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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 should you use the nominative case?”
In everyday life, we see the nominative case, or ονομαστική πτώση (onomastikí ptósi) in Greek, being used in dictionary and encyclopedia entries, listed items, and city names on street signs, but grammatically speaking, the nominative case in speech is used in three cases.
• Firstly, in the subject of a clause or sentence.
• Secondly, in the predicate of a subject.
• Thirdly, after some prepositions. This is the least common use of the nominative case.
Let's go into more detail. First, let's see the first case - the nominative case in a subject.
The subject of a clause or sentence answers the question "Who/What?" or in Greek "Ποιος, Ποια, Ποιο / Τι;" (Pios, Pia, Pio / Ti?) and is always in the nominative case. For example...
Ο άνθρωπος είναι άρρωστος. → Ποιος είναι άρρωστος; → Ο άνθρωπος.
(O ánthropos íne árostos. → Pios íne árostos? → O ánthropos.)
The man is sick. → Who is sick? → The man.
Another example is...
Το σπίτι έχει δύο υπνοδωμάτια. → Τι έχει δύο υπνοδωμάτια; → Το σπίτι.
(To spíti éhi dío ipnodomátia. → Ti éhi dío ipnodomátia? → To spíti.)
The house has two bedrooms. → What has two bedrooms? → The house.
Here are some more sample sentences.
Ο Πέτρος είναι γιατρός. (O Pétros íne yatrós.)
"Peter is a doctor"
Το τηλέφωνο χτυπάει. (To tiléfono htipái.)
"The phone is ringing."
Following up, we have the nominative case being used in the predicate of a subject.
The predicate of a subject in Greek is the part of a clause or sentence that is linked with the subject through a copular verb, also called a linking verb. The predicate of a subject always indicates a certain attribute the subject has, and in Greek, it can be a noun, an adjective, a pronoun, a numeral, a passive voice participle, or even a whole phrase. If the predicate is a declinable word, then it is in the nominative case, although there may be some exceptions. Let's look again at the previous example.
Ο άνθρωπος είναι άρρωστος. → Τι είναι; → Άρρωστος.
(O ánthropos íne árostos. →Ti íne? → Árostos.)
"The man is sick." → What is he? → Sick.
Copular verbs in Greek are verbs of existence, such as είμαι (íme, "to be)", γίνομαι (yínome, "to become"), υπάρχω (ipárho, "to exist"), γεννιέμαι (yeniéme, "to be born"), πεθαίνω (pethéno, "to die"), but also verbs such as φαίνομαι (fénome, "to seem/to look"), εκλέγομαι (eklégome, "to be elected"), θεωρούμαι (theorúme, "to be considered"), λέγομαι/ονομάζομαι (légome/onomázome, "to be called"), and more. They come together with a predicate instead of an object because they are not transitive verbs. They just connect the subject of the verb to additional information about the subject.
But having a copular verb in a sentence doesn't mean there will always be a subject predicate. For example, Ο άνθρωπος είναι στο σπίτι (O ánthropos íne sto spíti. "The man is in the house.") The part "in the house" is a prepositional phrase expressing location. Its use is adverbial. It does not give the subject a special attribute, therefore it is not the subject's predicate.
Here are some other sample sentences with copular verbs and predicates.
Έγινα πατέρας! (Éyina patéras!)
"I became a father!"
Υπάρχει ένας ποταμός εδώ κοντά. (Ipárhi énas potamós edó kondá.)
"There is a river nearby."
Finally, we have the nominative case after prepositions.
Most prepositions in Greek are combined with words in the accusative case and some with words in the genitive, but in some rare cases, the nominative might be used as well, especially after prepositions such as από (apó, "from"), αντί (andí, "instead"), and για (ya, "for"). For example...
Έγινε από διεθυντής πρόεδρος. (Éyine apó diefthindís próedros. "From a manager he became a president.")
Αντί η Γιάννα, να πάει η Βασιλική. (Andí i Yána, na pái i Vasilikí. "Instead of Joanna, let Vasiliki go.")
And Περνιέσαι για έξυπνος; (Perniése ya éxipnos? "You think you are smart?")
Also in arithmetic, we use the prepositions συν (sin, "plus"), πλην/μείον (plin/míon, "minus"), επί (epí, "times"), and διά (diá, "divided by") with nominative. For example, πέντε μήλα συν τρία πορτοκάλια (pénde míla sin tría portokália, "five apples plus three oranges").
Here are some more sample sentences with the nominative case after prepositions.
Έγινε από δήμαρχος κλητήρας. (Éyine apó dímarhos klitíras.)
"From a mayor he became a clerk."
Δεν φαίνεται για δικηγόρος. (Den fénete ya dikigóros.)
"He doesn’t look like a lawyer."


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!)

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