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   Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language

Modern Greek Grammar   Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language

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Authors: David Holton, Peter Mackridge, Irene Philippaki-Warburton
Format: Paperback, 544 pp.
ISBN: 041510002X
Publisher: Routledge,
an imprint of Taylor & Francis Books Ltd
Pub. Date: 18 September, 1997

Modern Greek Grammar Amazon UK
Modern Greek Grammar Amazon.com
Modern Greek Grammar Barnes & Noble


Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language is a complete reference guide to modern Greek grammar. It contains a comprehensive description of Greek grammar and offers an analysis of the complexities of the language. Written in a fresh and accessible style, this book focuses on the real patterns of use in modern Greek. The book is well organized and is filled with full, clear explanations of areas of confusion and difficulty. It also includes an extensive index, glossary of linguistic terms and numbered paragraphs designed to provide readers easy access to the information they require. An essential reference source for the learner and user of Greek, this book will be the standard work for years to come.

Table of Contents


1. The Sound System
2. The Writing System


1. The Articles
2. Nouns
3. Adjectives
4. Adverbs
5. Pronouns and Determiners
6. Numerals
7. Verbs
8. Derivational Morphology


1. The Verb and the Verb Phrase
2. The Noun and the Noun Phrase
3. The Adverb and the Adverb Phrase
4. The Preposition and the Prepositional Phrase
5. The Clause



The verb is the central element of the clause in that every clause must contain a verb with the exception of some copular clauses where the verb είμαι 'Ι am' may be omitted (see Section 1.9). Furthermore, the number and the type of constituents that may combine with the verb are determined by the type of the verb. A verb phrase is the combination of the verb with its objects (direct and indirect, locative, benefactive, etc.) or predicate complements, as well as the manner, place and time adverbials which modify the verb.


Objects are those noun phrases which combine with the verb in a very close syntactic-semantic relationship. Depending on the type of the verb, an object may be excluded, as in the case of intransitive verbs, or may be required, as in the case of transitive verbs. The transitive verbs may require only one object (monotransitive) or they may take two such objects (bitransitive). These varieties are presented below. Intransitive verbs

Intransitive verbs are those which do not combine with an object noun phrase. They, of course, may combine with adverbs of any type and some may require a subject or clausal complement. Intransitive verbs may be subdivided as follows:

(a) Verbs in active voice form expressing action which is not transferred to some other entity, e.g.: ροχαλίζω 'Ι snore', as in (1):
(1) Ο Γιάννης ροχαλίζει κάθε βράδυ 'John snores every night'
Other verbs of this type include: αναπνέω 'Ι breathe', χαμογελώ 'Ι smile', δακρύζω 'Ι have tears in my eyes', μένω 'Ι stay, reside' etc.
(b) Verbs in active voice expressing state, such as πονώ 'Ι ache':
(2) Η Ελένη πονούσε όταν της έβγαλαν το δόντι 'Helen was in pain when they extracted her tooth'Other such verbs include: πεινώ 'Ι feel hungry', πεθαίνω 'Ι die' φτωχαίνω 'Ι become poorer', λάμπω 'Ι shine', ιδρώνιο 'Ι sweat'.
(c) Verbs in passive form expressing an action not transferable to some other entity, such as έρχομαι 'Ι come':
(3) Ο φίλος του Νίκου έρχεται συχνά στο σπίτι μας 'Nick's friend often comes to our house'
Other such verbs are: εργάζομαι 'Ι work', ετοιμάζομαι 'Ι get ready, I prepare myself, ξεκουράζομαι 'Ι rest', σηκώνομαι 'Ι get up'.
(d) Verbs in passive form expressing state, such as κοιμάμαι 'Ι sleep':
(4) To καλοκαίρι, στην Ελλάδα, κοιμάμαι πάντα το απόγευμα 'In the summer, in Greece, I always sleep in the afternoon'
Other such verbs are: κάθομαι 'Ι sit', φοβάμμαι 'Ι fear', λιάζομαι 'Ι sun myself.
(e) Also intransitive are passive verbs which are typically derived from active transitive ones, such as: αγοράζομαι 'Ι am bought', derived from active transitive αγοράζω (κάτι) 'Ι buy (something)':
(5) To βιβλίο αυτό αγοράστηκε από πολλούς φοιτητές This book was bought by many students'
(f) Also intransitive are those verbs in passive form with reflexive meaning which are derived from active transitive ones. E.g. the verb ντύνομαι 'Ι get dressed', in (6), is derived from ντύνω (κάποιον) 'Ι dress (someone)':
(6) Η Ελενίτσα τώρα μπορεί και ντύνεται μόνη της 'Little Helen can get dressed by herself now'
(g) There are also verbs which have two different uses, an intransitive and a transitive one with slightly different meaning. Compare intransitive γελώ 'Ι laugh' and transitive γελώ κάποιον 'Ι cheat someone', intransitive πονώ 'Ι ache' and transitive πονώ κάποιον 'Ι feel sorry for, empathize with someone' or, in a causative sense, 'Ι cause pain to someone', intransitive γυαλίζω 'Ι shine' and transitive γυαλίζω κάτι 'Ι make something shine, I polish something', intransitive δουλεύω 'Ι work' and transitive δουλεύω κάποιον 'Ι fool, tease someone', δουλεύω κάτι 'Ι work on something'. For example:
(7) Η Μαρία δουλεύει στο Πανεπιστήμιο 'Mary works at the University'
(8) Η Μαρία λέει στον Νίκο ότι τον αγαπά αλλά μάλλον
τον δουλεύει
'Mary tells Nick that she loves him but she's probably kidding him'
(9) Η Μαρία δουλεύει τώρα τη διατριβή της 'Mary is now working on her dissertation'
(h) Also intransitive are the so-called 'linking verbs', such as είμαι 'Ι am', γίνομαι 'Ι become', etc. These combine not with an object but with either a noun phrase or an adjective phrase functioning as a predicate complement to the subject, e.g.:
(10) Η Σούλα είναι ο πρόεδρος τους 'Soula is their president'
(11) Η Σούλα είναι πολύ δυναμική 'Soula is very dynamic'
(See Section 1.9 below.)
(i) There are also intransitive impersonal verbs which require a complement clause, e.g.:
(12) Πρέπει να του μιλήσουμε 'We must speak to him'
(13) Πότε πρόκειται να φύγετε;
'When are you going to leave?' Monotransitive verbs

Monotransitive verbs combine with a direct object either in the form of a full noun phrase or in the form of a pronoun. The direct object is marked by the accusative case.
(1) Πρέπει να καλέσουμε το Γιάννη 'We must invite John'
(2) θα καλέσουμε εσάς και την οικογένεια του Μιχάλη (εσάς = strong form of the 2nd person pi. pronoun) 'We will invite you and Michalis's family'
(3) θα σας καλέσουμε στο γάμο
(σας = weak or clitic pronoun: see Part II, Section 5.2) 'We will invite you to the wedding'
In more formal discourse we may still find expressions of katharevousa origin containing transitive verbs whose object appears in the genitive case:
(4) Ο καινούριος υπουργός θα επιμεληθεί της καταστάσεως The new minister will take care of the situation'

In Section we present further examples of monotransitive verb phrases with full noun phrase direct object. Monotransitives with full noun phrase direct object Monotransitive verbs either require the obligatory presence of a direct object noun phrase, as in the case of μοιράζω 'Ι distribute' in (1), or they typically combine with an object, but they may also occur without such an object, as in the case of γράφω 'Ι write' in (2). Note that verbs such as τρώω 'Ι eat', πίνω 'Ι drink' etc., when used without an object, denote simple activities:

(1)a. Ποιος θα μοιράσει τις προσκλήσεις για το χορό; 'Who will distribute the invitations to the dance?' b. *Όλοι μοιράζουν 'Everybody distributes'
(2)a. Ο Καζαντζάκης έχει γράψει πολλά βιβλία'Kazantzakis wrote a lot of books'
b. Όταν γράφει δε θέλει να τον διακόψει κανείς 'When he is writing he does not want anybody to interrupt him'
c. Έγραψε στο Γιάννη χθες 'She wrote to John yesterday'

Notice that even when a transitive verb like γράφω is used without an explicit object noun phrase an object is still understood. In (2b) we understand an object with general reference (i.e. something) while in (2c) we understand the object to be γράμμα 'letter' because of the linguistic and pragmatic context, i.e. when we write to somebody we are writing a letter to him/her. This omissibility of the direct object, when it is easily understood, is very common in Greek and extends to all transitives. So, in spite of the fact that sentence (*lb) is unacceptable out of context, it is possible to find a context where it is appropriate, such as in the following conversation:

(3)a. Οι αρχηγοί του κόμματος άρχισαν να μοιράζουν ρουσφέτια 'The leaders of the party have begun to distributefavours'
b. Ε και τι έγινε; Όλοι μοιράζουν 'So what? They all distribute [i.e. they all do it]'
Monotransitive verbs can either be of active form, as those used in the above examples, or they may have passive form:
(4) θυμάμαι τον Αλέξανδρο από όταν ήταν μωρό 'Ι remember Alexander from when he was a baby'
(5) Ποιος φοβάται τον κακό λύκο; 'Who's afraid of the bad wolf?' Bitransitive verbs with full noun phrase indirect object

Bitransitives are those verbs which combine with two objects, a direct one, in the accusative case, and an indirect one, which may either be in the genitive case or be expressed by a prepositional phrase. Indirect object in genitive case

The indirect object represents an animate, often human entity which is indirectly affected by the action expressed by the verb. In (1) below, the indirect object is the recipient:
(1)a. Ο Γιάννης έδωσε ένα ωραίο βραχιόλι της Μαίρης or b. Ο Γιάννης έδωσε της Μαίρης ένα ωραίο βραχιόλι 'John gave Mary a beautiful bracelet'
In (2) the indirect object expresses the benefactive, i.e. the person who benefits from the result of the action expressed by the verb:
(2) Η Ελένη μαγείρεψε του Νίκου σουτζουκάκια 'Helen cooked soutzoukakia for Nick'
In (3) the indirect object indicates the source:
(3) Χθες πήραν της Ελένης ένα εκατομμύριο δραχμές 'Yesterday they took a million drachmas from Helen'

From these examples it is clear that the genitive case does not clearly mark the precise semantic relation of the indirect object to its verb. The precise semantic function of the indirect object is derived by considering the semantics of the verb and of the indirect object as well as the total linguistic and pragmatic context.
As shown in (la) and (Ib) the order of direct and indirect object may vary, since the grammatical function of each noun phrase, as direct or indirect object, is clearly marked by the difference in their case marking: accusative for direct and genitive for indirect object. (On the function of word order changes see Section 5.2.)

We must point out that the use of a simple genitive noun phrase to express the indirect
object, as in the examples offered above, is not common. This is because the genitive in these constructions may also be interpreted as a possessive genitive, especially if the direct object is a definite noun phrase. Consider:

(4) Ο Γιάννης έδωσε το ωραίο βραχιόλι της Μαίρης
(5) Η Ελένη μαγείρεψε τα σουτζουκάκια του Νίκου
(6) Χθες πήραν της Ελένης το πορτοφόλι

All three sentences are ambiguous between an indirect object interpretation and one involving a possessive genitive: Mary's bracelet in (4), Nick's soutzoukakia in (5), Helen's purse in (6). This is the reason why the indirect object is more often expressed with a prepositional phrase (see (1-3) Section below) or with the genitive clitic pronoun which more clearly marks the indirect object (see (3) and (6), Section below). There are some verbs whose direct and indirect objects are both in the accusative case, e.g. μαθαίνω 'Ι learn, I teach', διδάσκω 'Ι teach', ρωτώ I ask', κερνώ 'Ι offer a treat':
(7) Φέτος θα διδάξουν τους πρωτοετείς γραμματική
This year they will teach the first-year students grammar'
(8) Κεράσανε τους φίλους τους παγωτό They treated their friends to ice-cream' Prepositional phrase indirect object

The functions of recipient, benefactive and source may also be expressed by prepositional phrases introduced by the appropriate preposition.
(1) Έδωσε το βραχιόλι στην Μαίρη 'He gave the bracelet to Mary'
(2) Η Ελένη μαγείρεψε τα σουτζουκάκια για το Νίκο 'Helen cooked the soutzoukakia for Nick'
(3) Χθες πήραν από την Ελένη ένα εκατομμύριο δραχμές 'Yesterday they took one million drachmas from Helen' Transitive verbs with clitic pronouns as objects

Either the direct object or the indirect object of a verb, or both objects at the same time, may be expressed by clitic pronouns instead of either full noun phrases or prepositional phrases. Thus we may have a mono-transitive construction with an accusative clitic pronoun as direct object:

(1) Τον είδα χθες 'Ι saw him yesterday'
or a bitransitive construction with both objects expressed by clitics:
(2) Του το είπα πολλές φορές να 'ρθει μαζί μας αλλά ντρέπεται 'Ι told him many times to come with us but he is shy'
The use of the object clitic pronouns is very frequent and it often gives rise to idiomatic expressions consisting only of the verb and the clitic:

(3)a. Τα 'μαθες; 'Have you heard (the news)?'
b. Ναι, τα ξέρω 'Yes, I know (the news)'
c. Τα 'χασα 'Ι lost (my mind), I got confused'
d. Εμείς τα βρίσκουμε 'We find them [= we get on]'
e. Εμείς τη βρίσκουμε 'We find it [= we have a good time together]'
f. Τα λέμε πάλι 'We will talk again'
g. Τα φτιάξανε They fixed them [= they started a relationship]'
h. Τα χαλάσανε They spoilt them [= they fell out, they split up]'
i. Τα 'κανες θάλασσα 'You made them a sea [you made a mess of things]'
j. Του την πέσαμε To him we threw it down [= we made him a proposition]'
(3j) verges on slang more than the rest.

Whenever clitics are used either on their own or in combination with full noun phrases, and the verb is in either the indicative or the subjunctive mood, the clitics always precede the verb and are attached phonologically to it, forming one phonological word. (See Part I, Section 1.5.) In cases where both direct and indirect object clitics are present, their order is fixed; the indirect object (genitive case) clitic precedes the direct object one (accusative case), as in (2). In those rare cases where both objects are in the accusative it is only possible to use the clitic for the indirect object, and then only in combination with a direct object in the form of a full noun phrase. However, if the indirect object is in the plural it is possible to replace both direct and indirect object by their clitics because plural accusative clitics have the same form as genitive plural clitics and thus the combination is indistinguishable from the accepted pattern of genitive+accusative. Another restriction on the combination of clitic objects is that the direct object must be of the 3rd person while the indirect object clitic may be of the 1st, 2nd or 3rd person. This means that we cannot have the combinations μου σε, σου με, μας σας, μας σε, του με, τους σας etc.


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