Greek Grammatical Information

The purpose of this article is to explain how to use the grammatical information provided about the Greek words in each article

Verb Information

Information on verbs is presented in parentheses as abbreviations usually in the order of: form, person, number, tense, mood, voice. For example, the information (verb 3rd sg aor subj pass) means that the form is a verb, in the third-person, the number is singular, the tense is aorist, the mood is subjunctive, and the voice is passive.

The form is either "verb," "part" (participle) or "inf" (infinitive).  The "verb" is often omitted. A participle is a verbal adjective sometimes used as a noun. If the verb is "rest," the participle is "resting." The noun form in Greek precedes the participle with an article, "the one resting." Participles also contain noun/adjective gender and case information (see below). An infinitive is a verbal noun that describes the action, "to rest." See more detailed information on infinitives below.

The person is either 1st ("I," "we"), 2nd ("you") or 3rd ("he," "she," "it"). Since this information is part of the verb, the subject pronouns are only used for emphasis.

The number is either "sg" singular, one person, or "pl" plural, more than one. Greek also has a "dual" form, for pairs but Jesus never (or almost never) uses it.

The tense is either "pres" for present, an action happening now ("rests"); "imperf" for imperfect, an action started in the past but not completed, usually translated as the simple past in English,  ("rested"); "perf" for perfect, an action started and completed in the past, translated as the English past perfect, ("has rested"); "fut" is the future tense, ("will rest"); "aor" is the aorist tense meaning "at some point in time past, present, or future." The aorist is a very common tense in Greek, the one used in storytelling. How it is translated depends largely on the context.

The mood is either "ind" for indicative used for statements and questions; "imper" for imperative, the form of commands and request; the "subj" is for subjunctive, something that "might" or "should" happen. "If" and "when" clauses take the subjunctive; "opt" is for optative mood, which indicates a desired potential future. Jesus almost never uses this form, but it is explained more below.

The voice is either "act" for active voice, where the subject performs the action ("he give it"); "pass" for the passive voice, where the subject is acted upon ("he is given it") and "mid" for the middle voice, which indicate a subject acting by/for/on himself ("he gives himself"). The middle voice is very common in Greek and often misleadingly translated as the future tense, which it is not; "mp" for the "middle passive" a form that could either be the middle form or the passive form. See below for more detailed information.

Noun and Adjective Information

Information on nouns and adjectives is presented in parentheses as abbreviations usually in the order of: form, number, gender, case. Adjective may also have information on comparative and superlative forms.  For example, the information (noun sg masc gen) means that the form is a noun, the number is singular, the gender is masculine, and the case is genitive.

The form can be "noun" for a noun and "adj" for an adjective.

The number is either "sg" singular, one person, or "pl" plural, more than one. 

The gender is either "masc" for masculine, "fem" for feminine, or "neut" for "neuter." While males and females are masculine or feminine, so are many objects.

The case is either "nom" for nominative, the case of the subject of a verb; "acc" for accusative, the object of a verb or a many prepositions; "gen" for genitive, the possessive form and the form of many prepositions; and "dat" for dative, for indirect object and the objects of many prepositions.

More Detailed Information on Verbs

Middle Passive Voices

The Middle Passive voice is a verb form that can be either the middle voice or a passive voice. In transitive verbs, it acts as a passive: "he is washed" but for non-transitive verbs, it is acts as the middle voice "he rested for his benefit" or "he rested himself."

  1. Reflexive: "I wash (myself)." This reflexive sense could also carry a sense of benefaction for the subject, as in the sentence "I sacrificed a goat (for my own benefit)."
  2. Reciprocal: "to fight" (with active) vs. "to fight each other" (with mp).
  3. Autocausative: describes situations where the subject causes itself to change state.
  4. State of Being. With verbs relating to standing, sitting, reclining, being afraid, being ashamed, and being pleased, etc.
  5. Intensive: "to be a citizen" (with active) vs. "to do the duties of being a citizen" (with middle).
  6. In deponent verbs that have not active form, for example, "to follow."
  7. Combined with the subjunctive to form the future tense of the verb "to be" in Classical Greek.

Infinitive Form

Complementary Infinitive: These infinitives are often described as completing the meaning of verbs of ability, desire, intention, will, and the like.

Articular:  form called the GERUND. Like infinitives, gerunds function as nouns, including serving as subjects or objects of a verb, or as objects of a preposition. To form this part of speech, English adds –ing to a verb.

Indirect Statement: The construction used depends upon the verb of mental activity– sayingthinkingperceiving – that introduces the indirect statement.

Until/Before"The conjunction πρίν means until or before. To distinguish between the two meanings, Greek uses two different constructions. "Until" takss the finite verb. "Before" takes the infinitive.

Result Clause with ὥστε: A result clause indicates the result of the action of the main clause. If the clause shows the actual result, it takes a finite verb. If the clause shows an INTENDED/EXPECTED/PROBABLE/NATURAL result, it takes an infinitive.

Infinitive Clause Noun Forms: Usually, the Greek SUBJECT of the infinitive is rendered in the ACCUSATIVE case. The object is also accusative. If the infinitive has the SAME SUBJECT as that of the main verb it can leave it out or  the subject of the infinitive, or renders it in the NOMINATIVE for emphasis. The infinitive verb usually comes last.

Optative Mood

Expresses as wish "If only..." or "Would that..." or a potential of future possibility "I would be happy to dine with you." Largely died out in the koine, but survives in some phrases.

If/Then Statements (Conditional Sentences)

General Conditionals ('if anytime X, then always Y) Repetitive nature

  • Present general ("'If it rains, the streets get wet.'")  IF: eãn + subj. THEN: present indicative
  • Past general ('If  he commanded, they would always act") IF: ei + opt. THEN: imperfect indicative (sometimes with ên)

Verb Subject Number Agreement

Greek verb number agrees with the grammatical number of the subject. Some nouns may describe a collective, but if they in a singular form grammatically, the verb is singular. The exception is that neuter plural subjects often (but not always) take singular verbs. As in English, multiple nouns (compound subjects) take a plural verb. If one of the subjects is the first person, the verb is first-person. If one of the subjects is second-person, the verb is second-person. It is rare that a compound subject will be handled as a single unit like "the heaven and earth" taking a singular verb. However, in poetic use, a multiple nouns in a compound subject take a singular verb when the verb primarily goes with the nearest or most important subject in the compound. A singular verb also appears when the compound subject presents what is clearly one concept.

More Detailed Information on Nouns

Dative Case

The dative case has several uses in ancient Greek 1) the indirect object of an action ("Matthew gave his Gospel...to all.") 2) the instrumental dative ("Matthew wrote...with a pen.") 3) the location (in time or place) dative (...in Judea.") 4) to declare a purpose (]..as a testimony"), 5) a benefit ( ."..for our benefit"); 6) possession (."..of his own") 7) an agent (."..by himself") and 8) a comparison (."..as the longest") 9) area of affect ("in the sphere of men") -- The form of this word requires that addition of a preposition in English to capture its meaning, a "to" as an indirect object, a "with" for instruments, an "in" for locations, an "as" for purposes, an "of" for possession, a "by" for agents, an "as" for comparisons, and an "in" for area of affect.

Genitive Case

The genitive is always used with some prepositions and verbs, but it is also used for many other things including 1) the attribute genitive (functioning as an adjective), 2) the possessive genitive ("belonging to"), 3) the partitive genitive ("which is part of"), 4) the apposition genitive (same thing as head noun, i.e. "which is"), 5) the descriptive genitive ("described by'), 6) the genitive of comparison ("than" when used with "more," "less," etc.), 7) subjective genitive ("or") with participle ("coming of the son" becomes "the son comes" , 8) objective (‘for’, ‘about’, ‘concerning’, ‘toward’ or ‘against’) only with transitive noun ("blasphemy of the spirit" to "blasphemy against the spirit"), 9) absolute: a participle and noun at the beginning of a sentence ("while") 8) of time ("during," "within") of a word indicating time. -- The form of this word requires that addition of extra words in English to capture its meaning.  The most common is the "of" of possession, but it can also mean "belonging to," "part of," "which is," "than" (in comparisons), or  "for," "concerning" or "about" with transitive verbs. 

The genitive absolute is a noun and a particle at the beginning of a sentence, the action happening at the same time as the action of the sentence. Best translation with a "while" or a "during."

Objects of Prepositions

Various Greek prepositions (words like "into," "after," "from," etc.) may take objects of a specific case (genitive, dative, and accusative) only. However, several important ones take objects in different cases The meaning of the preposition phrase changes with the form of the object. (See this article for more detail.) Whether the preposition takes a single case or several, below are the general sense of how the Greek works.

  • A genitive object means movement away from something or a position away from something else. The time sense of a genitive object is that the event occurred within a specified time.
  • A dative object implies no movement, but in a fixed position. Event occur at a specified time or while an action was being performed.
  • An accusative object indicates movement towards something or a position reached as a result of that movement. Event may show the amount of time

Specific Conditional ('if X happens, then Y')

  • neuter ('If X is indeed true, then Y.') IF: ei + any indicative THEN: any indicative
  • Contrary-to-fact ('If pigs had wings, they could fly.') IF: ei + indicative II THEN: indicative II + an
  • Future Probable ('If I find out, I'll let you know.') IF: eãn + subj. THEN:  future indicative/imperative/other 
  • Future Possible ('Should X happen, then Y would.') IF: ei + opt. THEN: optative + an