Greek Language Blog

How to be polite in Greek Posted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Culture, Vocabulary

Καλησπέρα σας! This post is about the politeness form. According to the stereotype, the Greeks are direct and are easily on first name terms with people they don’t know. The truth is that the way to address people depends on the circumstances.

Photo via Pixabay

#1. If we want to address someone in a formal way we use the second plural form of the verb or pronoun.

E.g.: Τι κάνετε; (how are you?) / Πώς λέγεστε; (How are you called?).

#2. We use the words κύριε (sir), κυρία (madam), δεσποινίς (miss), γιατρέ (doctor) etc.

E.g.: Δεσποινίς! Σας έπεσε το εισιτήριό σας! (Miss! You dropped your ticket!) / Καλησπέρα, γιατρέ! Είδατε τις εξετάσεις μου; (Good evening, doctor! Have you seen my tests?) / Γεια σας, κύριε Αλεξίου! (Hello Mr Alexiou!)

Note that after the words κύριε, κυρία and δεσποινίς, the first name can be used, if we are familiar with the person.

E.g.: Γεια σας, κυρία Έλλη! (Hello, Mrs Ellie!)

#3. We use the words ευχαριστώ (thank you) and παρακαλώ. Παρακαλώ means please and you are welcome. It can also be used to mean excuse me.

E.g. “Ευχαριστώ!” “Παρακαλώ!” (“Thank you!” “You are welcome!”) / Μου δίνετε μία σοκολάτα, παρακαλώ; (Can you give me a chocolate, please?) / Παρακαλώ, μήπως ξέρετε τι ώρα περνάει το λεωφορείο; (Excuse-me, do you know when does the bus come?)

#4. If we want to apologize, we use the words συγγνώμη (sorry) or με συγχωρείτε (excuse-me). The answer could be δεν πειράζει (it doesn’t matter) or παρακαλώ.

E.g. “Πήρα κατά λάθος το στυλό σας, συγγνώμη!” “Δεν πειράζει! / Παρακαλώ!” (I took your pen by mistake, I’m sorry! / It doesn’t matter!)

#5. If we want to make a request in a polite way, we can use the conditional form or μήπως.

E.g. Θα ήθελα ένα κιλό, λεμόνια, παρακαλώ. / I would like one kilo of lemons, please. / Μήπως μπορείς να μου δώσεις το μαύρο σου φόρεμα; / (Perhaps) you can give me your black dress?

#6. Asking directly about a person’s job could be considered as a sign of curiosity and, by some people, lack of manners. It is better to ask με τι ασχολείστε (what is your occupation).

E.g. “Με τι ασχολείστε;” “Είμαι ψυχολόγος. Εσείς;” / “What is your occupation?” “I am a psychologist. And you?)

#7. We avoid asking people their age directly, or making comments such as αν ήσασταν νεότερος (if you ere younger) or φαίνεστε πολύ καλά για την ηλικία σας (you look very well in spite of your age).

#8. It is acceptable to be informal to very old people or to old people who come from a village.

E.g. Γεια σου κυρά-Μαρία, τι κάνεις; Πήγες στη λαϊκή σήμερα; / Hello Mrs Maria, how are you? Did you go to the green market today?

#9. If a person you don’t know is talking to you in an informal or rude way and you find them disrespectful, you can ask them to use the politeness form,by saying this phrase: στον πληθυντικό, παρακαλώ. (Literally, it means “in plural, please”).

On the contrary, if you want to be on first terms with someone, you can ask: να μιλάμε στον ενικό; (literally it means “shall we speak to singular?”)

If you have questions, please, feel free to leave a comment!

Photo via Pixabay

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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.