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Croy Index: Vocabulary - Prosody - Verbs - Nouns - Adjectives - Nominals - Other Topics - Syntax List

5.30 Syntax of Adjectives

Read Croy's discussion of adjectives in Lesson 5, section 30. In addition, please read the notes here on this page. You need to make sure you understand the terminology that Croy uses here for the adjectives. In addition to the terms used by Croy, I am going to use the phrases wrapped and braided. These are not terms used by Croy but you will find them very helpful in understanding the two different types of noun-adjective constructions.

Agreement. The most important principle in the use of adjectives is that they agree with their noun in gender AND case AND number. So if you want to modify a noun that is masculine nominative plural, then you must use an adjective that is masculine nominative plural. When you are reading Greek, make sure you analyze the gender and case and number of each adjective so that you can make sure you link it to the right noun. And when you are writing in Greek, every time you use an adjective you need to make sure that the adjective has the same gender, case, and number of the noun you want to modify.

Predicate. Remember the nominative predicate that you learned about in Lesson 3? A sentence like "Peter is my friend" has a nominative predicate, "my friend." In this sentence, "Peter" is the subject of the sentence, and the predicate is giving us more information about Peter, with the verb "is" linking the subject and the predicate. Well, you can do the same thing with adjectives. "Peter is brave." In this sentence, the predicate is an adjective: "brave." Once again, "Peter" is the subject of the sentence, and the predicate is giving us more information about Peter, with the verb "is" linking the subject and the predicate.

Greek adjectives as predicates. It is very easy to construct a Greek sentence with a predicate adjective, especially since you often can simply leave out the form of the verb "to be" in Greek! Here are some simple sentences that show how an adjective can be used as the predicate of a sentence. In English, the predicate goes at the end of the sentence, but in Greek, the predicate can be at the beginning or at the end of the sentence. As you would expect, Greek word order is much more free than English!

Sentence Subject Predicate Translation

ἡ γῆ ἀγαθὴ.

ἡ γῆ

ἀγαθὴ The land is good.
δίκαιος ὁ κύριος. ὁ κύριος. δίκαιος The master is just.

δίκαιος καὶ ἅγιος ὁ κύριος.

ὁ κύριος

δίκαιος καὶ ἅγιος The Lord is righteous and holy.
πιστοὶ οἱ ἄνθρωποι. οἱ ἄνθρωποι. πιστοὶ The people are faithful.
αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραὶ. αἱ ἡμέραι πονηραὶ The days are evil.

Attributive Adjectives and INDEFINITE Noun Phrases. An attributive adjective is what you find when a noun and an adjective are combined into a noun phrase. There are two basic types of noun phrases. There are indefinite noun phrases, which do not have a definite article, and then there are definite noun phrases which contain the definite article (see below).

It is very easy to create an indefinite noun phrase with a noun and an adjective in Greek. You just put the noun and the adjective next to each other, making sure that they agree in gender, case, and number. The word order is not important. It is purely a stylistic choice whether or not the noun comes first or the adjective. Here are some examples of indefinite noun phrases in Greek:

διδασκουσι ἄθρωποι ἀγαθοί. Good people are teaching.

καλὸν τέκνον βλέπω. I see a beautiful child.

δούλους πιστοὺς ἐχομεν. We have faithful servants.

You can even use an indefinite noun phrase in predicate position:

ὁ δοὺλος ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος. The slave is a good person.

Attributive Adjectives and DEFINITE Noun Phrases. There are two different ways that a definite noun and an adjective can be combined into a noun phrase: the adjective can be wrapped into the phrase, or the noun and the adjective can be braided. (Please note that these are simply my own terms - you will not find them in Croy or in any other Greek textbook.)

In a wrapped phrase, the phrase begins with the definite article, followed by adjective, and ending with the noun. The adjective is "wrapped up" inbetween the article and the noun.

λέγει ἡ μικρὰ ἀδελφὴ. The small sister is speaking.
διδάσκω τὰ μικρὰ τέκνα. I am teaching the small children.

In a braided phrase, the definite article is used twice! First you have the definite article plus the noun, followed by the definite article plus the adjective.

λέγει ἡ ἀδελφὴ ἡ μικρὰ. The small sister is speaking.
οὐ θέλω βλέπειν τὸ τέκνον τὸ νεκρόν. I want to see the dead child.
οἱ ἀδελφοὶ οἱ πονηροὶ οὐκ ἀκούουσιν. The wicked brothers are not listening.

Note that there is no difference in meaning between a wrapped phrase and a braided phrase. The difference between them is purely stylistic. You will find many examples of wrapped phrases and braided phrases as you read the Bible in Greek. They are both very common constructions.

Make sure you review the examples at the Wrapped-Braided Adjectives Chart.

Substantive Adjectives. In addition to being used together with a noun, an adjective can stand alone and take the place of a noun. When an adjective is used in place of a noun, it is called a substantive adjective. Make sure you read Croy's discussion of substantive adjectives as they are used in English and in Greek. Also make sure you study his sample sentences with substantive adjectives on page 25.

Biblical Greek Online. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. Page last updated: April 9, 2005 8:06 PM

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