Deconstructing Greek

Posted on 24. Sep, 2014 by in Grammar


 By trombone65 (PhotoArt  Laatzen) under a CC license @ Flickr

By trombone65 (PhotoArt Laatzen) under a CC license @ Flickr

Most  language learners ask their teacher how long will it take them to learn X language and most teachers reply “it depends”. According to Tim Ferriss’ article How to Learn (But Not Master ) Any Language in 1 Hour (Plus: A Favor) deconstructing a language helps the learners have a better idea on  how fast they can speak fluently the language of their choice.
For those who have read this article and who find this process helpful, below there are Tim Ferriss’ sentences translated in Greek followed by some notes about the structure of the Greek sentences.

The apple is red.  Το μήλο είναι κόκκινο. (To milo ine kokino)
It is John’s apple. Είναι το μήλο του Γιάννη. (Ine to milo tou Yani)
I give John the apple. Δίνω στον Γιάννη το μήλο. (Dino ston Yani to milo)
We give him the apple. Του δίνουμε το μήλο. (Tou dinoume to milo)
He gives it to John. Το δίνει στον Γιάννη. (To dini ston Yani)
She gives it to him. Του το δίνει. (Tou to dini)


  • The articles, nouns, pronouns and adjectives have three genders (masculine, feminine and neuter) , singular and plural. These words are not invariable but their form can change depending on their “role” in the sentence. For example, the definite article ο marks the subject of the verb and it changes to του (tou) in the possessive case and to τον (ton) when it marks the object. In English, the definite article the always keeps the same form.


  • The definite article is used with given names too: Δίνω στον Γιάννη το μήλο means “I give to the John the apple”.


  • The verbs are used without pronouns because their ending marks the subject: the ending –ω in δίνω marks the first person. The pronouns are used to show emphasis or when it is not clear who does the action. The phrases “he gives” and “she gives” are translated as «δίνει». In this case, the subject is unknown unless the sentence is put in a context:
    Ο Κώστας έχει ένα μήλο. Το δίνει στον Γιάννη. ( O Kostas ehi ena milo. To dini ston Yani.)
    Costas has an apple. He gives it to John.


  • The personal pronouns that replace the direct and indirect object are placed before the verb:
    Του το δίνει. (Tou to dini). She gives it to him.


  • The pronoun του replaces the indirect object (στον Γιάννη, to John) and is placed before the pronoun το that replaces the direct object (το μήλο, the apple). Του το δίνει, in direct translation, means “to him it (she) gives”.

Those who already know basic Greek can explore the structure more by forming sentences with feminine nouns, verbs in the negative form or in the past and the future tenses etc.  If grammar and syntax are scary, remember that most native speakers are ignorant when it comes to grammar however this doesn’t prevent them from communicating effectively.

By Kevin Bedell under a CC license @ Flickr

By Kevin Bedell under a CC license @ Flickr


Back to the future! Greek irregular verbs you must know

Posted on 17. Sep, 2014 by in Grammar

by Sky Noir (under a CC license on Flickr)

by Sky Noir (under a CC license on Flickr)

A few months ago I posted a list of common irregular verbs in the Past Simple tense (Αόριστος, aoristos). The same verbs have an irregular form in the Simple Future tense (Στιγμιαίος Μέλλοντας, (stigmiaios melontas):




Transliteration Definition Μέλλοντας(Melontas)

Future Simple

είμαι ime to be θα είμαι tha eimai
έχω eho to have θα έχω tha eho
λέω leo to say, to tell θα πω tha po
βλέπω vlepo to see θα δω tha do
δίνω dino to give θα δώσω tha doso
πηγαίνω pigeno to go θα πάω tha pao
τρώω troo to eat θα φάω tha fao
πίνω pino to drink θα πιώ tha pio
ακούω akouo to listen, to hear θα ακούσω tha akouso
παίρνω perno to take, to get θα πάρω tha paro
φεύγω fevgo to leave, to go θα φύγω tha figo
καταλαβαίνω katalaveno to understand θα καταλάβω tha katalavo
βγαίνω vgeno to go out, to get out βγω tha vgo

Below there are some examples in order to put these verbs in context.The sentences are translated literally.
Παραδείγματα (paradeigmata, examples)

«Πάμε σινεμά αύριο;» «Δεν μπορώ. Δεν θα είμαι εδώ.» (Pame sinema avrio? Den boro. Then tha ime edo.)
“Do you want to go to the movies tomorrow?” “I can’t. I won’t be here.”
Ο γιατρός θα έχει χρόνο το απόγευμα. (O giatros tha ehei hrono to apogevma.) The doctor will have time in the afternoon.
Θα πεις στους γονείς σου για το πάρτι; (Tha peis stous goneis sou gia to party?)
Will you tell your parents about the party?
«Τι θα κάνεις απόψε;» « Θα δω τον αγώνα.» (Ti tha kaneis apopse? Tha do ton agona.)
“What will you do tonight?” “I’ll watch the match.”
Το καλοκαίρι θα πάμε στην Ελλάδα. (To kalokairi tha pame stin Ellada.)
“In the summer we’ll go to Greece.”
Τι θα φάτε το βράδυ; (Ti tha fate to vrady?)
“What will you eat in the evening (for dinner)?”
Θα πιείτε κάτι; (Tha pieite kati?)
“Will you drink something?
«Θα δεις τηλεόραση τώρα;» « Όχι. Θα ακούσω μουσική.» (Tha deis tileorasi tora? Ohi. Tha akousi mousiki.)
“Will you watch tv now?” “No. I’ll listen to music.”
Θα πάρεις τηλέφωνο το Νίκο; Έχει πάρει τρεις φορές! (Tha pareis tilefono to Niko? Ehei parei treis fores.)
Will you call Niko? He’s called you three times!
Τι ώρα θα φύγετε αύριο; (Ti ora tha figete avrio?)
“What time will you leave tomorrow?
Αν μου εξηγήσουν, θα καταλάβω. (An mou exigisoun tha katalavo.)
If they explain to me I’ll understand.
Θα βγούμε απόψε; (Tha vgoume apopse?)
Will we go out tonight?



by massonth (under a CC license on Flickr)

by massonth (under a CC license on Flickr)

How to be polite in Greek

Posted on 09. Sep, 2014 by in Culture, Grammar

Rob Boudon (under a CC license on Flickr)

Rob Boudon (under a CC license on Flickr)

One of the first topics Greek students have to learn is the use of the polite form. It is a relatively “new” element, as it did not exist in ancient Greek, and has its origins in French. It is formed by the second plural person. E.g.  «Τι κάνετε κύριε Δήμου;» (Tee kanete  keerie Demou?) How are you Mr. Demou?



When do we use it?
Native speakers use formal language when addressing older people or people they don’t know well. Some people also use it when they want to keep a distance with their interlocutor.

How to ask to be addressed by our first name?
Sometimes, we are not sure whether we should use the polite form the first time we are introduced to someone. If our interlocutor uses the polite form, we use it too. However, if we want to be on first-name terms with them we can say:
«Να μιλάμε καλύτερα στον ενικό;» (Na milame kaleetera ston eneeko)  which means “shall we better talk on a first-name basis?” (Στον ενικό means in singular).
We can also ask them directly to address us by our first name:
- Πού μένετε κυρία Δημητρίου; (Pou menete keeria Demetriou?)  Where do you live Mrs. Demetriou?
Λέγε με Έλλη…(Lege me Ellie). Call me Ellie.


How do we form it?
The polite form is formed by a verb on the second plural person. Honorifics must be put in the vocative case (κλητική, kleeteekee). If we address a person that we know well, our teacher or an elderly neighbor for instance, we can address them with an honorific followed by their first name:
«Καλημέρα κύριε Πέτρο!» (Kaleemera keerie Petro). Good morning Mr. Petro!
«Καλό σαββατοκύριακο κυρία Αθηνά!» (Kalo savatokeerieeko keeria Atheena). Have a nice weekend Mrs. Athena!


Some extra tips

  • We never address people by their last name without using an honorific, unless we know them very well.
    «Καλησπέρα κύριε Αντωνόπουλε, τι κάνετε;» (Kaleespera keerie Antonopoule ti kanete?) Good evening Mr. Antonopoule, how are you? NOT: «Καλησπέρα Αντώνόπουλε, τι κάνετε;» Good evening Antonopoule, how are you?
    «Έλα ρε Αντωνόπουλε, τι έγινες;» (Ela re Antonopoule, ti egines?) “Hey Antonopoule, where have you been?”( Note that this language is informal).
  • Words like doctor(γιατρέ, giatre) or professor (καθηγητά, katheegeeta) are not followed by a surname:
    «Καλό βράδυ, γιατρέ!» (Kalo vradee giatre). Have a nice evening doctor or «Καλό βράδυ, κύριε Γεωργίου!» (Kalo vradee keerie Georgiou) and NOT «Καλό βράδυ, γιατρέ Γεωργίου!» Have a nice evening doctor Georgiou.

When is it ok not to use it?
If you visit a remote village with few elderly residents it’s acceptable to talk to them using informal language. In fact, the use of the polite form will make them feel rather uncomfortable.
The Greeks are not so strict about the use of the polite form. During conversation they can easily switch to a more casual way of speaking, as it is a way of breaking the ice and of making the communication easier.


TijsB (under a CC license on Flickr)

TijsB (under a CC license on Flickr)