the sum total of my knowledge Greek so far (Learning a little Greek part 15

In a few days I am going to do a short two day course in NT Greek. I want to put in one place all that I know and push on a bit further so I am in the best possible place to keep up over the next few days.

1) the alphabet

no. Greek key name example comments
1 α a alpha father  
2 β b beta ball  
3 γ g gamma gift  
4 δ d delta den  
5 ε e epsilon bet  
6 ζ z zeta zoo  
7 η h eta they, ate  
8 θ q theta thing  
9 ι i iota bit ee-ota or eye-ota
10 κ k kappa kitchen  
11 λ l lambda lamb  
12 μ m mu mother  
13 ν n nu nice  
14 ξ x xi taxi  
15 ο o omicron omelet  
16 π p pi pen pie or “pea”.
17 ρ r rho rock slight role to the r
18 σς s j sigma send j at the end of a word
19 τ t tau tennis  
20 υ u upsilon put, foot  
21 φ f phi phone  
22 χ c Chi (he) bach  
23 ψ y psi lips  
24 ω w omega bone  

2) diphthongs

diphthong example        
αι aisle        
ει eight (no distinction is made between this and Eta ( h )
οι soil        
αυ automatic (faust), “aw”    
ευ or ηυ deuce feud “you”      
ου soup, “oo”      
υι suite (pronounced sweet), sweet, “wee”, quit

3) breathings

breathing name sound example
smooth silent ἐν “en”
rough h ἑν “hen”

4) accents

accent name
ά Acute

5) verbs

5.1) person number

1st singular I
2nd singular You
3rd singular Them
1st plural We
2nd plural You
3rd plural Them

Easy peasy lemon squeezey.

5.2) Tense

The tense determines the time of action and its consequences
Tenses Example
present continuous action or action in progress, “run”
imperfect continuous action in the past “I was running”
Aorist in the past, “I ran” (not nec. Just once)*
Perfect completed action but continuing consequences, ie “I inherited”, Jesus’ “it is written”
Pluperfect happened in the past and had consequences in the past but not nec. Now. “I had flu”. rare.
Future “I will run” (rare?)
  *can emphasise – beginning: ingressive, conclusion: culminative, or whole:constative)

To be fair I only really “know” about present at present.

5.3) mood

The relation of the action to reality
Moods Example
Indicative it actually happened “he threw”, or question “he threw?”
Infinitive “to run”
subjunctive possibility, “let us”,  “if we run”
Optative more definite than subjunctive but very rare
Participle verbal nouns “ing” words ie “running”
imperative give an instruction “run”

I know about these but have only memorised “indicative”.

5.4) voice

The relationship of the subject to the action
Active “I am doing it” “I wash the car”
Middle I do something to me  “I wash my face” but most of the time middle voice is interpreted as active
Passive it was done to me “I was killed” “I am washed”

I only know about Active so far.

5.5) thematic/athematic verbs

No idea what this is all about yet.

5.6) verb endings

Endings for present, active, indicative verbs (It seems to be those that have the first person singular ending in ω)

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 oosee as in Lucy  

A more advanced thing I have seen is how endings change when the verb ends in εω. Looks like you take of the Omega and add the endings and then apply these rules:

ε + ε => ει    
ε + o => oυ    
ε + long vowel ie ω or a diphthong => nothing

I guess that stops a lot of tricky pronunciations.

for example:

φιλεω meaning “I love”

final pre-rules notes      
φιλω φιλεω ε disapears before a long vowel like ω
φιλις φιλεεις εε disapears before a diphthong
φιλει φιλεει ε disapears before a diphthong
φιλουμεν φιλεομεν εο goes to ου    
φιλειτε φιλεετε εε goes to ει    
φιλουσι φιλεουσι εο goes to ου    

6) Nouns

6.1) Declensions

A declension is the inflection (the bit you add to the route) of a noun, pronoun, adjective or article (in English “a”, “an” “the” but there is no indefinite article in Greek which I think means there is no “a” or “an” ) to indicate number, case and gender.

6.2) Cases

The cases are:

Nominative the noun is the subject of the sentence “the apostle ran”
Accusative the noun is the object of the sentence “He hit the ball
Genitive the noun is possessed “The ball of Peter”?
Dative indirect object, for/to/with/by “I say a word to apostles
Vocative addressing someone “John, come here”

Clues : I think I have Nominative memorised as that’s the normal way a noun is talked about and comes first in the English sentence and first in the lists of endings. Accusative is who you are accusing. It’s not the object as I know that already so it must be the other key one, the subject. Mmm not great but it will do. Genitive = possession, of ie the Ball of Jen, She is possessive of her ball. Dative = indirect object, ie to or for, indirectly ask for a date ie “are you doing anything Friday night?”, Dates are usually from and to, ie he lived from 1066 to 1102. Vocative, you have to be vocal to give an address to people.

6.3) Word endings

Here are some common endings for nouns ending in “ος” as modelled for us by “λογος” which means “word”.

λογος = Word    
Case Singular Plural
Nominative λογος Λογοι
Vocative λογε Λογοι
Accusative λογον λογους
Genitive λογου Λογων
Dative λογῳ λογοις

Mmm these are going to be hard to learn. After a few mins I have endings for singular, N, V and A in my short term memory but am worried if I learn the others I will forget even those so I’ll let them settle.

Ok I’ve memorised them all for the singular:

N – I now λογος anyway and that’s just the normal word for Word.

A – λογον sounds like logon. I have no specail way of remembering it other than that for now.

V – λογε has an “eh” ending which someone could say in address to someone.

D – λογω The omega looks like to zeroes “00” that you might get in a date ie “1900” or “19ω”.

G – λογου the ου sounds like “who” as in “who has the ball” to which the answer could be “Jen”.

Few, and thats just the singular. I will have to learn the plural at some stage but I really must let these settle first.

6.4) The definite article

masculine “the” (must match it’snoun’s case, no. and gender)
Case Singular Plural
Nominative οἱ
Accusative Τον τους
Genitive Τον των
Dative τῳ τοις

The endings are the same as λογος except for the Nomanative singular, and there is no Vocative (case of address) which kind of makes sense. You wouldn’t say “Hey, the cat, scram!” you would say “hey cat, scram!”.

I’d better stop there as the water gets more choppy ahead and I have not learnt the nouns stuff properly yet. I am not sure exactly what first and second declensions are on about either. Wiki says that first declension is a category of mostly feminine nouns in Latin and Ancient Greek. Seems to say they have a long “a” in them somewhere and so it’s also called the “alpha declension”.

Second declension nouns have “o” in their form. I think that means they are thematic in “o” theme thing going on. I guess that would mean the first declension nouns are thematic in “a” but Wiki calls it pseudo-thematic. Not sure why. Looks like second declension nouns are either masculine or neuter. Masculine ones have this form -ος and neuter -ον (I think they are talking about the nominative version of the nouns when they say that). λογος which means “word” seems to follow this rule as it is a second declension noun ending in “ος” and according to BibleWorks is masculine. My search for a real life noun in the NT proved more successful than when I went hunting for verbs. Here is “the word” in the famous and profound opening to John’s gospel:

John 1:1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

So there is a singular masculine nominative “the” before it. Not sure why there is some extra accents over two of the letters though. Looking back at BibleWorks there is no accent over the sigma at the end of the word. I think the comma after it has got translated into an acute accent and the dot in the last λογος in the sentence has gone to a grave accent. Not very helpful. I had a very kind offer of help from BibleWorks in response to a previous blog (I was very impressed how they noticed it minutes after I published it and got in touch) so I think I will take them up on it.

I will finish on another technical matter. I am using the keyman program ( with the Galaxie Unicode font loaded into it to input my Greek. It works really well so I may buy it when the trial period runs out in a few days.

Oh!! I’ve just seen a heading in one of my books that said “Third declension”. Oh dear. How many declensions are there? I don’t think I want an answer to that question just yet….


Don’t forget to breathe (Learning a little Greek part 5)

David Blaine not breathing for ages

I am learning a little Greek. It’s rather slow going at the moment not least of all due to the technical difficulties of writing it out on a computer but I’m getting there. Now to look at the little comma over the Alpha at the start of ἀπόστολοσ. It’s one of two breathing marks, the other being a backwards comma, as in ἁ. The first is a smooth breathing that can also look like a closed bracket. It means you say the vowel as normal. The second breathing mark, signifies rough breathing where you sort of make a “h” sound before the vowel.

εν “en”

ἐν “en”

ἑν “hen”

The breathing mark is typically placed over the first letter of a word if the

letter is a vowel. If a diphthong has a breathing mark it is always  placed over the second vowel.

Just a few more bits and bobs I have discovered in “The Elements of New Testament Greek”. They may not be important but I will note them down:

1) A Gamma before another Gamma is pronounced like “n”. So ἀγγελος is “angelos”. It is also pronounced “n” before κ, χ and ξ although I am assured that these are much rarer. It’s not quite “i before e except after c” but close. There better not be too much more of this sort of malarkey.

2) Zeta (ζ) is pronouced more like “dz” eg σωζω “I save” but when it is the initial letter it is just plain old “z”.

3) Iota is pronounced more like “y” at the start of proper nouns. I think thats what they are saying. ie Ἰησους for Jesus sounds like “yaysoos”.

4) The letter χ is pronounced “chi” as in “Kite”. When sounded in a word is quite guttural as in “loch”.

5)  They say the name Tau is pronounced as in the first part of “taught”, so “tor” not “taw” as in “tower”.  I will check with Jeff. He seems to miss it out or else I can’t find it. This guy says “t a w” as in tower.

Hey found another free set of NT Greek Lessons by D. Eric Williams. He says alpha is like “ar”. He concurs with my Wenham book about the Zeta “dz” thing. He also mentions the long sounding Iota.  He says κια as in “and” is sometimes just used as a full stop. I love all the “ands” in the Greek Text. It reminds me of a child breathlessly rolling out one sentence after another without a pause “and then we went to the shops and got some sweets and Jake was there and he didn’t have any money and his mom…” He says “pee” for Pi. And, there it is, he says Tau like “taw” so I think I will forget the “taught” thing. Oh, he says “fee” for Phi and “kee” for Chi.

He talks about vowel combinations, or diphthongs in Here are his definitions by way of a recap.

i) αι sounds like “I” in “Isle”.

ii) ει sounds like “ay” in”feight”.

iii) οι sounds like “oil”.

iv) αυ has the “ow” sound like “cow” or “out” .

v) ευ as in “feud”.

vi) ου, he says, sounds as in “route”, so much like the Upsilon by itself.

vii) υι sounds as in “queen”.

viii) He then mentions an ιη diphthong which is new to me and is pronounced “yay” as in “yale”. That’s why Jesus’ name Ἰησους has a “y” sound at the start because it’s got this diphthong at the front. Not really sure what point 3 above means now.

He mentions a “movable nu” (Nu is ν) rule which means nothing to me right now. In the middle of the video he gives the pronunciation for the first three verses of John’s gospel which is quite helpful.

While looking back at Jeff’s video I noticed someone ask why lots of words with Epsilon at the end have it pronounced was a long “ee”. The teacher didn’t know but said that yes that was sometimes the case.

And that’s it I think. I feel the waters are a bit muddied now in terms of reading and pronouncing but at least in theory I can now read New Testament Greek, even if I can’t understand it. I need to go back and learn the capital letters at some point but I want to get a few words under my belt first. I will take a few deep breathes and then learn my first verb.

Funny accents (Learning a little Greek part 4)

A fragment of the Greek NT

I am still persevering with learning a little New Testament Greek. Progress is slow and the ominous specter of verbs is still lurking unseen somewhere ahead. I’ve done the basic Greek alphabet and diphthongs but now I need to look at all those funny marks that appear around some of the letters.

There are three accents in modern editions of the Greek NT. The first, a forward slash, is called the acute. The second accent mark is called the “grave” (Apparently English people pronounce is “grave” as in grave stone, but more properly is pronounced “grarv”) and it’s written as a backwards slash. The final one is like a little hill and is called a circumflex. Here they are being modeled by the letter Alpha in my unicode font:

Acute              ά

Grave             ὰ

Circumflex      ᾶ

Here is another version of them taken from a clearer font:. When you write the circumflex you do so as a little arc not the squiggle in the Unicode font.

The best I can do right now to remember them is that the forward slash and back slash form the sides of the capital letter A which is the first letter of the word “Accents”. Forward slash is therefore the first and is called “Acute” as it is acutely aware that it is propping up the backslash and stopping it falling into the grave. The circumflex is like a “semi circle” (perhaps a moon in the sky above this strange grave yard scene), and can form the bridge of the A or the mound of a grave should the grave fall in. So if I can remember A is for Accents I should be able to recall the names ok.

memory aide to Accent names

Accents may seem rather exotic but they are used, on occasion, in English. For example the grave accent written above a vowel means that the letter should be sounded. For example in poetry to force “looked” to rime with “head” you might write “lookéd”. Because of this is can be used to distinguish between “learned” (he learned Greek”) and “learnéd” (he had great knowledge).

In Greek, they are much more common and rather important because:

1) They sometimes distinguish between otherwise identical words. ει typically means “if”   but εῖ means “you are”.

2) They are mainly used, however, to show which parts of a word should be emphasized. ie ἀπόστολοσ (“apostle” as in Romans 1:1). The first Omicron has an acute accent over it which means you stress it when you say they word. But what about the mark that looks like a comma over the first letter? I’ll get to that in the next blog.

Vowels (Learning a little Greek part 3)

Me trying to learn the Greek Alphabet

I am learning NT Greek. So far so good. I think I have the sounds of the letters sorted. It took several goes of writing them out and saying them. The first 5, then another 5 or 6 and so on. I would try to recall them at different times during the day. I would jot them down on bits of paper or on my phone. I can write them out pretty much every time now but I am still learning to refine the pronunciations.

I have to remember that:

  • Upsilon is not so much like “up” but more like the German for “u” ie “oo” as in “put”
  • I am not sure exactly how to say Alpha. I’m not actually sure its as in “apple” any more so my first blog title is wrong! Oh dear. I think it’s more like the first part of “a” in “father” but without the “r” sound. Like when the doctor asks you to open your mouth and say “ah”. Except more like an “a” for apple….Oh I don’t know..
  • I am also not quite comfortable yet with Iota. I must remember it’s “ee-ota” and Epsilon is as in “elephant”. Eta is “ate a”.

Next I need to learn the vowels. They are produced by exhaling air form the lungs. There are seven of them: Alpha, Epsilon Iota, Omicron, Upsilon, Eta and Omega.

Two are always short – Epsilon “elephant” and Omicron “fog”. Two are always long – Eta “they, ate” (remember “Zeta ate a theta”) and Omega “. Three can be long or short (called common vowels). Think of the word “aha”. The first half of the sound is the short Alpha and the second is like the long Alpha. Iota can be short as in “bit” or long as in “police” and Upsilon can be short as in “put” or long as in “flute”. I’m not currently sure how you tell is the letter should be long or short for these last three. It might depend on the word itself so you just have to know it or you can just use the short version. I shall just use the short versions until I am told otherwise.

Sometimes two vowels are combined into one syllable or diphthong. There are seven proper or common diphthongs (I think there might have been eight in ancient Greek with the addition of ηυ):

αι              aisle

ει              eight (no distinction is made between this and Eta ( h )

οι              soil

υι              suite (pronounced sweet), sweet, “wee”, quit

αυ             automatic (faust), “aw”

ευ or ηυ       deuce, feud, “you”

ου             soup, “oo”

Interestingly if we think of the English versions of the letters the Greek diphthongs are all made up of vowel letters ie “aeiou”. The first three start with α, ε and ο and end in ι. The last three also start with α, ε and ο but end in υ. In the middle there (or at the end, not sure where it should go) is a diphthong made from υ and ι. The English words given to illustrate them are quite helpful as they correspond to the English equivalent of the letters.

Here is a clearer version of the 7 proper diphthongs:

Sometimes, especially when they come at the end of a word, the long vowels Alpha ( α ), Eta ( η ) and Omega ( ω ) are combined with Iota ( ι ) to make another diphthong but the Iota is paced underneath the vowel. It’s called the “Iota subscript” and it’s not pronounced. They are called “improper diphthongs”: ᾳ (need to use for that as I’m not sure how to do it from the operating system method of changing language input.)

Well I’m not totally clear on some of this stuff, especially the common vowels but I think the best thing to do is press on.