Lesson 4: Basic Greek Sentences, Noun and Verb Declension, Indefinite Article

In this lesson, we will learn:

  • Noun declension, Part 2: Masculine nouns in -ος, Feminine nouns in -α
  • Indefinite article (ένας, μία, ένα)
  • Basic structure of Greek sentences
  • some more Greek vocabulary

We will also start forming simple sentences, using the rules and vocabulary we’ve been through up to now.

1. Noun Declension

In Lesson 3 we discussed nouns, how they are differentiated by gender and how gramatical gender does not necessarily coincide with natural gender in Greek language. We also laid out 3 examples of noun declension, one for each gender.

Today, we’ll start elaborating on different noun groups and on inflection peculiarities for each one. First, though, we should make a remark on Stressing, as declension calls sometimes for fluctuation of word stress within a paradigm.

Word Stress Rules

Greek words usually have one to six (or even more) syllables.

  • The iron rule is that no word may receive a stress before the antepenult (3rd syllable from the end). To put it differently, Greek words are stressed only on the last, penultimate and antepenult syllables, whether they are simple or composite words and no matter the number of syllables of which they are constructed.
  • When the last syllable of a noun bears the vowels-η- and -ω- or the double vowel -ου- (in ancient Greek these were pronounced as long vowels), then the antepenult cannot be stressed. See the tables below for examples.

Now, after putting forth the above basic rules, we can proceed to inflecting some more Greek nouns, beginning with…

Masculine nouns ending in -ος

Stressed on the last syllable:


Singular Plural
Nom. o καπν-ός

(smoke)

οι καπν-οί
Gen. του καπν-ού των καπν-ών
Acc. τον καπν-ό τους καπν-ούς
Voc. καπν-έ καπν-οί

Stressed on the penultimate:


Singular Plural
Nom. o κήπ-ος

(garden)

οι κήπ-οι
Gen. του κήπ-ου των κήπ-ων
Acc. τον κήπ-ο τους κήπ-ους
Voc. κήπ-ε κήπ-οι

Stressed on the antepenult:


Singular Plural
Nom. o άγγελ-ος

(angel)

οι άγγελ-οι
Gen. του αγγέλ-ου των αγγέλ-ων
Acc. τον άγγελ-ο τους αγγέλ-ους
Voc. άγγελ-ε άγγελ-οι

You must have noticed that, in this last paradigm, where the word is stressed on the antepenult, the stress “descends” on the genitive of singular and plural, as well as on the accusative of plural, where the syllables contain the letters -ω- and -ου-, according to the above mentioned Greek word stressing rule.

This happens on the majority of masculine nouns of this group, especially on those which have been in use for many centuries (most are in use since Antiquity, although with slight changes). On the other hand, popular words of more recent origin do not follow the rule. For convenience sake, I shall henceforward introduce new vocabulary (nouns) by mentioning the singular vocative and plural genitive cases, e.g. o άνθρωπος, των ανθρώπων (human). This will help you locate the nouns into their respective declension groups.

Feminine nouns ending in -α: first group

Stressed on the last syllable:


Singular Plural
Nom. η χαρ-ά

(joy)

οι χαρ-ές
Gen. της χαρ-άς των χαρ-ών
Acc. τη χαρ-ά τις χαρ-ές
Voc. χαρ-ά χαρ-ές

Stressed on the penultimate:


Singular Plural
Nom. η ώρ-α

(hour)

οι ώρ-ες
Gen. της ώρ-ας των ωρ-ών
Acc. την ώρ-α τις ώρ-ες
Voc. ώρ-α ώρ-ες

Stressed on the antepenult:


Singular Plural
Nom. η θάλασσ-α

(sea)

οι θάλασσ-ες
Gen. της θάλασσ-ας των θαλασσ-ών
Acc. τη θάλασσ-α τις θάλασσ-ες
Voc. θάλασσ-α θάλασσ-ες

Note: We see that, in this group of feminine nouns, in the plural genitive the stress “descends” to the last syllable (remember ‘γυναίκα’ from Lesson 3?).

Don’t worry. After completing our lessons on Greek nouns declension, a comprehensive table of stressing rules for all 3 genders will be available for you, to help you with a more systematic revision. Now, let’s go and see…

Feminine nouns ending in -α: 2nd group

Stressed on the penultimate:


Singular Plural
Nom. η μητέρ-α

(mother)

οι μητέρ-ες
Gen. της μητέρ-ας των μητέρ-ων
Acc. τη μητέρ-α τις μητέρ-ες
Voc. μητέρ-α μητέρ-ες

Stressed on the antepenult:


Singular Plural
Nom. η ταχύτητ-α

(speed)

οι ταχύτητ-ες
Gen. της ταχύτητ-ας των ταχυτήτ-ων
Acc. την ταχύτητ-α τις ταχύτητ-ες
Voc. ταχύτητ-α ταχύτητ-ες

Unlike the previous group, this 2nd group of feminine nouns in -α does not require the stress descending to the last syllable (η μητέρα). In the case of ‘ταχύτητα’, it is the stressing rule about “long” vowels (the -ω- of genitive) forcing the stress to move down to the penultimate.

To practice a little with noun declension, you can take your notebook and exercise by inflecting the following nouns:

ο βοσκός (shepherd)

ο έμπορος, των εμπόρων (merchant)

ο κίνδυνος, των κινδύνων (danger)

ο γέρος, των γέρων (old-man)

η σπηλιά (cave)

η ελπίδα, των ελπίδων (hope)

η χώρα, των χωρών (country)

————————————–

2. The Indefinite Article

Like a, an in English, the Greek indefinite article appears only in the Singular number.

Note: Context and practice will help you distinguish between the Numeral  for ‘one’ (ένα) and the Indefinite article, as they are practically the same in form.

 

Masc. Fem. Neutr.
ένας

ενός

ένα(ν)

μία

μίας

μία

ένα

ενός

ένα

—————————————-

3. Basic Structure of Greek Sentences

Nothing complicated really.

As with English, the basic Greek sentence is comprised of

Subject       +        Predicate

The subject may be a pronoun or a nominal group.

The predicate (= “the part of sentence or clause that expresses what is said of the subject,” merriam-webster.com) is a Verb, either alone (e.g. I sleep, Εγώ κοιμάμαι) or accompanied by

  • an object (direct or indirect)
  • a complement (a nominal group)
  • an adverb.

Some examples of useful Greek phrases:

Το πλοίο φεύγει στις 8 ακριβώς. The boat leaves at 8 o’clock. (verb accompanied by an adverb)

To τρένο φεύγει από την αποβάθρα 2. The train leaves from platform 2. (verb accompanied by a nominal group introduced by a preposition)

(Εγώ)* θέλω ένα ποτήρι νερό. I want a glass of water. (verb accompanied by a direct object)

Η θάλασσα είναι ζεστή. The sea is warm. (verb accompanied by an adjective)

* Notice that in Greek language the presence of the pronoun is not compulsory. Thus, we can say,

Εγώ είμαι Έλληνας (I am Greek), but we can also say

Είμαι Έλληνας, omitting the pronoun (εγώ, I).

Nevertheless, we shall most definitely use a pronoun, when there is danger of getting confused over which the subject is.

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One Response to Lesson 4: Basic Greek Sentences, Noun and Verb Declension, Indefinite Article

  1. Saeed Neamati says:

    Hi,

    Your website seems to be a good online Greek resource. However, I think putting some simple stories would be a good idea, and helpful to other people too.

    Thanks.

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