Greek Language Blog

Native language interference in learning Greek Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 in Grammar, Vocabulary

When we speak a foreign language, it is not unusual to translate directly from our native language. In this post, there are examples of phrases translated from English and the correct way of saying the same thing in Greek. The correct sentences are translated literally from Greek to English.

  • I drove to work: Οδήγησα στη δουλειά.

We say: Πήγα στη δουλειά με το αυτοκίνητο. / I went to work by car or Πήγα στη δουλειά οδηγώντας. / I went to work driving.

  • I will fly back home: Θα πετάξω πίσω στο σπίτι.

We say: Θα γυρίσω (με το αεροπλάνο): I will return by plane.

  • I can walk to the cafe: Μπορώ να περπατήσω στην καφετέρια.

We say: Μπορώ να πάω στην καφετέρια με τα πόδια. I can go to the cafe on foot.

  • Yesterday I didn’t study much: Χθες δεν σπούδασα πολύ.

We say: Χθες δεν διάβασα / δεν μελέτησα πολύ. The verb σπουδάζω means to study in College.

  • I enjoyed talking to you: Απόλαυσα να μιλάω μαζί σου.

We say: Απόλαυσα τη συζήτησή μας.: I enjoyed our conversation. The verb απολαμβάνω is followed by a noun.

  • Marina comes from Athens, she lives in a big apartment and she works at the bank: Η Μαρίνα είναι από την Αθήνα και αυτή μένει σε ένα μεγάλο διαμέρισμα και αυτή δουλεύει στην τράπεζα.

We say: Η Μαρίνα είναι από την Αθήνα, μένει σε ένα μεγάλο διαμέρισμα και δουλεύει στην τράπεζα. There is no need to repeat the pronoun «αυτή» because we don’t repeat the subject of the verb.

  • Είχα πρωινό: I had breakfast , lunch,  dinner.

We say: Πήρα / Έφαγα πρωινό, μεσημεριανό, βραδινό. / I took / I had breakfast, lunch, dinner.

  • On Monday, Tuesday, in January, in spring etc.: Στη Δευτέρα, στην Τρίτη, στον Ιανουάριο, στην άνοιξη κ.λ.π.

We say: Τη Δευτέρα, την Τρίτη, τον Ιανουάριο, την άνοιξη κ.λ.π.

  • I worked until 8 o’clock: Δούλεψα μέχρι στις οκτώ.

We say: Δούλεψα μέχρι τις οκτώ.

  • In this city: Σε αυτή πόλη or Στη αυτή πόλη.

We say: Σε αυτή την πόλη.

  • The color of the car is black: Το χρώμα από το αυτοκίνητο είναι μαύρο.

We say: Το χρώμα του αυτοκινήτου είναι μπλε. Του αυτοκινήτου is the genitive (possessive) case.

Even when you get strange looks from native speakers, keep talking, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t be shy. Greek is a challenging language and native speakers make mistakes as well.

Below, there is a funny advertisement of  a satellite TV platform. The policeman says “put the kots down”. Kots comes from κότες which means “chicken”.

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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.


  1. Leticia:

    Thanks! I speak English well and live in an English speaking environment although my native language is Spanish so I may be making transfer mistakes from both languages 🙂