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2.11 The Present Active Indicative

This is the first section in Croy where you are presented with a "paradigm", which is a sample pattern that shows you how endings are added to Greek words. Learning Greek means learning many, many of these paradigms. Each time you encounter one of these sections in Croy, you should read through Croy carefully, and also read the notes provided here at the website. In addition, in the Morphology section of this website, there is a collection of paradigms which you can use for reference. Make sure you are familiar with the Present Active Indicative Paradigm page at this website, where you will also find some notes that you should review carefully this week. (Plus there is audio for the Present Active Indicative chart page).

There is lots of information for you to notice in this section of Croy! First of all, look at how the verb paradigm is presented in a tabular format, based on the person (rows) and the number (columns). This is just an arbitrary convention - but it can really help you to organize the information in your head. Having information presented in a tabular format helps to make the information clear and, even more importantly, it helps you to understand the transformational relationships that exist between the different elements. So do not just look at the table as a static thing! Instead, think about it as a way to show transformations! If you go from the left column to the right, you are transforming a verb from singular into the plural! And if you read down one of the columns, you are changing the person from first to second to third! Language is a dynamic process, and you should try to imagine these tables as something dynamic.

The best way to make the table into something dynamic is by reading it out loud in different directions. For example, read through the column going from left to right, down the rows, thinking to yourself as you read "singular plural singular plural singular plural":

λύω λύομεν (...) λύεις λύετε (...) λύει λύουσι

λύω λύομεν
λύεις λύετε
λύει λύουσι

You can also read through the table going from top to bottom, thinking to yourself as you read "first second third first second third":

λύω λύεις λύει (...) λύομεν λύετε λύουσι



λύεις λύετε
λύει λύουσι

It is very important that you practice reading the table both by the rows and by the columns so that you can understand the dual dynamics of person AND of number that govern the Greek verb system.

You also need to be very aware of what is the stem of the verb and what is the ending. Croy's chart does not make this very clear, but below you will find a chart that shows ONLY the endings of the present active indicative verb:

1st person
2nd person
3rd person

Notice that there is an alternate ending for the third person plural. Sometimes instead of ουσι you will find the form ουσιν. This is not something you really need to worry about at all, since it does not affect the meaning of the word. You should be prepared to find either form of the ending, based on the context in which the word is used. If there is a vowel following the word, the "nu" is added at the end to prevent the two vowels from running into each other. We actually do the same thing in English, when we say "an elephant" instead of "a elephant" - the exact same principle is at work in Greek! Both English and Greek try to avoid having these vowels run into each other, because when vowels run together they tend to lose their distinct identity. One vowel might swallow up the other vowel, or the two vowels might turn into a diphthong. When a consonant is inserted between the vowels, the vowels are able to maintain their distinct identity.

As Croy points out, however, the use of this "nu" or "movable nu" was not entirely regular in Biblical Greek. So, all the more reason not to worry about it! When you do your own compositions in Greek, you should try to apply the "movable nu" rule if possible, but do not stress about it - the meaning of the Greek is not at all affected by the presence or the absence of the "nu".

Finally, you need to recognize that the Greek present tense is actually simpler than the English present. In English, there is a strong distinction between the present tense (I walk) and the present continuous (I am walking). In Greek, there is no such distinction. As a result, every single time you translate a Greek present tense verb, you must CHOOSE between the two English possibilities: present and present continuous. This is just one of those basic, pervasive differences between Greek and English that makes translation such a difficult art! Every single time you translate a Greek present tense verb into English, you are making a choice - and that requires some thought on your part! There is no such thing as automatic translation when it comes to Greek and English. You are going to be making stylistic choices every single time that you translate from Greek into English, and vice versa.

Given that translation is such an impossible task, you will be spending much more time in this class reading rather than translating. Learning how to read Greek is a very straightforward process - but translating from Greek into English is always like walking a tightrope! That is why you are absolutely not required to write out translations for the Practice Sentences in each lesson of Croy. Of course, you may find it useful to write out the translations in order to force yourself to grapple with the Greek text - but you will not be turning in translations as your homework in this class. Instead, your goal should be to read and understand the Greek AS GREEK. Then, after you have learned to appreciate the Greek on its own terms, you may want to attempt some translations into English... or you may just decide that it is such a pleasure to read in Greek and to enjoy the Greek for its own sake, that you will not worry about English translations at all!

Make sure you keep reviewing the Present Active Indicative Paradigm page at this website, along with the audio for the Present Active Indicative chart page.

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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