Modern Greek/Lesson 01.5

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This is the fifth lesson and second-to-last lesson teaching you how to read, write and pronounce Greek.

The first new letter you'll learn is Phi:

Φ φ

Neither of the letters has any resemblance to English letters. The pronunciation is familiar though: it's just like an English F (IPA [f]). If English derived a word containing Phi from Greek, it is typically spelled with ph instead of simply f - just like in the letter name "Phi" itself. Practise using the following Greek words:

  • φιλοσοφία
  • φιλμ
  • φεμινισμός
  • φαρμακείο
  • ελέφαντας
  • Φίλιπ
  • Αφρική
  • Σαν Φρανσίσκο

The next letter is easier again. This is Zeta:

Ζ ζ

The capital Zeta looks like a Z and the small Zeta looks like a more curvy version of it. It's pronounced as an English Z (IPA [z]), too. Easy, isn't it? Example words:

  • ντίζελ
  • Βραζιλία
  • Τερέζα
  • Βενεζουέλα
  • Ζάμπια
  • Ζιμπάμπουε
  • Καζακστάν
  • Νέα Ζηλανδία

An interesting combination in Greek is Tau-Zeta:

Τζ τζ

This is pronounced as a combination of the sounds of Tau and Zeta (IPA [dz]). Although "j" is a letter in the English alphabet, there is no such letter in Greek. Instead, we use τζ, whose combined sounds make the "j" sound. τζ is not a letter in the Greek alphabet. It is what the previous statement says, just a sound coming from a combination of letters. In words derived from English, this combination is sometimes used to replace the j sound as in "journalist" or the g sound as in "general". There is a large Greek population that pronounced the letter combination as [dʒ], it is dependent one ones accent. Practise reading the following words:

  • ατζέντα
  • έιτζ
  • Φίτζι
  • Τζορτζ Μπους
  • Αζερμπαϊτζάν
  • Ρίο ντε Τζανέιρο
  • Τζακάρτα
  • Καμπότζη

Now you're going to learn another very important Greek letter: Gamma.

Γ γ

This is equivalent of G in Greek, except that it isn't pronounced as a regular English G. When Gamma is followed by a 'light' vowel sound such as E or I, it is pronounced like the English Y in "year" (IPA [ʝ]). When it is followed by a 'dark' vowel sound such as A, O or U, it is pronounced in a way that doesn't exist in English, kind of like the ch in "Bach" or the lake "Loch Ness" in Scotland, with the difference that vocal chords should be vibrated when pronouncing it (IPA [ɣ]). (Listen to a sound sample.) This letter comes up very often in Greek, so you'll have lots of opportunities to practise.

  • Πορτογαλία
  • φιγούρα
  • Γερμανία
  • Βουλγαρία
  • βιολογία
  • Βέλγιο
  • γεωλογία
  • πρόγραμμα
  • γραφικά
  • Αργεντινή
  • Πράγα
  • Νορβηγία
  • Αλγερία
  • Αφγανιστάν
  • Γεωργία
  • Γουατεμάλα
  • Γουινέα
  • Γρενάδα
  • Μαδαγασκάρη

A variation occurs when there are two Gammas in a row:


This combination is pronounced like the ng in the English word "ring" (IPA: [ŋg]). Examples:

  • Ουγγαρία
  • Αγγλία
  • Μογγολία
  • άγγελος

Finally, how to spell the actual [g] sound as in "garden"? For that, you need two letters again: Gamma and Kappa.

Γκ γκ

Sometimes when this combination is at the middle of words then it represents the sound ng in the English word "ring" (like γγ), but when the word is a foreign loanword and the intention is to have a [g] sound, then it is pronounced as [g]. Though, this detail is not very significant for the pronunciation and it is not wrong to always pronounce γκ as a [g] sound. Greek words you already know that include this combination are:

  • γκαράζ
  • γκέτο
  • Γκάνα
  • Αγκόλα
  • γκάλοπ
  • γκαλερί
  • Σανγκάη
  • Κογκό
  • Μπανγκλαντές

That's it for this lesson! If you didn't have trouble reading the example words, you're ready to continue with the next lesson!


Φ φ
Greek Transliteration English
φιλοσοφία filosofía philosophy
φιλμ film film
φεμινισμός feminismós feminism
φαρμακείο farmakeío pharmacy
ελέφαντας eléfantas elephant
Φίλιπ Fílip Philip
Αφρική Afrikī́ Africa
Σαν Φρανσίσκο San Fransísko San Francisco
Ζ ζ
Greek Transliteration English
ντίζελ ntízel diesel
Βραζιλία Vrazilía Brazil
Τερέζα Teréza Theresa
Βενεζουέλα Venezouéla Venezuela
Ζάμπια Zámpia Zambia
Ζιμπάμπουε Zimpámpoue Zimbabwe
Καζακστάν Kazakstán Kazakhstan
Νέα Ζηλανδία Néa Zīlandía New Zealand
Τζ τζ
Greek Transliteration English
ατζέντα atzénta agenda
έιτζ éitz Aids
Φίτζι Fítzi Fiji
Τζορτζ Μπους Tzortz Mpous George Bush
Αζερμπαϊτζάν Azermpaïtzán Azerbaijan
Ρίο ντε Τζανέιρο Río nte Tzanéiro Rio de Janeiro
Τζακάρτα Tzakárta Jakarta
Καμπότζη Kampótzī Cambodia
Γ γ
Greek Transliteration English
Πορτογαλία Portogalía Portugal
φιγούρα figoúra figure
Γερμανία Germanía Germany
Βουλγαρία Voulgaría Bulgaria
βιολογία viología biology
Βέλγιο Vélgio Belgium
γεωλογία geōlogía geology
πρόγραμμα prógramma program
γραφικά grafiká graphics
Αργεντινή Argentinī́ Argentina
Πράγα Prága Prague
Νορβηγία Norvīgía Norway
Αλγερία Algería Algeria
Αφγανιστάν Afganistán Afghanistan
Γεωργία Geōrgía Georgia
Γουατεμάλα Gouatemála Guatemala
Γουινέα Gouinéa Guinea
Γρενάδα Grenáda Grenada
Μαδαγασκάρη Madagaskárī Madagascar
Greek Transliteration English
Ουγγαρία Ouggaría Hungary
Αγγλία Agglía England
Μογγολία Moggolía Mongolia
άγγελος ággelos angel
Γκ γκ
Greek Transliteration English
γκαράζ gkaráz garage
γκέτο gkéto ghetto
Γκάνα Gkána Ghana
Αγκόλα Agkóla Angola
γκάλοπ gkálop gallop
γκαλερί gkalerí gallery
Σανγκάη Sangkáī Shanghai
Κογκό Kogkó Congo
Μπανγκλαντές Mpangklantés Bangladesh