My first verb (Learning a little Greek part 7)

Not the kind of encouragement you need when learning NT Greek

Drum role please. I’m about to learn my first New Testament Greek verb. It’s the first they teach you in J.W.Wenham’s The Elements of New Testament Greek. At first, I thought it was “I lose” as in loser. How insensitive I thought to give that as a first verb to someone who is daring to learn Greek. I don’t need to be reminded at this early stage that I am a “language loser”. Turned out is was “I loose” as in when you let something go or untie something. I’m afraid I really am that bad at English and so I find myself wondering again if I should really be attempting this. Well, at least I can learn one verb even if it takes me a few weeks. Problem is I can’t quite work out how to pronounce it.

“Blue letter bible” helps with root words ( but not verb tenses etc. I need a CD audio thing to help me.  Or does the man on the youtube video teach this verb? Yes, he does!


Apparently “loose” as in, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:19) could also mean “destroy”. My lexicon gives annul, break, destroy, putting an end to, release, remove, take off, unbind and untie” as possible translations and uses.

Anyway the “present, indicative, active” of the  verb “I loose” is λυω. Backing up a bit though, what does “present, indicative, active” mean? I’ll hazard a guess that “present” means it’s happening now but what about the others? Well to answer that I know I will have to open a whole can of worms so I’m not going to bother yet. Right now I just want to learn a verb.

The Greek for “I loose” is  λυω and the root is λυ. Here are the endings you add to the root to make other versions of the verb.

person/people english ending sound clue
1st person singular I ω Oh my
2nd person singular you εις ais like ace
3rd person singular he/she/it ει ey as in hay
1st person plural We oμεν omen
2nd person plural you ετε etay  – I wonder why its not ete
3d person plural they oυσι (ν) oosee as in Lucy

Oh, one more thing (there always is with languages). There is something called a “movable nu” or “movable ν”  at the end of the third person plural of this verb.  It crops up now and again after some verbs, nouns etc. One explanation I found for them says that they are like our English “a” and “an” in that we use “an” before a word starting with a vowel. For example we say “a pig” but “an elephant“. Movable Nu’s sometimes  occur to separate two vowels, one at the end of a word and the other at the beginning of the next. The NT does not always have then but its good to be aware of them.

OK. Now to find my verb in the wild. I’m going to paste a verse  in as a gif from my bible works program.

I will read it, (as in pronounce it out loud) and then play “spot the only verb I know“. I know it’s a bit like putting a duck in a cadge and shooting at it but you have to start somewhere. Oh, I know that καὶ means “and”! Great start. There is a grave accent (my memory picture of the gave etc worked!) over the Iota meaning that that sound is stressed and αι is a diphthong so the accent is over the second vowel as expected. Come on!

I struggle through to βασιλείας where I get a strange feeling I have heard the word before. Turns out it means kingdom. I thought it was something to do with a building for some reason. Is “The Basilia” a building somewhere? My spell checker and the web say no. Nearest I can get is a Basilisk  βασιλίσκος  the legendary king of all the serpents whose gaze could kill. Oh well. Moving on. There are some smooth breathing comas on a couple of leading vowels. Not sure what that spot is under a couple of the Eta’s (η – pronounced “ate a” as in “hay“. For some reason I still keep thinking Eta is pronounced like “elephant” but that’s Epsilon ε).

Ah! My first rough breathing ἔσται “hest eye” (please ignore my attempts at phonetic spelling but it helps me). Boy am I glad I am never going to have to write this stuff and therefore remember all the breathings and accents. Reading them seems easy enough though.

ἐν (“en”) catches my eye. That’s a small word I think I have seen before. Turns out it means “in” or “at”, “upon”,”with”). I remember it having some relevance for looking at the baptism in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13) where for some reason it was significant that it could mean “in” “by” or “with”. There are some other words in the definition of ἐυ though that make my blood run cold ie “preposition and dative” so what about that other little word ὃ (as in “hop”). It simply means “who” or “which” except there are even more nasty words attached to it’s definition, namely :  “pronoun, relative, accusative, neuter, singular”. I think there might be a whole barrel of worms ahead somewhere but right now I’ll keep the lid tightly on and hurry on by. “la la la!”

I get to the end. Oh. None of the verb forms I learnt were there. Obviously, knowing the verse, I was looking for two and there are two words that at least have λυ in them but the endings and even the beginning of one is pretty mangled. I was expecting the first “loose” to be “you loose” either singular or plural.

Let’s consult my lexicon program again. The first “loose” in the verse is “subjunctive, aorist, active, second person, singular“. Really? How nice for it. The first three words mean nothing to me at the moment I’m afraid. What’s the second occurrence? “Participle, perfect, passive, nominative, neuter, singular.” (I am resisting the “it’s all Greek to me” quip as that could get very grating in a long blog series like this one.) To be fair, “neuter” probably mean’s neither male nor female (like an unfortunate cat)  but I have a feeling that, like in French, the male/female word thing will be all a bit arbitrary – like it’s been thrown in to make learning the language harder.

Anyway, I’m off now to learn the verb. Cover me!


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