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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 “When do you use ι, η, υ, ει, οι and υι?”
At the very beginning, the proper spelling of Greek words is something that has to be learned and memorized in the same way that you learned how to spell words in your own language. You need exposure and lots of practice. For example, in English, you memorized that it is "tree" and not "trea", and it's "tea" and not "tee." In Greek, though, things become somewhat easier as you gain knowledge of declensions and conjugations, especially when that /i/ sound is at the end of an inflected word.
Let's get into more detail. First, let's see what you have to know if that /i/ sound is at the end of a word.
Inflected words in Greek, such as articles, nouns, adjectives, and verbs, usually follow specific ending patterns when inflected. If you know the patterns, then the /i/ sound at the end of such words is predictable. Here are a few generally safe rules.
1. The plural forms of masculine and feminine -ος (-os) ending nouns, as well as masculine -ος (-os) ending adjectives and pronouns, will end in -οι (-i). For example, Οι ψήφοι καταμετρώνται από την επιτροπή. (I psífi katametrónde apó tin epitropí.) means "The votes are being counted by the committee."
2. Words that end in -η (-i) are mainly feminine nouns and pronouns in the singular form and the plural form of neuter -ος (-os) ending nouns.
3. Words that end in -ι (-i) are usually neuter nouns. For example, Το σκυλί σκάβει λάκους στον κήπο. (To skilí skávi lákus ston kípo.) means "The dog is digging up holes in the garden."
4. The verb forms that have an /i/ sound in the ending, will be spelled with -ει (-i). The verb πληρώ (pliró, "to fulfill"), however, is an exception, as its /i/ endings are spelled with -οι (-i).
Following up, what about υ and υι?
The double vowel combination υι (-i) is very rare and it's not something you’ll find at the end of a word. It’s only used in the word υιός (iós) , meaning "son", and its derivatives; for example, υιικός (iikós, "of or related to a son"), υιοθεσία/υιοθέτηση (iothesía/iothétisi, "adoption"), υιοθετώ (iothetó, "to adopt"), and υιοθετημένος/-η/-ο (iothetiménos/-i/-o, "adopted").
As for the words that have an -υ (-i) in the ending that is not part of the ου (u), αυ (av), or ευ (ev) sounds, they are also not that many, so they can be easily learned. The most common ones are...
• The -υς (-is) ending adjectives like: βαθύς (vathís, "deep"), βαρύς (varís, "heavy/strong") ελαφρύς (elafrís, "light"), ευθύς (efthís, "straight"), μακρύς (makrís, "long"), παχύς (pahís, "thick/fat"), and πολύς (polís, "much/many"), among others.
• Some nouns, like άστυ (ásti, "city" [archaic]), βράδυ (vrádi, "night"), μυς (mis, "muscle"), δάκρυ (dákri, "tear"), δίχτυ (díhti, "net"), ισχύς (ischís, "force"), οξύ (oxí, "acid"), and στάχυ (stáhi, "cob").
• Some adverbs, like αντίκρυ/κατάντικρυ (andíkri/katándikri, "opposite"), μεταξύ (metaxí, "between"), αναμεταξύ (anametaxí, "among"), and πολύ (polí, "very/too much/a lot").
• The pronoun εσύ (esí, "you").
• And finally, some foreign names, like Σίσσυ (Sissy), Φρέντυ (Freddy), Bίκυ (Vicky), and so on.
Here are some sample sentences using words that are spelled with υ (i).
Το βράδυ κάνει κρύο. (To vrádi káni krío.)
"At night it's cold."
Ο καφές είναι πολύ βαρύς. (O kafés íne polí varís.)
"The coffee is very strong."
Finally, what if the /i/ sound is not at the end of a word?
In that case, you need to focus on the root or the roots of compound words, because the root might remind you of words you already know. For example, if you know how to spell ύψος (ípsos, "height"), then all the words that begin with ύψος (ípsos) will be spelled with υ (i) at the beginning. For example, υψόμετρο (ipsómetro, "altitude"), υψηλός (ipsilós, "tall/high"), υψίπεδο (ipsípedo, "highland"), ύψωμα (ípsoma, "elevation"), υψώνω (ipsóno, "to raise"), etc.
Here are some sample sentences.
Το χωριό βρίσκεται σε υψόμετρο δύο χιλιάδων μέτρων. (To horió vrískete se ipsómetro dío hiliádon métron.)
"The village is located at an altitude of two thousand meters."
Μη μου υψώνεις τη φωνή! (Mi mu ipsónis ti foní!)
"Don't you raise your voice at me!"
However, there will always be times that you will simply have no idea how to correctly spell a word you hear. Memorization will always be part of the learning process. It's just something that you shouldn't get too frustrated about. Write as much and as best as you can without feeling ashamed, even when you know you might be making a lot of mistakes. With enough time, practice, and study, you can and WILL perfect your spelling!


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!)