Modern Greek/Lesson 10
Lesson 10: Review of reading and pronunciation, subject pronouns, and verbs
- 1 Vowels
- 2 Consonants
- 3 Personal subject pronouns
- 4 Verbs
- 5 Capital letters
- 6 Sentences
- 7 Dialogue 1
- 8 Dialogue 2
- 9 Summary of the alphabet and pronunciation
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.
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".|
The following letters sound like the English letters they resemble:
Note: If you're a native English speaker, try to pronounce a plain τ, that is without the "h" sound in the end.
|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.
|κατά||against, according to, toward|
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:
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:
The following combinations of letters have sounds that have to be learned:
|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|
Vocabulary and reading practice:
|ευχαριστώ||I give thanks, thank you (~"Eucharist")|
|γυρεύω||I look for|
|χαίρετε||Rejoice! (a greeting and leave-taking)|
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|
Personal subject pronouns
Greek has three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Here are the personal subject pronouns:
|εσύ||you, singular||εσείς||you, plural|
The second-person plural is also used as the formal form of address, even when speaking to a single person.
The subject pronouns are usually omitted, because the form of the verb indicates the subject. For example:
|γράφεις||you (singular) write|
|γράφετε||you (plural) 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 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:
Conjugations of some of these verbs: Audio recording: Modern_greek_1i3.ogg (help·info) 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
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.
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.
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:
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.
|Είναι καλό.||It is good.|
|Είναι κακό.||It is bad.|
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.
|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.|
Negatives are formed by placing δεν before the verb. The question mark in Greek is the semicolon.
|Το κόκκινο κρασί δεν είναι κρύο.||The red wine is not cold|
|Το νερό δεν είναι καυτό.||The water is not hot.|
|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.|
Mark: Γεια σας. Anna: Kαλημέρα. Mark: Τι κάνετε; Anna: Πολύ καλά και εσείς; Mark: Πολύ καλά.
|Τι κάνετε||How are you?|
|Πολύ καλά||Very well|
|Και εσείς||And you?|
Mark: Πώς σε λέvε; Anna: Mε λέvε Άvvα.
|σε λένε||they call you|
|με λένε||they call me|
Summary of the alphabet and pronunciation
Alphabet / Αλφάβητο
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|
|* The sigma has a special lowercase form, used only at the end of words. Both lowercase sigmas have the same value.|
Pronunciation of the Alphabet
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|
|Γ γ||yes before certain vowels,
otherwise like Spanish agua
|[ʝ] before [ɛ] or [i]; [ɣ] otherwise||G|
|Κ κ||cute before certain vowels, else knock||[c] before [ɛ] or [i]; [k] otherwise||c, k|
|Ρ ρ||like Spanish pero||[ɾ]||4|
|Χ χ||like German ich before certain vowels, else like German Loch||[ç] before [ɛ] or [i]; [x] otherwise||C, x|
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 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:
|Diphthong||How to say it||IPA||XSAMPA|
|αυ||have before certain letters, after before others||[av], [af]||av, af|
|ευ||ever before certain letters, effect before others||[ɛv], [ɛf]||Ev, Ef|
|ηυ||evening before certain letters, beef before others||[iv], [if]||iv, if|
|γκ||good at the beginning of words, finger anywhere else||[g], [ŋg]||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
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.