A noun has four roles or functions within a sentence, aka cases, (and a fifth rare type): the nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and vocative. Each has a particular ending which represents the noun’s function in a sentence. They come in declensions (patterns) – each declension has a different set of endings. Nouns also indicate gender. A noun is masculine, feminine or neuter. Inanimate objects can be masculine or feminine.
If it is the subject of a sentence (the thing doing stuff) it’s nominative. If it is the object (the thing stuff gets done to) – it’s the accusative. If it in someway related to possession (eg if it is something from the nominative, or belonging to the nominative) it is genitive. If it is an indirect object it’s dative. For example in the sentence: “I give the ball to you”, I am the nominative, the ball is the accusative, and you are the dative, give is the verb.
The genitive can be used as the “ablatival genitive” which indicates the source of the thing (“I take the ball from the cupboard”), the dative can be used as a locative dative (in), the instrumental dative (by) and the dative of personal advantage (for). These uses are likely to come up in exam questions because they’ll trip you up if you’re not careful.
The declensions come in tables that you have to try to learn by rote. I hate learning by rote.
Nouns have stems too. They have case-number suffixes (like the verbs have person-number suffixes) that stick on the end to tell you what the word does in the sentence.
Neuter plural nouns are a bit like collective nouns in English. They take singular verbs.
Some nouns try to trick you by being cross-dressers or having special patterns (aka declensions). You can always tell what gender a noun is by the article (the) that comes before it. Greek has 24 words for “the”, or more correctly, four cases, with three genders and singular and plural options – there is some duplication across the grid (eg all the genitive plural articles are the same).
Sometimes a nominative cased verb will actually be playing the part of the accusative. This happens in a “complement” where you’re basically throwing an equal sign into the statement. You’ve just got to think of ειμι (I am) as an equals sign. It’ll come with a nominative noun, but you’ll need to supply the pronoun to complete the complement.
Greek, like every other language known to man, has conjunctions. They bring two clauses together.
- δε means “now” or “but” – it’s a strong statement, and it’s postpositive. It never starts a sentence. It tells you that something new has been introduced.
- και means and, it used twice in a sentence it means “both…and”
- αλλα is “but” it marks a stark contrast between sentences.
Because nouns have cases and verbs have all sorts of bells and whistles syntax is of reduced importance in Greek. You can jumble up the order and the meaning will still be determined by the endings. Normal word order for English is “subject verb object”, normal word order for Greek is “verb subject object” – changing the word order is normally a marker of some sort of significant emphasis.
Vocab and Memory Hooks
- αγγελος* = (angelos) = angel or messenger = self explanatory
- αγρος = agros = field = like agriculture
- αδελφος = (adelphos) = brother = like Philadelphia (brotherly love)
- αλλα = (alla) = but = But alla the other guys get to watch TV.
- αμαρτωλος = Sinner = (amartolos) Sinner = Amart-all-sports is actually where the rebels go.
- ανθρωπος = (anthropos) man/person = anthropology
- δε = but = but de other guy hit me first
- διακονος = (diakonos) deacon = self explanatory
- δουλος = (doulos) servant/slave = If I had a servant/slave they would δουλος for me.
- δωρον = (doron) gift = Doron look a gift horse in the mouth.
- εργον = (ergon) work = people who work at εργον don’t do any.
- ερεμος = (eremos) wilderness = If your GPS takes you to the wilderness it’s made an ερεμος
- ευαγγελιον = (euangelion) good news = like evangelism.
- θανατος = (thanatos) death = Then Athos got stabbed, and he died.
- ιερον = (eyeron) temple = the temple got i-roned out by the Romans
- λαμβανω = (Lambano) I take = I take a lamb-an-o-pen up the oven.
- λεγω = (lego) I speak = I would like to speak like the people on the Leggo’s ad
- λιθος = (lithos) stone = lithographs are carved in stone.
- λογος = (logos) word = Your logo is your business in a word.
- νομος = (nomos) law = If you’re autonomous, you’re a law unto yourself.
- οδος = (hodos) road/way = Hit the hodos Jack, and don’t you come back
- οικος = (oikos) house = I had to write about οικος in an essay so I have not trouble with this one…
- οχλος = (oxlos) crowd = There are big crowds at the bull fights to see the ox loss.
- τεκνον = (teknon) child = Looking after children is tekn’on a big responsibility
- υιος** = (wi-os) son = Your son ui-sed all over the floor
- φερω = (phero) to bear = Apparently Christopher means “bearer of Christ”…
*γγ together is pronounced as ng.
** ui as in suite – which I sort of render as “wee”