Once Upon a Time: An Introduction to the Past Continuous Tense

Posted on 07. Jan, 2015 by in Grammar

by TORLEY under a CC license on Flickr

by TORLEY under a CC license on Flickr

Γεια σας! This is the first post of 2015 and it’s about grammar.

Παρατατικός (paratatikos, Past Continuous) is the tense of narrations and descriptions. It is used in order to describe an action that was being repeated in the past or that had a duration.


Έπινα γάλα κάθε μέρα. (Epeena gala kathe mera). I used to drink milk every day.

Βλέπαμε τηλεόραση όλο το απόγευμα. (Vlepame tileorasi olo to apogevma). We were watching television all afternoon.

Πριν από τρία χρόνια, ο Κώστας πήγαινε στη δουλειά με το ποδήλατο. (Prin apo tria hronia, o Kostas pigaine sti doulia me to podilato). Three years ago Kostas was going to work by bike.


The Past Continuous of the verbs έχω (eho, to have) and είμαι (eemai, to be)

είχα (eeha)                                    ήμουν (eemoun)

είχες (eehes)                                 ήσουν (eesoun)

είχε (eehe)                                     ήταν (eetan)

είχαμε (eehame)                          ήμασταν (eemastan)

είχατε (eehate)                             ήσασταν (eesastan)

είχαν (eehan)                                ήταν (eetan)


Active Voice, 1st conjugation (verbs ending in -ω).

The Past Continuous is formed by the stem of the Present and the endings of the Past Simple, so if you are already familiar with the Present tense it’s very easy to form the Past Continuous:

Πηγαίνω (peeyeno)= to go

πήγαινα (peeyena)= I was going / I used to go

πήγαινες (peeyenes)

πήγαινε (peeyene)

πηγαίναμε (peeyename)

πηγαίνατε (peeyenate)

πήγαιναν (peeyenan)



1) The accent is over the ante-penultimate syllable (the third syllable counting from right to left).

2) The prefix ε- or -η is added to two-syllable verbs in order to form the singular and the third plural person.

Κάνω (kano)= to do

έκανα (ekana)= I was doing / I used to do

έκανες (ekanes)

έκανε (ekane)

κάναμε (kaname)

κάνατε (kanate)

έκαναν (ekanan)


3) Words and expressions showing repetition:

πάντα (panda)= always

συχνά (seehna)= often

μερικές φορές (merikes fores)= sometimes

κάθε φορά (που) (kathe fora pou)= every time (that)

κάθε μέρα (kathe mera)= every day

κάθε μεσημέρι (kathe mesimeri)= every noon, afternoon etc.

κάθε απόγευμα (kathe apogevma)= every afternoon

κάθε βράδυ (kathe vradee)= every evening

κάθε εβδομάδα (kathe evdomada)= every week

κάθε μήνα (kathe meena)= every month

κάθε χρόνο (kathe hrono)= every year


4) Words and expressions showing duration:

ενώ (eno)= while

καθώς (kathos)= while, as

όλη μέρα (olee mera)= all day

όλο το πρωί (olo to proee)= all morning

όλο το μεσημέρι (olo to mesimeri)= all (early) afternoon

όλο το απόγευμα (olo to apogevma)= all (late) afternoon

όλο το βράδυ (olo to vradee)= all evening

όλη τη νύχτα (olee tee nihta)= all night

όλη την εβδομάδα (olee tin evdomada)= all week


Time to practice! Fill in the blanks of the following sentences putting the verbs in brackets in the Past Continuous.

1. Ο Πέτρος …………………. πυρετό όλο το βράδυ. (έχω)

2. Η Ρένα και η Αθηνά …………………. τους φίλους τους κάθε Σάββατο. (βλέπω)

3. Κάθε Χριστούγεννα (εμείς) …………………. δώρα στα παιδιά μας. (αγοράζω)

4. Όταν (εγώ) …………………. δέκα χρονών …………………. πιάνο και γαλλικά. (είμαι, μαθαίνω)

5. Πότε …………………. στο νοσοκομείο, κυρία Δήμου; (δουλεύω)

6. Η Στέλλα …………………. τα πιάτα από τις 9 ως τις 10. (πλένω)

7. Σοφία, πότε …………………. στη Θεσσαλονίκη; (μένω)

8. Παλιά, η γυναίκα μου κι εγώ …………………. πολύ συχνά. (ταξιδεύω)

You can find the right answers here: paratatikos

A Greek New Year’s Eve

Posted on 31. Dec, 2014 by in Culture, Customs, Vocabulary

By iheartpandas under a CC license on Flickr

By iheartpandas under a CC license on Flickr


Χρόνια πολλά from frozen Athens! This post is about traditions and customs. New Year’s Eve (Παραμονή Πρωτοχρονιάς, paramonee protohronias) is a special day in Greece and each region has different traditions but some customs are common.

In the morning, the children sing the New Year’s Eve carols (κάλαντα Πρωτοχρονιάς, kalanda protohronias) and get money. The most common instrument they use is the triangle (τρίγωνο, trigono) but they may also use a flute (φλογέρα, flogera) or a melodica (melodica, μελόντικα). The lyrics of the carols are related to Άγιος Βασίλης (agios Vasilis, Saint Basil), the Saint of peace (ειρήνη, eereenee) and philanthropy (φιλανθρωπία, gilanthorpeea), who is honored in January 1st. People named Βασίλης (Vasilis)or Βασιλική (Vasiliki) celebrate their name day.

In the evening, people usually have dinner with their family and friends and eat the New Year’s cake (βασιλόπιτα, vasilopita) after midnight. Last year, there was an entry published related to βασιλόπιτα: http://blogs.transparent.com/greek/new-years-day-is-always-sweet-greek-vasilopita/

At midnight, sometimes people open the faucets and let the water run in order to have money and good luck. Later, they go to clubs or they stay home with their family and friends and they stay up late drinking and playing cards. The most famous game is blackjack. In its Greek version, it’s called 31 (τριάντα ένα, trianda ena) or 21 (είκοσι ένα, eekosee ena). Traditionally, children get presents or money but nowadays people tend to follow the Western tradition and exchange presents in Christmas.

Smashing a pomegranate is also a common custom with different variations. Pomegranate is a symbol of wealth and luck. The landlord  of the house, or just a random person, smashes a pomegranate on the front door. This must be done with force so that the seeds will spread everywhere. If the seeds are nice and red, the people who live in the house will have good luck and money.

By libraryman under a CC license on Flickr

By libraryman under a CC license on Flickr

Another custom related to good luck is the ποδαρικό (podariko): it is believed that the first person to enter the house after midnight or in New Year’s Day must be a nice and kind person in order to bring good luck. They must enter using their right foot (δεξί πόδι, deksee podee).

When the New Year comes people wish each other «Καλή Χρονιά» (kalee hronia). Literally, it means “good year”. The most common present people get or offer is a lucky charm (γούρι, gouree), usually in the shape of a pomegranate. It can be jewelry or an ornament.

Καλή Χρονιά σε όλους! Happy New Year to all!

A Greek lucky charm Μαμά Δέσποινα under a CC license on Flickr

A Greek lucky charm
Μαμά Δέσποινα under a CC license on Flickr

Greek Christmas vocabulary

Posted on 19. Dec, 2014 by in Culture, Vocabulary

Studio Amore under a CC license on Flickr

Studio Amore under a CC license on Flickr

Χρόνια πολλά! It will be Christmas soon so this post is about Christmas vocabulary. If you want to send wishes to your friends and family in Greek, below there are some common phrases that we use:

Καλά Χριστούγεννα (kala hristougena): Merry Christmas

Σου εύχομαι καλά Χριστούγεννα (sou efhomai kala hristougena): I wish you Merry Christmas (informal)

Σας εύχομαι καλά Χριστούγεννα (sas efhomai kala hristougena): I wish you Merry Christmas (formal)

Χρόνια πολλά (hronia pola): it is difficult to translate because there is no similar expression in English. We use it to wish people to live many years.

Καλές γιορτές (kales giortes): from γιορτή (feast, holiday). It means “nice holidays”.

Καλή Χρονιά (kali hronia): Happy New Year

Καλή Πρωτοχρονιά (kali protohronia): Happy New Year’s Eve

Ευτυχισμένο το Νέο Έτος (eftihismeno to neo etos): Happy New Year (formal). This is often written in formal cards.

Be careful: χρονιά and χρόνος mean year. However, we never say “Καλό χρόνο”.


j_silla under a CC license on Flickr

j_silla under a CC license on Flickr


And some basic words:

η παραμονή των Χριστουγέννων (ee paramoni ton hristougenon): Christmas’ Eve

η παραμονή της Πρωτοχρονιάς (ee paramoni tis protohronias): New Year’s Eve

η Χριστουγεννιάτικη κάρτα (ee hristougeniatiki karta): Christmas card

το Xριστουγεννιάτικο δέντρο (to hristougeniatiko dentro): Christmas tree

το αστέρι (to asteri): star

η φάτνη (ee fatni): manger

ο Χριστός (o Hristos): Christ

οι τρεις Μάγοι (ee tris magoi): Three Kings. (Literally, three Wizards).

ο άγγελος (o agelos): angel

οι μπάλες (ee bales): balls

η γιρλάντα (ee yeerlanda): garland

τα φωτάκια (ta fotakia): lights

το κερί (to keri): candle

τα στολίδια (ta stolidia): ornaments

το γκι (to gkee): holly

τα κάλαντα (ta kalanda): Christmas Carol

το καμπανάκι (to kabanaki): bell

η κορδέλα (ee kordela): ribbon

τα δώρα (ta dora): presents

ο Άγιος Βασίλης (o agios Vasilis): Santa Basil (Santa Claus). People traditionally exchange gifts in January 1st. This day Άγιος Βασίλης is honored and people who are named Βασίλης (Vasilis) or Βασιλική (Vasiliki) celebrate their name day. Άγιος Βασίλης is the Greek Santa who was not wearing red and did not have a sleigh with reindeer. The western Santa was introduced in the Greek culture after the 50’s.

η βασιλόπιτα (ee vasilopita): New Year’s cake

το έλκηθρο (to elkithro): sleigh

ο τάρανδος (o tarandos): reindeer

ο καλικάντζαρος (o kalikantzaros): goblin

το ξωτικό (to ksotiko): elf

You can see the vocabulary here: Καλά Χριστούγεννα