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575. Difference

The difference, then, between imperative and subjunctive and optative, in their fundamental and most characteristic uses, is one of degree: command, requisition, wish; and no sharp line of division exists between them; they are more or less exchangeable with one another, and combinable in coördinate clauses.

a. Thus, in AV., we have in impv.: çatáṁ jīva çarádaḥ do thou live a hundred autumns; ubhāú tāú jīvatāṁ jarádaṣṭī let them both live to attain old age; — in subj., adyá jīvāni let me live this day; çatáṁ jīvāti çarádaḥ he shall live a hundred autumns; — in opt., jī́vema çarádāṁ çatā́ni may we live hundreds of autumns; sárvam ā́yur jīvyāsam (prec.) I would fain live out my whole term of life. Here the modes would be interchangeable with a hardly perceptible change of meaning.

b. Examples, again, of different modes in coördinate construction are: iyám agne nā́rī pátiṁ videṣṭa ... súvānā putrā́n máhiṣī bhavāti gatvā́ pátiṁ subhágā ví rājatu (AV.) may this woman, O Agni! find a spouse; giving birth to sons she shall become a chieftainess; having attained a spouse let her rule in happiness; gopāyá naḥ svastáye prabúdhe naḥ púnar dadaḥ (TS.) watch over us for our welfare; grant unto us to wake again; syā́n naḥ sūnúḥ ... sā́ te sumatír bhūtv asmé (RV.) may there be to us a son; let that favor of thine be ours. It is not very seldom the case that versions of the same passage in different texts show different modes as various readings.

c. There is, in fact, nothing in the earliest employment of these modes to prove that they might not all be specialized uses of forms originally equivalent — having, for instance, a general future meaning.