Learn New Words FAST with this Lesson’s Vocab Review List

Get this lesson’s key vocab, their translations and pronunciations. Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

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 do you use Greek definite articles?”
Just like in English, we use Greek definite articles to talk about specific people, animals, things, or concepts, so they need to be defined. Greek has three different definite articles - ο, η, and το (o, i, to, "the") for the masculine, feminine, and neuter genders, respectively. They are inflected, so their forms can change. An article defines a noun and it needs to always "agree" with it in gender, number, and case. However, instead of a noun, we could use any nominalized word or phrase to act like a noun.
Let's go into more detail. First, let's see when we use the Greek definite articles.
In Greek, we use them more often than their English equivalent, “the.” So while in English we say “I like tennis", in Greek we say μου αρέσει το τένις (mu arési to ténis), literally “I like the tennis", because we are specifying which sport we like. We even use articles in front of days of the week, months, years, festivals, seasons, and proper names of places or people. For example, Ο Γιάννης είναι εδώ (O Yánis íne edó, "[Τhe] John is here”). However, when we address that person directly, we don't use an article and we form the name in the vocative case. For example, Γιάννη, έλα δω. (Yáni, éla do, "John, come here"). Notice how Γιάννης (Yánis) in the nominative case changed to Γιάννη (Yáni) in the vocative case.
Here are some sample sentences.
—Ποιος είναι;
—Η Μαρία.
(—Pios íne? —I María.)
"—Who is it? —It's Maria."
Την Κυριακή τα παιδιά πηγαίνουν εκδρομές. (Tin Kiriakí ta pediá piyénun ekdromés.)
"On Sunday, the kids go on excursions."
Ο εκτυπωτής εκτυπώνει ένα έγγραφο. (O ektipotís ektipóni éna éngrafo.)
"The printer is printing a document."
Πήρε τηλέφωνο η γυναίκα. (Píre tiléfono i yinéka.)
"The woman called."
Here are some more uses of the definite article.
1. Between a noun and the demonstrative pronouns αυτός (aftós), αυτή (aftí), αυτό (aftó) meaning "this/that" (if something is close or far) for the masculine, feminine and neuter respectively, (ε)τούτος (etútos), (ε)τούτη (etúti), (ε)τούτο (etúto) meaning "this," and εκείνος (ekínos), εκείνη (ekíni), εκείνο (ekíno) meaning "that." For example, αυτή η γυναίκα (aftí i yinéka, "this woman").
2. Between a noun and the adjectives όλος (ólos) meaning "all, whole, entire" and ολόκληρος (olókliros) meaning "whole, entire." For example, όλη η τάξη (óli i táxi, "the whole class") and ολόκληρος ο κόσμος (olókliros o kózmos, "the whole world") However, ολόκληρος (olókliros) might not always require an article. For example, περιμένω ολόκληρες ώρες (periméno olóklires óres, "I've been waiting for hours").
3. With a noun denoting something very specific followed by a possessive pronoun. For example, το βιβλίο μου (to vivlío mu, "my book").
4. When talking about a rate. For example, πέντε ώρες την ημέρα (pénde óres tin iméra, "five hours per day").
5. In sequences of nouns. For example, οι άντρες και οι γυναίκες (i ándres ke i yinékes, "the men and women").
6. With abstract nouns, nouns denoting substances, and with nouns and adjectives in the plural when they denote a very specific entity. For example, η υπομονή είναι χρυσός (i ipomoní íne hrisós, "patience is gold"), το ξύλο καίγεται εύκολα (to xílo kéyete éfkola, "wood burns easily"), and τα παιδιά είναι το μέλλον (ta pediá íne to mélon, "children are the future").
7. When we want to treat as a noun a different type of word or even a whole phrase. In that case, we use the neuter article. For example, Τι θα φέρει το αύριο; (adverb) (Ti tha féri to ávrio? “What will tomorrow bring?”), Ποια είναι η σημασία του «βλέπω»; (Pia íne i simasía tu vlépo? “What's the meaning of ‘to see?’”), and Το ότι καπνίζεις με απογοητεύει (To óti kapnízis me apogoitévi, "The fact that you smoke disappoints me").
Finally, let's see some cases where you don't need a definite article.
The most common cases are...
• With the subject or object of a sentence, when we are talking about it generally or when we don't want to define it as something or someone specific. For example, Υπάρχει περίπτωση ανθρώπου που γύρισε στη ζωή. (subject) (Ipárhi períptosi anthrópu pu yírise sti zoí. "There is a case of a man that came back to life"), and Πήρα αυτοκίνητο (object) (Píra aftokínito. "I bought a car").
• Next, in predicates when we give an attribute to something or someone. Predicates are connected with a subject through a linking verb, like the verb "to be." For example, Αυτή είναι δασκάλα (Aftí íne daskála. "She is a teacher").
• Finally, in similes after σαν (san, "as/like"). For example, Ψηλός σαν κυπαρίσσι (Psilós san kiparísi. "Tall like a cypress tree").
No article is also used when talking about items or substances that have no specific amount. For example, το μωρό θέλει γάλα (to moró théli gála, "the baby wants some milk").
Here are some sample sentences.
Ο γιος μου έγινε γιατρός. (O yos mu éyine yatrós.)
"My son became a doctor."
Πήρα προαγωγή! (Píra proagoyí!)
"I got a promotion!"
It takes some time to get comfortable with all the uses of articles, as they might be affected by other parts of speech such as prepositions, but I think the points I mentioned are the most basic and important ones to keep in mind when you are just starting to learn Greek.


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!)