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

2.10 Characteristics of Greek Verbs

Make sure you read through Croy's discussion of the characteristics of Greek verbs. Below you will also find some notes to help you understand the materials in this section.

Every sentence has a verb. A single verb can be a complete sentence in Greek, since - unlike English - the Greek verb already contains what is called an "implied" subject. Compare these sentences:

The English sentence needs two words: the subject (we) and the verb (speak). In Greek, the verb itself conveys information about the subject, so it is possible to construct a complete sentence in Greek consisting of a single verb. By the end of this lesson, you will be able to write complete sentences in Greek, using the verbs that you have learned!

Croy provides an overview of the Greek verb system in its entirety, with all the information about the tense, voice, and mood of the verbs. Do not worry if this is confusing to you now! You will learn about all of these features of the Greek verb gradually, lesson by lesson. The important thing to understand is the kind of verb that you will be studying in this lesson: the present active indicative verb, which is used to express action that is taking place in present time.

The most important information in this section of Croy comes at the very end, when he explains that Greek verbs have person and number, just like English verbs. That is how you can learn about the subject of the verb just from looking at the form of the verb itself! You need to get used to the terminology of person and number which is used to describe this information about the subject of the verb:

1st person
2nd person
3rd person
he, she, it

As you can see from this chart, English does not have a clear way to distinguish between the 2nd person singular and the 2nd person plural. This is a real problem in English, which some speakers solve by saying "you all" or "you guys". It is a pretty crazy problem! For the purposes of this class, no special effort will be made to indicate when the English word "you" is singular or plural, but you should pay careful attention to the Greek since you will always be able to tell in Greek if you are dealing with "you" (singular) or "you" (plural).

Have you ever wondered how we got into this weird situation in English? Think about it. We used to have a you singular and a you plural. The singular form was "thou"! And the word "you" was used only in the plural. That is why we say "you ARE" even when you are just speaking to a single person! (How weird is that???) Like many other languages, English used the plural you as an honorific way of addressing a single person, and this usage of "you" gradually displaced the singular "thou" which fell into disuse. Lots of people today think that "thou" is a formal word, but the exact opposite is true. The word "thou" used to be the familiar form of address, that you would use in speaking to your family, your friend, and to small children. So when the word "thou" was used to pray to God, it was an intimate and familiar form of address - not something distant or honorific!

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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