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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Greek.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Chrissi.
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Greek grammar. We won't be going in too much depth, because it's impossible to condense everything into one short video lesson. But, this video will give you a good idea of the main points of Greek grammar.
Parts of speech
The Greek language has one of the most extensive vocabularies in the world. All Greek words can be categorized into 10 different parts of speech. Furthermore, the Greek parts of speech are separated into inflected and non-inflected.
You might be wondering, "What is inflection exactly?"
Inflection is the modification of a word to express things such as tense, number, person, and more. The inflection of verbs is called “conjugation.” The inflection of articles, nouns, adjectives, and pronouns is called “declension.” When a word is not inflected, it means that its form never changes in speech.
The Greek inflected types of speech are the articles, nouns, adjectives, pronouns, verbs, and participles.
The Greek non-inflected types of speech are the adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.
Greek has also some small non-inflected words called “particles.” However, particles are not considered a part of speech.
In this video, we won't focus on non-inflected words because their use is very straightforward. Instead we will focus on declension and conjugation, which are more complex processes.
In Greek, articles, nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and the passive voice participles are declinable. That means that they have different forms, just like the English noun “cat” changes to “cats” in the plural number.
“cat” > “cats”
γάτα > γάτες (gáta > gátes)
The whole set of different forms that a declinable word may present in Greek is called declension...
...or κλίση (klísi), literally meaning "inclination."
And each different form a declinable word may have is called case...
...or πτώση (ptósi), literally meaning "fall."
There are four cases in Greek: the nominative, the genitive, the accusative, and the vocative case.
In Greek, the nominative case has always been considered a direct case or ορθή πτώση (orthí ptósi), together with the vocative. The genitive and the accusative, on the other hand, were always considered to be oblique cases, or πλάγιες πτώσεις (pláyies ptósis).
But what does direct and oblique mean here? Well, let's remember the inclination and fall concept for a while. If you set up a thin stick vertically on the ground, it won't stand; it'll fall.
The nominative case, being the direct case or "straight" case, indicates the form of a word that is the base, the starting point. This is like the moment when the stick is standing straight before it starts falling. Declinable words are always in the nominative form in dictionaries. In ancient times, the vocative was identical to the nominative. So, the vocative is still considered a direct case, although today there may be some differences between the two cases.
Imagine now that the standing stick starts falling. During the fall, its position constantly changes in relationship to its starting point, until it falls flat on the ground. Declinable words change too in relationship to their starting point, the nominative case. So the oblique cases, or "bent" cases, represent the form of a word that is not the base, like when the stick is already inclined and falling. These are the genitive and the accusative cases.
For example:
“the cat” --> “the cat’s”
η γάτα --> της γάτας
The whole idea of declension, cases, and different forms of the same word may seem strange to an English speaker because English lost its case system almost completely. However, we can still see some declension happening to words, such as the personal pronouns. For example:
[“I,” “he,” “she,” “we,” and “they”] can change to [“me,” “him,” “her,” “us,” and “them.”]
In the phrase "she loves him," "she" denotes the subject, while "him" denotes the object. Similarly, the Greek case system exists in order to indicate certain grammatical relationships among the words of a sentence like the subject, object, and more. It's actually because of the case system that word order in Greek sentences is relatively flexible.
“She loves him.”
(S) (V) (O)
For example, in English the sentences "the cat eats the mouse" and "the mouse eats the cat" mean different things.
By swapping the nouns "cat" and "mouse," the meaning changes completely. However, in Greek, the meaning wouldn't change because the form itself of a word shows us whether it's the subject or the object.
“The cat eats the mouse.” ≠ “The mouse eats the cat.”
So saying η γάτα τρώει τον ποντικό is exactly the same thing as τον ποντικό τρώει η γάτα. η γάτα (i gáta, "the cat") is in the nominative case, a case that indicates subject. τον ποντικό (ton pondikó, "the mouse") is in the accusative case, a case that indicates object. The word order depends on what the speaker wants to emphasize, as the first word gets more attention. So, the second sentence is actually more like saying "It is the mouse that the cat eats."
Η γάτα τρώει τον ποντικό. = Τον ποντικό τρώει η γάτα. = “The cat eats the mouse.”
I gáta trói ton pondikó. = Ton pondikó trói i gáta.
The grammatical case is the first characteristic of declension. The other two characteristics are gender and number.
There are three genders in Greek: masculine, feminine, and neuter. All declinable words, including articles, are gendered. For example, in Greek, the definite article "the" comes in all three genders:
ο, η, το (o, i, to)
And just like in English, there are two numbers: singular and plural. So in the plural number, the Greek definite articles become:
οι, οι, τα (i, i, ta)
If we also add the forms for each case, then these are all the possible forms a definite article may have in speech. Note that definite articles don't have a vocative case form.
Another thing to keep in mind about articles is that they need to have the same case, gender, and number as the words they define, for example nouns and adjectives. The same goes for all declinable words that define each other.
“this (the) white cat”
αυτή η άσπρη γάτα
aftí i áspri gáta
Now let's move on to the conjugation of verbs.
Again the word “conjugation” in Greek is called κλίση (klísi).
Greek verbs are divided into two main conjugation groups depending on their main ending. There's conjugation A and conjugation B. Furthermore, conjugation B has two subgroups: 1st and 2nd class.
The conjugation group is one of the characteristics of a verb. There are 6 more characteristics that you need to keep in mind:
the person, number, mood, tense, voice, and the diathesis.
Just like in English, there are 3 persons: 1st, 2nd and 3rd for “I,” "you" and "he/she/it." There are two numbers, singular and plural, and 2 voices, active and passive.
As for the tenses, there are 8 tenses in Greek:
the present tense which makes no distinction between simple or continuous present, the past continuous, the simple past, the future continuous, the simple future, the perfect, the past perfect and the future perfect tense.
1. “I love/I'm loving” - αγαπώ (agapó)
2. “I was loving” - αγαπούσα (agapúsa)
3. “I loved” - αγάπησα (agápisa)
4. “I will be loving” - θα αγαπώ (tha agapó)
5. “I will love” - θα αγαπήσω (tha agapíso)
6. “I have loved” - έχω αγαπήσει (ého agapísi)
7. “I had loved” - είχα αγαπήσει (íha agapísi)
8. “I will have loved” - θα έχω αγαπήσει (tha ého agapísi)
Please keep in mind that in Greek, it's not always necessary to add the personal pronoun. That's because unlike English, verbs have a different form for each person, so the verb form itself shows us which person we're talking about. If pronouns are used, those are to make the context more clear or for emphasis.
“I love” > αγαπώ (agapó)
“you love” > αγαπάς (agapás)
... etc.
Regarding the moods, Greek grammar distinguishes 5 moods:
the indicative which presents the meaning of the verb as something certain and real, like a statement or a fact,
the subjunctive which presents the meaning of the verb as something we want or we expect to happen,
the imperative which presents the meaning of the verb as a command, a desire, or a wish,
the infinitive which works more like the English past participle,
and the participle.
1. “I love” - αγαπώ (agapó)
2. “(it is necessary that) I love” - (είναι απαραίτητο) να αγαπώ ((íne aparétito) na agapó)
3. “love (me)” - αγάπα (με) (agápa (me))
4. “(I have) loved” - (έχω) αγαπήσει ((ého) agapísi)
5. “(I am) loved” - (είμαι) αγαπημένος ((íme) agapiménos)
The negation in the indicative mood is formed with the particle δεν (den) before the verb while in the subjunctive mood with the particle μη(ν). There can be no negation in the imperative mood. Instead, we use the verb in the subjunctive mood with μη(ν).
using the above phrases as source they can change to:
1. “I don't love” - δεν αγαπώ (den agapó)
2. “(it is necessary that) I not love” - (είναι απαραίτητο) να μην αγαπώ ((thélo) na min agapó)
3. “don't love (me)” - μην (με) αγαπάς (min (me) agapás)
Next, the mood of a verb has to do with the way the verb is presented. A verb might be presented as something real that is a fact, as something we expect or wish to happen, or as a command, among others. There are 5 moods in Greek but we won't go into detail at this moment.
“I love” - αγαπώ (agapó)
“(I want) to love” - (θέλω) να αγαπώ ((thélo) na agapó)
“love (me)” - αγάπα (με) (agápa (me))
Lastly, diathesis, literally meaning "disposition," has to do with the meaning of a verb and the type of action it describes. For example, it might show us that the subject is doing an action, that the subject is acting upon itself, that someone else is acting upon the subject, or that the subject is simply in a particular state.
active, when the subject is doing an action
“I run” - τρέχω (trého)
mediopassive, when the subject acts upon itself
“I wash myself” - πλένομαι (plénome)
passive, when something or someone acts upon the subject
“I’m startled (by)” - ξαφνιάζομαι (xafniázome)
neutral, when there's no action and the subject is simply in a particular state.
“I sleep” - κοιμάμαι (kimáme)
With these basic grammar points in mind, you know what to expect once you start studying Greek grammar.
Now, let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned the Greek parts of speech as well as which ones are inflected and which ones are not.
We introduced you to the basic characteristics of declension and conjugation. You also learned that due to declension, word order is flexible in Greek.
We've covered only the very basics of Greek grammar. If you're interested in more Greek, check out our "Greek in 3 minutes" video series. In that course, we teach you useful phrases, and each lesson is only 3 minutes long!
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Greek writing.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!
Γεια χαρά!