Here are the fundamental facts about Greek grammar. The grammar is actually richer and more complex than what you
see here, but you're getting the simplest, most common way to think about each item. Stay tuned for some fine-tuning
There are three kinds of words in Greek: noun-type words, verb-type words, and other words that don't
fit into either of the first two categories.
This group includes nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and the definite article.
Greek has a
system of endings for noun-type words that gives you the following pieces of information:
1. Number -- how many?
Possibilities: Singular or plural
-- how is it used in the sentence?
Nominative - subject of sentence ("George saw Timothy.")
Genitive - possession ("the word of God")
Dative - indirect object ("I gave him the ball.")
Accusative - direct object ("George saw Timothy.")
Vocative (on a few nouns) -- direct address (Sam! I'm glad to see you.")
3. Gender -- Each Greek noun has been labeled either masculine, feminine or neuter.
This information is helpful when you are trying to decide which words go together.
Greek has a highly-developed system for verbs. All Greek verbs have at least two parts: a base and an
ending. Sometimes the Greeks added extra letters to the beginning or end of the base. By looking at the combination
of endings and extra letters, you can figure out the exact form. When you do that, you will have the following information:
1. Subject -- Who is doing the action that the
are six possible options:
He/she/it or any other singular subject
They or any other plural subject
2. Tense --
When and how does the action happen?
There are six tenses, with much variety in usage, but here are the typical meanings
in a plain statement of fact:
Present -- action happening now:
Future -- action that will happen later:
"I will baptize"
Imperfect -- action that happened continually or repeatedly in the past:
"I was baptizing"
Aorist -- a simple action that happened in the past:
Perfect -- action completed in the past, with results continuing up to the present:
"I have baptized"
Pluperfect (rare) -- action completed in the past, with results that continue up to
some more recent time in the past:
"I had baptized"
NOTE: The tenses have somewhat different meanings when they are not in the indicative
(statement of fact) mood.
Is the subject doing the action or being acted upon?
There are three possible voices in Greek:
Active -- the subject does the action: "I hit Joe."
-- the subject does it to himself: "I hit myself,"
there is a double emphasis on the fact that the subject does the action:
"I myself hit Joe."
Passive -- someone else did the action to the subject: "I was hit by Joe."
4. Mood: How certain am I that this action is reality?
are four moods to choose from:
Indicative -- used for a statement of fact
Subjunctive -- used for a statement of probable fact
Optative (rare) -- used for a remotely possible fact
Imperative (command) -- used for something that is not a fact yet, but I want it to
become a fact.
An Extra Wrinkle: The Greeks would also put together special combinations of endings
and other clues that would make a verb into a participle or an infinitive. Both of
these forms act a little like verbs and a little like nouns, and they deserve a separate discussion of their own.
Other Kinds of Words
Greek also contains several kinds of words that do not fit into the noun
or verb categories. They generally do not have multiple spellings, so they are easy to recognize. These include:
1. Conjunctions -- connectors between other words, phrases, or sentences.
and, but, for, therefore
2. Prepositions -- words that give you more
precise information about the way a noun relates to
rest of the sentence.
Examples: in the cupboard, behind the tree
3. Adverbs -- words that tell how an action takes place, usually describing a verb.
Example: The business grew rapidly.
-- words that express strong feeling, usually followed by an exclamation point.
What about all the other grammatical terms I read about?
hear many terms that sound more impressive than the list you have just read -- terms such as "ablative of means,"
"constative aorist," "locative" and "instrumental." All of these terms are legitimate,
but they usually involve at least a little interpretation of the text. You can prove that a verb is aorist by analyzing
its spelling. But you can only say that a word is a constative aorist by looking at the context where it is used and
applying logic and common sense to determine how that aorist is being used.
Remember to be humble when you study
at this level. There is a lot that you don't know yet!