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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 “How can you tell a weak possessive pronoun apart from a weak personal pronoun or an article?”
Greek weak possessive pronouns use the same forms as the weak personal pronouns in the genitive case. Those are μου (mu, "my"), σου (su, "your"), του (tu, "his"), της (tis, "her"), μας (mas, "our"), σας (sas, "your"), and τους (tus, "their"). So depending on the use, all of these forms can denote either ownership or a person, such as me, you, him, her, etc. Furthermore, του (tu), της (tis), and τους (tus) could also be definite articles meaning "the." Although they look confusing, it's actually easy to tell them apart.
Let's go into more detail. First, let's see how to spot a weak possessive pronoun.
Unlike articles that are placed right before a noun, a weak possessive pronoun will come after it. For example, ο αδερφός μου (o aderfós mu, "my brother").
But when there is an adjective defining the noun, there can be three options. Let's examine the example "my little brother."
• In Greek, we may have ο μικρός (ο) αδερφός μου. (o mikrós (o) aderfós mu) (adjective with article + noun with optional article + pronoun)
• It can also be ο μικρός μου (ο) αδερφός. (o mikrós mu (o) aderfós) (adjective with article + pronoun + noun with optional article)
• And finally, we can have ο αδερφός μου ο μικρός. (o aderfós mu o mikrós) (noun with article + pronoun + adjective with article)
As you can see, the possessive pronoun will either precede the noun and its article or follow it.
Here are some sample sentences.
Το σχολείο μας είναι το μοναδικό στην περιοχή. (To scholío mas íne to monadikó stin periohí.)
"Our school is the only one in the area."
Κάνεις τα μαθήματά σου; (Kánis ta mathímatá su?)
"Are you doing your homework?"
Following up, let's see how to spot a weak personal pronoun in genitive.
Personal pronouns in general will usually come before a verb but they will follow a gerund or a verb in the imperative. For example...
μου έδειξες (mu édixes, "you showed to me") (verb)
δείχνοντάς της (díhnondás tis, "showing to her") (gerund)
δείξε μου (díxe mu, "show me") (imperative)
Here are some sample sentences.
Τη βοηθάω με τις δουλειές του σπιτιού. (Ti voitháo me tis duliés tu spitiú.)
"I'm helping her with the household chores."
Πες μου την αλήθεια. (Pes mu tin alíthia.)
"Tell me the truth."
Sometimes, another weak personal pronoun in accusative may come between the pronoun in genitive and the verb; but with gerunds and imperatives, the pronoun order is flexible. For example...
μου την έδειξες (mu tin édixes, "you showed her to me")
δείχνοντάς μου την / δείχνοντάς τη μου (díhnondás mu tin / díhnondás ti mu, "showing her to me")
δείξε μού την / δείξε τή μου (díxe mú tin / díxe tí mu, "show her to me")
Weak personal pronouns in genitive may also come after adjectives in the comparative and relative superlative degree, numerals, the adjective όλος and certain pronouns and adverbs, usually adverbs of place. Some examples are...
καλύτερός σου (kalíterós su, "better than you") (comparative)
το καλύτερό μας (to kalíteró mas, "the best of us") (relative superlative)
οι τρεις σας (i tris sas, "the three of you") (numeral)
όλοι τους (óli tus, "all of them") (adjective όλος)
μόνη της (móni tis, "on her own") (pronoun)
πάνω μου (páno mu, "on me") (adverb)
Finally, we'll see what more you need to know in order not to confuse these two types of weak pronouns.
Sometimes, you might see a weak pronoun in the genitive case between a noun and a verb. For example, η δασκάλα μου είπε (i daskála mu ípe.) So is it "my teacher said" or "the teacher told me"? Well, μου (mu) here is possessive because, according to grammar, personal pronouns need an accent mark when they can be confused for possessive, unless a proparoxytone word, i.e. accented in the third-to-last syllable, precedes. So if we had η δασκάλα μού είπε (i daskála mú ípe), μού (mú) would then be personal, "the teacher told me."
When a proparoxytone word precedes a personal pronoun then we don't use an accent mark. For example ο πρόεδρος μας είπε (o próedros mas ípe, "the president told us”). But if that pronoun is possessive, then we pronounce the pronoun closely with the word before it and add an accent mark to the last syllable of the word, ο πρόεδρός μας είπε (o próedrós mas ípe, "our president said”). When this happens, that possessive pronoun is called "enclitic." Notice the different voice tone in each case, ο πρόεδρος μας είπε / ο πρόεδρός μας είπε (o próedros mas ípe / o próedrós mas ípe.)
Here are some sample sentences.
Η μητέρα μάς μίλησε και ύστερα βγήκε έξω. (I mitéra más mílise ke ístera vyíke éxo.)
"Mother talked to us and then she went out."
Το αυτοκίνητό μου θέλει συντήρηση. (To aftokínitó mu théli sindírisi.)
"My car needs maintenance."
Now something extra to know.
When we have a repeated weak form, for example ο πατέρας μου μου είπε, (o patéras mu mu ípe, "my father told me"), adding an accent mark is not necessary because there can be no confusion. The possessive pronoun goes after the noun and the personal pronoun before the verb. However, you might see some people adding an accent mark to the second form to show that the repetition is not a typo, like in ο πατέρας μου μού είπε (o patéras mu mú ípe.)


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