Raphael: Philosophers

Previous Lesson

Table of Contents

Next Lesson

Hellenistic Greek © 2009
Lesson 8: The Greek Verb

Greek-Language.com


The Lesson at a Glance

Linguistic Terms

In this lesson you will learn the meanings of several linguistic terms needed to talk about verbs. We will use these terms throughout the course.

Lexical Form

You will also learn how to understand the way verbs are presented in the vocabulary lists for this course and in common dictionaries. We call this listing the lexical form of Greek verbs.

Greek Present

You will learn several of the present tense verb endings.


Grammatical Discussion

Analysis of Verbs

Greek verbs may be analyzed in terms of aspect (or in some cases tense), mood, voice, person, and number. This lesson introduces you to these categories and presents most of the present tense verb forms.

Tense

The following two English sentences differ in terms of tense:

    Karen plays tennis well.
    Karen played tennis well.

You will notice that the difference in tense in the two English examples implies a difference in the time of the action. In the first example, the speaker indicates that whenever Karen plays tennis, she tends to play well. In the second sentence, however, the speaker indicates that Karen played well at some point in the past.

While such differences in implied time are often connected to the verb form, they do not have to be. Observe the following example:

    She’s playing tennis.

If this sentence were an answer to the question, “What is Karen doing?” it would imply that Karen is playing tennis right now. On the other hand, if the same sentence were an answer to the question, “What’s Karen doing tomorrow afternoon?” it would not imply anything about what she is doing right now.

Time is determined not merely by the form of the verb, but by the larger context. For that reason, it is not possible to say that any particular Greek verb form always refers to the same time category as any particular English verb form. In stead, we must note the similarities and differences between Greek ways of indicating time and English ways of doing the same.


Aspect

The following English sentences differ in terms of aspect:

Karen played tennis for many years.
Karen was playing tennis when we arrived.

While both of these sentences refer to something that happened in the past, they  refer to the past in very different ways. The first asserts that playing tennis was characteristic of Karen for a period of time, but no longer is. It's what she used to do. The second asserts something about what Karen was doing at a specific point in the past. It indicates nothing about whether she still plays tennis. This is not a difference of tense, but of aspect—the way the verb portrays the action it asserts.

As you learn each set of verb forms in this course, you will need to learn the aspect associated with it.

Simple and Progressive Aspect in the Hellenistic Greek Present

The present tense in Hellenistic Greek was used both in places where English speakers use a simple present verb and where we use a present progressive form.

    Sophia sings. (Simple Present)
    Sophia is singing. (Present Progressive)

Both of these sentences would have the same present tense form in Greek since Hellenistic Greek did not distinguish between simple and progressive aspect in its present tense forms. When reading Greek texts, this is seldom a problem. In most cases, the context will make it clear whether a Greek present tense verb is intended as simple or progressive aspect.


Mood

The grammatical category “mood” relates to the way an author wishes to portray the  relationship between a statement and reality. Does the statement represent an actual fact? Does it represent a potential occurrence, a probable occurrence, or something certain to take place or to have taken place? Consider the following sentences:

    I think he would stop (if you asked him).
    I think he will stop.
    I wish he would stop.
    * I wish he will stop.

Throughout this course, an asterisk (*) at the beginning of a line of text indicates that the text is not grammatically acceptable.


Why are the first three sentence acceptable, but the last one not?

Words like “would” and “will” are modal auxiliaries. They indicate the mood of the second half of the example sentences. “Will”, in the last example, fails to indicate the mood demanded by the first part of the sentence in which it occurs. “I wish” indicates possibility, but not certainty. “He will stop” indicates certainty.

Like English, Greek has a means of expressing mood. In Greek, however, mood is not  indicated by modal auxiliaries. Instead, each verb is marked by its ending for the appropriate mood.

All of the verbs presented in this lesson are indicative mood. That is, they are used in simple statements and questions about matters of fact.


Voice

Verbs may also be analysed in terms of voice. Consider the following two sentences:

    The dog bit the man.
    The man was bitten by the dog.

The two sentences communicate similar information. The action in both cases is the same (biting). In both cases the dog does the biting. In both cases it is the man who is bitten.

In what sense do the sentences differ? They differ in the grammatical functions played by the various elements in the sentence. “The man” is the object in the first sentence, but the subject in the second one. The form of the verb changes from “bit” to “was bitten” to signal this change in the role of its object/subject. This change in the form of the verb is called a change in voice from the active to the passive voice.

The verb forms presented in this lesson are those of the active voice, the more basic voice.


Person

Verbs may also be analyzed in terms of grammatical person. The following  simple sentences are stated in the first person:

I go.
We go.
I am going.
We are going.
I went.
We went.

In all of these sentences the subject ("I" or "we") refers to the writer or speaker. When this happens, we say that the statement is first person.

The following three simple sentences are second person:

You go.
You three are going.
You went.

In these sentences the subject ("you") refers to the reader or listener, not the speaker or writer. When this happens, we say the statement is second person.

The following simple sentences are all third person.

They are not home.
He left already.
She came early.
It is hot today.

In these sentences the subject does not represent the speaker or writer. It also does not represent the listener or reader. When this is the case, we say the statement is third person.

In Greek the ending of the verb is different for each of the three persons. Observe the following examples.

    πιστεύω. . . τῷ θεῷ (first person singular)
    I trust. . . God
    I have faith. . . in God (Acts 27:25)

    πιστεύεις (second person singular)
    You believe (Acts 26:27)

    Ἡ ἀγάπη. . . πάντα πιστεύει (third person singular)
    Love. . . believes all (Romans 13:4-7)

Because these endings indicate which person is meant, they are called the personal endings.


Number

What is wrong with the following sentence?

*They is tall.

While this sentence may be acceptable in some varieties of English, in formal academic English we would expect

They are tall.

In the first example the verb (“is”) has the wrong number. Number indicates whether the subject of the verb is pictured as one (singular) or more than one (plural). Since “they” is a plural form, and “is” indicates a singular subject, the string of words “They is tall” is ungrammatical in standard English.

Greek uses the verb ending to indicate number. Observe the following forms.

ἐπίστευσα (first person singular) (Mark 9:24)
I trusted  OR I believed

ἐπιστεύσαμεν (first person plural) (John 4:42)
We trusted OR We believed


Identifying Verb Forms

When asked to identify a Greek verb form, you need to state its Tense/Aspect, Mood, Voice, Person, and Number in this order. For example, if you need to identify the verb πιστεύομεν, you would give the following information:


Tense/Aspect

Mood

Voice

Person

Number

Present

Indicative

Active

First

Plural

The Mood and Voice are the same for every verb presented in this lesson. You will learn more mood and voice forms later.


Lexical Form and Verb "Conjugations"

The first form for each verb in the vocabulary list is called the lexical form. It is the present, indicative, active, first, singular form. We call this form the lexical form because it is the form used to list all verbs in a standard lexicon or dictionary.

In this lesson, the lexical form of all of the verbs in the vocabulary list except two end with -ω. This ω is a present tense ending that indicates first person singular. It is equivalent to the English word, "I." The verb βλέπω means “I see” or “I am seeing."

Verbs that form their present, active, indicative, first, singular in this way are called "The Ω Conjugation." A conjugation is a list of verb endings, and the list of endings for these verbs begins with -ω. Most Greek verbs are ω conjugation verbs, but a few verbs that appear frequently in Hellenistic Greek literature use the ending -μι for the first person singular. The verb δίδωμι, for example, means “I give.” These are called "μι conjugation verbs."


Contraction

One group of ω conjugation verbs requires special attention. Notice that if we remove the personal ending (-ω) from ἀγαπάω (I love) we are left with the stem ἀγαπά-. This stem ends with a vowel. Verbs stems that end with  α, ε, or ο undergo certain changes when the personal endings are added. A lexicon (dictionary) always shows the stem vowel, but that vowel will not be visible in the first person forms of the verb in any actual text you are asked to read.  Instead of seeing ἀγαπάω, you will see ἀγαπ. Instead of seeing ἀκολουθέω, you will see ἀκολουθ. The vowel of the verb ending “contracts” with the stem vowel. The circumflex accent over the ending indicates that such contraction has taken place.

ἀγαπάω
= ἀγαπ
ἀκολουθέω = ἀκολουθ


First Person Plural

To make the present tense first person ending of any verb plural, just add -μεν. When you do this, the ω of the singular form will change to its short form, ο, unless the verb is contracted.

βλέπω + μεν = βλέπομεν
                            We see

ἀγαπῶ + μεν = ἀγαπμεν (contracted form)
                             We love

Summary of Verb forms Presented in this lesson

In this lesson you have seen four of the six forms for the Greek Present Tense. Review them now, and commit them to memory. The remaining two forms are included as well, but appear in gray.


Singular

Plural

1st Person

πιστεύω

I believe, trust

πιστεύομεν

We believe, trust

2nd Person

πιστεύεις

You believe, trust

πιστεύετε

You believe, trust

3rd Person

πιστεύει

He, she, it believes, trusts

πιστεύουσι(ν)

They believe, trust




Vocabulary

Verbs of the -ω conjugation

143

ἀγαπάω

I love, long for

90

ἀκολουθέω

I follow, go with, accompany

428

άκούω

I hear, listen to, learn, obey, understand

77

ἀνοίγω

I open

74

ἀποκτείνω

I kill, put to death

86

ἄρχω

I rule

77

βαπτίζω

I baptize, dip, immerse

133

βλέπω

I see, look at, watch

97

γεννάω

I give birth, become the father of, produce

191

γράφω

I write, record, compose

97

διδάσκω

I teach

61

δοξάζω

I praise, honor, glorify


Verbs of the -μι conjugation

415

δίδωμι

I give

100

τίθημι

I put, place



Reading and Translation

1. βαπτίζω (Matthew 3:11)

I baptize
I am baptizing

2. [ἐν ὕδατι = with water]

βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι (Mattew 3:11)

I baptize with water

3. ἀκούομεν (Acts 2:8)

We hear

4. διδάσκω (1 Corinthians 4:17)

I teach
I am teaching

5. βλέπομεν (1 Corinthians 13:12)

We see

6. δίδωμι (Luke 19:8)

I give
I am giving

7. γράφομεν (2 Corinthians 1:13)

We write
We are writing

8. δίδομεν [Not found in NT. See Epictetus?]

We give
We are giving

9. Ὁ πρεσβύτερος (3 John 1)

The elder

10. [Γαΐος = Gaius (the name of a person)]

Ὁ πρεσβύτερος Γαΐῳ (3 John 1)

The elder, to Gaius

Do you know why Γαΐῳ is translated as "to Gaius" rather than simply "Gaius"? What case is Γαΐῳ? If this seems confusing to you, you should review lesson four: Second Declension Nouns.

11. Ὁ πρεσβύτερος Γαΐῳ τῷ άγαπητῷ (3 John 1)

The elder, to Gaius the Beloved

12. [ὅν = whom; έγὼ = I]

Ὁ πρεσβύτερος Γαΐῳ τῷ άγαπητῷ, ὃν έγὼ ἀγαπῶ (3 John 1)

The elder, to Gaius the Beloved, whom I love


Second Person Present Tense Forms

To indicate second person singular (“You,” when referring to only one person), we add the ending -ς, and to indicate second person plural (“You,” when talking to more than one person) we add -τε.

If the verb is an ω conjugation verb, the vowel connecting this ending to the stem changes from an ο class vowel to an ε class vowel (unless the verb stem ends with α).
The second person singular form of βλέπω (I see), for example, is βλέπεις (You see), and the second person plural form is βλἐπετε (You/Y’all see).

If the verb stem ends with α, the α takes the place of the ε connecting vowel before the personal ending. Τhe second person singular of ἀγαπάω (I love), is ἀγαπς (You love) and the second person plural is ἀγαπτε (You/Y’all love).

Verbs of the μι conjugation use the same endings. The second person singular of δίδωμι (I give) is δίδως (You give) and the second person plural is δίδοτε (You/Y’all give).

First Person Singular

Second Person Singular

Second Person Plural

I

You (Singular)

You (Plural)

βλέπω

I see

βλέπεις

You see

βλἐπετε

You see

ἀγαπ

I love

ἀγαπς

You love

ἀγαπτε

You love

δίδωμι

I give

δίδως

You give

δίδοτε

You give


More Reading and Translation

13. βλέπεις (Matthew 7:3)

You see

How many people does the speaker address in the text from Matthew 7:3 above?

The ending (-ς) on the verb indicates only one person.

14. ἀκούετε (Matthew 13:7)

You hear

How many people does the speaker address in the text from Matthew 13:7 above?

The ending (-τε) on the verb indicates two or more people.

15. διδάσκεις (Matthew 22:16)

You teach
You are teaching

[διδάσκεις is a form of the verb διδάσκω, not δίδωμι.]

16. δίδως

You give (Epictetus Discourses Book 1, 29:48)

17. ἀγαπᾶτε (Luke 6:32)

You love
You long for

Is the speaker addressing one or more than one person in the example from Luke 6:32 above?

The speaker is addressing at least two people. The verb ending (-τε) makes this clear.

18 βαπτίζεις (John 1:25)

You baptize

19. [ὑμᾶς = “you” (plural)]

βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς (Luke 3:16)

I baptize you

In this example from Luke 3:16, how many people are doing the baptizing?

The verb ending (-ω) makes it clear that only one person is doing the baptizing. That is why the translation must have "I", not "We."

20. [The symbol ; at the end of the following sentence is a Greek question mark.]

ἀγαπᾷς με; (John 21:16)

Do you love me?


Translation Exercise

Now try choosing the correct translation for a few Greek verb forms. Click here to get started.

Vocabulary Quiz

Click here to practice recognizing the vocabulary presented in this lesson.



Topical Index

Greek Language and Linguistics Gateway

Page Content and Design by Micheal W. Palmer

Previous Lesson

Table of Contents

Next Lesson

Loading