What is “Ancient Greek grammar” ?

Ancient Greek grammar

Ancient Greek grammar
Ancient Greek grammar
Ancient Greek grammar

The Classical Greek script didn’t use accents. Accents were devised in the Hellenistic era by scholars who wanted to make it easier for foreigners to learn Greek. The general use of these accents began during the Byzantine Empire. Modern Greek has used only two diacritics since 1982, namely the diaeresis and the acute.

In Ancient Greek, all nouns, including proper nouns, are classified according to grammatical gender as masculine, feminine or neuter and present forms in five distinct morphological cases. Furthermore, common nouns present distinct forms in the singular, dual and plural number. The set of forms that any particular noun will present for each case and number is determined by the declension that it follows. The form of the declension is additionally determined by the final letter or letters in the stem.

Attic Greek has a definite article, but no indefinite article. The definite article agrees with its associated noun in number, gender and case. Proper names usually take a definite article, as do abstract nouns. Adjectives are either placed between the article and noun or after the noun, in which case the article is repeated before the adjective. Dependent genitive noun phrases are positioned in exactly the same way, even though this frequently results in splitting the article and noun by a long dependent phrase. For example, τὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἔργον tx tox anthrṓpou xrgon, literally “the deed”, or “The deed of the man.” In earlier Greek, for instance Homeric Greek, there was no definite article as such, the corresponding forms still having their original use as demonstrative pronouns.

The Ancient Greek verbal system preserves nearly all the complexities of Proto-Indo-European.

In addition, for each of the four “tenses”, there exist, in each voice, an infinitive and participles. There is also an imperfect indicative that can be constructed from the present using a prefix and the secondary endings. A pluperfect and future perfect indicative also exist, but are rather rare. The distinction of the “tenses” in moods other than the indicative is predominantly one of aspect rather than time. The Ancient Greek verbal system preserves nearly all the complexities of Proto-Indo-European (PIE).

A distinction is traditionally made between the so-called athematic verbs, with endings affixed directly to the root and the thematic class of verbs that present a “thematic” vowel /o/ or /e/ before the ending. All athematic roots end in a vowel except for /es-/ “be”. The endings are classified into primary (those used in the present, future, perfect and rare future perfect of the indicative, as well as in the subjunctive) and secondary (used in the aorist, imperfect, and pluperfect of the indicative, as well as in the optative). Ancient Greek also preserves the PIE middle voice; the passive voice that occurs in the future and aorist is an innovation.

The participle is a verbal adjective and has many functions in Ancient Greek. The participle can be active, middle or passive and can be found in present, aorist, future and perfect. It is divided into three categories: adjectival participle, attributive (κατηγορηματικὴ) and adverbial (ἐπιρρηματική).

The gerundive is a passive verbal adjective that indicates the necessity for the action of the verb to be performed. It takes the nominative endings -τέος, -τέᾱ, -τέον, declining like a normal first/second declension adjective. Its stem is normally of the same form as the aorist passive, but with φ changed to π and χ to κ. e.g.

One of the most notable features that Ancient Greek has inherited from Proto-Indo-European is its use of verb “tense” to express both tense proper and the aspect of the time (as ongoing, simply taking place, or completed with a lasting result). The aspectual relation is expressed by the tenses in all the moods, while the temporal relation is only expressed in the indicative and to a more limited extent in the other moods (also called the dependent moods).

This classification, which properly applies only to forms of the indicative, is also extended to the dependent moods in the cases where they express the same time relation as the indicative. The time relation expressed by a verb’s tense may be present, past or future with reference to the time of the utterance or with reference to the time of another verb with which the verb in question is connected. Compare for instance ἀληθές ἐστιν, it’s true with εἶπον ὅτι ἀληθὲς εἴη, I said that it was true.

The rules on mood sequence determine the mood of verbs in subordinate clauses in a way analogous to but more flexible than the Latin rules on time sequence (Consecutio temporum) that determine their tense.

Related Sites for Ancient Greek grammar