Classical Greek 2: Present Active Indicative Verbs


This post is part of a series of Classical Greek lessons I’m compiling.

Today, we’ll cover present active indicative verbs, but before getting our hands dirty, it would be good to go over some basic terminology:

Verbs are “action” words (or, at least, that’s what I learned in school). Specifically, they are words that denote an action, a state, or an occurrence. Verbs in Greek have several properties, including the following:

  • person (first, second, third)
  • number (singular, dual, plural)
  • voice (active, passive, middle)
  • mood (indicative, imperative, subjunctive, optative)
  • tense (present, aorist, perfect, imperfect, future, pluperfect, future perfect)
  • aspect (imperfective, aoristic perspective)
  • time (present, past, future)

No need to worry about examples of these properties at this stage. As we continue learning about verbs we will encounter words with different properties, which will help us understand these concepts. Greek verbs are inflected in order to denote all of the properties mentioned above. These inflections come in the form of prefixes or suffixes that are attached to the stem of a word.

Each Greek verb typically has six different stems,  but we won’t cover them today. The first set of verb conjugations we will follow today are the present active indicative verb conjugations.

Present Active Indicative

tense: present
voice: active
mood:  indicative
time: past, present, or future**
aspect: imperfective or aoristic*

*Present Active Indicative verbs have the same conjugations for both imperfective and aoristic aspects. Therefore, the verbs will look the same for both types. The aspect is then determined from context. An imperfective aspect refers to an action that occurs continuously, whereas an aoristic aspect refers to an action that occurs in one point in time. Think of the difference between he eats and he is eating.

**The present tense implies present time as well, though an imperfective aspect may include an action that occurred in the past, continues occurring in the present and will continue to occur in the future.

The Present Active Indicative verb describes an action occurring in the present. This action can have an imperfective or aoristic aspect. Present active indicative verbs can generally be translated in many ways in English. Quick example, using the verb run, we have: I run and I am running, both of which are present active indicative verbs. In Greek, there is only one form of the verb that can cover both of these sentences. The following are the verb endings for present active indicative:

Person Singular Dual Plural
1st ω -* ομεν
2nd εις ετον ετε
3rd ει ετον ουσι[ν]**

*Note that there is no First Person Dual number in Greek.

**The last ν in the third person plural is only written if the following word begins with a vowel or if the verb itself is at the end of a sentence.

This table is nice but it only provides verb endings. Let’s see these endings in action by conjugating the verb “teach” (παιδεύω)

Person Singular Dual Plural
1st παιδεύω παιδεύομεν
2nd παιδεύεις παιδεύετον παιδεύετε
3rd παιδεύει παιδεύετον παιδεύουσι[ν]

Note that in order to conjugate the verb, we first separate the stem: παιδεύ- and just add the appropriate verb ending.

In general, I will try to transliterate as little as possible in these Greek reviews in order to give myself more practice with Greek letters. However, just this once, I will include a transliterated version using Latin characters. Remember that if you want to review the alphabet or don’t recognize a letter, you can always go back to my first post on Classical Greek.

Person Singular Dual Plural
1st paideúo paideúomen
2nd paideúeis paideúeton paideúete
3rd paideúei paideúeton paideúousi[n]

When you read these transliterated verbs, try not to pronounce them the way you would in English. I know I haven’t covered pronunciation here yet, because it’s hard for me to teach pronunciation through text. However, there are good videos on YouTube that teach how to pronounce Greek letters in both ancient and modern pronunciation.

#ancient-greek #foreign-language #language-learning #attic-greek #classical-greek #greek

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