answers with those in the Answer Key.

Μασσαγέται δὲ ἐσθῆτά τε ὁμοίην τῇ Σκυθικῇ φορέουσι καὶ δίαιταν ἔχουσι, ἱππόται δὲ εἰσὶ καὶ ἄνιπποιἀμφοτέρων γὰρ μετέχουσικαὶ τοξόται τε καὶ αἰχμοφόροι, σαγάρις νομίζοντες ἔχειν. χρυσῷ δὲ καὶ χαλκῷ τὰ πάντα χρέωνται. ὅσα μὲν γὰρ ἐς αἰχμὰς καὶ ἄρδις καὶ σαγάρις, χαλκῷ τὰ πάντα χρέωνται. ὅσα δὲ περὶ κεφαλὴν καὶ ζωστῆρας καὶ μασχαλιστῆρας, χρυσ κοσμέονται. [2] ὣς δ᾽ αὕτως τῶν ἵππων τὰ μὲν περὶ τ στέρνα χαλκέους θώρηκας περιβάλλουσι, τὰ δὲ περὶ τοὺς χαλινοὺς κα στόμια καὶ φάλαρα χρυσῷ. σιδήρῳ δὲ οὐδ᾽ ἀργύρῳ χρέωνται οὐδέν· οὐδὲ γὰρ οὐδέ σφι ἐστὶ ἐν τῇ χωρῇ. δὲ χρυσὸς καὶ χαλκὸς ἄπλετος.

Translation

The Massagetai dress similarly to the Skythians and have a similar way of life. They fight from horses and on foot, for they make use of both. They shoot bows and throw spears and customarily carry the battle-ax. They make abundant use of gold and bronze. They use bronze for the tips of arrows and spears and for their ax-heads. For adorning their heads and belts and straps, they use gold. For their tack, they take the same approach. They surround their horses’ chests with breastplates made of bronze. They adorn with gold the reins, bits, and cheek-plates. They do not use iron or silver because their land has none, though gold and bronze are plentiful.

Practice Choosing the Preposition. In this translation of an excerpt of Herodotos’ Histories, for the bolded words choose the Greek preposition that best translates them. Check your answers with those in the Answer Key.

Concerning customs all people think this way and it is possible to prove it is so by many examples and also in the following way. During his rule Dareios called some Greeks who were present and asked them at what price they would be willing to eat their dead fathers. They replied that they would do this at no price. After this Dareios called the Kallatians from India who eat their dead and while the Greeks watched and understood what was said through an interpreter, asked at what price they would agree to burn with fire their dead fathers. They yelled loudly and bid him to watch his tongue. So it is with customs and I think Pindar’s poem correctly says that custom is the king of everything.

Practice Translating Prepositions, Conjunctions, and Adverbs. Translate the paragraph below, paying attention to how the conjunctions, adverbs, and prepositions function. Often there is not an authentic connection between how ancient Greek expresses the meaning of a sentence and how English does. The main takeaway from exercises like these is a greater understanding of how each part of speech functions, not a greater understanding of ancient Greek idiom. Check your answers with those in the Answer Key.

Paragraph I (from Moby Dick)

It was a humorously perilous business for both of us. πρὶν γὰρ we proceed further, it must be said ὅτι the monkey-rope was fast ἐπὶ both ends; fast to Queequeg’s broad canvas belt, and fast to my narrow leather one. ὥστε for better or for worse, we two, εἰς νῦν, were wedded; and should poor Queequeg sink to rise no more, ἔπειτα καὶ usage καὶ honor demanded, ὅτι instead of cutting the cord, it should drag me down in his wake. οὕτως, ἔπειτα, an elongated Siamese ligature united us. Queequeg was my own inseparable twin brother; nor could I any way get rid of the dangerous liabilities which the hempen bond entailed.

οὕτως strongly and metaphysically did I conceive of my situation τότε, ὅτι μέχρι earnestly watching his motions, I seemed distinctly to perceive ὅτι my own individuality was νῦν merged in a joint stock company of two; ὅτι my free will had received a mortal wound; καὶ ὅτι another’s mistake misfortune might plunge innocent me εἰς unmerited disaster and death.

Paragraph II (translation from Lucian’s A True Story)

Athletes καὶ those seeking physical fitness pay attention to health καὶ exercise. They κα contend ὅτι well-timed relaxation is a vital part of training. Students καὶ I think profit ἐκ rest μετὰ reading serious works and οὖν return εἰς their studies invigorated. This rest works best εἰ they spend time σὺν books which provide contemplation καὶ inspiration ἀλλὰ καὶ wit, charm, κα attraction, just the sort of restful thought I think this work provides. I note οὐ only the novelty of the content and the charm of a compelling story ἀλλὰ καὶ the witty allusions πρὸς the ancient classics, filled with legends and monsters, written ὑπ poets, historians, and philosophers.

Prefixes

Many verbs have prefixes added to them. The prefix typically changes the verb’s meaning, doing so sometimes in slight, and other times in significant, ways. Note the following verbs and their meanings:

*δίδωμι give; δίκην δίδωμι I pay the penalty; δίδωμι χάριν I give thanks

ἐκδίδωμι give up, surrender, give out (of one’s house), give (in marriage)

προδίδωμι betray, abandon, give up (to an enemy)

*εἰμί be, be possible

*πάρειμι be near, be present; (imper.) be possible

*εἶμι come, go

*πάρειμι go in, enter, pass by

*ἵστημι stand

ἀνίστημι make stand up, wake, break up (an assembly)

*καθίστημι appoint, establish, put into a state; (intrans.) be established, be appointed

*τίθημι put, place

προτίθημι place before, propose, prefer

*φερω bring, bear, carry

προσφέρω bring to, apply to

  1. Some meanings differ more from the meaning of the root verb than others do.
  2. The asterisk indicates the top 250 most frequently occurring vocabulary, which you are to memorize.

Object of Prefix

A preposition always has an object. The prefix does not always but may at times also take an object as in these examples:

βίαν προσφέρω αὐτ,

I apply force to him;

βίαν is the object of φέρω and αὐτῷ is the object of the prefix προς-;

and

τῆς δὲ γῆς ἀπέρχονται,

they depart the land.

γῆς is the object of the prefix ἀπο-.

In each example above, the noun serves as the object of the prefix. In this next example, note that Herodotos uses the same prefix and preposition, one reinforcing the meaning of the other. The prefix and preposition are in bold. The preposition’s object is underlined.

περὶ τὰ στέρνα χαλκέους θώρηκας περιβάλλουσι

They surround their chests with breastplates made of bronze.

The preposition περί and its meaning around are reinforced by the prefix περι-. In this next example there is a similar repetition of the preposition and prefix.

ἐν τῇ δῷ τέλματι βαθεῖ ἐντυγχάνω.

Ι stumble upon a deep puddle in the road.

In this sentence the preposition ἐν and the prefix ἐν- do not work together, reinforcing each other as περί and περι- do above. Rather the noun τέλματι is the object of the prefix ἐν- and the prepositional phrase ἐν τῇ ὁδ locates τέλματι βαθεῖ the deep puddle.

Elision

A final short vowel at the end of a word or a prefix may be elided (eliminated) when the word or verb that follows starts with a vowel or diphthong. When elision occurs between two words, the missing short vowel is marked by an apostrophe. When elision occurs between a prefix and its verb, the short vowel of the prefix is eliminated. Note these instances of elision:

ἀλλὰ ἔχω becomes ἀλλἔχω.

ὅδε εἶπεν becomes ὅδεἶπεν.

ἀμφὶ ἡμῶν becomes ἀμφἡμων.

παρὰ μῶν becomes παρὑμῶν.

ἀπο έρχομαι becomes ἀπέρχομαι.

παρὰ ἔχω becomes παρέχω.

ἀπο ἱκνέομαι becomes ἀφικνέομαι.

τοῦτο οὐ becomes τοῦτοὐ.

ἀπο ὄλλυμι becomes ἀπόλλυμι.

ὑπὸ ρχω becomes ὑπάρχω.

When the consonant directly before the elided vowel is kappa, pi, or tau—κ, π, or τ—and is followed by a word with a rough breathing, the consonant changes to the corresponding aspirate: κ becomes χ; π becomes φ; and τ becomes θ.

ἐπὶ becomes ἐφ᾽ .

κατα ἵστημι becomes καθίστημι.

In addition to the elision of short vowels, final -αι and -οι are occasionally elided:

εἶναι ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ becomes εἶνἐν τῇ ὁδῷ.

οἴμοι ὡς ἀθυμέω becomes οἴμὡς ἀθυμέω.

Consider contractions that occur in English, such as can’t or watcha gonna do, noting the different ways that words combine.

Module 8 Practice Reading Aloud. Practice reading this excerpt from Euripides’ Alkestis. Read the excerpt a few times, paying attention to the sound each syllable makes and trying to hear the rhythm of the words.

Ἄλκηστις

ἄγει μἄγει τις· ἄγει μέ τις (οὐχ

260

ὁρᾷς;) νεκύων ἐς αὐλάν,

ὑπὀφρύσι κυαναυγέσι

βλέπων, πτερωτὸς Ἅιδας.

τί ῥέξεις; ἄφες. οἵαν ὁδὸν δει-

λαιοτάτα προβαίνω.

Ἄδμητος

οἰκτρὰν φίλοισιν, ἐκ δὲ τῶν μάλιστἐμοὶ

265

καὶ παισίν, οἷς δὴ πένθος ἐν κοινῷ τόδε.

Ἄλκηστις

μέθετε, μέθετέ μἤδη·

κλίνατ’, οὐ σθένω ποσίν.

πλησίον Ἅιδας, σκοτία

δἐπὄσσοισι νὺξ ἐφέρπει.

270

τέκνα τέκν’, οὐκέτι δὴ

οὐκέτι μάτηρ σφῷν ἔστιν.

χαίροντες, τέκνα, τόδε φάος ὁρῷτον.

Ἄδμητος

οἴμοι· τόδἔπος λυπρὸν ἀκούειν

καὶ παντὸς ἐμοὶ θανάτου μεῖζον.

275

μὴ πρός <σε> θεῶν τλῇς με προδοῦναι,

μὴ πρὸς παίδων οὓς ὀρφανιεῖς,

ἀλλἄνα, τόλμα.

σοῦ γὰρ φθιμένης οὐκέτἂν εἴην·

ἐν σοὶ δἐσμὲν καὶ ζῆν καὶ μή·

σὴν γὰρ φιλίαν σεβόμεσθα.

Verse Translation

Alkestis

Someone pulls and pulls me—don’t you see?—

Pulls me nigh where dwell the dead, and

Stares with darkened brow, winged Hades.

What will you do? Let me go. What journey

I’m to make, a soul most sorrowful.

Admetos

One sad to friends but most of all to me

And our poor progeny who share this grief.

Alkestis

Let me down, down, now.

On my back, I cannot stand.

Here is Hades. Black of night creeps

Up against mine eyes.

Children, children, mother dies,

Yours no longer, mother dies.

Children, look, enjoy the rays of day.

Admetos

Alas your words pain my ear,

Are worse than any death to me.

By gods, do not forsake me, dear,

By ours, those whom you leave now orphaned.

But up, arise.

Without you here I live no more.

In you there rests my life and death.

I honor you, my love.

To hear me read, followed by Stefan Hagel’s expert reading with a pitch accent, follow the link below:

Alkestis 259–279.1


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