Modern Greek/LegacyLesson 11

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Lesson 11: Irregular verbs, the genitive, family, the body, prepositions

The genitive[edit]

What English expresses using possessives or the presposition "of," Greek expresses using the genitive case. The following example shows the noun σκύλος in all the subject, genitive, and object cases.

ο σκύλος the dog (subject form) οι σκύλοι the dogs (subject form)
του σκύλου of the dog (genitive form) των σκύλων of the dogs (genitive form)
τον σκύλο the dog (object form) τους σκύλους the dogs (object form)


το πόδι του σκύλου the dog's foot (literally, the foot of the dog)

The genitive plural is easy, because it's always formed with -ων, and the article is always των.

τα πόδια των σκύλων the dogs' feet

The genitive singular is formed according to a greater variety of patterns, of which three of the most important are shown here:

ο σκύλος του σκύλου
η ώρα της ώρας
το βιβλίο του βιβλίου
το παιδί του παιδιού


In some nouns, when the antepenult is accented, the genitive is accented at the penult and when the penult is accented the genitive is accented at the ultimate. There is a set of rules to distinguish in which cases this happens. Most of the rules derive from Ancient Greek and have to do with either long and short vowels or Ancient Greek declensions. This is an issue with Modern Greek itself, since most of the nuances of Ancient Greek are lost in Modern Greek. People in most cases put the accent intuitively and at some instances even native speakers have great difficulty in accentuating correctly. This is why it is often said that in order to properly speak Modern Greek, one has to have at least a basic level of Ancient Greek.

τα πόδια των ανθρώπων (άνθρωπος/ανθρώπων) the men's feet (genitive plural)
τα πόδια του ανθρώπου (άνθρωπος/ανθρώπου) the man's feet (genitive singular)
τα πόδια των ανδρών (άνδρας/ανδρών) the men's feet (genitive plural)
τα πόδια των πατέρων (πατέρας/πατέρων) the fathers' feet
τα πόδια του άνδρα (άνδρας/άνδρα) the man's feet (genitive singular)

The accent can also advance two positions, from antepenult to ultimate between nominative plural and genitive plural. The noun το χάδι (the caress) presents the following declensions:

το χάδι τα χάδια
του χαδιού των χαδιών
το χάδι τα χάδια

Genitive indefinite article[edit]

The following list shows the indefinite article in all three of the cases covered so far:

ένας one, masculine subject
ενός of one, masculine genitive
έναν one, masculine object
μία or μια one, feminine subject
μίας or μιας of one, feminine genitive
μία or μια one, feminine object
ένα one, neuter subject
ενός of one, neuter genitive
ένα one, neuter object

Genitive pronouns[edit]

μου μας
σου σας
του, της, του τους

When indicating possession, the genitive pronoun follows the noun it modifies.

Στην υγειά σας! To your health (Cheers!)
το βιβλίο μου my book
Το κεφάλι του είναι μεγάλο. His head is big.

When greeting a person you either say Γεια σας (the polite plural) or Γεια σου (friendly address, more often than not the σου is omitted). Γεια is a short form for υγεία (health → "hygiene"). For a group of people except the abovementioned Γεια σας, the salutation Χαίρετε (rejoice) is also utilized.

When a noun followed by a possessive pronoun has the accent on the third syllable from the end, it gets a second accent on the final syllable:

το γόνατό μου my knee

In Greek, rather than saying that you like something, you say that it is pleasing to you, using the verb αρέσω:

Μού αρέσει το αυτοκίνητο. I like the car (lit. "The car is pleasing to me.")

This form is a remnant of the ancient dative case (δοτική πτώση). Something similar happens with certain prepositions (see below).


The following are some common prepositions:

με with, by means of
μαζί με together with
χωρίς without
για for
από from (moving away from)
σε, εις in, at, on, moving to
μέσα σε into
πάνω σε on
πάνω από above, over
κάτω από below, under
ύστερα από after
πρίν before (~"pre-")
πρό before, in front of (~"proactive")
ενάντια σε against
εναντίον against
εκ, εξ from, out of (~"ex-wife")


Το κλειδί της Άννας είναι κάτω από το τραπέζι. Anna's key is under the table.
Είμαι από την Αμερική. I'm from America.

If the preposition σε is followed by a definite article, the joint form στο(ν)/στη(ν)/στο (σε plus το(ν)/τη(ν)/το) is used:

Το κλειδί της Άννας είναι στο τραπέζι. Anna's key is on the table.
Ο Παύλος είναι στο θεάτρο. Paul is at the theater.

As a remnant of ancient Greek's more complex case system, certain prepositions (πρό, εναντίον, εκ/εξ) are supposed to take the genitive case rather than the object (accusative) case. In these constructions, the genitive is really being used as the dative (indirect object) case, as in the use of the genitive with the verb αρέσω. This is a usage that is dying out, and a beginner doesn't need to worry about it too much. There are, however, certain fixed phrases that will seem inexplicable otherwise:

πρό Χριστού, π.Χ. before Christ
σε τάξει OK

Prepositions used as prefixes[edit]

It is extremely common for Greek verbs to be formed by adding a preposition as a prefix to a simpler verb. However, the preposition may be in a different form than the ones given above, e.g., εις rather than σε. A common prefix is συν-/συμ-, from the ancient Greek preposition συν, with, together. Two other suffixes based on ancient Greek prepositions are δια, for, because of, relating to, and υπό, under (~"hypodermic").

βάλλω to shoot; in ancient Greek, to throw
εισβάλλω to invade: σε (modern εις)+βάλλω, 'throw in'
συμβάλλω σε to contribute to: συν+βάλλω σε, 'throw together'
εκβάλλω to debouch
αποβάλλω to expel
καταβάλλω to pay, put down money, buckle to
διαβάλλω to slander someone, put someone down
υποβάλλω to submit something, subject to, suggest
πνέω to blow (~"pneumatic")
εισπνέω to inhale something
εκπνέω to exhale, die, expire, terminate something
διαπνέω to run through
λείπω to be away, to be lacking
καταλείπω to leave something behind
εκλείπω to vanish, be in eclipse (~"eclipse")
διαλείπω to be intermittent (also διάλειψη = lapse of memory)
υπολείπομαι (passive) to fall short of (also υπόλοιπο = the rest, residual)



ο πατέρας the father
η μητέρα the mother
ο άντρας the man, the husband
η γυναίκα the woman, the wife
ο γιος the son
η κόρη the girl, daughter
ο αδελφός the brother (~"Philadelphia")
η αδελφή the sister
ο παππούς the grandfather
η γιαγιά the grandmother
ο θείος the uncle
η θεία the aunt
ο ανιψιός the nephew (~"nepotism")
η ανιψιά the niece


ο πατέρας μου my father
ο γιος σας your son
Η Ελένη είναι η κόρη μου. Helen is my daughter.
Είναι η μητέρα της Αννας. She's Anna's mother.
Είναι το σπίτι των αδελφών. It's the brothers' house.

Note that in Greek, a definite article is used with a person's name.

Grimm's law[edit]

The words πατέρας and μητέρα are actually closely related to the English words mother and father. When English and Greek words are derived from the same root in their common ancestral language, Indo-European, the consonants are related as follows:

π τ κ β δ γ φ θ χ
f th h p t k b d g

This is known as Grimm's law (after a linguist from the same family that collected the Grimm's fairy tales). Sometimes it can help you to learn words in Greek.


δύο τρία πόδι
two three foot

In some cases, the Greek word that's cognate to the English one is ancient rather than modern. For example, brother corresponds to the ancient φρατήρ (e.g. "fraternity"), not the modern αδελφός, and door to the ancient θύρα rather than modern πόρτα (which is a loan from italian).

Nouns in -ας and -ης[edit]

ο αστροναύτης

Other than -ος, the most common endings for masculine nouns are -ας and -ης.

Ο πατέρας, the father:

subject ο πατέρας οι πατέρες
genitive του πατέρα των πατέρων
object τον πατέρα τους πατέρες

Ο μαθητής, the student, pupil:

subject ο μαθητής οι μαθητές
genitive του μαθητή των μαθητών
object το μαθητή τους μαθητές

These endings are particularly common in nouns referring to professions, e.g., ο αστροναύτης, the astronaut.



οι ιερείς
ο εργάτης the worker
ο γιατρός the doctor (~"psychiatrist")
ο ιερέας (formal) and in plural οι ιερείς and not οι ιερέες, ο παπάς (coll.) the priest (~"hieroglyph")
ο στρατιώτης the soldier
ο ράφτης the tailor
ο ναυτικός the sailor
ο ναύτης the sailor (military)
ο κλέφτης the thief, guerrilla
ο αγρότης the farmer
ο οδηγός the driver
ο δάσκαλος the teacher
ο φοιτητής the student (university)
ο σπουδαστής the student (technical school)
ο μαθητής the student (elementary school)
ο υπάλληλος the clerk, the employee
o αστυνομικός the police officer
ο φίλος the friend
ο γείτονας the neighbor
το μωρό (coll.), το βρέφος (formal) the baby
ο νέος (also νεαρός, but rarely) the young person (~"new")
ο γέρος the old man (~"geriatrics")
γερός strong
πλούσιος rich
φτωχός poor
ο βασιλιάς the king
η βασίλισσα the queen


Ο γιος του φίλου μου είναι ιερέας. My friend's son is a priest.
Ο βασιλιάς είναι πλούσιος. The king is rich.
Ο δάσκαλος έχει τριάντα μαθητές The teacher has 30 students.

The letter ν at the end of a word[edit]

You might have noticed above that while both ο πατέρας and ο μαθητής are masculine nouns, the definite article at the accusative (object) case is different:

τον πατέρα
το μαθητή

There is a general rule that applies not only to the definite article but to most words ending with a ν. According to this rule if the next word does not start with a vowel or any of the voiceless plosives (κ, π, τ, ξ, ψ) then the ν is often omitted.

Thus, the avoidance of complex consonant combinations helps in producing a smooth flow of speech.



καμιά δεκαριά lit. "around ten," used loosely the same way "a dozen" is used in English

(adapted from FSI)

Παραγγέλνω ένα κουστούμι. I'm ordering a suit.
Ευτυχώς υπάρχει ενα κατάστημα που πουλάει πολύ καλά υφάσματα, κι έχει και μεγάλη ποικιλία υφασμάτων -- μάλλινα, βαμβακερά, νάυλον κλπ. Fortunately, there's a store that sells very good material, and it has a large variety of fabrics -- wool, cotton, nylon, etc.
Οι Έλληνες δε θέλουν ν' αγοράζουν έτοιμα κουστούμια. The Greeks don't like to buy ready-made suits.
Συνηθίζουν να πηγαίνουν στο ράφτη. They usually go to the tailor.
Ο ράφτης σας παίρνει τα μέτρα και χρησιμοποιεί όλη την επιτηδειότητά του, για να κάνει το κουστούμι σας τέλειο. The tailor takes your measurements, and uses all his skill to make your suit perfect.
Απ' το ίδιο κατάστημα αγοράζω και καμιά δεκαριά άσπρα πουκάμισα At the same store, I'm also buying a a bunch of white shirts.
Έχουν επίσης και πολύ καλές μεταξωτές γραβάτες σε όλα τα χρώματα. They also have very good silk ties in all colors.