As the expression “Molon Labe” appears prominently no less three times on the new SIG Sauer M1911 Spartan pistol, let’s take a more detailed examination of this phrase. The first word, “molon,” is the aorist active participle—masculine, nominative, singular—of the Greek verb “to come,” meaning in this instance “having come.” The word “labe” is the aorist active imperative—second person singular—of the verb “lambano,” translated as “take [them].”
In Greek these two words function together in a grammatical structure not present in English, called the circumstantial participle. Where English would put two main verbs in two independent clauses joined by a conjunction, i.e., “come and take,” ancient Greek, which is abundant in participles, subordinates one to the other, a linguistic tactic called hypotactic: “coming, take,” with the first action turned into an adjective.
Thus in ancient Greek a nuance is provided not obvious in the English translation, making very clear that the coming must precede the taking (i.e., “having come, take”).