Theaet. How can they?
Str. Or, again, when you say "lion," "stag," "horse," or any other
words which denote agents -neither in this way of stringing words
together do you attain to discourse; for there is no expression of
action or inaction, or of the existence of existence or
non-existence indicated by the sounds, until verbs are mingled with
nouns; then the words fit, and the smallest combination of them
forms language, and is the simplest and least form of discourse.
Theaet. Again I ask, What do you mean?
Str. When any one says "A man learns," should you not call this
the simplest and least of sentences?
Str. Yes, for he now arrives at the point of giving an intimation
about something which is, or is becoming, or has become, or will be.
And he not only names, but he does something, by connecting
nouns; and therefore we say that he discourses, and to this
of words we give the name of discourse.
Str. And as there are some things which fit one another, and other
things which do not fit, so there are some vocal signs which do, and
others which do not, combine and form discourse.
Theaet. Quite true.
Str. There is another small matter.
Theaet. What is it?
Str. A sentence must and cannot help having a subject.
Str. And must be of a certain quality.
Str. And now let us mind what we are about.
Theaet. We must do so.
Str. I will repeat a sentence to you in which a thing and an
action are combined, by the help of a noun and a verb; and you shall
tell me of whom the sentence speaks.
Theaet. I will, to the best my power.
Str. "Theaetetus sits"-not a very long sentence.
Theaet. Not very.
Str. Of whom does the sentence speak, and who is the
subject that is
what you have to tell.
Theaet. Of me; I am the subject.
Str. Or this sentence, again-
Theaet. What sentence?
Str. "Theaetetus, with whom I am now speaking, is flying."
Theaet. That also is a sentence which will be admitted by every
one to speak of me, and to apply to me.
Str. We agreed that every sentence must necessarily have a certain
Str. And what is the quality of each of these two sentences?
Theaet. The one, as I imagine, is false, and the other true.
Str. The true says what is true about you?
Str. And the false says what is other than true?
Str. And therefore speaks of things which are not as if they were?
Str. And say that things are real of you which are not; for, as we
were saying, in regard to each thing or person, there is much that
is and much that is not.
Theaet. Quite true.
Str. The second of the two sentences which related to you was
first of all an example of the shortest form consistent with our