On 'have' in Ancient Greek. An investigation on echo and the construction einai with a dative as expressions for 'have'.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This book deals with ’have’ in ancient Greek. Two different types of ’have’-constructions were used, viz., on the one hand, the active transitive verb ἔχω and, on the other hand, the verb εἶναι, ’be’, with a complement in the dative case (here called the ἔστι μοι construction). A transitive ’have’ does not seem to be of Proto-Indo-European origin but rather an innovation in separate Indo-European languages. In Greek the attestation for ἔχω is very early, and both types of ’have’ constructions existed side by side for a very long time. Here an attempt has been made to investigate the way in which ἔχω has been used, during the course of time and also as compared to ἔστι μοι.
Over time ἔχω gains ground at the cost of ἔστι μοι, irrespective of whether the possession is concrete or not. In Homer and Herodotus ἔστι μοι is more frequent than ἔχω when the possession is non-concrete, in Euripides, Xenophon, and Plato ἔχω dominates, and in Isocrates there is a strong dominance of ἔχω in these cases; however, this dominance is practically always less marked than when the possession is concrete, non-animate.
The supposed background of ἔχω, viz.that it meant ’hold’ in an earlier period (it means ’hold’ in some cases in the older texts), may explain the fact that there is a higher proportion of concrete, non-animate, possessions than of non-concrete possessions connected with ἔχω. This fits in well with the fact that ἔχω, besides denoting a very vague ’have’, had shades of meanings such as the metaphorical ’hold in one’s power’ or ’contain’, shades of meanings which can never be part of the meaning of ἔστι μοι. However, there are restrictions on the very vague and empty ἔστι μοι, in that it is not often used when the possessor is the element in focus in the clause. Ἔχω, on the other hand, may well be used when either the possessor or the possession has focus function.
Simultaneously with its expansion ἔχω becomes vaguer and the shades of meanings which discriminated it from ἔστι μοι disappear. In the latest of the investigated texts ἔχω dominates very strongly over ἔστι μοι.


  • Karin Kulneff-Eriksson
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Languages and Literature


  • ’hold’, focus, definiteness, concreteness, possessor, possession, ἔστι μοι, ἔχω, εἶναι with the dative, *seĝh-, ’have’
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date1999 May 29
  • Lund University Press
Print ISBNs9179665640
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 1999-05-29 Time: 10:15 Place: Carolinasalen, Kungshuset, Lundagård External reviewer(s) Name: Hult, Karin Title: [unknown] Affiliation: Göteborgs universitet ---