New Testament Greek Syntax

The Infinitive

An indeclinable verbal substantive with either verbal force or substantival force

In New Testament Greek the infinitive is in the process of being replaced by a iJna + subjunctive construction

1. Substantive Infinitives

Used in place of a substantive. Always singular, neuter, with or without an article

i] Subject

An infinitive may introduce a substantival phrase, subject of a finite verb

Never found in a prepositional phrase

Sometimes oJti, or iJna + subj., is used in place of an infinitive to function as the subject of the verb

Test by replacing the infinitive with a noun to determine if it is functioning as a substantive

For me, TO LIVE is Christ and TO DIE is gain

emoi gar to zhn CristoV kai to apaqanein kerdoV

To you it has been given TO KNOW the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven = TO KNOW has been given to you .....

uJmin dedotai gnwnai ta musthria thV basileiaV twn ouranwn

There is disagreement among grammarians as to the classification of an infinitive with an impersonal verb such as dei, existin, dokei, etc.

dei luqhnai auton mikron cronon

It is necessary TO RELEASE him for a short time.

TO RELEASE him for a time is necessary (Infinitive as the subject of the impersonal verb "is necessary")

Wallace opts for substantival, as in the example above - the classification used on this site.

Porter argues that dei, mellw, qelw, dunamai, etc., form a catenative construction, see Porter p197.

Cully in the HGT series argues that an infinitive with an impersonal verb such as dei is complementary.

ii] Direct Object

An infinitive may introduce a substantival phrase or clause, accusative direct object of a finite verb (sometimes a genitive direct object)

Often as an articular infinitive

Object clauses are also formed by introducing them with oJti or iJna + subj., or oJpwV + subj. (negative, "lest", mh + subj.)

Test by replacing the infinitive with a noun to determine if it is functioning as a substantive

He did not consider EQUALITY with God something to be grasped

He did not consider THAT EQUALITY with God was something to be grasped

ouc arpagmon hghsato to einai isa qew/

iii] Complementary

Classed as a substantive object, although actually a helper (completive) verb. Very common

Completes the sense of verbs such as dunamai, epitreptw, arcomai, boulomai, epitrepw, zhtew, qelw, mellw, ofeilw

With cognitive verbs an infinitive may be classified as introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception

You cannot SERVE [you are not able TO SERVE] God and mammon

ou dunasqe qew/ douleuein kai mamwna/

iv] Epexegetic (Appositional)

An epexegetic infinitive limits a noun, pronoun or adjective by specifying or defining it

Some grammarians distinguish between epexegetic and appositional - See Wallace:

eg., epexegetic specifies / clarifies a substantive, while appositional defines it

Often formed by iJna + subj., or oJpwV iJna + subj. and rarely by oJti

I have food TO EAT that you are not aware of

egw brwsin ecw fagein hJn uJmeiV ouk oidate

Genitive articular infinitive, tou + inf. 50% are explanatory

he has faith TO BE SAVED (he has saving faith)

ecei pistin tou swqhnai

Can often be translated by joining the subs. and inf. with "namely"

pure religion ... is this, NAMELY, TO VISIT orphans and widows

qrhskeia kaqara ... auth estin, episkeptesqai orfanouV ......

v] Dependent statements / object clause

An infinitive may by used to form an object clause, dependent on a verb of saying or thinking, to express content

Sometimes constructed with eiV + an articular infinitive,

The tense of the imagined or original discourse is retained in the Gk.

On rare occasions there may be a subordinate clause in a dependent statement retaining the original tense

The infinitive sometimes has it's own subject, which is in the accusative case = the accusative infinitive construction

When the subject of the infinitive is the same as the subject in the principal clause, it is omitted

A dependent statement may also be formed by a clause introduced by oJti + ind., iJna + subj., oJpwV + subj., or an optative

After qelw a subjunctive verb can follow without iJna

"when the first verb is in the second person, and the second verb is in the first", Plummer.

What do you want me to do for you

What do you wish THAT I MAY DO for you

ti soi qeleiV poihsw


Dependent statements introduced by an infinitive, iJna + subj, oJti, oJpwV + subj., opt.

a) Direct speech (recitative):

b) Indirect speech:

Stating. "He said that ......"

Instead of stating what is said, pwV introduces an object clause stating something ABOUT what is said

Entreating - requesting, commanding, exhorting.

    I urge you, therefore brothers, .... TO PRESENT (THAT YOU PRESENT) your bodies

    parakalw oun umaV, adelfoi .... parasthsai ta swmata uJmwn

    Teacher, I beg you TO LOOK (THAT you LOOK) at my son

    didaskale, deomai sou epibleyai epi ton uiJon mou


Promising, swearing

c) Perception / cognition: infinitive, iJna + subj., oJti, and sometimes a PARTICIPLE.

Thinking. pondering, planning, taking heed of, wondering, noting, deciding.

Knowing: perceiving, feeling, seeing

Hoping, wishing, desiring - usually an aorist infinitive

d) Cause: infinitive, iJna + subj., oJpwV + subj., or fut.

Striving, effecting, achieving


He makes them worship

poiei iJna porskunhsouin (here with an irregular fut.)

He does / makes / causes fire TO COME DOWN

He causes THAT fire COME DOWN ("fire" serves as the accusative subject of the infinitive)

He makes fire come down

poiei pur katabainein

e) Fear: mh + subj.

for I am afraid THAT I WILL FIND YOU (lest I find you)

foboumai gar mh kagw euJreqw

f) In answer to a question: oJti

plhn oJti

"What then? Only that ......"

vi] Object Complement

An infinitive (more commonly an acc. noun, pro., adj., rarely a part.) may be used to complement the direct object of a verb.

Usually formed with verbs of speaking, dressing, naming, giving, thinking and appointing.

It is similar to appositional, except that the complement predicates / states something about the accusative object.

May be translated by joining the object and its complement with "as", or "to be", even "namely".

If the infinitive has a subject it will be accusative, forming an object complement double accusative construction.

Note that in an accusative infinitive construction the acc. subject of the infinitive usually proceeds its object

mh eurein me Titon ton adelfon mou

I (me the acc. subject of the infinitive) did not find Titus (acc. object of the infinitive) my brother.

Note also that often the infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the main verb, rather than functioning as an object complement.

afete ta paidia ercesqai prov me

[you (assumed subject)] must allow (aor. imp.) the children (acc. object) to come (infinitive) to me

[you] must allow (verb) to come (complementary infinitive) to me the children

vii] Prepositional phrase

The infinitive used with prepositions as a substantive

instead of SAYING (Substitutionary use)

anti tou legein

2. Adverbial Infinitives

An infinitive may modify or clarify the assertion of the main verb, or function as a verb

Participle are commonly used to form adverbial clauses

i] Purpose (Final)

Forming a purpose clause expressing the the aim or purpose of the action (a hypothetical result).

Why? = intention. Common

Translate: "to, in order to, for the purpose of, with a view to"

A simple infinitive, usually after a verb of motion

Also in conjunction with:

tou + inf. Genitive articular infinitive = purpose in Matt. Lk. Act.

tou mh + inf. = separation following a verb of hindering or stopping.

eiV to, proV to, wJste, wJV + inf. = purpose

More commonly expressed by iJna + subj. (70% aorist), or oJpwV / pwV + subj./fut.

Although iJna + subj. proceeded by ouJpwV forms an epexegetic clause rather than a purpose clause, cf. 1Cor.9:24

A purpose clause is also often formed with a present or future participle, and rarely by a relative clause with fut. verb.

ii] Result (Consecutive)

Forming a result clause expressing the results of the action of the main verb.

Sense = effect. Not overly common and often close to purpose.

Translate: "so that, with the result that."

A simple infinitive, usually after a verb of motion

Usually in conjunction with:

wJste most common; wJV, en tw/. Rare

tou, (eiV to) proV to + inf.

Result/consequence is also commonly expressed by iJna + subj., wJste + ind., or a participle

iii] Time (Temporal)

An infinitive may form a temporal clause expressing the relative time at which the action took place.

Also in conjunction with:

Antecedent time. "before".

pro tou + inf., prin + acc. + inf.

Contemporaneous time. "while, during"

en tw/ + inf. (Heb.8:13, causal)

Subsequent time. "after" (See Wallace p594)

meta to + inf.

Future time. "until"

eJwV tou + inf.


A temporal clause is also often formed with oJte, wJV, eJwV (eJwV ouJ, eJwV oJtou), rarely oJti, iJna:

Definite time: oJte or wJV + ind.

Indefinite time:

Present time: oJte + imperf.

"during the time when / "while", en w|/ / ef oJson; see Fink.

"Whenever", epan = epei an + subj.

Past time: an, or ean + aor.

Future time: oJte an + subj.

"From the time when / since", af ou|

Indefinite time expressed by eJwV

When the clause it introduces refers to the same time in relation to the main verb: eJwV + ind., "while"

When the clause it introduces refers to past time in relation to the main verb: eJwV + past tense, "until"

When the clause it introduces refers to future time in relation to the main verb: eJwV an + subj., eJwV ou\, "until"

Other particles often replace eJwV, eg.: acri, acri ouJ, acri hJV hJmeraV, mecri, mecriV ouJ

A participle may also form a temporal clause, esp. when a genitive absolute.

iv] Cause (Causal)

An infinitive may form causal clause expressing the reason for the action of the main verb. Why?

Translated: usually "because"

Also formed by dia to + inf., or a dative article + inf. [tw/, eJneken tou, + inf. Rare]

Causal clauses are also formed by a participle, or a genitive absolute, or the following particles + ind.

oJti, epei, ef, wJ/ dioti, epeidh

v] Imperatival (Infinitive of Command)

An infinitive functioning as an imperative. Rare

Often formed by a iJna + subj. construction

to what we have already attained, LET US LIVE up to it

eiV oJ efqasamen, tw/ autw stoicein

vi] Means (Instrumental)

Describes the way in which the action of the main verb is accomplished.

Is with or without an article, but usually en tw/ + inf.

Very similar to the verbal infinitives of purpose or result.

Translate "by means of / by"

to bless you BY TURNING

eulogounta uJmaV en tw/ apostreqein

vii] Manner (Modal)

viii] Absolute

An infinitive that stands alone and has no relationship with the sentence, cf. Phil.3:16, Rom.12:15

James to the twelve tribes in the dispersion. GREETING

JakwboV ... taiV dwdeka fulaiV taiV en th/ diaspora/ cairein

ix] Concessive (expressing a concession)

A clause expressing a concession which implies that the action of the main verb is true despite the concession

Translated, "though", "although"

The clause may be introduced by ei kai, ean kai, kai ei, kai ean

A concessive clause is sometimes formed by kaiper + part, or a simple participle on its own

x] Comparative

A clause that compares the action of the main verb with another action

The clause may be introduced by:

wJV, wJsper, kaqwV, .... = "as". wJV + subj. = "as if"

h[ = "than"

xi] Conditional Clauses

A clause that identifies a condition on which the action of the main verb depends

1st Class. The condition stated in the protasis ( the "if" clause) is assumed to be a reality.

Protasis ei + ind. Apodosis ind., subj., imp., moods

IF HE HAS FALLEN ASLEEP, he will be cured

ei kekoimhtai swqhsetai

2nd Class. The condition stated in the protasis is assumed to be untrue

The apodosis states what would have been true had the protasis been true.

Protasis ei + ind. past tense. Apodosis an + ind. past tense

3rd Class. The condition stated in the protasis has the possibility of being/becoming true

Protasis an, or ean + subj. Apodosis, pres. aor. fut.

Sometimes formed by a participle in the protasis (the "if" clause)

How shall we escape IF WE NEGLECT so great a salvation?

pwV hJmeiV ekfeuxomeqa phlikautaV amelhsanteV swthriaV~

xii] Local

A clause expressing the locality where the action of the main verb takes place. "Where", "there" ...

A definite place takes the indicative mood

An indefinite place: some places, an + ind. past tense; a place where the action will occur, an, ean + subj.

Local clauses are introduced by: ou|, oJpou, oJqen, .....
i] The accusative of respect

Where the subject of the infinitive is different to the subject of the main verb, it takes the accusative case. Where it is difficult to differentiate between the subject of the infinitive (accusative) and the object of the main verb (accusative), the subject of the infinitive usually precedes the object.

ii] Articular Infinitives

Of approximately 2,300 infinitives, 291 are articular

Most articular infinitives are governed by a preposition

All infinitives governed by a preposition are articular

Articular infinitives are sometimes final, but most times substantive

Infinitives are neuter and so take a neuter article

iii] Negation

Always mh

iv] An Actualized Infinitive

An infinitive is emphasized by ginomai preceding it in a sentence.

v] Following egeneto de or kai egeneto (cf. Luke)

Serves to lead into a narrative or incident

Then it happened that he WAS PASSING through some grain fields on the Sabbath

WHILE HE WAS PASSING through some grain fields on the Sabbath

egeneto de en sabbatw/ diaporeuesqai auton dia sporimwn

vi] The infinitive with tou

The genitive article with the infinitive has no particular use. It may form a purpose clause, a consequence/result clause, serve as the subject or object of a verb, or function epexegetically.

vii] The infinitive replaced by a clause formed by iJna + subjunctive

In New Testament times, spoken Greek was beginning to drop the infinitive and replace it with a clause formed by iJna with a subjunctive verb. This process is evidenced in NT. texts. So, a hina clause often substitutes the normal functions of an infinitive: Noun clauses as subject, object or in apposition to a verb; An epexegetic clause, qualifying a substantive; An adverbial clause expressing purpose, result, cause ...

viii] Object complement

An infinitive which states something about an object

Usually in the form of a double accusative construction

An object complement my also be formed by a noun, adjective or participle


*A less than common usage*

*Adverbial clauses not formed by an infinitive, but included for reference purposes only*

For Greek font requirements see Syntax Notes

A Commentary on the Greek New Testament Exegetical Notes

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