Biblical Greek (Advanced): 08. Optative

The optative mood is probably the most puzzling of all moods in the New Testament. By the time of the New Testament, its usage was replaced by the subjunctive. This mood expresses possibility, which is evaluated from the subjective point of view. It is often used to express a wish, prayer, or something possible.

There is a chart of all tense forms (only some instances are attested in the NT):


    Active   Middle-Passive
Sg. 1   λύοιμι   λυοίμην
  2   λύοις   λύοιο
  3   λύοι   λύοιτο
Pl. 1   λύοιμεν   λυοίμεθα
  2   λύοιτε   λύοισθε
  3   λύοιεν   λύοιντο


    Active   Middle   Passive
Sg. 1   λύσοιμι   λυωοίμην   λυθησοίμην
  2   λύσοις   λύσοιο   λυθήσοιο
  3   λύσοι   λύσοιτο   λυθήσοιτο
Pl. 1   λύσοιμεν   λυσοίμεθα   λυθησοίμεθα
  2   λύσοιτε   λύσοισθε   λυθήσοισθε
  3   λύσοιεν   λύσοιντο   λυθήσοιντο


    Active   Middle   Passive
Sg. 1   λύσαιμι   λυωαίμην   λυθείην
  2   λύσαις   λύσαιο   λυθείης
  3   λύσαι   λύσαιτο   λυθεί
Pl. 1   λύσαιμεν   λυσαίμεθα   λυθείμεν
  2   λύσαιτε   λύσαισθε   λυθείτε
  3   λύσαιεν   λύσαιντο   λυθείσαν


    Active   Middle-Passive
Sg. 1   λελύκοιμι   λελυμένος εἴην
  2   λελύκοις   λελυμένος εἴης
  3   λελύκοι   λελυμένος εἴη
Pl. 1   λελύκοιμεν   λελυμένοι εἴημεν
  2   λελύκοιτε   λελυμένοι εἴητε
  3   λελύκοιεν   λελυμένοι εἴησαν

Although there might be special forms of the optative, usually the typical element of the ending is ι, and more concretly οι (present and aorist II active/middle), αι (aorist I active/middle), and ειη (aorist passive).

Semantically, the optative can express prayer, benediction, blessing, or wish (voluntative optative); rhetorical questions (deliberative or oblique optative); and fourth class conditional clause (potential optative).

There are about 68 occurrences of the optative in the New Testament of which 45 are aorists and 23 are presents. Most of the cases are found in Luke and Paul.

The most common forms of the optative which are worth to remeber are these: γένοιτο (from γίνομαι), εἴη (from εἰμί). Once you see these forms you are sure these are optatives.


  • Conveys possible action
  • Typical ending elements are: οι, αι, ειη