Mark 4:31 [It is] like a grain of mustard seed,

KJV Verse: 

Mark 4:31 [It is] like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Just as a grain of mustard that when it might be seeded upon the ground, smaller being all the seeds, these upon the earth. 

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

The term he uses for "grain" is actually a metaphor in Greek for "a grain of sense."  The word used here for "small," also means "young." The analogy here is that the size of the information has no direct relationship to what it produces. When you put this particular grain of sense into your relationships, which is Christ's symbol for term translated as "the earth" here, it doesn't matter that it seems so small, new, and perhaps naive. This small, new idea has the potential within them to mature and grow over time.

KJV Analysis: 

It There is no pronoun or verb form on the Greek that indicates a pronoun.

is There is no verb "is" in the Greek here.

like The word translated as "like"  is not the verb that means "to liken," which we saw in the previous verse ( Mark 4:30). The adverb here  has a very broad meaning, translating as "how", "when", "where", "just as", "like," and related words.

a There is no indefinite article in Greek, but when a word doesn't have a definite article, the indefinite article can be added in English translation.

grain The Greek word translated as "grain" means "a grain" and "a seed," though it is not the Greek word more commonly translated as "seed." Interestingly, it is used as a metaphor for a "grain of sense," which fits directly into the meaning here.

of This comes from the genitive form of the following noun.

mustard "Mustard" is the noun that means simply "mustard."

seed, This Greek word for "seed" does not appear here.

which, The word translated as "which" is a demonstrative pronoun ("this" "that"), but it often acts as a pronoun ("the one that), especially a connective pronoun ("the one that") introducing a dependent clause.

when The Greek word translated as "when" introduces a phrase that explains a certain condition so "whenever" or "since."

it This is from the singular form of the following verb. 

is This is from the passive from of the following verb.

sown "Sown" is from a verb that that means "to sow seed", "to scatter like seed," and "to beget offspring. It is from the same root as the noun "seed" used later in the verb.

in The word translated as "in" means "upon," "against", "before", "during", "by" or "on."

the The word translated as "the" is the Greek article, "the," which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

earth, The word translated as "the earth" also means "ground" and "dirt". Translated as "earth", it refers to the physical planet, not society, which Christ describes as the world. See this article for more on these words.

is The verb "is" here is the common form of "to be" in Greek. The form is that of an adjective, "being."  Its form, neutral, means that its subject is the "mustard" earlier in the verse since the other nouns are masculine and feminine. It means to have a certain characteristic or remain in a certain condition. It also equates terms or assigns characteristics.

less "Less" is a comparative adverb "small", "little," and "young." The form means "smaller."  It is one of several words Christ uses to refer to children.

than There is no Greek word for "than" here, but it is assumed from the comparative form of the previous word and the genitive form of the next word. The word "of" might be better.

all The word translated as "all" is the Greek adjective meaning "all", "the whole", "every," and similar ideas.

the The word translated as "the" is the definite Greek article, "the."

seeds "Seeds" is the Greek word that means "seed", "sperm", "origin", "race", "descent," and "offspring." It was not used above. The verb, however, is from the same root word.

that The word translated as "that" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

be There is no "be" here. 

in The word translated as "in" means "upon," "against", "before", "during", "by" or "on."

the The word translated as "the" is the Greek article, "the," which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

earth, The word translated as "the earth" also means "ground" and "dirt". Translated as "earth", it refers to the physical planet, not society, which Christ describes as the world. See this article for more on these words.

Greek Vocabulary: 

ὡς (adv/conj) "Like" is hos, an adverb which means to "thus", "as", "how", "when", "where", "like", "just as", "so far as", "as much as can be", "that", "in order that", "nearly (with numbers)," and "know that." --

κόκκῳ (noun sg masc dat) "Grain" is not from the Greek word for seed (sperma) used later in the verse, but from kokkos, which means "a grain" and "a seed," a metaphor for a "grain of sense."

σινάπεως, [uncommon] (noun sg neut gen) "Of mustard seed," is sinapi which means simply "mustard."

ὃς (pron sg masc nom) "Which" is from hos, which means "this", "that", "he", "she", "which", "what", "who", "whosoever", "where", "for which reason," and many similar meanings.

ὅταν (adv/conj) "When" is from hotan, which means "whenever (as a condition)," and "since (as a cause)." 

σπαρῇ (verb 3rd sg aor subj pass contr) "It is sowed" is from speirô, which is a verb, that means "to sow seed", "to scatter like seed," and "to beget offspring.

ἐπὶ (prep) "In" is epi, which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," "during", and "against." 

τῆς  (article sg fem gen) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." --

γῆς, (noun sg fem gen) "Earth" is ge, which means "the element of earth", "land (country)", "arable land", "the ground," and "the world" as the opposite of the sky. Like our English word "earth," it means both dirt and the planet. --

μικρότερον (adv comp) Least" is from mikros, which means "small", "little," and "young." It is one of several words Christ uses to refer to children.

ὂν (part sg pres act neut nom/acc) "Is" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

πάντων (adj pl neut/masc gen) "Of all" is from pas, which means "all", "the whole", "every", "anyone", "all kinds," and "anything." In the adverbial form, it means "every way", "on every side", "in every way," and "altogether."

τῶν (article pl neut gen) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." -

σπερμάτων (noun pl neut gen) "Seed" is from sperma, which means "seed", "sperm", "origin", "race", "descent," and "offspring."

τῶν (article pl masc gen) "That" is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones." Here it is separated from its noun by a conjunction.

ἐπὶ (prep) "In" is epi, which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," "during", and "against." -- The word translated as "unto" means "against", "before", "during", "by" or "on."

τῆς (article sg fem gen) "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"), which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one" or, in the plural, "the ones."

γῆς, (noun sg fem gen) "Earth" is ge, which means "the element of earth", "land (country)", "arable land", "the ground," and "the world" as the opposite of the sky. Like our English word "earth," it means both dirt and the planet. -- The word translated as "earth" means "ground" and "dirt". Translated as "earth", it refers to the physical planet, not society, which Christ describes as the world. See this article for more on these words.

Wordplay: 

The wordplay in the verse using "grain" for "grain of sense" and "small" to also mean "young" only works in Greek. 

Related Verses: 

Jul 7 2019