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Lesson Transcript


Hi, everybody! Stefania here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Greek questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is “How can I tell if a noun is masculine, feminine, or neuter?”
I get this question all the time! If the noun is in its dictionary form ( i.e. in the nominative case) and is accompanied by a definite or indefinite article, then the article will indicate the noun's gender. Now, if the noun is not accompanied by an article and especially when it is in an inflected form, then the gender might not be obvious. However, if you become familiar with the most common noun endings and declension patterns, you should be able to tell the gender in most cases.
Let's get into more detail. First, let's see what are the most common masculine, feminine, and neuter noun endings.
The following endings are the most common masculine endings in the nominative case.
-ος (-os) like ήλιος (ílios, "sun")
-ας (-as) like πατέρας (patéras, "father")
-ης (-is) like μαθητής (mathitís, "student")
-ές (-és) like καφές (kafés, "coffee")
-ούς (-ús) like παππούς (papús, "grandfather")
and -έας (-éas) like κουρέας (kuréas, "barber")
Some common feminine nouns have the following endings in the nominative case.
-ος (-os) like οδός (odós, "street")
-α (-a) like μητέρα (mitéra, "mother")
-η (-i) like αγάπη (agápi, "love")
-ού (-ú) like μαϊμού (maimú, "monkey")
and -ω (-o) like ηχώ (ihó, "echo")
The following endings are the most common neuter endings in the nominative case.
-ος (-os) like δάσος (dásos, "forest")
-ο (-o) like νερό (neró, "water")
-ι (-i) like παιδί (pedí, "child")
-μα (-ma) like πράγμα (prágma, "thing")
-ιμο (-imo) like γράψιμο (grápsimo, "writing")
-ς (-s) like φως (fos, "light")
and -ν (-n) like παρελθόν (parelthón, "past")
Here are some sample sentences.
Ο πατέρας και η μητέρα παίζουν με το παιδί τους. (O patéras ke i mitéra pézun me to pedí tus.)
"The father and the mother are playing with their child."
Ο τουρίστας φωτογραφίζει μια μαϊμού στο δάσος. (O turístas fotografízi mia maimú sto dásos.)
"The tourist is taking pictures of a monkey in the forest."
To follow this up, how can you tell the gender of -ος (-os) ending nouns?
As you've noticed, the -ος (-os) ending can be found in nouns of all genders, so when you see this, you can’t really guess the gender if there is no article or another helpful word around. However, here’s a tip. If the noun is accented in the last syllable, you can be sure that this noun is not neuter. Another important thing to know is that there are many -ος (-os) ending nouns that are both masculine and feminine. Those usually denote a profession such as ο/η γιατρός (o/i yatrós, "doctor") or ο/η δικηγόρος (o/i dikigóros, "lawyer").
Let's see some examples.
Η γιατρός παρατηρεί τις ακτινογραφίες. (I yatrós paratirí tis aktinografíes.)
"The doctor is observing the X-rays."
Ο δικηγόρος μιλάει στον δικαστή. (O dikigóros milái ston dikastí.)
"The lawyer is speaking to the judge."
Finally, what are some uncommon noun endings?
There are only a few specific native Greek nouns that have uncommon endings. Like the irregular masculine noun μυς (mis, "muscle"), ending in -υς (-ís), the neuter ήπαρ (ípar, "liver") and πυρ (pir, "fire") that end in -ρ (-r), the neuter γάλα (gála, "milk") that ends in -α (-a), and the neuter οξύ (oxí, "acid"), δόρυ (dóri, "spear"), and ήμισυ (ímisi, "half") that end in -υ (-i). Also, the names of the letters of the alphabet, are all neuter nouns, even the ones that end in -α (-a) like άλφα (álfa, A) and βήτα (víta, B). Finally, there are many loanwords that have not been adapted to the Greek declension system so they don't get inflected and they usually have uncommon or confusing endings, like the dual-gendered, indeclinable noun ντετέκτιβ (dedéktiv, "detective") ending in -β (-v). So loanwords will always be more challenging when it comes to guessing the gender.
Here are two more examples.
Το μωρό πίνει πολύ γάλα. (To moró píni polí gála.)
"The baby drinks a lot of milk."
Οι ντετέκτιβ παρακολουθούν έναν ύποπτο. (I detéktiv parakoluthún énan ípopto.)
"The detectives are following a suspect."
I'm sure after a lesson like this you might be freaking out, but if you’re a beginner or an absolute beginner, you don't need to know all of this right away. A tip that will make your life easier down the road is when you study vocabulary, focus on the endings of words and always, always memorize declinable words together with their articles, especially nouns. Do that at least for the -ος (-os) ending nouns or other nouns you feel you might get confused. Don't just memorize "milk" as γάλα (gála). You should memorize it as το γάλα (gála), otherwise you might mistake it for a feminine noun because it ends in -α (-a).


How was the lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!
Γεια χαρά! (Ya hará!)