10 common Greek words and phrases to change the subject smoothly in a conversation with a Greek

You’re chatting with your friend Panayiota, when you suddenly remember something you wanted to mention.

How to go from one subject to the next, without interrupting the flow of the conversation and without feeling you’re being rude? How do Greeks do this smoothly while chatting with each other?

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Changing the subject in a conversation doesn’t necessarily mean you avoid the subject. If you notice a casual chat, this is something we do all the time to add new ideas, remember something relevant, bring up a story and so on.

In today’s article you’ll learn 10 highly common phrases and how to use them in a way that sounds natural and free-flowing, without any awkward pause in between your thoughts when you chat.

You’ll also understand how Greeks use these phrases in everyday chats to chime in, remember to say something urgent or expand and add more or different ideas to the topic.

Here’s what you can say:

1. Λοιπόν, άκου τι έγινε. So, listen to (here’s) what happened.

This is a rich phrase: Λοιπόν is a word that starts a topic anyway. You can read more about its use as a filler word here. The following phrase άκου τι έγινε is one that you can use to intrigue the co-speaker before letting them know (listen to) the story of what happened.

If you’re wondering about the meaning and use of the verb έγινε, it deserved a page of its own, so I’ve written a whole article about it here

2. Για πες … Tell me ...

You can use this little phrase to prompt the other person to start talking about something. The grammar used here is imperative πες of the verb λέω and along with the particle για, is a request to learn more about something.

3. Για να μην το ξεχάσω. Before I forget.

This is a nice little phrase to use and perfectly polite to say. The structure is different than its equivalent in English, since you use the subjunctive να μην ξεχάσω, which actually means “as to not forget”.

4. Παρεμπιπτόντως. By the way.

A bit of a mouthful to say, but once you get the hang of it, it’s great to use since it’s a highly common word Greeks use in everyday speaking. You can add it at the beginning or at the end of your sentence.

Example:

Παρεμπιπτόντως, τι κάνει η θεία; By the way, how’s aunt?

Τι κάνει η θεία, παρεμπιπτόντως; How’s aunt, by the way?

5. Ανοίγω παρένθεση … κλείνω παρένθεση. Literally: I open a parenthesis …. I close a parenthesis.

Similar to παρεμπιπτόντως, this expression is used to announce the (temporary or not) change of subject, as we do with an actual parenthesis.

The difference to παρεμπιπτόντως is that you start by saying ανοίγω παρένθεση, you then go on with what you wanted to say - usually a short sentence - and lastly you end your thoughts with κλείνω παρένθεση.

6. Μια(ς) που το ανέφερες… Since you mentioned it…

Μια / μιας και or μια/μιας που has nothing to do with the feminine article or the number μια. It’s an expression you can use to start a sentence with the verb αναφέρω (or other verbs) , usually using simple past.

In this case, the whole phrase μιας που το ανέφερες can be used to start a new and somehow relevant thought after what your co-speaker has mentioned.

7. Μιας και το ‘πες. Since you said (mentioned) it.

Here’s how you can use the structure μια(ς) και as an alternative to μιας που, with the verb είπες. The contraction ‘πες is almost always used in fast, natural speech. 

8. Α, (ήθελα) να σου πω. Oh, I wanted to tell you (let you know).

The verb λέω is used here in subjunctive να πω. What’s interesting is that, in Greek, you can use this verb as in: to let know, to inform, to chime in , in addition to its actual meaning “to say”.

9. Κατάλαβα. I understood (I see).

This is probably what is used the most! Κατάλαβα signals your understanding and you can use it frequently not only to show you understood, but also to agree and end a topic in order to switch to another.

Example:

Λουκάς: … και έτσι πήγαμε στο πάρτι χτες.

Στέφανος: Κατάλαβα. Τι κάνει ο αδερφός σου;

10. Τώρα που το σκέφτομαι. Now I come to think of it.

When you have just realized or remembered something, use this phrase the same way as in English. The only difference is the use of the word που, which is necessary to signal the beginning of the sentence, a bit like “now that I think of it”.

Don’t skip this last step…

What’s interesting in language learning is that it’s not about the meaning of the words or the use of grammar only. You might read a list of words or phrases, but without a meaningful context the list has no value.

Here’s a very simple activity to do next, to actually use what you learned in this article:

Pick 1 - 3 phrases and use them in a speaking activity. Use your phone to record a few sentences in Greek by adding the new phrase or word you learned.

Or, pick a phrase and send a short voice message to a friend via Messenger or Instagram.

By limiting the number of new vocabulary, especially phrases, this eventually helps you to:

  • Avoid getting overwhelmed from learning too many new things

  • Practice meaningfully with the new phrases

  • Retain their meaning much better than when you try to fit in too many new things at once

Which phrases did you choose to learn? Write an example in the comments below, if you like.

Did you like this article?

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Happy Greek learning!

~ Danae