Disambiguating the ἔρ- words

1. From the stem ἐρ/ρ (originally ϝερ/ϝρ, ε-grade and zero-grade) derive a number of forms associated with λέγω, and meaning “to say”:

  • one of the futures (ἐρέω);
  • the perfect active εἴρηκα;
  • one of the perfect passives (εἴρημαι);
  • and one of the aorist passives (ἐρρήθην; n.b., the unaugmented stem is ρηθ, as in the participle ρήθεις. This is the zero-grade root—the digamma accounts for the doubled rho: ἐϝρήθην -> ἐρρήθην, preserving the syllabic structure.)
  • Homer also uses the present εἴρομαι (deponent in the Iliad; the associated active εἴρω only occurs in the Odyssey)
2. From the stem ἐρ, meaning “to ask”
  • Attic uses a derived form ἐρωτάω for the present, which cuts down on the ambiguity.
  • Homer uses both εἴρομαι and ἐρέω in the present, which are ambiguous with two of the forms listed above, the former with the present and the latter with the future of ἐρ/ρ (λἐγω). Thus ἐρέω means either (rarely) “I am asking” or (commonly) “I will say” (but not either “I will ask” or “I am saying); εἴρομαι means either “I am asking” or “I am saying,” but (I think) more commonly the former than the latter.
  • The future ἐρήσομαι—derived from the present ἐρέω—only occurs in Attic.
  • The aorist ἠρόμην, “ask,” a second aorist built directly on the root ἐρ, is also apparently confined to attic, but Homer has what looks like an imperfect, εἰρόμην, which may represent the same form. (In the early Greek alphabet, ε, η, and ει were all written with the same letter.)
  • There is no perfect or aorist passive

3. From the stem ἐρα-, meaning “(fall in) love”

  • The Attic present is ἐράω (n.b.: alpha, not epsilon contract); the poets have an athematic form ἔραμαι, which is deponent.
  • In the remainder of tenses the verb is passive deponent: thus ἐράσθην (aorist passive) “I fell in love,” ἐρασθήσομαι (future passive) “I will fall in love,” ἤρασμαι (perfect passive) “I have fallen in love.” Note the tell-tale alpha in all of these forms.