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This document includes: (1) general information about the uses of the Greek article; (2) an explanation of the inflected forms of the article; (3) all the case endings for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd declensions; and (4) a memorization tool for the article forms and for all the case endings from all three declensions.
For a more detailed discussion about the uses of the Greek article, with more examples, see the document Intermediate Grammar, The Greek Article. Also, this document does not discuss the way nouns are used in the various cases. For more information on the functions of the noun cases, see the document How the Greek Cases are Used.
The following comments are my own. But most of the information came from: Daniel B. Wallace's book, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics; William Mounce's book, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar; and Ward Powers' book, Learn to Read the Greek New Testament.
The Greek article was originally a weak demonstrative pronoun / adjective (i.e., a weaker form of "this," "that," "these," "those"). It pointed to someone or something, in a subtle way that was still clear and obvious to the listener or reader. It may have been used as a pronoun, as a sort of short and abbreviated reference to someone or something already known through the context of what was being said or written, so the whole name of the person or thing did not need to be repeated in full (e.g., "This is what we are talking about."). Or it may have pointed to a noun in order to indicate that the noun was now present or previously mentioned (e.g., "That man is the one.").
Thus, the Greek article originally served a completely different function than the English definite article "the." Then the Greek article developed many uses which are far more closely related to its original Greek function than to the functions of the English definite article. The Greek article definitely is not just an equivalent to the English definite article "the." Nor is the absence of the Greek article simply an equivalent to the English indefinite article ("a" or "an").
Therefore, in translating Greek into English, we cannot automatically always use an English definite article "the" in the place of a Greek article. There are many times when one will use no English article in the translation. And sometimes one can even use an indefinite English article in translating a Greek article. For instance, when a Greek article indicates a generic noun, we may translate the Greek article as an English indefinite article, or as an English indefinite pronoun ("any"). Also, if there is no Greek article in front of a Greek noun, we often use an English definite article in the translation, simply because the context indicates a definite reference to that Greek noun.
Because the Greek article developed into a kind of all-purpose grammatical tool by the time koine Greek was being written, it should be viewed as a grammatical tool, not really as an article.
Of course, the Greek article very often, but definitely not always, functions as an individualizing article, where it is used to distinguish one entity — one person, one group of persons, one thing, or one group of things — apart from all other entities. And, if a Greek article does this, it functions much like our English definite article. Thus, it very often can be translated directly into an English definite article.
For instance, in English, if we say, "The man went home," we are referring to an individual man, distinguishing him from all other men. So our English definite article "the" is making a definite reference to the noun "man," but is also serving in the function of individualizing the noun "man," distinguishing him from all other men. Thus, the English article is being used in much the same way as a Greek article that performs an individualizing function. Consequently, if we see a Greek clause like, ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἦλθεν τὸν ἴδιον οἶκον, we can translate it as, "The man went home," and still come very close to conveying what was meant in the Greek clause.
The normal use of the Greek article has basically two kinds of functions, and often performs both functions at the same time. One is a semantic function. That is, a Greek article in front of a noun or substantive is often used to add additional meaning to that noun or substantive. For example, the articular noun, ὁ ἄνθρωπος, in different contexts, can refer to a particular man distinguished from all other men, to the whole category of mankind, to "thee man" who is the best in the category of all men, or to other things. Using an article in front of a noun can cause the reader to identify additional contextual information with that noun, and the article thus adds meaning to the noun.
Then the article can have a structural function, where it is used to contribute to the structure of a clause or sentence. It can be used in certain ways as a pronoun. Or it can be used with certain words or phrases which are not nouns, in order to transform those words or phrases into nouns (i.e., into substantives). Or it can be used to indicate which grammatical role a word or phrase will serve in a clause or sentence — such as to indicate whether it is a subject or direct object.
But keep in mind that, if the article serves a structural function, it can also, at the same time, serve a semantic function.
An article adds meaning to the text through its semantic functions. To perform a semantic function, the article is normally used in front of a noun or substantive. However, some of the structural categories which do not have a substantive following after the article also fit into one or more of the semantic categories listed below. The particular individual entity pointed to by the individualizing article will always be part of a class or category of entities indicated by the noun or substantive, even if is the only one in its class. All these functions must be interpreted through context, since all involve the use of the same grammatical construction (article + noun).
As an individualizing article, the article will distinguish one entity from all other entities. That is, "the man" refers to one particular man, not just to any man, and not to all men at once (as a category of "mankind"). Then the plural, "the men" refers to a certain number of men in particular, not just to any men. An article can serve one or more of the following individualizing functions at the same time.
While an individualizing article refers to a particular entity within a class, a generic article indicates that the noun or substantive following it is referring to a whole category or class. For example, if the article with the noun in ὁ ἄνθρωπος was an individualizing article, it may be translated as "the man." But if the context suggested that the article in ὁ ἄνθρωπος was a generic article, it would be interpreted as "mankind." It would refer to the whole class or category of those called men or human beings.
The structural functions of the article are those used in building the structure of the sentence. They involve the use of the article with certain words or phrases in certain ways to create grammatical constructions. In these constructions, either the article itself functions as a pronoun, or the article indicates the grammatical role of a word and phrase following it. When an article is used to produce a grammatical construction, it also may function in one of the semantic categories above. Since these grammatical constructions may not be unique, they may need to be interpreted according to context.
The article can function as a pronoun in some contexts when used independently in certain grammatical constructions with the particles δέ or μέν, or when used in front of nouns or substantives.
Very often an article will be used to substantivize a word, phrase or clause. That is, the article can be used to transform what is not a noun into a noun (i.e., into a substantive). It can cause us to perceive a word or words as a concept or thing, and thus conceptualize it. The article is frequently used this way in front of a Greek adverb, adjective, participle, particle, or prepositional phrase. It can even be used this way with finite verbs, whole clauses or statements, and quoted words. In front of a genitive word or phrase, the article can even become an abbreviation representing a substantive like "son of," "people of," "things of," and so on. Once the article transforms a word, phrase, clause or itself into a noun, that substantive might be used in any part of speech, interpreted through the case of the article — that is, a nominative as a subject, an accusative as a direct object, and so on.
When an article is used to transform a non-noun into a noun, the process is called substantivizing or nominalizing. So an article which functions in this way can be called a substantiver, a substantivizing article, a nominalizer, or a nominalizing article. By the way, remember that a substantivized non-noun can also function in one of the semantic categories above.
The article is frequently used as a "grammatical function marker." That is, the use of the article with a noun, substantive or phrase can indicate the grammatical role it will play in a clause or sentence. Of course, once the grammatical role is determined, one must be careful to examine the context, to see if the article also bears one of the semantic functions listed above. But an article used this way will seldom also serve a semantic function. Very often the structural use of the article, to denote a grammatical role, is more of a priority to the author or speaker than the semantic use of the article.
Wallace listed the following functions of the article to indicate grammatical roles:
The first column names the case. The second column displays the masculine article's form for that case. All the singular forms are displayed in the top section, and the plural forms in the bottom. The third column displays the endings for masculine (and some feminine) nouns of this paradigm of the second declension (D2.1). The masculine article itself is the pattern for most masculine nouns, pronouns and adjectives of the second declension.
|Case||Article||Masc. & Fem.
2nd Decl. Endings
|Genitive 3||τοῦ||υ (actual = ο)|
|Accusative 5||τούς||υς (actual = νς)|
Before looking at the footnotes, it should first be repeated that the consonant tau ( τ ) is the stem of all masculine, feminine and neuter articles. And omicron is the stem vowel of the masculine article, and all 2nd declension words. With the stem vowel appended, the stem of the masculine article becomes "το." All the case endings are joined to this "το" masculine stem.
1. For all singular and plural nominative forms of the masculine and feminine articles (but not neuter), the tau stem drops off, and is replaced by rough breathing over the stem vowel. If the stem vowel changes into a diphthong, after being joined to a case ending, the rough breathing goes over the diphthong. Here we see the nominative masculine forms as ὁ (singular) and οἱ (plural) The most ancient Greek writings show that the articles originally kept the tau. So the nominative singular forms of the masculine and feminine articles originally were τός and τή, without rough breathing. The change to rough breathing probably came as a result of common use over the years. Also, the sigma case ending (ς) was dropped from the article's most ancient masculine nominative form. But the sigma case ending is joined to most 2nd declension nominative singular masculine noun, pronoun and adjective forms.
2. A vocative singular form of a masculine noun may exist. It is used for addressing someone directly. If a noun has a vocative singular form, it will usually be used without an article, as in: Κύριε, σῶσόν με ("Lord, save me," Mat. 14:30). The vocative form is rare, and is mostly found in flexions of masculine nouns of the 2nd declension, and only singular vocative forms exist even in those flexions. A masculine singular vocative form of the 2nd declension will often use an epsilon case ending, without a stem vowel, as seen in the example above (κύριε). But many masculine singular words do not have a vocative form. If a vocative singular form does not exist, a nominative singular form is used instead. There is no vocative form of the article either, so a nominative form of the article will be used instead, if a nominative singular form of a noun is used in addressing someone and an article is used with it. Most feminine forms of the 1st declension, and most neuter forms of the 2nd declension, merely use the nominative singular form as a vocative form. Singular vocative forms in the 3rd declension mostly use the bare stem as the vocative form, but also may change the last vowel in the stem (e.g., nom. sing. = πατήρ, voc. sing. = πάτερ, meaning "father"). Almost all plural vocative forms in all declensions are simply plural nominative forms, used in direct address to a group of people represented by the noun, and may use an article too. For example: Οἱ κύριοι, τὸ δίκαιον καὶ τὴν ἰσότητα τοῖς δούλοις παρέχεσθε ("Masters, provide justice and equality for [your] slaves," Col. 4:1). A few other vocative forms exist, but are easy to pick out, since they are usually at the beginning of a quote or clause addressing someone.
3. Effectively, all you need to remember at first is that a upsilon is added to the masculine omicron stem vowel to produce the genitive singular ending. However, the real masculine case ending added to the omicron stem vowel is actually another omicron (ο). And it will be helpful to know this later on. The Greeks did not like having two consecutive omicrons in a word, however. (It is hard to pronounce both identical short vowels following one another.) They did allow it at times but, in most cases, they changed the second omicron to a upsilon to replace the double omicron sound. The Greek formula for this was basically:
ο + ο = ου
This is called a contraction of the vowels. Actually, many inflections involve contractions, where two vowels colide and produce a diphthong or long vowel. Here, the omicron stem vowel contracts with the omicron case ending to form the diphthong "ου." The whole procedure of the contraction on the article looks like this:
το + ο = τοῦ
4. The iota (ι) is characteristic of the dative case; for both singular and plural forms of all masculine, feminine and neuter nouns, adjectives and pronouns in all declensions. (But the plural dative case endings have an additional sigma as well.) However, the iota is always written in subscript below a stem vowel in all the singular dative forms of all 1st and 2nd declension words. This is true for all nouns, adjectives and pronouns in the 1st and 2nd declensions. (The iota does not go subscript in the 3rd declension.) Also, Greek only puts an iota subscript under a long vowel. Because the omicron stem vowel is short, it lengthens to a long vowel (omega) when the iota subscript is added:
το + ι (subscript) = τῷ
5. Effectively, all one has to remember at first is that the accusative plural ending on a masculine omicron stem vowel is "υς." However, later you will want to know that the actual case ending for a plural accusative, either masculine or feminine, is really nu-sigma (νς). Yet Greeks did not seem to like the sound of a nu (ν) before a sigma (ς), so the nu was always dropped. To compensate for the dropped nu, the short omicron vowel is lengthened to a diphthong (ου).
το + νς = τοῦς
6. The ων ending overtakes any stem vowel and replaces it. In all declensions, the genitive plural ending is always ων. So this is one of the easiest case endings to remember.
The feminine article is the pattern for most first declension (D1.2) nouns, pronouns and adjectives. The following case endings are even used by most 1st declension feminine words which do not follow the same paradigm, except they may use an alpha stem vowel for some or all the singular forms.
|Case||Article||1st Decl. Endings|
|Accusative 4||τάς||ς (actual = νς)|
1. Like the masculine article, the feminine nominative singular and plural forms also drop the tau stem. Then they compensate with rough breathing over the stem vowel in the singular and over the diphthong in the plural. Most nouns, adjectives and other words in the 1st declension use the same case endings as those which are used by the article. Some may substitute an alpha stem vowel for the eta stem vowel, in some or all singular forms (yet their plural forms will still use an alpha stem vowel). But the case endings are identical. Also, although a few flexions of feminine nouns in the 1st declension have a vocative singular form (used in addressing someone), most do not. And basically none have a plural vocative form. The 1st declension words with a vocative singular form are mostly masculine nouns, and use a masculine nominative singular case ending of sigma (e.g., masc. nom. sing. = ὁ προφήτης, masc. voc. sing. = προφῆτα). But the majority of words in the 1st declension are feminine, with endings like the article, and most feminine nouns have no vocative form. Therefore, for most feminine words of the 1st declension, a nominative form serves also as a vocative form. A singular nominative serves as a singular vocative, and a plural nominative serves as a plural vocative. A nominative, used as a vocative, may have an article in front of it as well.
2. Since the feminine stem vowel eta (η) is already a long vowel, it can take the iota subscript without needing to be changed. Even a feminine noun with an alpha stem vowel in the dative singular does not need to lengthen its alpha stem vowel, because an alpha can be treated as a long vowel too. So the iota can go subscript beneath an alpha as well.
3. All the feminine article's singular forms use an eta stem vowel, and its plural forms all use an alpha stem vowel. But some singular forms of other 1st declension nouns use an alpha stem vowel in some or all of their singular forms, as mentioned previously. However, all 1st declension words use the alpha stem vowel in all their plural forms, even if they used the eta stem vowel in the singular forms.
4. Effectively, all one has to remember at first is that the accusative plural ending on a feminine alpha stem vowel is ς. However, just as we said for the accusative plural masculine article, the actual case ending is nu-sigma (νς). Yet Greeks did not put a nu (ν) before a sigma (ς), so the nu is dropped. In masculine words, with their omicron stem vowel, the omicron is lengthened to a diphthong (ου) to compensate for the dropped nu. But in feminine words, the alpha stem vowel can be a long vowel itself, so it is not changed, and the sigma is added directly to it.
τα + νς = τάς
Also notice that the effective accusative plural case ending sigma (ς) is the same case ending as the genitive singular feminine case ending. So, if an alpha stem vowel is used with the genitive singular ending (such as in the ριε stem paradigm, D1.1), then the accusative plural form will look exactly like it. When you see 1st declension nouns or adjectives which use an alpha stem in the singular cases (D1.1 forms), you can only tell the difference between the genitive singular and the accusative plural forms by the article in front of the word, or in context.
5. The case ending for the genitive feminine plural article is the same as that of the genitive masculine plural and the genitive neuter plural. All genitive plurals use the same case ending (ων).
6. Again, the iota of the "ις" dative plural ending is characteristic of the dative case.
The following case endings are used by most neuter nouns, pronouns and adjectives of the 2nd declension neuter paradigm (D2.2).
|Case||Article||2nd Decl. 1
|τά||α (actual = no ending)5|
1. There are no neuter nouns in the first declension.
2. Every neuter noun, pronoun or adjective will have an identical nominative and accusative singular form, usually ending in ον, for 2nd declension (D2.2) neuters. Then each will also have an identical nominative and accusative plural form too, always ending in α for both 2nd and 3rd declension neuters. This is true of all Greek neuter words in both the 2nd and 3rd declensions. Only according to context, can one tell whether a neuter is supposed to be nominative or accusative. When parsing a neuter, one can state whether it is either nominative or accusative, according to its use in context. Also, a nominative form is used as a vocative form, for direct address, and may have an article in front of it.
3. The nu (ν) nominative/accusative singular neuter case ending is dropped from the neuter article, so it becomes just a τό. Thus, it does not look like the masculine accusative singular article (which is τόν). But the nu case ending is joined to most neuter nouns, pronouns and adjectives. Therefore, one often can only tell the difference between a nominative/accusative singular neuter adjective, and an accusative singular masculine adjective, by an article it might have in front of it, or by context.
4. Neuter genitives and datives, singular and plural, are always identical to their masculine genitive and dative counterparts within the same declension. All 2nd declension genitive and dative neuter forms have the same endings as the 2nd declension masculine forms. And all 3rd declension genitive and dative neuter forms have the same endings as the 3rd declension masculine forms. Neuter forms differ from the masculine forms only in the nominative and accusative cases.
5. In this instance, the alpha (α) is not actually a neuter nominative and accusative plural case ending added to the tau ( τ ) stem and ο stem vowel. The real ending is nothing. So the α is really a change in the stem vowel. This helps differentiate the neuter's singular nominative and accusative forms from its plural nominative and accusative forms. If the stem vowel did not change to α, all neuter singular and plural forms in both the nominative and accusative cases would look alike. However, an α is the real case ending for neuter nominative and accusative plural forms in the 3rd declension. Therefore, all neuter nominative and accusative plural forms end in an alpha, in both the 2nd and 3rd declensions.
The abbreviations in the chart below are: "ME" = Masculine Case Ending; "FE" = Feminine Case Ending; and "NE" = Neuter Case Ending.
As previously mentioned, 3rd declension nouns have no root vowel, and add the case endings directly to their stems. And 3rd declension stems usually end in one or more consonants. However, adding a case ending to a consonant often requires a change to that consonant or consonant cluster, especially if the added case ending is a sigma (as with masculine/feminine nominative singular), or if the added case ending begins with a sigma (as with the dative plural). More about this is discussed in the footnotes and rule 7 and 8 of "Mounce's Eight Noun Rules" (see "Drills Index").
|Nominative||ς or none||(none) 1|
|Vocative||(none) 2||(none) 2|
|Accusative||ν or α 3||(none)|
1. Almost all Greek words must end in a vowel, sibilant, rho or nu. Third declension stems usually end in a consonant. Therefore, if the consonant is not a sibilant, rho or nu, it may be removed when no case ending is added. For example, a tau will be dropped when there is no ending appended to it. So the stem of a neuter word like ὀνοματ (meaning "name"), when it has no case ending added to it in the singular nominative/accusative, would drop the tau at the end and become ὄνομα. But the tau at the end of the stem would remain before some of the other case endings are added.
2. If a 3rd declension singular vocative form exists, it will be for a masculine or feminine form, and most often will be just a bare stem, with no case ending added. However, the last vowel occurring in its stem may be altered. It may be changed into another vowel (e.g., -ης to -ες), or a vowel may be added to it. Then a plural nominative form is basically always used as the plural vocative form. A few examples of vocative forms of 3rd declension nouns are: (1) stem = πολι and fem. nom. sing. = ἡ πόλις and voc. sing. = πόλι ("city"); (2) stem = βασιλε and masc. nom. sing. = ὁ βασιλεύς and voc. sing. = βασιλεῦ ("king"); (3) two stems = ανερ / ανδρ and masc. nom. sing. = ὁ ἀνήρ and voc. sing. = ἄνερ ("man [mature male], husband"); (4) stem = γυναικ and fem. nom. sing. = ἡ γυνη and voc. sing. = γύναι ("woman [mature female], wife"). If a 3rd declension neuter word is used in addressing someone, the nominative form is used as a vocative, and it may have an article in front of it. For example: ἔξελθε, τὸ πνευμα τὸ ἀκάθαρτον, ἐκ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ("Come out, unclean spirit, from the man!" Mark 5:8)
3. The accusative singular case ending may be either alpha or nu.
4. Because third declension nouns end in a consonant, and an iota subscript is only placed below a long vowel (eta, omega or a long alpha), the iota inflection is placed after the consonant. For example, the stem of the feminine word λαμπαδ (meaning "lamp") plus the iota dative case ending would become λαμπάδι.
5. The alpha in the nominative and accusative plural is not a linking vowel (stem vowel), as it is in the first declension. It is the actual case ending. So the neuter stem of a third declension word like σωματ (meaning "body") would become σώματα in the nominative and accusative plural.
6. Again, the alpha in the third declension is not a linking vowel (stem vowel), as it is in the first declension. Here it is part of the case ending. For example, the masculine stem Ἑλλην ("Hellen," meaning "Greek") would become Ἕλληνας in the accusative plural.
7. The σι(ν) ending has the nu in brackets (ν), which means the nu is a moveable nu (a nu added onto the case ending only before vowels or at the end of a clause or sentence). Also notice the σι is the reverse of the normal dative plural ending ις . By the way, like some of the other noun endings, this ending is similar to some verb endings, so one should not confuse the two.
|Case||1st & 2nd Declensions||3rd Declension|
|Nominative||ς||none||ν||ς or none||none|
|Accusative||ν||ν||ν||α or ν||none|
|Genitive||υ [ο]||ς||υ [ο]||ος||ος|
|Accusative||υς [νς]||ς [νς]||α||ας||α|
|Dative||ις||ις||ις||σι (ν)||σι (ν)|
For 3rd declension endings, first type the most common masculine/feminine ending, then a comma, then an alternative ending if there is one, then another comma, then the neuter ending last. When typing in the articles, also remember to include the accents and breathing marks. They are part of the spelling. If you cannot remember the TekniaGreek Keyboard Layout, and have not printed a copy of it, its layout can be accessed from the Message Box (under the link titled "TekniaGreek Keyboard").
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