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Hellenistic Greek © 2009, 2015
Lesson 5: Masculine and Neuter Adjectives

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The Lesson at a Glance

Adjective

In this lesson you will learn to identify a large number of the adjective forms found in the New Testament and other Hellenistic Greek literature.

Attributive

You will learn to identify and translate into English attributive uses of an adjective. In the sentence “That large house is expensive,” the adjective “large” is used attributively, but the adjective "expensive" is not.

Predicate

You will learn to identify and translate into English predicate uses of an adjective. In the sentence “That large house is expensive,” the adjective “expensive” is used as a predicate.

Substantive

As in English, Greek adjectives can sometimes be used in the same way as nouns. We call this the substantive function. In the sentence, "Blue is a beautiful color," the word "blue" is an adjective, but it functions as a noun; it is a substantive adjective.

Quantifier

You will learn to recognize some quantifiers—specialized adjectives that refer to quantities, like "none," "all," and "many" in English.

Grammatical Discussion

What is an Adjective?

Adjectives are describing words like “big” and “blue” in the following sentence:

The big blue house belongs to the judge.

These words are used to modify a noun (such as “house” in the example sentence).

Unlike Greek nouns, adjectives have variable gender. A single adjective may have masculine, feminine, and neuter forms. An adjective uses masculine endings if it modifies a masculine noun, feminine endings if it modifies a feminine noun, and neuter endings if it modifies a neuter noun.

Adjective Forms

You already know the masculine and neuter endings for the adjectives presented in this lesson. They are the same as the endings for the second declension nouns. (The feminine forms will be presented later.) Study the masculine and neuter forms of the adjective κακός (bad):

Masculine and Neuter Adjective Forms

Case Name

Singular

Plural

Nominative

κακός

κακόν

κακοί

κακά

Genitive

κακοῦ

κακοῦ

κακῶν

κακῶν

Dative

κακ

κακ

κακοῖς

κακοῖς

Accusative

κακόν

κακόν

κακούς

κακά

Agreement

The case, gender, and number of adjectives are context sensitive. That is, they conform to the case, gender, and number of the noun that the adjective modifies. (In this sense, their case, gender, and number function like those of the article.) In our example sentence, all of the words in the phrase, "The big blue house" would have the same case, gender, and number in Greek.

The big blue house belongs to the judge.

For example, in the phrase, ὁ ἀγαθός ἄρτος (the good bread), the adjective ἀγαθός is nominative, masculine, singular because the noun ἄρτος is nominative, masculine, singular. The article (ὁ) also appears in its nominative masculine singular form for the same reason.

Exercise 1: Agreement

Click here to practice chosing the correct form of the adjective to match its grammatical context.

Word Order and Grammatical Function

The agreement of adjectives with their head nouns makes it easy to determine which noun an adjective modifies. Still, variation in the word order may imply variation in the function of the adjective. Three common functions are presented here.

Attributive Function

First, the adjective may serve an attributive function, attributing a quality to its head noun. Notice the following examples:

ὁ πιστὸς δούλος
the faithful servant (Matthew 24:45)

ὁ ἰατρός ὁ ἀγαπητός [ὁ ἰατρός = physician, doctor]
the beloved physician (Colossians 4:14)

In both examples an article immediately precedes the adjective. Whenever there is an article in the construction, one must immediately precede the adjective if the adjective is to function attributively. If no article is present in the construction at all, however, the adjective may still function attributively.

δένδρον ἀγαθόν [τὸ δένδρον = tree]
a good tree (Matthew 7:18)

Exercise 2: Attributive Adjectives

Click here to practice recognizing Greek attributive adjectives.

Predicate Function

Greek adjectives may also serve a predicate function. This usage parallels an English construction with a form of the verb “be,” as in, “John is tall,” where is tall serves as the predicate of John (It makes an assertion about John).

In order for a Greek adjective to serve such a predicate function, the article must not immediately precede the adjective. If an article is present in the construction, it must precede the noun and not the adjective. An adjective used as a predicate is never immediately preceded by the article.

πιστὸς ὁ θεός
God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9)

ὀ. . . νόμος ἅγιος
The. . . law is holy (Romans 7:12)

Look at the two example phrases above. The predicate construction is translated into English using both an adjective and a form of the verb “be” (is) in both cases. This is the way you will need to translate predicate adjectives

If there is no article at all in the phrase, only the context determines whether the adjective is attributive or predicate.

Exercise 3: Predicate Adjectives

Click here to practice recognizing a few predicate adjectives.

Exercise 4: Distinguishing Attributive, Predicate, and Substantive Adjectives

Now it's time to try distinguishing between attributive and predicate adjectives. Click here to give it a try.

Substantive Function

The Greek adjective may also function as a substantive (like a noun). In this case the adjective is used without a head noun. Often, but not always, it is accompanied by the article.

The masculine and feminine forms are used when the adjective refers to a person or physical object, as you can see in the example from Matthew 13:43 below. When the adjective refers to a person or persons, it may be necessary to add a word or words such as "one" or "people" or "those who" in the translation.

οἱ δίκαιοι
The righteous (people) (Matthew 13:43)
Those who are righteous

The neuter form is normally used when the adjective refers to an abstract concept rather than a person or physical object. Notice the example from Matthew 7:6 below. When the substantive adjective refers to an abstract concept, words such as "that which" or "whatever" may be necessary in the English translation.

τὸ ἅγιον
that which is holy (Matthew 7:6)
whatever is holy

Exercise 5: Substantive Adjectives

Click here to practice distinguishing between masculine and neuter substantive adjectives.

Quantifiers

Quantifiers are specialized adjectives that refer to quantities. A few examples of quantifiers in English are "none," "all," "whole," "entire," "every," and "some." These words typically look like adjectives, and are similar to adjectives in many ways, but have a few special features that other adjectives do not share. The rules for interpreting attributive and predicate constructions in this lesson, for example, do not apply to quantifiers. Some quantifiers appear only in the predicate pattern, yet their meaning is more closely related to an attributive adjective. Note that there is no form of the verb "be" in the translations of the phrases below.

ὅλον τὸν κόσμον (Mark 14:9)
the whole world (NOT "The world is whole")

τὸν κόσμον ὅλον (Matthew 16:26)
the whole world (NOT "The world is whole")

Other quantifiers may appear in either the predicate or attributive pattern, but the meaning difference between the two is not the same as with other adjectives.

μόνος ὁ θεός (Luke 5:21) [Predicate word order]
only God (NOT "God is alone")
God alone

ὁ πατὴρ μόνος (Matthew 24:36) [Predicate word order]
only the father (NOT "The father is alone")
the father alone

τοῦ μόνοῦ θεοῦ (John 5:44) [Attributive word order]
of the only God

Exercise 6: Practice with Quantifiers

Click here to practice recognizing quantifiers.

Vocabulary: 29 Common Words You Need to Know

Eighteen Adjectives

Browse through the following vocabulary list, then read the grammatical discussion which follows. After completing all of the exercises at the end of the lesson, return to this list and learn any words you do not recognize.

Adjectives are listed with their nominative, masculine, singular ending, followed by the feminine, and neuter endings for that same case and number. This lesson does not address the feminine forms, but they are shown here for later reference.

Frequency Greek Word English Gloss

102

ἀγαθός, -ή, -όν

good

61

ἀγαπητός, -ή, -όν

loved, beloved

233

ἅγιος, -α, -ον

holy

71

αἰώνιος, -α, -ον

eternal (aeon = an extremely long period)

54

δεξιός, -ά, -όν

right (as opposed to left)
When δεξιός is used as a noun it should be translated as “right hand” or “right side.”

79

δίκαιος, -α, -ον

righteous, just

82

ἕκαστος, -η, -ον

each

52

ἔσχατος, -η, -ον

last, final (eschatology = theory of last things or end times)

98

ἕτερος, -α, -ον

other, another (of a different kind)

195

Ίουδαῖος, -α, -ον

Jewish (Judea = the land of the Jewish people)
The adjective Ἰουδαῖος is sometimes used like a noun. In such cases it must be translated “Jew” or “Judean.” The feminine form (to be studied later) is often used as a noun to refer to the region of Judea.

50

κακός, -ή, -όν

bad (cacophony = a lot of noise/bad sounds

100

καλός, -ή, -όν

good, beautiful (caligraphy = beautiful writing)

128

νεκρός, -ά, -όν

dead, useless (necrophilia = a psychological disorder involving obsession with dead bodies)
The adjective νεκρός is sometimes used as a noun. In such cases it should be translated “dead person,” “dead body,” or “corpse.”

67

πιστός, -ή, -όν

faithful, trustworthy

78

πονηρός, -ά, -άν

evil, bad, wicked

66

πρεσβύτερος, -α, -ον

older, elder
The adjective πρεσβύτερος is frequently used as a noun. In such cases it should be translated “elder,” “presbyter,” or “older person.”

155

πρῶτος, -η, -ον

first, earlier, foremost (prototype = first model)

50

τυφλός, -ή, -όν

blind
When τυφλός is used as a noun it should be translated “blind person.”

Two Quantifiers

Frequency Greek Word English Gloss

109

ὅλος, -η, -ον

whole, entire, complete, altogether

114

μόνος, -η, -ον

only, alone, deserted, isolated (monogamy = marriage to only one person)

Nine Nouns

Here are a few more second declension nouns. They are listed in the same way as in lesson four, beginning with the nominative singular form, followed by the genitive singular ending, then the appropriate form of the article.

Frequency Greek Word English Gloss

186

κόσμος, -ου, ὁ

world, universe, earth, humankind (Cosmos = universe)

142

λαός, -οῦ, ὁ

people, crowd, populace

100

ὀφθαλμός, -οῦ, ὁ

eye, sight (ophthalmologist = eye doctor)

273

οὐρανός, -οῦ, ὁ

sky, heaven
The word οὐρανός is sometimes used figuratively to refer to God.

175

ὄχλος, -ου, ὁ

crowd, multitude

158

Παῦλος, -ου, ὁ

Paul

156

Πέτρος, -ου, ὁ

Peter

377

υἱός, -οῦ, ὁ

son
The plural form of υἱός is often used to refer to groups of both sons and daughters. In such instances it should be translated as "children."

529

Χριστός, -οῦ, ὁ

Christ, Anointed One, Messiah

Reading and Translation

1. [Translate τίς as “who” in this first example.]
τίς. . . ἐστὶν ὁ πιστός δούλος;

Who. . . is the faithful servant? (Matthew 24:45)

2. ὁ υἱός μου

my son (Matthew 3:17)

3. ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπιτός
my beloved son (Matthew 3:17)

4. [οὕτος = this]
οὕτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπιτός

This is my beloved son (Matthew 3:17)

5. [σύ = you]
σύ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπιτός

You are my beloved son (Mark 1:11)

How is εἶ translated in the previous sentence? ____________________

εἶ is the second person singular form of the verb εἰμί that you studied in Lesson 3. It is translated as "You are."

Notice that the little word σύ ("you") is redundant in the sentence above. Including σύ would seem to make the sentence say “You you are.” This is not the case however. The inclusion of σύ simply makes “you” emphatic. The sentence means “You are my beloved son” (with emphasis on “you”).

6. [ἐγώ = I; ποιμὴν = shepherd]
Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ποιμὴν ὁ καλός

I am the good shepherd.

This sentence must not be translated “I am the shepherd the good.”

Notice that while you cannot yet recognize the form of the noun ποιμὴν, if you recognize the form of the article (ὁ), you will know the case, gender, and number of the noun (ποιμήν) that follows it since the case, gender, and number of the article always match the case, gender, and number of the noun it modifies

7. [ὄνομα is a neuter 3rd declension noun. Translate it as “name” in the sentence below. Use the article (τό) to determine its function in the sentence. αύτός = he, she, it]

ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ

Holy is his name (Luke 1:49)
His name is holy (Luke 1:49)

Notice that there is an article in this construction, but that there is not one before the adjective (ἅγιον). This is the predicate construction.

8. πιστὸς ὁ θεός

God is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9)

9. πιστός ἐστιν καὶ δίκαιος

He is faithful and just (1 John 1:9)

How is ἐστιν translated in the sentence above?

ἐστιν is the third person singular form of the verb εἰμί that you studied in Lesson 3. It is translated in this sentence as "He is."

10. [οὕτος = this]
οὕτοι οἱ λόγοι

These words (Revelation 22:6)

11. οὕτοι οἱ λόγοι πιστοί

These words are trustworthy (Revelation 22:6)

12. ὁ. . . νόμος ἅγιος

The Law is holy (Romans 7:12)

Vocabulary Quiz

Review the vocabulary lists above, then take the Vocabulary Quiz provided here.