Greek Language Blog

Deconstructing Greek Posted by on Sep 24, 2014 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


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About the Author: Ourania

Ourania lives in Athens. She holds a degree in French Literature and a Master’s degree in Special Education for Children. Since 2008, she has been teaching Greek to foreigners.