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 Blaine Robison, M.A., M.R.E.

 

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A Short Guide to Greek Grammar

Published 31 May 2011; Revised 7 July 2016


Since my notes on Scripture are prepared for a general audience, those not familiar with New Testament Greek may find the following information helpful in getting the most out of the information provided about Greek words. The information below is taken from H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (1955). The form of grammatical abbreviations is taken from Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (1976).

Overview

1. Greek words are identified in the notes with the prefix "Grk." followed by the word in italic. The transliteration guide of the NASB Exhaustive Concordance has been followed for converting Greek words into English.

2. Greek has precise grammatical forms and these are mentioned, though not always explained, in the notes. Verbs have these basic characteristics: tense, voice, person, number and mood. Nouns and adjectives have case, person and number characteristics.

3. For simplicity, Greek verbs are written in the present active indicative form and nouns, adjectives and substantives are presented in the nominative form, since those are the forms used in lexicons and concordances. Abbreviations follow words to clarify their actual grammatical form. Definitions of grammatical abbreviations are given below.

Pronunciation

For those not familiar with Greek pronunciation here are some basic rules:

1. Special letters:

"ē" signifies the Greek letter eta (h) and is pronounced like 'e' in 'obey'

"ph" signifies the Greek letter phi (f) and is pronounced like the 'ph' in 'phone'

"ch" signifies the Greek letter chi (c) and is pronounced like the "ch" in 'loch'

"ps" signifies the Greek letter psi (y) and is pronounced like the 'ps' in 'lips'

"ō" signifies the Greek letter omega (w) and is pronounced like the 'o' in 'home'

2. Vowels:

"a" signifies the Greek letter alpha (a) and is pronounced like the 'a' in 'father'

"e" signifies the Greek letter epsilon (e) and is pronounced like 'e' in 'met'

"u" signifies the Greek letter upsilon (u) and is pronounced like the 'u' in 'debut'

2. Certain combination of vowels function as a single syllable, called diphthongs, and are pronounced as follows: "ai" is like 'i' in 'bike;' "au" is like 'ow' in 'cow;' "ei" is 'ey' as in 'they;' "eu" is 'eoo' with the 'e' pronounced as in 'met;' "ēu" is 'eyoo' (ey-oo); "oi" is like 'oi' in 'oil;' "ou" is 'oo;' and "ui" is like 'wee' in 'weep.'

Verbs

1. Verb abbreviations - Tense. In Greek action may be contemplated two ways: (1) in singular perspective; as a point in time or punctiliar action. This is represented in the chart below by a dot (l). (2) time may be regarded as progress, as linear action, which is represented below by a line ().

Tense

Reference

Meaning

Symbol of time

pres.

Present

Action in the present

aor.

Aorist

Action in the past or completed action

l    <l>   l>    <l

perf.

Perfect

Action in the past with continuing results into the present

l

impf.

Imperfect

Continuous or repeated action in past time.

()

plperf.

Pluperfect

Action in the past that is complete and the results of the action in existence at some point in past time as indicated by the context.

ll

 

2. Verb - Voice. This aspect of Greek grammar describes how the subject is related to the action.

Voice

Reference

Meaning

act.

Active

Describes the subject as producing the action; stresses the action.

mid.

Middle

Describes the subject as participating in the results of the action; stresses agent.

pass.

Passive

Describes the subject as receiving the action.

 

3. Verb - Mood. This aspect of Greek grammar describes action in relation to reality.

Mood

Reference

Meaning

ind.

Indicative

Mood of certainty. Declarative mood, denoting simple assertion or interrogation.

subj.

Subjunctive

Mood of mild contingency or probability; looks toward what is conceivable or potential.

opt.

Optative

Mood of strong contingency or possibility. No definite anticipation of realization, but sees what is conceivable. A wish.

imp.

Imperative

Mood of command or entreaty. The mood of volition.

 

4. Verb - Substantives. Below are forms that are sometimes used in lieu of Mood.

Mood

Reference

Meaning

inf.

Infinitive

The infinitive (inf.) is a verbal noun, which means it has the voice and tense of a verb, but also the case relations of a noun. As a verb it may express purpose (the most common usage), result, time (as a temporal expression), cause or command.

part. or ptc.

Participle

A participle is considered a verbal adjective. It is often a word that ends with an "-ing" in English (such as "speaking," "having," or "seeing"). It can be used as an adjective, in that it can modify a noun (or substitute as a noun), or it can be used as an adverb and further explain or define the action of a verb.

 

5. Verb - person and number. Greek verbs may be masculine (masc.), feminine (fem.) or neuter (neut.). And, verbs may be singular or plural. One drawback of modern versions is that the plural "you" is not easily recognized as the KJV "ye," but the distinction in meaning can be significant.

6. Unless otherwise identified verbs are in the active voice and indicative mood.

Nouns

1. Case. While Greek grammarians identify eight noun cases, four cases are most frequently used.

    a. The nominative case (nom.) typically designates the subject of a verb. Greek words are listed in lexicons by their nominative case.

    b. The genitive case (gen.) qualifies the relation or characteristic of one noun to another.

    c. The dative case (dat.) is used to indicate an object of interest or reference.

    d. The accusative case (acc.) limits an assertion.

2. Person and number. Like verbs, Greek nouns may be masculine, feminine or neuter, and singular or plural.

Other forms

1. The cases, person and number of nouns also apply to adjectives and pronouns.

2. The infinitive (inf.) is a verbal noun, which means it has the voice and tense of a verb, but also the case relations of a noun and can be used as a subject or an object.

3. The participle, like the infinitive, possesses verbal and noun characteristics, but as a noun functions primarily as an adjective.

Click here for more information on Greek grammatical terms.

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