Modern Greek/Lesson 10

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Lesson 10: Review of reading and pronunciation, subject pronouns, and verbs

Vowels[edit]

Greek has five vowel sounds, all vowels are pronounced nearer the English long rather than short:

α approximately as in ball (closer to father in a Boston accent)
ε approximately as in bet
ι as in beet
ο approximately as in boat
ου as in boot

Throughout this book, tables highlighted in this color have (or will eventually have) audio recordings to go with them.

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1ab.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

As you can see from these examples, many letters in the Greek alphabet look like their counterparts in English. There are multiple spellings for some of these sounds:

ι, η, υ, οι, ει, and υι all sound alike.
ε and αι sound like EH as in "kettle".
ο and ω sound like OH as in "over".

Consonants[edit]

The following letters sound like the English letters they resemble:

κ, τ

Note: If you're a native English speaker, try to pronounce a plain τ, that is without the "h" sound in the end.

Reading practice:

τα, τι, η, τη, το, του, τω, κάτω, κότα, άκου

Most Greek words have a stressed syllable which in words of more than one syllable is shown with an accent over the stressed vowel.

Vocabulary:

κακό bad
κατά against, according to, toward

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1c.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

The following Greek consonants sound like familiar sounds from English, but look different from their English counterparts:

  • β vee
  • λ elle
  • π pee
  • δ the
  • μ emm
  • σ,ς ess
  • ζ zee
  • ν enn
  • φ fee
  • θ theh
  • ξ eks
  • ψ eeps

Vocabulary and reading practice:

ναι yes
καλό good
πού where
με with
από from
σε in
αλλά but

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1d.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

The following Greek consonants have sounds not found in English:

γ a soft, gargling g sound, except before the sounds ε and ι, where it sounds like y
ρ like Spanish r
χ like the ch in Scottish loch

Vocabulary and reading practice:

γράφω I write
για for
γιατί why?, because
προς to, toward
όχι no
παρακαλώ please

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1e.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

The following combinations of letters have sounds that have to be learned:

ου oo
αυ av before vowel or voiced consonant, else af
ευ ev before vowel or voiced consonant, else ef
ηυ iv before vowel or voiced consonant, else if
μπ b at the beginning of a word, mb elsewhere
ντ d at the beginning of a word, nd elsewhere
χε, χαι heh
κε, και keh

Vocabulary and reading practice:

και and
ή or
αυτός he
αύριο tomorrow
ευχαριστώ I give thanks, thank you (~"Eucharist")
γυρεύω I look for
μπορώ I can
χαίρετε Rejoice! (a greeting and leave-taking)
καλοκαίρι summer

One of the big obstacles for an English speaker trying to learn Greek is that so few common usage words are related to English ones (although an estimated 10% to 20% of the total English vocabulary has Greek roots, most of it though of scientific/technical nature). However, sometimes there is a relationship that would help you to remember the Greek word, but the relationship isn't obvious, as with ευχαριστώ and Eucharist. When this happens, we'll note it as in the example above, with ~. This may mean that the English word is derived from the Greek one, or merely that both the English word and the Greek one come from a common root.

Names of the letters:

α άλφα ι γιώτα (or ιώτα) ρ ρω (or ρο)
β βήτα κ κάππα (or κάπα) σ σίγμα
γ γάμμα λ λάμδα (or λάμβδα) τ ταυ
δ δέλτα μ μι υ ύψιλον
ε έψιλον ν νι φ φι
ζ ζήτα ξ ξι χ χι
η ήτα ο όμικρον ψ ψι
θ θήτα π πι ω ωμέγα

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1g.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

Personal subject pronouns[edit]

Greek has three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Here are the personal subject pronouns:

εγώ I εμείς we
εσύ you, singular εσείς you, plural
αυτός he αυτοί they (masculine)
αυτή she αυτές they (feminine)
αυτό it αυτά they (neuter)

The second-person plural is also used as the formal form of address, even when speaking to a single person.

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1h.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

Verbs[edit]

First conjugation[edit]

The subject pronouns are usually omitted, because the form of the verb indicates the subject. For example:

γράφω I write
γράφεις you (singular) write
γράφει he/she/it writes
γράφουμε we write
γράφετε you (plural) write
γράφουν they write

There is no infinitive in modern Greek. For naming a verb, the first-person singular of the present tense is used as a generic term. For example, we refer to the verb γράφω, to write.

To summarize the conjugation of a verb, we write it in a table like this:

γράφω γράφουμε
γράφεις γράφετε
γράφει γράφουν

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1i.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

Γράφω is an example of a verb belonging to the first conjugation. Verbs in this conjugation can be recognized because their accent falls before the final ω.

The following verbs belong to the first conjugation:

δίνω give (~"donate")
αλλάζω change
διαβάζω read
κοιτάζω look at
βλέπω see
ακούω hear (~"acoustic")
φτάνω arrive
φεύγω leave
παίρνω take
αγοράζω buy
ξέρω know
νομίζω think
βάζω put
πίνω drink

Vocabulary: Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1i2.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

Conjugations of some of these verbs: Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1i3.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

The verbs έχω, to have, and είμαι, to be[edit]

Two important verbs are έχω, to have, and είμαι, to be. The first-conjugation verb έχω is regular in the present tense, so it has the same endings as γράφω.

έχω έχουμε
έχεις έχετε
έχει έχουν

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1j.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

To be in English is expressed in the active voice, but the Greek είμαι is passive, and doesn't have an active form. The ending -μαι is a typical, regular ending for passive verbs. Although we won't be concerned with passive constructions until later, είμαι is so important that you need to get it under your belt right away.

είμαι είμαστε
είσαι είστε
είναι είναι

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1k.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

Capital letters[edit]

Now that we're ready to handle complete sentences, we need capital letters. Most of the capital letters of the Greek alphabet are similar in form either to the lowercase letters, or to their counterparts in the Latin alphabet:

α Α ι Ι ρ Ρ
β Β κ Κ σ Σ
γ Γ λ Λ τ Τ
δ Δ μ Μ υ Υ
ε Ε ν Ν φ Φ
ζ Ζ ξ Ξ χ Χ
η Η ο Ο ψ Ψ
θ Θ π Π ω Ω

Sentences[edit]

The order of words in a Greek sentence is much more free than in English, but you can correctly construct a sentence using the familiar English syntax of subject+verb, or subject+verb+object. The subject is usually omitted when it is a pronoun.

Sentences:

Είναι καλό. It is good.
Είναι κακό. It is bad.

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1l.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

In Greek, adjectives change their endings to agree with the gender and number of the nouns they describe (declension). The following vocabulary list introduces some nouns that happen to be neuter, and some adjectives, which are given in neuter form. The word το is the definite article, like English "the," used with singular neuter nouns.

Vocabulary:

νερό water
κρασί wine
τσάι tea
καυτό hot
κρύο cold
άσπρο white
κόκκινο red
θέλω to want

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1m.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

Sentences:

Το νερό είναι κρύο. The water is cold
Το κρασί είναι κρύο. The wine is cold.
Το τσάι είναι καυτό. The tea is hot.
Το άσπρο κρασί είναι κρύο. The white wine is cold.

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1n.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

Negatives are formed by placing δεν before the verb. The question mark in Greek is the semicolon.

Sentences:

Το κόκκινο κρασί δεν είναι κρύο. The red wine is not cold
Το νερό δεν είναι καυτό. The water is not hot.

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1o.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

Dialog:

Χαίρετε. Hello.
Χαίρετε. Hello.
Έχετε τσάι; Do you have tea?
Οχι, δεν έχουμε τσάι. Θέλετε νερό; No, we don't have tea. Do you want water?
Ναι, ευχαριστώ. Yes, thank you.

Audio recording: About this sound Modern_greek_1p.ogg This recording was made by a non-native speaker of Greek. We would be grateful to any native speaker who could redo it.

Dialogue 1[edit]

Greeting others

Mark: Γεια σας.
Anna: Kαλημέρα.
Mark: Τι κάνετε;
Anna: Πολύ καλά και εσείς;
Mark: Πολύ καλά.

Vocabulary[edit]

Γειά σας Hello!
Kαλημέρα Good morning
Τι κάνετε How are you?
Πολύ καλά Very well
Και εσείς And you?

Dialogue 2[edit]

Introducing yourself

Mark: Πώς σε λέvε;
Anna: Mε λέvε Άvvα.

Vocabulary[edit]

Πως How
σε λένε they call you
με λένε they call me

Summary of the alphabet and pronunciation[edit]

Alphabet / Αλφάβητο[edit]

The Greek Language was one of the first written languages in all world. The script used had some peculiarities not observed today: for instance, the vowels were not written, and one needed to guess or to know their specific place inside the word. This alphabet has been evolving, through contact with other cultures and through the simple action of the time, until it became what it is today. Amongst the Greek alphabet, we can spot some (or even many) similarities with the Latin (or Roman) one. The alphabet used nowadays has 24 letters: 7 vowels and 17 consonants.

Letter English Name Greek Name
A a alpha άλφα
Β β beta βήτα
Γ γ gamma γάμμα
Δ δ delta δέλτα
Ε ε epsilon έψιλον
Ζ ζ zeta ζήτα
Η η eta ήτα
Θ θ theta θήτα
Ι ι iota ιώτα
Κ κ kappa κάπα
Λ λ lambda λάμδα
Μ μ mu μι
Ν ν nu νι
Ξ ξ ksi ξι
Ο ο omicron όμικρον
Π π pi πι
Ρ ρ rho ρω
Σ σ* sigma σίγμα
Τ τ tau ταυ
Υ υ ypsilon ύψιλον
Φ φ phi φι
Χ χ chi χι
Ψ ψ psi ψι
Ω ω omega ωμέγα
* The sigma has a special lowercase form, used only at the end of words. Both lowercase sigmas have the same value.

Besides the alphabet, there is also an accent ( ´ ) and a diaeresis( ¨ ). The use of these two diacritics is discussed in the next section.

Pronunciation of the Alphabet[edit]

Greek sounds are, in general, soft. As a major rule, each letter carries a single sound (this is not universal, but almost, as we'll see later in this page). As in the previous chapter, we see here a table with the various letters. This time, the columns represent not the name, but the approximate sound of the letters.

Letter How to say it IPA XSAMPA
A α arc [a] a
Β β vacuum [v] v
Γ γ yes before certain vowels,

otherwise like Spanish agua

[ʝ] before [ɛ] or [i]; [ɣ] otherwise G
Δ δ this [ð] D
Ε ε bed [ɛ] E
Ζ ζ zoo [z] z
Η η see [i] i
Θ θ thin [θ] T
Ι ι see [i] i
Κ κ cute before certain vowels, else knock [c] before [ɛ] or [i]; [k] otherwise c, k
Λ λ clock [l] l
Μ μ mine [m] m
Ν ν nine [n] n
Ξ ξ excellent [ks] k_s
Ο ο oh [ɔ] O
Π π ape [p] p
Ρ ρ like Spanish pero [ɾ] 4
Σ σ soup [s] s
Τ τ hate [t] t
Υ υ see [i] i
Φ φ photo [f] f
Χ χ like German ich before certain vowels, else like German Loch [ç] before [ɛ] or [i]; [x] otherwise C, x
Ψ ψ maps [ps] p_s
Ω ω oh [ɔ] O

Note: The letter Γγ is the most difficult to pronounce for an English speaker: it is like a stronger h, simultaneous with the vibration of the vocal cords; in other words, it is the voiced counterpart of the χ. Before e and i vowels, it is pronounced as a y like in the word yes.

Diphthongs[edit]

Diphthongs are combinations of two vowels that function as a unique sound. Note that in Modern Greek, the word Diphthong (δίφθογγος) is also used for combination of vowels that sound like a simple vowel. There are eight diphthongs in Modern Greek. There are also some similar combinations of consonants:

Tabela II - Diphthongs
Diphthong How to say it IPA XSAMPA
αι bed [ɛ] E
αυ have before certain letters, after before others [av], [af] av, af
ει see [i] i
ευ ever before certain letters, effect before others [ɛv], [ɛf] Ev, Ef
ηυ evening before certain letters, beef before others [iv], [if] iv, if
οι see [i] i
ου soon [u] u
υι see [i] i
γγ finger g] Ng
γκ good at the beginning of words, finger anywhere else [g], g] g, Ng
μπ banana at the beginning of words, thumb anywhere else [b], [mb] b, mb
ντ day at the beginning of words, sand anywhere else [d], [nd] d, nd

Accent and Diaeresis[edit]

Most Greek words have a stressed syllable which is the syllable said with more strength: for instance, in the English words comfort and peculiarity, the stressed syllables are com and ar, respectively.

Greek marks the stressed syllable with an accent mark ( ΄ ) over the vowel. In one-syllable words, the accent is usually omitted. When the stress falls on a syllable that has a diphthong, the accent is used above the last letter of this diphthong. Thus, words like Παύλος (Paul) ou γυναίκα (woman), are correctly accented.

If the accent is put on the first vowel of a diphthong, it is not read as a diphthong but read as two independent vowels, as in the word ρολόι (watch or clock), which has three syllables, not two. On the other hand, if one wishes to separate the diphthong, but the accent falls on other syllable, the diaeresis ( ¨ ) is used, as in the word Εβραϊκός (Hebrew).

There are, however, some words that aren't stressed (usually monosyllabic grammatical words), and these don't have an accent. Words like these are read as affixes added to the main word. Examples:

  • ο (the masc.) "Ο πατέρας" (The father) is read as a single word - aw-pah-TE-ras;
  • μου (my), "Ο πατέρας μου" (My father) is also read as a single word - aw-pa-TE-raz-mu.

Every stressed word with more than one syllable carries an accent. However, there are monosyllabic words that also have accent, like ή (or) and πού (where). This accent has a double function:

  • It distinguishes words that, otherwise, would be equal - η (the fem.) and που (that, which);
  • It marks words as strong, unlike their weak comparing counterparts.

Contents
Lesson 1Lesson 2Lesson 3Lesson 4Lesson 5Lesson 6Lesson 7Lesson 8Lesson 9Lesson 10
Vocab 1Vocab 2Vocab 3Vocab 4Vocab 5Vocab 6Vocab 7Vocab 8Vocab 9
AlphabetGrammar
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