The Bible Truths Online Greek Course

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Lesson Four - Greek Grammar

(Study text then scroll down to questions)



      As I have mentioned, I do not intend to burden you with more than just the bare essential grammar and rules. In this lesson, we shall address matters of grammar that particularly pertain to pronunciation and word recognition. Take your time and memorize this lesson as best you can. Make sure you practice. Remember, the code for making certain Greek letters using the symbol font that should be on your hard drive (in fonts, see Lesson Three for the key code). Also, before you proceed with Lesson Four, it is imperative that you have a reference work that contains the Greek words. If you do not own Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, I recommend you immediately purchase it before going farther with Lesson Four. It can usually be purchased for around $20. 00 at a religious bookstore and you will need it anyway. You also really need the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Nestle/Marshall. This second work is more expensive, but it is required if you are going to advance in this course. Perhaps you have a bookstore in your area that has used religious books. The interlinear will allow you to look up Greek words in the Greek New Testament text and establish which word is used. You can then use the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words for definitions (more in Lesson Eight).

     As we saw in Lesson Three, there are twenty-four Greek letters that comprise the Koiné Greek alphabet. Seventeen are consonants and seven are vowels. The vowels are: a, e, h, i, o, u, and w.









     It is of importance that you learn that of these seven vowels, epsilon and omicron are always short in pronunciation and eta and omega are always long. What does this mean in practical terms? Take omega for an example. One of your vocabulary words from Lesson Three was the verb blepo, I see. Since omega is always pronounced long and omega is "o" in English, the second syllable is pronounced po, with a long o, more later.

    In Greek, as in English, two sounds often unite in a syllable to form a single sound. When this happens, it is called a diphthong. There are seven diphthongs in Greek. They are ai, au, ei, eu, oi, ou, ui.










     The general recognized pronunciation of these diphthongs is as follows: ai, pronounced like ai in aisle; au, pronounced as ow in cow; ei, pronounced like a in fate; eu, pronounced like eu in feud; oi, pronounced as oi in oil; ou, pronounced as oo in food; and ui, pronounced as uee in queen. You will find some variation in the pronunciation of these diphthongs. For instance, ei is some times presented as pronounced as ei in height. Hence, some will pronounce the Greek preposition (Lesson Seven) eiV as having a long a; others as having the long i sound.

     There are other matters that could be mentioned which I do not deem essential to this Greek introductory course. Such matters as a diphthong that has an iota subscript and liquids, mutes, and sibilants regarding consonants. Greek can be complicated but you do not need to know all the grammatical nuances to acquire a practical knowledge of biblical Greek. I will mention shortly why it is so important for you to memorize the vowels and diphthongs.

     There are three accent marks in Koiné Greek. They are the acute, the grave, and the circumflex. Allow me to illustrate them with the English upper case A.

     The acute is Á, the grave is À and the circumflex is  (the symbol Greek fonts will not allow the placement of these marks). We really do not know all the particulars about the original pronunciation of Koiné Greek. However, it is believed the acute, grave, and circumflex marks were used to indicate the rising and falling inflections of the voice and had to do with pitch, as in music. For practical reasons, the emphasis on pitch is not reproduced today. However, the syllable over which a mark is placed does have the accent in pronunciation. As I mentioned in the introduction to this course, without requiring you to make a download of special key coded fonts and a number of changes in the configuration of your computer, we cannot place these marks over the "universal" Greek fonts we are using in this course. Nevertheless, there are rules to determine the placement of these marks.

     Without becoming too technical, allow me to mention a few of these generally recognized rules. The acute can stand only on one of the last three syllables of a word; the circumflex on one of the last two; and the grave only on the last syllable. The Greek words you encounter in your studies (Greek New Testament, reference works, etc.) will already have the accent marks. I could provide you with a long list of additional rules, but I do not think such is necessary at this time.

     Remember that it is uncertain exactly how Greek letters were pronounced in the New Testament era. The system of pronunciation usually followed today is the Erasmian system, named for the great classical scholar, Erasmus. For learning purposes, though, some system must be followed (more later).

     Greek has two breathing marks. The smooth breathing resembles a single right quotation mark and the rough breathing a single left quotation mark. Every Greek word beginning with a vowel or a diphthong must have one of these breathing marks. The breathing mark is placed over the single vowel or over the second vowel of a diphthong, which begins a word. Consider the word anqrwpoV (man). Since the word begins with a vowel, it in reality has a breathing mark (check "man" in Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words that I recommended you have before beginning Lesson Four. You can also use Vine to check your transliteration work). The mark resembles a single right quotation mark, which means it is smooth breathing and does not affect the pronunciation or transliteration. I know this is confusing, but do not be discouraged, it is not as bad as it sounds. I should also mention that anqrwpoV has an acute accent mark over the vowel a.

     It is important that you realize and learn that the Greek word has as many syllables as it has vowels and diphthongs. The two vowels of a diphthong make one syllable, not two. Before I illustrate this more, allow me to revisit the breathing marks issue. Let us look at a word that has a rough breathing. Take the word "sin," amartia. If you are looking at Vine's (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, hereafter identified as "Vine's"), you see the word begins with a vowel (a, alpha, always look up the "meaning word," in this case, "sin" in Vine). You will notice that the breathing mark resembles the left quotation mark, which means it is rough breathing. Two things to remember: when a Greek word has a rough breathing mark, it is transliterated with an English "h" at the first of the word. In other words, amartia is not amartia but hamartia.

     Now let us apply the vowels and diphthong rule to determine syllables. Notice hamartia has four vowels. They are alpha, alpha, iota, and alpha. There is not a diphthong present. Hence, hamartia is ha-mar-ti-a. If you are looking at Vine's, you see the acute accent mark above iota. Therefore, hamartia (Greek word for sin) is pronounced ha-mar-tí-a with the accent on the next to last syllable. Look again at anqrwpoV (man). Again, there is no diphthong, but there are three vowels. Count them, there is alpha, omega, and omicron. As mentioned earlier, anthropos has a smooth breathing mark above the alpha (see Vine's). Hence, there is no special transliteration or pronunciation situation. Since there are three vowels and the acute accent mark is over alpha, the word is pronounced an-thro-pos, with the first syllable accented. Just in case you might need to know this for future reference, the final three syllables of a Greek word are called the antepenult, penult, and ultima. The ultima is the last syllable in the word, the penult is the next to the last, and the antepenult is the third from the last or the one before the penult. Thus, the acute mark in anqrwpoV is placed on the antepenult, the third from the last. Notice also in the case of án-thro-pos that the sigma should resemble a "s" in Greek, since sigma is located at the end of the word. Look at Vine's and you can clearly see what I mean.

     Let us now briefly revisit the ten vocabulary words for Lesson Three and apply what we have learned about the pronunciation and recognition of Koiné Greek words. By the way, while you may be slightly confused and bewildered at all this information, you are learning Greek! Just look what you have already accomplished, you now have a familiarity with the Greek characters, you understand some of the basic rules, and you are learning to recognize, write, and speak Greek words.

     Applying your additional knowledge of Greek, what do you now see when you look at prwtoV (first)? If you are also consulting Vine, you see that prôtos has the circumflex accent mark over omega. Examine prwtoV, does it have a diphthong and how many vowels are present? There is no diphthong but there are two vowels, w and o (omega and omicron). Notice also that protos does not begin with a vowel; therefore, there is not a breathing mark. Hence, the word is pronounced prô-tos (notice the long o, omega). Now consider agaqoV (good). The first letter is a vowel, therefore, there is a breathing mark. In checking Vine (look up "good," you see that the mark indicates smooth breathing. You also observe the acute is over the ultima or last syllable and that there are a total of three vowels present, a, a, o. Hence, a-ga-thós. While you have Vine open, look at how agathós is used in the New Testament. Notice the absolute uses of agathós in the case of God and then the general use of agathós as applied morally to persons (Matt. 19: 17; 5: 45). Consider how agathós is used in contrast with poneros (ponhroV) in Matthew 5: 45. Thus, there is good and evil and the two can be distinguished (cp. Isa. 5: 20 ff.). Since I mentioned ponerós, observe that ponerós has three vowels, o, h, and o (omicron, eta, and omicron). Hence, po-ner-rós. Also observe how that the second syllable or the penult has eta. Eta is always pronounced as a long "a" and in some Greek works, you will find eta transliterated with the English "a," to stress the long sound. When transliterated with the English "e" (usual case), the e normally has a long diacritical mark placed above it to distinguish it from epsilon, also transliterated "e" in English. You will find the same situation regarding omicron and omega. Both are transliterated "o" in English but omega will have the long diacritical mark placed above it and is pronounced as long.

     Apply what you have learned to the remainder of your Lesson Three vocabulary words: állos (another, look up "another" in Vine); ólos (whole, Matt. 5: 29); nekrós (dead, Jas. 2: 26); pistós (faithful, Matt. 24: 45); lúo (loose, I Cor. 7: 27); blépo (I see, Matt. 11: 4); didásko (I teach, Matt. 9: 35); and légo (I say, Matt. 11: 17).

     I trust you are using Vine's Dictionary more and more. You will learn to use this work because it is so user friendly for the beginner Greek student. Notice regarding ólos that the word begins with a vowel, which means it has a breathing mark. Did you catch the mark when you looked up the word "whole?" It is rough breathing, resembling our left quotation mark. Hence, the word is actually pronounced and transliterated with the supplied "h." Therefore, hó-los is the proper transliteration and pronunciation. Practice is the only way you will master these basics.

     I have mentioned the precision of the Greek language, now allow me to illustrate some of what I meant with the use of állos (alloV). Simply stated állos means another. However, the Greek language has more capability than the English does. Fully speaking, állos has the capability of meaning more than just another; the full meaning can be "another of the same kind." Another Greek word that on the surface appears to mean the same as állos is héteros (eteroV, rough breathing, read what Vine says about állos and héteros under "another"). Paul (the Holy Spirit) used both ál-los and hé-te-ros in Galatians 1: 6, 7. Notice the reading:

     "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another (héteros, dm) gospel: Which is not another (állos, dm); but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ."

     When one understands the Greek, one realizes that what Paul is saying is simply: The Galatians were being removed (I shall address the verb tense in Lesson Five) to another gospel (héteros, one of a different kind or sort); and that the gospel of the false teachers was not another (állos), that is, one of the same kind as the gospel Paul had preached to them. See how knowledge of Greek makes this often misunderstood passage simple. Not only understandable, but also when we understand the original, we see the emphasis placed on the expression by the Holy Spirit as He skillfully employs állos and héteros. Hence, Paul stresses the need and must of being doctrinally correct (click on "The Bible and Doctrine" to read more and use your browser "return" to come back to this page).

     Let us consider a few more practical applications of állos and héteros, the lessons and truths taught by the Holy Spirit in using these Greek words. Concerning Jesus and the robbers with whom he was to be crucified we read, "And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death" (Lk. 23: 32). Just based on the English reading, one might conclude Jesus himself was a criminal, as these other two were. However, the word "other" is héteros; hence, two of a different kind, they were guilty, Jesus was innocent! Jesus said to his apostles that the Father would provide them with "another comforter" (Jn. 14: 16). If you have the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Nestle/Marshall open, you will see that "another" is állos. The comforter is identified as the Holy Spirit, "the Spirit of truth" (vs. 17). The truth taught by using állos is that the Holy Spirit is one of the same kind as Jesus, He himself is deity (cp. Acts 5: 3, 4, 2 Cor. 13: 14)! Possessing a basic knowledge of Greek and knowing how to use good Greek reference works (Lesson Eight) will open so many doors and present so many truths to you that you will not fully acquire by just reading most English translations. While I say this to emphasize the need of studying Greek, I hasten to add that a knowledge of Greek is not necessary to becoming a Christian and living the life God expects and requires (to read more, click on "Salvation" and "How to Study the Bible").

     I shall now present the vocabulary words for Lesson Four. It is very important that you practice all that has been heretofore presented. You will increase in skill as we progress but repetition is absolutely required. If you are really dedicated and serious about studying Koiné Greek and applying it, you will also polish and augment the grammar I am teaching in this course. Do not become discouraged, you know more now than before you started the course, do not you? If you apply yourself in studying this course, over time it will all fall into place, I promise you.

ginoskw ginosko I know
grafw grapho I write
adelfoV adelphos a brother
douloV doulos a slave
dwron doron gift
qanatoV thanatos death
oikoV oikos house
logoV logos word
eteroV heteros different
ponhroV poneros evil


     Be sure to look up each vocabulary word in Vine's (look under the meaning word).  Notice in Vine's the accent marks and any breathing marks.  Remember to pronounce gra-pho with a long o (omega) and the accent on the penult or next to the last syllable (first syllable in this case). Again I stress, practice is the only way you will learn these basics. 

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Questions for Lesson Four


     Please fill in the answers referring back to the above study material.  Be sure to supply your name and e-mail in the provided form.  Remember to click on the submit button and allow a day or two, normal circumstances, for the reviewing of your answers and return of your grade.

     Regarding all answers that require the answer to be in Greek, please type in the answer rather than copying and pasting the answer. 


1.  Why do you need the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words to continue?

2. What are the Greek vowels (answer in Greek)?

3.  Which vowels are always long (answer in Greek)?

4.  What is a diphthong?

5.  What are the Greek diphthongs (answer in Greek)?

6.  How are oi, au, and ou pronounced?

7.  How are the number of syllables determined in a Greek word?

8.  What are the three accent marks in Greek?

9.  Explain the appearance and treatment of breathing marks in Greek?

10. How many vowels does prwtoV have?

11. How is amartia transliterated and pronounced?

12. What are two Greek words that on a simple level mean "different" (answer in Greek)?

13. How does alloV suggest the deity of the Holy Spirit?

14. What Greek word reveals Jesus was different from the robbers (answer in Greek)?

15. What is "I know" in Greek (the remainder of the questions call for an answer in Greek)?

16. How would you write "house" in Greek?

17. How do you spell "word" in Greek?

18. What is one who is under bondage called?

19. What are you doing when you answer these questions (vocabulary word)?

20. What must all men experience if Jesus does not come first?

Lesson Number (type in "Lesson Four":

Your name:

E-mail address:

Be sure to check your e-mail address and click on the submit button:


Click here to go to Lesson Five.  Remember to first complete Lesson Four.