Biblical Research & Education Resources
Blaine Robison, M.A., M.R.E.
A Short Guide to Greek Grammar
Published 31 May 2011; Revised 7 November 2017
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). The pronunciation of Greek letters is based on the English transliteration guide in the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (1998).
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. Transliteration means the substitution of an English letter for a Greek letter.
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.
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.'
"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.'
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 (¾).
2. Verb - Voice. This aspect of Greek grammar describes how the subject is related to the action.
3. Verb - Mood. This aspect of Greek grammar describes action in relation to reality.
4. Verb - Substantives. Below are forms that are sometimes used in lieu of Mood.
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.
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.
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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