Greek Language Blog

Survival phrases in Greek Posted by on Aug 6, 2013 in Vocabulary


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In Greece most people speak English, so language is not really a barrier. If you’d  like to use simple  Greek words though, now and then, feel free to do so. We really appreciate it when a foreigner is trying to talk to us to our language, and if we laugh, it’s not because you’re funny, it’s because you’re cute.

This is a list of some simple words and phrases, which are easy to remember, I hope.

  1. Γεια σου, γεια σας. (Yiassou, yiassas). They both mean “hello” and “good bye”. Γεια σου is informal. Γεια σας is the plural form of γεια σου and it’s formal.
  2. Ναι (nai, yes)
  3. Όχι (ohi, no)
  4. Ευχαριστώ (Efharisto, thanks)
  5. Παρακαλώ (Parakalo).It has many definitions:
  • You’re welcome
  • Please
  • I beg your pardon (if used in a question)
  1. Στην υγειά σου (stin iyia sou, to your health, singular and informal)/ Στην υγειά σας (stin iyia sas, to your health, plural and formal). It’s a toast used when drinking alcoholic drinks. The most common form is «γεια μας» (yia mas, which means to our health). In informal social events, people say γεια μας and clink glasses.
  2. Συγγνώμη (signomi). The g sound is very soft, like wh in “what”. It means excuse me or sorry and it’s used when we want to apologize or to get through a crowd of people in the metro station, for instance.
  1. Δε μιλάω ελληνικά. (The milao ellinika, I don’t speak Greek.) Even if it’s clear that you don’t speak Greek, people might keep talking  to you in Greek.
  2. Δεν κατάλαβα. Άλλη  μια φορά, παρακαλώ. (Then katalava. Alli mia for a parakalo.I didn’t get it,one more time, please). Use it when your interlocutor speaks fast or when you don’t understand what people say.
  3. Ευχαρίστως (Efharistos, with pleasure). It’s a polite way to accept an invitation.
  4. Μια άλλη φορά, ευχαριστώ. (Mia alli fora, efharisto. Some other time, thanks). You can use this phrase if you want to deny politely an invitation. If it doesn’t work it’s not because of your pronunciation, it’s just because some people don’t take “no” for an answer. In this case, feel free to be more direct ans to say όχι, ευχαριστώ (ohi, efharisto. No thanks).


Please, note that the sentences «άλλη μια φορά (alli mia fora)» και «μία άλλη φορά (mia alli fora)» do not have the same meaning:

Άλλη μια φορά means one more time.

Mία άλλη φορά means some other time.

If you mix them, you won’t be in serious trouble but people who are not used to talk to foreigners might be confused.


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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. Willow Ashebrook:

    I learn something new every time I read one of your articles!
    Thank you. 🙂

  2. Susan:

    Love this. Going to Athens in Aug/Sept for immersion language course. It’s only 3 weeks long but that’s my entire vacation. Can’t wait. Love the phonic soundings you gave as well. Thank you!

  3. Jo:

    After a holiday on the mainland instead of the islands, I suddenly have a strong desire to learn more of the language instead of just a few words and phrases to get by.
    You have inspired me to go ahead and not worry about the mistakes I will make along the way.
    Thank you