You are here:

Greek/possessive adjective


QUESTION: Hi Michael!  I was reading a passage in John's Gospel (Ch. 16, v. 15).  It reads:  πάντα ὅσα ἔχει ὁ πατὴρ ἐμά ἐστιν·  

I understand what it means (I think):  All (or everything) that the Father has is mine.

I have two questions.

First, I'm a bit confused by ἐμά. I think that's the nominative neuter plural of the possessive adjective, ἐμος, -η, -ον. Nominative because it's the complement (a "predicate nominative" after the verb "to be," not a direct object).  But why neuter?  And why plural?  Because it has to agree with πάντα?  It just seems strange to me that a word referring to one individual man would be in the neuter plural.  (The plural of "mine" would be "ours," wouldn't it?)

Second, my lexicon says that ὅσος, -η, -ον means "as many as, as much as."  But in the context it seems better to translate it simply as "what" or "which" or "that" -- in other words, to treat it like the relative pronoun ὅς, ἥ, ὅ.  Why not just use the relative pronoun in that sentence?  The words seem to be related.  Is there a subtlety of meaning that ὅσα captures that ἅ would not?

Thanks for your help!


My problem is with     α ἔχει ὁ πατὴρ ἐμά ἐστιν·


thank you for your question. There is, actually, nothing unusual in this construction. The pronoun ἐμά must match - as you said - the subject in case, number and gender, which is πάντα (and also the apposition in the relative clause ὅσα).

The neuter plural of such pronouns, when not followed by a clear nominal part of the speech (noun, adj., participle), refers to "things, belongings" (Cf. in English the replacement of "all people" with "everyone" etc.). And if such a pronoun in neuter plural functions as an object, like here, by transferring the implied "things" to ὅσα, it is considered to refer to a noun usually deriving from the verbal root (the so-called "figura etymologica" but more precisely I would name it a "serial object" as we roughly call it in Greek) which is often omitted in Classical or Hellenestic Greek. This is the function of ὅσα here, but also the function of the subject Πάντα. You may consider words like "ὑπάρχοντα, κτήματα, ἀγαθά" and the alike to the missing but implied nominal function of these pronouns.

In Greek, particularly ἐμά when not followed by any noun means "my belongings". So, consider it quite fixed. As it is declinable, it needs to agree to the subject. If the sentence were like "all the grace that Father has, is mine", then this "mine" would have to match the gender and number of the noun "grace" which would be feminine, i.e. ἑμή.

In the other question your observation is very correct. There is a difference between the two relative pronouns. Ὅσος implies or adds quantity or size (whatever big, whatever much), whereas ὅς is merely a subordinate use of the article (he, who../everything, that..)
So if you say:
πάντα ἅ ἔχει ὁ πατὴρ ἐμά ἐστιν = everything that/all what Father has, is mine
πάντα ὅσα ἔχει ὁ πατὴρ ἐμά ἐστιν = everything, to whatever extent Father has, is mine

Did you also notice the Attic syntax in the main clause? Subject is in neuter plural and the predicate in singular. At first it doesn't match, but it is "allowed" and explained as characteristic of the Attic dialect.

Should you need anything else, please, let me know. Have a nice evening.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you very much for your reply!

I don't quite understand what you mean by "it is considered to refer to a noun usually deriving from the verbal root (the so-called figura etymologica . . . serial object."

Also, concerning the "Attic syntax" of the main clause:  I thought neuter plural subjects always take a singular verb.  Are you saying that the rule only applies in the Attic dialect (and I suppose it carried over to koine)?  In Doric, would the verb be plural?


Hi again Tom,

whenever an adjective or a pronoun that replaces an adjective, function as an object to a verb, it is necessary to imply a noun next to it, in order to have a logical outcome. If this noun is not obvious from the previous sentences, but only from the current one, then it has to derive from the verb's meanings or root, e.g.:

Ἀλέξανδρος ἔπραξε πολλά = Alexander did/achieved many (what?) - e.g. things

But in Greek one has to imagine a word that comes from ἔπραξε or at least nearby meanings, e.g. πράξεις, i.e. πολλὰς πράξεις
(cf. achieved many achievements or did many deeds - not a modern English way, of course, but what about "to sing a song" when you say to someone "sing something". It has to be a song.)

So, in the phrase ὅσα ἔχει ὁ πατὴρ, one thinks: "all what father has" but there is no noun to signify "what", so we have to think a noun that comes from the verb ἔχει, and if not then a similar meaning (e.g. belongings, duds, holdings, possessions).

If it were ὅσα λέγει ὁ πατὴρ then we would have to consider a noun deriving from the verb λέγω, i.e. λόγους. So, this - and the previous one - are called "serial objects" or maybe figura etymologica according to some Latin grammars.

Regarding the Attic syntax, now, yes it passed over to Koine. I just wanted to say - in case you were a brand new learner - that you might have not observed that there is no accordance in the number. In Attic it is almost always like this, but in the Ionic or Doric dialect one meets the normal number accordance more often. Just this.

Have a good evening.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Michael Barkas


I provide assistance in linguistic, literary topics of Greek and Latin covering, thus, the following fields: translation, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etymology, morphology, semantics and interpretations etc.


Studies: University of the Aegean, Dept Rhodes Friedrich Wilhelm Universitšt Bonn

Magister Artium (Archeology/Linguistics) Bachelor (Latin/English/Greek)

©2016 All rights reserved.