AskDefine | Define optative

Dictionary Definition

optative adj
1 indicating an option or wish
2 relating to a mood of verbs in some languages; "optative verb endings" n : a mood (as in Greek or Sanskrit) that expresses a wish or hope; expressed in English by modal verbs [syn: optative mood]

User Contributed Dictionary



From optatif, from , from optātīvus, from optātus


  1. expressing a wish or a choice.
  2. a mood of verbs found in some languages (e.g. Old Prussian, Latin), used to express a wish. English does not have an optative mood, but it does have some words with peculiar properties e.g., hope, wish, want, desire, which express the optative.


  1. the optative mood.
  2. a verb or expression in the optative mood.

Derived terms

See also

Extensive Definition

The optative mood is a grammatical mood that indicates a wish or hope. It is similar to the cohortative mood, and closely related to the subjunctive mood.
Greek (Ancient and to some extent Koine), Albanian, Georgian, Old Prussian, Sanskrit, and Turkish are examples of languages with an optative mood.
In English, the optative is expressed by the use of a modal verb (e.g. that you might find what you're looking for).
In Romanian, the conditional and optative moods have identical forms, thus being commonly referred to as the optative-conditional mood.

Optative in Ancient Greek

In classical Greek, including Plato's Attic dialect, the optative mood is used for a variety of purposes , such as:
  1. Potential Optative, in which the possibility of an action taking place is indicated. "I would be happy to dine with you."
  2. Optative of Wish, which, as the name indicates, is used to express wishes such as those beginning, "If only..." or "Would that...".
  3. Conditional sentences, comprising a main clause, or "apodosis," and a subordinate clause, or "protasis". In these sentences the optative mood is used in particular to convey Future Less Vivid and Past General conditionals.
  4. "Secondary Sequence". The optative mood also frequently substitutes for a verb in the indicative or subjunctive moods within a subordinate clause when that clause is governed by a secondary tense verb such as the imperfect or the aorist.
Over time, as the Koine (common) form of Greek emerged following the conquests of Alexander the Great c. 333 BCE, the use of the optative began to fall away among many Greek writers. In the New Testament, written in Koine Greek, the optative is primarily used in certain fixed expressions like me genoito, "may it not be!" (e.g. Romans 7:7).
Note on forms: Gordon M. Messing attests that in dealing with the endings of the optative mood, Herbert Weir Smyth merely noted without comment that the first person singular ending except after -ιη- was -μι, despite his previous statement that the optative usually has the endings of the secondary tenses of the indicative. The anomaly of the usual ending -μι has now been resolved with the discovery of Arcadian present optative first singular έξελαύνοια, which shows the original secondary active ending previously assumed but hitherto unattested.

Optative in Finnish

In Finnish, the optative is archaic, mainly appearing in poetry. It is used like the imperative, and it denotes a more subtle and polite request. It is formed using the suffixes -os and -ös, depending on vowel harmony; for instance, "kävellös" is the active voice second person singular in present optative of the verb kävellä (to walk). Altogether there are 28 verb inflections in the optative mood, complete with active and passive voice, present and perfect tense, three person forms both in singular and plural and a formal plural form. Most, if not all, of these forms are, however, utterly rare and are not familiar to non-professionals. Only some expressions have remained in day-to-day speech; for instance, one can be heard to say "ollos hyvä" instead of "ole hyvä" ("you're welcome" or "here you go"). This form carries an exaggerated, jocular connotation.

See also


optative in Danish: Optativ
optative in German: Optativ
optative in French: Optatif
optative in Italian: Ottativo
optative in Latin: Optativus
optative in Dutch: Optatief
optative in Norwegian: Optativ
optative in Polish: Optativus
optative in Finnish: Optatiivi
optative in Swedish: Optativ
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