GREEK INFLECTION

Endings of the Noun and Verb


This highly compacted listing of the Inflectional Endings of Greek has a dual purpose: it can be used to check and review your sense of Greek grammar at the base level, and it can be printed out to have beside your Greek text as your start to read. It is elementary and does not cover irregular formations, many of which have to be learned as you go along.

I am firmly opposed to transcribing Greek to Roman letters, mainly because it is completely unnecessary. Ten and a half of the letters are virtually identical to Roman characters (a B d z i k and final s) while Pi is familiar from school math, Omega from common use if not electrical circuitry, chi as X from Xmas for Christ-mas, and probably Phi as symbol for a diameter. Thus sixteen of the letters are clearly accessible, leaving only eight to 'learn'. Note also that the Capitals are used only with proper names, and you can learn them as needed.

Of the Accents only the 'rough breathing' or 'h' will be needed, since the others are voice pitches, which have been traditionally been misunderstood as Stresses in prose, to be ignored in verse. This is a confusion which you can avoid by forgetting about them now while learning basic grammatical forms. Or you can intone the rising 'acute', up-and-down 'circumflex', and base-level low 'grave", with the understanding that reading verse you will apply these pitches atop the long-short metrical cadence of the lines. This is not recommended for a beginner, later there will be time.

One of the problems which has confronted Greek studies on the web is the use of the characters which require special programs on your computer to read and write Greek. So it is common practice to use Transcription and convert the Greek letters to Roman characters. Since this paper is aimed at beginning students of Greek, who are probably familiar with transcription a la Perseus , I will use a modified system with '-e: ' for eta, '-o:' for omega, X for chi to avoid wrong pronunciation, and but 'ph' for phi rather than 'f', and 'th' for theta since there is no suitable character. For iota subscript, the vowel is followed by a comma e/g/ 'o:,' for omega + i-sub.




THE NOUN

Nominative 'subject'

Sing: -a Plur: -ai
        Decl I: Feminine, a few names and patronymics, retaining orginial -a efte -e -i -p, elsewhere see next: 'xo:ra xo:rai'

Sing: -e: Plur: -ai
        Decl I: Feminine, changing original -a to etc -e: in singular, but retaining the -a vowel in the plural. 'time: timai'

Sing: - os Plur: -oi
       Decl II: Masculine nouons and male names. 'ippos 'ippoi ('innos)

Sing: on- Plur: -a
       Decl II: The Nom. and Acc. forms are the same, both in Sing and Plur, but other case forms are the same as the Masculines of Dec. II. 'do:ron do:ra'

Sing: - ? Plur: - es
       Decl III: Nom. sg. is often deceptive, the gen. sg. and nom. pl. show the stem. Common nom.sg nouns end in -o:n Pl. -ontes, or -is Pl. ides, and also -3 (=x)Pl. -akes. Since this is the dictionary form, you will have to guess from the forms you find in the text. 'daimo:n daimones'


Genitive 'possessive'

Sing: -as or -ns Plur: -o:n
       Decl I: Feminines showing an original -a retained after the letters -e -i or -p otherwise changing to Ionic dialect eta = -e: in singular. xo:ras xo:ro:n'

Sing: -ou Hom. oio Plur: -o:n
       Decl II: The Homeric -oio from *osyo is original form, Attic contracts to -ou ' 'ippou Hom. 'ippoio 'ippo:n'

Sing: -os Plur: -o:n
       Decl III: Thie Decl. has many stems formations lumped together with variant stems, deceptive nominatives, but usually the -os of the Genitive shows. Without this ending, we have the 'stem' 'daimonos daimono:n'


Dative 'to -- for'

Sing: -a, (= -a with subscript -i) or -n, (=eta with subscript -i,as explained above) Plur: --ais Hom -aisi 'xo:ra, xo:rais
       Decl I: Feminine, originally -ai with the iota written underneath in Attic.

Sing: --o:, (omega with iota subscript) Plur: -ois Hom -oisi
       Decl II: Masculine and Neuters ' 'ippo:, 'ippois '

Sing: --i Plur: -si Hom -ssi        Decl III: Many stems classses in this group, but these endings predominate 'daimoni daimosi '


Accusative 'direct object'

Sing: -an -e:n (as above defined) Plur: -as
       Decl I: Feminine with a typical nasal accusative 'xo:ran xo:ras'

Sing: -on Plur: -ous
       Decl II: Masculine nouns and personal names of men etc. ' 'ippon 'ippous'

Sing: -a Plur: -as
       Decl III: Unlike the nasal accuisative of Decl I and II, this has a nasal converted to a nasalized vowel, then to the vowel -a, which becomes standard in this class. "daimona daimonas

Sing: -os Plur: -a
       Decl III: In this class are neuters with a Sing in -s, Plur in -a, and contracted Genitives in -ous (for -oos). Nom and Acc. are always the same form.


THE VERB

Present Active

Sing: -o: Plur: -omen
        Type luo: First Person

Sing: -eis Plur: -ete
        Type luo: Second Person

Sing: -ei Plur: -ousi
        Type luo: Third Person


Imperfect Active

Sing: -on Plur: -omen
        Type luo: With the 'augment -e' in Attic, optional in Homeric. First Person.

Sing: -es Plur: -ete
        Type luo: With the 'augment -e' in Attic, optional in Homeric. Second Person

Sing: -e Plur: -on
        Type luo: With the 'augment -e' in Attic, optional in Homeric. Third Person


Future Active

Sing: -so: Plur: -somen
        Type luo: First Person.

Sing: -seis Plur: -sete
        Type luo: Second Person.

Sing: -sei Plur: -sousi
        Type luo: Third Person



Aorist Active

Sing: -sa Plur: -samen
        Type luo: First Person

Sing: -sas Plur: -sate
        Type luo: Second Person

Sing: -se Plur: -san
        Type luo: Third Person


Perfect Active (reduplicated first syllable)

Sing: -ka Plur: -kamen
        Type luo: 'leluka First Person

Sing: -kas Plur: -kate
        Type luo: 'lelukas' Second Person

Sing: -ke Plur: -kasi
        Type luo: 'leluke' Third Person

There exists a Pluperfect Active, which is an augmentsed Perfect with special endings, but rarely used so not neceesary to note here.


Present Mediopassive

Sing: -mai Plur: -metha
        Type luo: 'leinomai' First Person

Sing: -n, (eta with subscript i) Plur: -esthe
        Type luo:. Note German editions print -si for this Second person. Second Person

Sing: -etai Plur: -ontai
        Type luo: Third Person.


Imperfect Mediopassive

Sing: -me:n Plur: -metha
        Type luo:. Note Attice has the augment, optional in Homer. First Person

Sing: -ou, contr from -oo Plur: -sthe
        Type luo: Second Person

Sing: -eto Plur: -onto
        Type l luo: Third Person


Future Mediopassive

Sing: -somai Plur: -sometha
        Type l luo: First Person

Sing: -sei or sn, Plur: -sesthe
        Type l luo: Second Person

Sing: -setai Plur: -sontai
        Type l luo: Third Person


Perfect Mediopassive (with reduplicated First syllable)

Sing: -mai Plur: -
        Type l luo: 'lelumai ' First Person

Sing: -sai Plur: -metha
        Type l luo: 'lelusai' Second Person

Sing: -tai Plur: -ntai
        Type l luo: 'lelutai' Third Person


Aorist True Passive

Sing: -the:n Plur: -the:men
        Type Type l luo: 'e-luthe:n' First Person

Sing: -the:s Plur: -the:te
        Type Type l luo: 'e-luthns' Second Person

Sing: -the: Plur: -the:san
        Type Type l luo: 'e-luthe:' Third Person

There is also a true Future Passive based on the Aorist stem, with forms 'luthe:somai etc.'which will be found in Attic prose. This is a combination of mediopassive endings with the true aorist passive forms.


The Active Infinitives

There are four active infinitives of a luo-type verb:

        Present Inf.: luein

        Future Inf.: lusein

        Aorist Inf.: lusai (luo)

        or the Aorist Inf.: lipein (leipo)

        Perfect Inf.: lelukenai


The Mediopassive Infinitives

The Passive infinitives are also just four:

        Present Inf: luesthai

        Future Inf.: luesethai

       Perfect Inf.: lelusthai

        True Aorist Inf: luthenai

        Future Aorist Inf: luthesasthai

        Fut. Perf Pass. Inf: lelusthasthai

Of these Infinitives the ones you see most often will be the Present and Aorist in the active forms, and the Present mediopassive as well as the Aorist Passive. Future are easy to recognize with their inserted sigma.


The Participles

The Greek participles generally follow the formation of the Tenses to which the belong, so only a few which are basic need be listed here:

        Present Participle is a Decl III noun type, with a Nom Sg. in -o:n, Gen. -ontos, Nom Pl. ontes. The Future Ppl is based on this with inserted sigma, e.g. luso:n beside the Pres. luo:n, easily recognized and regular.

        Aorist Participle will be of the luo type, with sigmatic inflection: Nom sg. lusas, Gen. lusantos, Nom Pl lusantes. But verbs of the reducing leipo type with have the same ending as the Present, e.g. leipein as a Present Inf contrasts with Aorist Inf. lipein.

There is a Perfect Active Ppl. which retains the reduplication of the Perfect system, but uses a special ending: Nom Sg -o:s, Fem. -uia, Neut os, and the Genitive shows the dental stem: -otos, Dative -oti etc. This is easily recognized by the reduplication and the noun endings, and it often is used with a present-type meaning.

The Mediopassive participles use the endings Masc.-menos, Fem mene, Neut menon attached to whatever stem the verb has at that point, and these are clearly distinctive and easy to remember. But the True Aorist Passive (which curiously bears active endings e.y. eluthen) has endings which look active but carry passive meaning, e.g. N Sg. lutheis, Gen. luthentos with a dental -t- which will carry through the declension. Nota bene!


The IRREALIS: Subjunctive and Optative

After one has mastered the general ranks of the Active and Mediopassive forms, one could be stunned by the learning that all these various forms in their proper tenses have to be duplicated twice, in the Subjunctive and Optative 'Moods'. That means pages and pages of forms which lie ahead, but there are things to say first which will restore a little confidence.

First, many of these 'grammarbook' forms are hardly ever used, some in fact can not be found in any ancient text. Overzealous grammarians have tried to make everything regular and patent, and the rigor of Classical teaching in the l9th century use these pages as a punishment if not a test to weed out the lazy students from the ranks of the assiduous. But for reading Greek one does not memorize forms now, we know more about language learning and teaching and the function of the brain as a super-computer which under proper conditions can file word-data in ten thousands instantly. Accessing one's mind-power is the way to learning a new language, but teaching methods in the Classical languages has not kept up to date. Learning your grammar from the text you read will be much a more useful path to a Reading Knowledge, and for this you have to decide how much to learning BEFORE starting to read. If you try to learn it all first, you will not be in a proper attitude to read ancient Greek. Verbum sapientibus!

Now back to the Subjunctive and Optative.

If you know your regular (Indicative) forms fairly well, you can recognize a Subjunctive when you see a vowel in the terminal inflection which is inexplicable lengthened. A lengthened vowel (eta or o-mega) is sign of the Subjunctive and indicates a first degree of Irreality, a suspicious cast of the eye on a situation which is not positively factual. For example if you find 'luo:men'' beside the Present Act. Indic. 'luomen', you will understand that to be a subjunctive. (In the case of 'luo:' 1 Sg Pres, you cannot see a difference which is why I cites the plural.) This works for all the tenses, look over the tables and you will see this works as a simple recognition Rule.

Now for the Optative, which is in a general sense a Secondary Subjunctive often pointing back to a previous time or a less clear reality, you can apply a similar rule of recognition. If you find an unexpected -ei -ai or -oi, you have an Optative. For example beside the Present 'luei' you may see the form 'luoi' --- an Optative. You might be surprised at 'luoimi' with a different ending beside 'luo:', but the other endings of the list are normal. The main thing is to know the Indicative forms, then the variants will stand out clearly.

William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris