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Hellenistic Greek © 2008, 2015, 2020
Lesson 31: Aorist Active Imperatives
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Lesson at a Glance


An imperative form is used to give a command.


Hellenistic Greek imperatives have three sets of forms, one for the present tense/aspect, another for the aorist, and a third for the perfect (to be studied later). The aorist forms appear when the implied beginning and ending of the commanded action are in clear focus.

What is an imperative?

Imperatives are direct commands. "Close the door." "Stand up." "Keep singing." In English, commands are given with the simple form of the verb (no endings such as -s or -ed), and no tense/aspect indicators.

Aorist versus Present Imperatives

In Ancient Greek, however, commands could be given using the present tense/aspect, the aorist, or the perfect (to be studied later). Two of the English examples in the previous paragraph would be expressed with the aorist in Ancient Greek, while the third ("Keep singing") would be expressed using the present tense/aspect. With "Stand up" and "Close the door" both the beginning and completion of the implied action are clearly implied. With "Keep singing", however, neither the beginning nor the ending of the singing is implied.

In Matthew 8:25 we find an interchange between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus is asleep in a boat while a storm rages. His terrified disciples wake him and say:

  1. κύριε, σῶσον, ἀπολλύμεθα.
    Lord, save [us], we are drowning (Matthew, 8:25).

They are not encouraging Jesus to continue what he is doing, but to start and finish the act of saving them.

A few chapters later, Jesus encourners a man with a withered hand and says to him:

  1. ἔκτεινόν σου τὴν χεῖρα.
    Stretch out your hand (Matthew 12:13).

Again, the command assumes the beginning and end of the commanded action. If the intent were for the man to keep his arm stretched out, we would find the present imperative here instead of the aorist.

Forms of the Aorist Active Imperative

The Ω Conjugation

There were two sets of forms for the aorist imperative. Some verbs used first aorist forms while others used second aorst forms. Each set of form is presented below

First Aorist forms

Imperative of πιστεύω Singular Plural
2nd Person πίστευσον Be faithful!, Believe! πιστεύσατε Be faithful!, Believe!
3rd Person πιστευσάτω Let him or her be faithful!
Let him or her believe!
πιστευσάτωσαν Let them be faithful!
Let them believe!

Second Aorist Forms

Imperative of ἔρχομαι Singular Plural
2nd Person ἐλθέ Go!, Come! ἔλθετε Go!, Come!
3rd Person ἐλθέτω Let him or her go!
Let him or her come!
ἐλθέτωσαν Let them go!
Let them come!

Notice that where the first aorist has σ(α), the second aorist has ε. Also, while the first aorist uses the same stem as the present, the second aorist uses the second aorist stem.

There are a few Ancient Greek verbs that appear with both first and second aorist endings. Φέρω is one of them. Its first aorist form is called a κ aorist because it has κ instead of the usual σ before the thematic vowel. Even when it appears with first aorist endings, it uses a second aorist stem: ἤνγκα, -κας, -κε, -καμεν, -κατε, -καν.

The ΜΙ Conjugation

Some of the most frequent verbs in the New Testament are μι conjugation verb. Their Present Indicative Active First Singular form ends with -μι.

Imperative of δίδωμι Singular Plural
2nd Person δός Give! δότε Give!
3rd Person δότω Let him or her give! δόντων Let them give!

Aorist Active Infinitives

Take a moment to review the forms for the Aorist Active Infinitive (from lesson 14).

Remember that the aorist infinitive does not express progressive aspect. It presents the action expressed by the verb as a complete unit with a beginning and end.

  1. Ἡρῴδης θέλει σε ἀποκτεῖναι
    Herod wants to kill you (Luke 13:31)

  2. Ἡρῴδης ζητεῖν τὸ παιδίον τοῦ ἀπολέσαι αὐτό.
    Herod is seeking the child to destroy him.

  3. ἐφοβήθη ἐκεῖ ἀπελθεῖν
    He was afraid to go there

  4. ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ... ἦλθεν ... διακονῆσαι καὶ δοῦναι τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν.
    The son of man ... came ... to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.

The first two examples (3 and 4) use first aorist infinitives. The third example (5) has a second aorist infinitive. The second aorist infinitive uses the same ending as the present infinitive (-ειν). It is distinguished from the present infinitive, though, by its use of the second aorist stem (ἀπελθ- rather than ἀπἐρχ-)


  1. υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ

  2. εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ

  3. εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰπὲ τῲ λίθῳ τούτῳ...

  4. εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, βάλε σεαυτὸν ... κάτω [κάτω = down]

  5. εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, βάλε σεαυτὸν ἐντεῦθεν κάτω [ἐντεῦθεν = from here]

  6. [χαλάω = I let (something) down, I loosen (something); τὸ δίκτυον = net]

    In Luke 5 we find a story in which Jesus sits in Simon's boat and teaches people on the shore. When he finishes teaching, he asks Simon to put out to deep water, and says to him – and presumably the others in the boat:

    χαλάσατε τὰ δίκτυα ὑμῶν

  7. [τὸ πλοῖον = boat; ἑστῶτα is a perfect tense/aspect form of ἵστημι. Translate it as "placed" or "located". ἡ λίμνη = lake]

    εἶδεν δύο πλοῖα ἑστῶτα παρὰ τὴν λίμνην

  8. [βαίνω = I enter; ἕν is the neuter form of the number one.]

    ἐμβὰς δὲ εἰς ἓν τῶν πλοίων...

  9. [ὅ = which; ὅ is the nominative neuter singular form of the relative pronoun (ὅς, ἥ, ὅ), usually translated as "who", "which", or "what"]

    ἐμβὰς δὲ εἰς ἓν τῶν πλοίων, ὃ ἦν Σίμωνος,...

  10. [ἐπανάγω = I take, bring; ὀλίγος = a little, a small amount]

    ἠρώτησεν αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἐπαναγαγεῖν ὀλίγον

  11. καθίσας δὲ ἐκ τοῦ πλοίου ἐδίδασκεν τοὺς ὄχλους

  12. εἶδεν δύο πλοῖα ἑστῶτα παρὰ τὴν λίμνην· ... ἐμβὰς δὲ εἰς ἓν τῶν πλοίων, ὃ ἦν Σίμωνος, ἠρώτησεν αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς ἐπαναγαγεῖν ὀλίγον· καθίσας δὲ ἐκ τοῦ πλοίου ἐδίδασκεν τοὺς ὄχλους.

  13. [ὡς = as, like; παύω = I stop, cease, finish]

    Ὡς δὲ ἐπαύσατο λαλῶν...

  14. Ὡς δὲ ἐπαύσατο λαλῶν, εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Σίμωνα....

  15. [βάθος = deep]

    ἐπανάγαγε εἰς τὸ βάθος

  16. ἐπανάγαγε εἰς τὸ βάθος καὶ χαλάσατε τὰ δίκτυα ὑμῶν

  17. ἡ ἄγρα = catch, prey

    ἐπανάγαγε εἰς τὸ βάθος καὶ χαλάσατε τὰ δίκτυα ὑμῶν εἰς ἄγραν

    Notice that there is a distinction in this text in Greek that is difficult to express in English without adding several more words. The first command (ἐπανάγαγε) is singular, but the second (χαλάσατε) is plural. This implies that Jesus is speaking directly to Simon with the first command, but to several people with the second. This impression is strengthened by the plural form ὑμῶν (your). Who are these extra people? The Greek text asserts that there are others in the boat with Jesus and Simon.

  18. Ὡς δὲ ἐπαύσατο λαλῶν, εἶπεν πρὸς τὸν Σίμωνα· ἐπανάγαγε εἰς τὸ βάθος καὶ χαλάσατε τὰ δίκτυα ὑμῶν εἰς ἄγραν.

Aorist Imperative of Three Common Verbs

Lexical Form


Singular Aorist Imperative

Plural Aorist Imperative






ἐλθέτω (ἐλθάτω)




εἰπέ (εἰπόν)