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Mounce's Eight Verb Rules

Unit III

In his book Basics of Biblical Greek, William Mounce also put together an eight-rule summary regarding the conjugation of verbs. This is not quite as explicit as his eight noun rules, since there is very much more information to cover concerning verbs than there is concerning nouns. So these "rules" are more like general guidelines. But, like his eight noun rules, all these are also expounded further in the lessons.

Again I should mention, Ward Powers' book, Learn to Read the Greek New Testament, discusses all these "rules" too. But Mounce's summary condenses the most important principles here in a very succinct and helpful way, which is why I am including my version of it here. Below you will find these "rules" (or general Greek linguistic conventions in handling verbs) written in my own words.

To view the table of personal pronoun endings which these "rules" talk about, see Verb Personal Pronoun Endings. To return to this document, after viewing the verb endings, click the right mouse button over that window and select "back" from the pop-up menu.

  1. Augments (indicating past time) are found only in the aorist, imperfect and pluperfect tenses of the indicative mode. Unlike reduplication, augments are not used in other modes. In words with prepositions as prefixes, or in compound words, the augment is placed immediately in front of the verb stem, after the preposition.

  2. Reduplication is applied to verbs of the perfect and some present tenses. In words with prepositions as prefixes, or in compound words, the reduplication is placed immediately in front of the verb stem, after the preposition.
    • Consonantal Reduplication repeats the initial consonant of the stem and places a vowel (ε or ι) between it and the stem.
    • Vocalic Reduplication lengthens the initial vowel of the stem, if possible.
    • Perfect Tense, in consonantal reduplication, places an epsilon between the reduplicated consonant and the stem consonant.
    • Present Tense, in a mi verb, places an iota between the reduplicated consonant and the stem consonant.

  3. Root Stems are usually the one stem from which all the other tense stems are derived.
    Knowing the root stem is often helpful in being able to conjugate the verb into all its forms. But the root stem may be altered to form the stems used by various tenses. Some patterns are exhibited in some verbs, but stems and whole flexions must be memorized for other verbs.

  4. Tense Stems may vary from the root stems in the following ways:
    • Double Consonants within the present stem may be simplified into a single consonant in the root stem.
    • An Iota may be dropped from the present stem to form the root stem.
    • A Nu may be dropped from the present stem to form the root stem.
    • A Tau may be dropped from the present stem to form the root stem.
    • An ισκ may be dropped from the present stem to form the root stem.
    • The Stems of the μι Conjugation (3rd conjugation) may change significantly.
    • Stem Vowels on contract verbs are frequently lengthened or contract with vowels of endings. Vowels in endings are often lengthened, shortened or dropped off.
    • Different Root Stems from entirely different verbs may be substituted to form some tenses of some verbs.

  5. Tense Formatives (the morph used between the stem and personal ending to indicate the tense) may switch from using an alpha to an epsilon in the 3rd person singular forms.
    • σα becomes σε regarding 1st aorist active and middle
    • α becomes ε regarding liquid aorists
    • κα becomes κε regarding perfect tenses

  6. Neutral Morph Vowels may vary.
    • The neutral morphs omicron and epsilon are joined to the stem in the present, imperfect, future and 2nd aorist (active & middle) tenses, as well as in the formation of present and 2nd aorist (active & middle) participles. The omicron is applied before endings beginning with a nasal liquid (μ,ν). The epsilon is used with all other endings. When no ending is joined, the neutral morph is an omicron when the original ending began with a nasal liquid and epsilon when the original ending began with any other character.
    • Stem vowels contract with the neutral morphs (after the neutral morphs are first modified in producing the final forms of the endings) in the present and imperfect indicative tenses. Otherwise, they may lengthen before a tense formative morph which comes between them and the neutral morph. A tense formative morph is used by the aorist (σα, α, θη, η), future (σ, εσ, θησ, ησ) and perfect (κα, α) tenses.
    • Stem vowels contract with the εσ tense formative morph of liquid future tenses.

  7. The Sigma of the 2nd Person Singular Middle/Passive Endings (σαι or σο), usually will drop off and the neutral morph will join to the remaining vowel or vowels to form a diphthong:
    or ου respectively.

  8. Consonants may change.
    • ψ may be formed from the combination of a labial stop consonant (β, π, φ) plus a sigma.
    • ξ may be formed from the combination of a palatal stop consonant (γ, κ, ξ) plus a sigma.
    • φ before a theta of an inflection may have been a labial (β, π, ψ) which was aspirated.
    • χ before a theta of an inflection may have been a palatal (γ, κ, ξ) which was aspirated.


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