2 - Vocabulary Notes

Πώς τα πας; Τα έμαθες; How to use these everyday Greek phrases?

Imagine you’re strolling along the street in Athens, a lovely sunny day of Spring…

A lady is standing on the sidewalk. She chats with her friend who’s sitting at her little geranium-filled balcony.

You can't help but overhear their chat:

- Τα έμαθες; Η ανιψιά μου πήγε στην Αμερική. Στο καλύτερο πανεπιστήμιο!

Did you hear? My niece went to the States. At the best University!

- Μα δε στα ‘λεγα εγώ; Αυτή είναι πανέξυπνη!

Didn’t I tell you? She’s a genius!

- Τι τα θες όμως, τα παιδιά μας φεύγουν όλα στο εξωτερικό…

But what can you do, all our children are going abroad.

- Μαρία μου, τα έχουμε πει: θα τα καταφέρει, θα τελειώσει τις σπουδές και μετά θα γυρίσει.

(My) Maria, we talked about it: she’ll make it, she’ll finish her studies and she’ll come back.

- Μακάρι. Πώς τα πας εσύ; Τι κάνεις;

Let’s hope. How about you? How are you?

- Τα ίδια Κατερίνα μου…

Same, (my) Katerina…

What’s this “τα” they repeat all the time? How does it connect to the meaning?

Let’s zoom in on these phrases for a bit:

  • τα πάω/πηγαίνω

  • τα καταφέρνω

  • τα λέμε

  • τα έμαθα

  • τα θέλω

  • τα βρίσκω

  • τα ξέρω

a grammar snippet

Τα here is the personal pronoun. The short (or “weak”) form, to be precise.

It can confuse you, because it’s like the plural neuter article τα: τα παιδιά, τα σπίτια, τα μαθήματα, τα όμορφα, τα καλά.

Here’s how to distinguish it - and why this is important to do:

The article τα is always with a noun or adjective, as in the examples above.

The pronoun τα, however, replaces a noun (this is why it’s called pronoun, after all) and fits well with a verb: τα βλέπω, τα καταφέρνω etc.

The pronoun τα in all the above sentences usually replaces the word “the things”. More on this in a moment.

This distinction is important to help you understand the meaning of the sentence. By realizing τα is not an article, you don’t expect a noun to be right after it.

But let’s go back to the τα when it replaces the word “the things” (τα πράγματα)?

It’s a word we use in Greek to generally talk about a situation. A bit like in English: How are things going? > Πώς πάνε τα πράγματα;

back to our phrases

The phrases we saw above frequently appear in chats and everyday conversations or in other everyday or idiomatic expressions.

For example, you can see:

1.Τα πάω/πηγαίνω

  • Πώς τα πας; (How are things going?)

  • Δεν τα πηγαίνω καλά στη δουλειά. (Things don’t go well for me at work)

  • Τα πηγαίνουμε πολύ καλά μαζί. (We get along well together)

Τα means here: τα πράγματα, η καθημερινότητα, η κάτασταση

2.Τα καταφέρνω

  • Δεν τα κατάφερα στο τεστ χτες. (The test didn’t go well yesterday)

  • Τα καταφέρνεις θαυμάσια, μπράβο! (You can do it great, well done!)

  • Κοίτα, μαμά, τα κατάφερα! (Look, mom, I did it!)

Τα means here: τα πράγματα, αυτά που κάνω

3.Τα λέμε

  • Τα’ λεγα εγώ! (I told you!)

  • Τα λέμε! (Talk to you later)

Τα means here: τα νέα, τα πράγματα που έλεγα

4.Τα έμαθα

  • Τα έμαθες; (did you hear the news?) This is usually used in past tense.

Τα means here: τα νέα

5.Τα θέλω

  • Τι τα θες; και Τι τα θες, τι τα γυρεύεις; (Oh well, what can you do?)

  • Τα ‘θελες και τα’ παθες. (You got what you deserved)

Τα means here: αυτά που συμβαίνουν

6.Τα βρίσκω

  • Δεν τα βρήκαμε με τον Νίκο, χωρίσαμε τελικά. (We didn’t get along with Niko, we separated)

  • Τα βρήκες εύκολα στο σχολείο; (Were things easy for you at school?)

  • Θα τα βρει μπροστά του. (He’ll face the consequences)

Τα means here: αυτά που κάνω, τα πράγματα που γίνονται

7.Τα ξέρω

  • Τα ξέρεις, έφυγε για την Ινδία! (You 've heard the news, s/he left for India!)

  • Δεν τα ξέρεις, όλο τα ίδια και τα ίδια! (You heard the news, didn’t you, same old, same old)

Τα means here: τα νέα, αυτά που γίνονται

All the examples imply there’s something more to this “τα”. We might be talking about the things we do, everyday life, the things someone says or does, our news.

And because the very generic word “πράγματα” is a neuter noun in plural, this is the reason why you usually see its pronoun, τα in the sentences.

Next step: How to learn these phrases

Now that you’ve read about it (and hopefully this explanation made things somehow clearer to you) you’ll start observing more phrases with “τα + verb” in combinations & various tenses - the phrases are usually declined as normal.

Of course, since there are many idiomatic expressions with this structure, you do need to explore them a bit further whenever you meet them.

Don’t hesitate to “play” with the sentences above and add them in your speaking.

We do use them a lot in Greek so start using them too. This will help you sound more natural and add some everyday Greek in your speaking.

And if you’re ready to experiment and speak some more, check my Free Email Course here.

You learn new vocabulary with a short, supporting text and you practice your speaking with bite-sized tasks (voice recordings) and everyday phrases, like the ones above.

At the end you receive my feedback for free.

Are you in?

Happy Greek learning,

~Danae


How to spark up meaningful conversations with 17 easy to adapt questions

Imagine you meet your friend Marina for a coffee in downtown Athens.

You hug and cheerfully comment about how long it has been since you last met.

You sit down and order coffee at a small, busy coffee shop.

She asks you about your news and how is your family doing. You tell her a bit about your trip and your parents, your partner…

Marina eagerly goes ahead and asks you about the problem you had at work, the new hobby you had mentioned on Facebook, the book you had recommended … She can’t wait to catch up with you.

So far everything looks good, doesn’t it? But let’s zoom in a bit more to this dialogue.

Both Marina and you are interested in one another’s lives, you want to hear news, give your opinion about significant matters, talk about hobbies, suggest new books or movies.

However, if you look closer you’ll find that she’s the one asking questions and you’re the one giving answers.

Recall your last conversation in Greek. Is this what happened?

While Marina knows you and likes you, the communication between you and her seems imbalanced. You might be:

  • feeling interrogated, even with Marina’s best intentions

  • struggling to keep up with the pace of a native speaker

  • switching to English often in order to communicate better


Speaking is not necessarily communicating

You’ve probably heard and experienced that speaking in the language you learn is the hardest of all skills.

But is it speaking, or rather communicating that is hard?

Because when you speak, you have the task of forming a sentence.

But when you communicate, you have the tasks of:

  • listening

  • understanding

  • nodding, using body language

  • giving your opinion or comment

  • asking back

And it’s this last one action that determines whether the conversation keeps on going or not.

Imagine that “asking back” is like a hook: It gives both people the opportunity to connect their thoughts and eventually be connected with each other.

If your part in talking lacks the hook, then your Greek friend has nowhere to hang their thoughts.

In Greek, we use the very fitting word “συνομιλητής, συνομιλήτρια”, to describe the people who interact in a conversation (in this case, your Greek friend).

According to the Dictionary , συνομιλητής means the person who co-talks with another person (coming from συν-ομιλώ).

In English the word translates as interlocutor (although I’m not sure how common this word is to express anyone who takes part in any kind of conversing: from short, casual chats to deep, long conversations.)

In Practice

So, how are you going to bring a conversation back to life? How will you show you are curious and eager to find out more about your friend’s life and to show them you’re genuinely interested in them?

By simply asking them.

This is something we automatically do in our own language - and this is one of the reasons you or your friend switch to English/ the language you are both comfortable speaking - but we tend to avoid it in the language we learn.

This might happen for many reasons:

  • we freeze, expecting the native speaker to hold the conversation for both of us

  • we try to say as many things as we can, taking advantage of the fact that we can eventually speak the language with someone after months of lessons, therefore we get carried away

  • we have difficulty in forming questions, because they require a different structure in the sentence

  • we become so self-conscious, that we strive for perfection, which means putting more effort and time to form a proper reply, then we’re too exhausted to attempt a question

  • we can’t keep up with the pace of the conversation and eventually stick to replying only.

To save time and probably some headache as to how to form questions that will enliven your conversations with your Greek friends or relatives, here’s a list of the most common ones:

Questions about their opinion or advice:

  1. Πώς σου φαίνεται/φάνηκε ο/η/το …; How does it seem/looks like to you?

  2. Ποια είναι η γνώμη σου για ..; What’s your opinion about …?

  3. Τι θα με συμβούλευες να …; What would you advise me to …?

  4. Πού προτείνεις να πάμε για …; Where do you suggest we go to …?

  5. Εσύ, τι θα έκανες στη θέση μου; And you, what would you do if you were me …?

  6. Τι νομίζεις /τι λες /τι πιστεύεις για …; What do you think/say/believe about …?

    Questions about life events, current news:

  7. Κι εσύ τι …; And you what …(insert the same verb they just used to ask about you)?

  8. Πώς πήγε ο/η/το …; How did it go?

  9. Και τι τους είπες; Και τι έκανες; And what did you tell them? What did you do?

  10. Και μετά τι έγινε; And then, what happened?

  11. Μου έλεγες για …. Τι γίνεται τώρα; Πώς πάνε τα πράγματα; You were telling me about … What’s going on now? How do things go?

    Questions about personal stories, habits and hobbies:

  12. Πού γνωριστήκατε με τον/την …; Where did you meet …?

  13. Τι συνηθίζετε να κάνετε σ’αυτή τη γιορτή/ημέρα/περίσταση; What do you usually do on this celebration/(special) day/occasion?

  14. Εσένα, ποιος συγγραφέας / ηθοποιός κτλ σου αρέσει; And how about you, which writer/actor do you like?

  15. Εσένα ποιο βιβλίο / ποια ταινία σου άρεσε; And how about you, which book/movie did you like?

  16. Τι κάνει ο / η / το …; How is …?

    A question to offer help with something:

  17. Έχεις πολλή δουλειά; Χρειάζεσαι βοήθεια; Are you busy? Do you need any help?

Don’t skip the study part!

I love lists but only if they bring a meaning to your learning. Stacking one sentence after the next will not help you; using them meaningfully, it will.

Find here some bonus ideas about how to eventually add them to your conversations:

  • When you record yourself speaking, always remember to add a few questions in between. Need a little help to do that? Sign up to my Free Course to complete a speaking project with bite-sized tasks & recordings. At the end, you’ll receive my free feedback (and yes, my answer to your questions!)!

  • When you chat on social media or via any private chat with your friends: social media is less direct than actual conversation, but more direct than emails or cards for example, you can take advantage of the time you need to form sentences but also enjoy a chat at a live or almost live time. In fact, this is what we do in our small, chatty Facebook group which you can find here. Join us!

  • And if you’re ready to speak some more, book your spot to Greek Recorder: This is a short but mighty speaking & feedback service to help you talk about a topic you’re interested in. You use supporting vocabulary, your recordings and my feedback. Choose between 1-Week option or 3-Weeks option (with the option to renew). Check it out here.

Practice, practice, practice. To make meaningful discussions and connect with the other person (your “συνομιλητή”/ “συνομιλήτρια”), questions need to be part of your speaking.

Similarly to learning vocabulary and everyday phrases, you need to learn how to make questions in order to organically add them in any conversation.

Try it out - and let me know how it goes!


Recommended for you:

54 Short But Mighty Everyday Words and Phrases

It’s about the little things: 

The simple, everyday words you need to use right away.

The short, quirky, little phrases you don't know how to structure in Greek.

(These aren't likely to appear in your course or audio book).

Because when it comes to:

...ask a quick question or reply while at a store

...catch up with your Greek neighbour you met in the street

...help your friend to make dinner for a large group of friends & family, under the gorgeous, starry Greek sky (just sayin'!)

here's the truth: there's no time for translation apps when the conversation keeps going. You just need to know what to say.

Today I’m going to show you 54 of these everyday short words & phrases.

You might find that some are just what you expected while others will surprise you.

Pick the ones you use more often, note down the ones you were wondering how to say. 

These phrases aren't as loud and heavy as the endless tables of conjugations filling our books' pages when we learn languages. And maybe this is the reason why I don’t want you to stumble, like I did, at the little things.

Ready?

 

Agree to something:

1. Έτσι φαίνεται. It looks like it. It seems like it.

2. Τέλεια. Perfect.

3. Α, μπράβο. Well done. You got this.

4. Συμφωνώ απόλυτα. I wholeheartedly agree.

5. Ναι, αμέ*. Yeah, sure.

6. Πολύ καλή ιδέα, ας το κάνουμε έτσι. Great idea, let’s do it this way.

7. Μια χαρά είναι. It’s fine. 

8. Ας γίνει έτσι, λοιπόν. Let’s plan it this way, then. [ Read here about how to use the verb γίνομαι ]

*used in south Greece

 

Disagree or say no:

9. Δεν γίνεται. Can’t happen / work.

10. Δεν έχω χρόνο, δυστυχώς. I don’t have the time, unfortunately.

 

Ask / suggest something:

11. Πάμε; Shall we go?

12. Τι λες (κι εσύ) ; What do you think?

13. Μπορείτε να με (μας) βοηθήσετε; Could you help me (us)?

 

Ask at a store:

14. Έχετε …; Do you have…?

15. Υπάρχει/ υπάρχουν καθόλου…; Is there any ..? Are there any…?

 

Apologize:

16. Με συγχωρείτε, δεν το ήθελα. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.

17. Ωχ, κατά λάθος έγινε! Oh, this was by mistake!

18. Αχ, χίλια συγγνώμη! Ah, a thousand apologies!

 

Thanking:

19. Με έσωσες! You saved me!

20. Αχ, σας ευχαριστώ! Ah, thank you!

21. Να είστε καλά! Be well!

 

Statements and wishes:

22. Καλά να περάσετε! Have a great time!

23. Για να δούμε. Let’s see.

24. Ελπίζω. I hope.

25. Έτσι νομίζω. I think so.

26. Μέχρι στιγμής, όλα καλά. So far so good.

27. Δεν έχω ιδέα. I have no idea.

28. Αυτό ακριβώς έψαχνα. This is what I was looking for.

29. Κανένα πρόβλημα. No problem.

30. Σου έχω μία έκπληξη. I have a surprise for you.

31. Κι εγώ το παθαίνω αυτό. This happens to me as well.

32. Μακάρι να γινόταν. I wish this could happen.

33. Θα τα πας μια χαρά. You’ll do fine.

34. Δεν χρειάζεται να στενοχωριέσαι. No need to be upset.

35. Αυτό είναι το θέμα. That’s the issue / problem.

36. Θα δούμε. We’ll see.

37. Έχει πλάκα! It’s fun / funny.

38. Πόσο μου αρέσει εδώ πέρα! I like it so much here!

39. Απίστευτο μου φαίνεται. It seems unbelievable.

40. Δεν το περίμενα. I didn’t see that coming.

41. Να κανονίσουμε μία μέρα! Let’s arrange (to get together) one day!

 

Start a sentence:

42. Πάντως … However ...

43. Παρ’ όλ’ αυτά … Nevertheless ...

44. Οπότε … So ….

45. Για παράδειγμα … For example ....

 

Expressing sympathy:

46. Κρίμα. Too bad.

47. Λυπάμαι πολύ. I’m so sorry.

 

Emergency:

48. Βοηθήστε με. Help me.

49. Τι έπαθες; What’s wrong?

50. Δεν ξέρω τι να κάνω. I don't know what to do.

51. Χάσαμε τον δρόμο. We ‘re lost (missed the sign, took wrong turn).

 

Not minding:

52. Δεν πειράζει. That’s okay.

53. Δεν με πειράζει. I don’t mind.

54. Δεν με ενοχλεί. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind.

 

Time for a Quiz! What do you say? Reply below.

Your friend :

1. Looks worried. You say...

2. Asks you if you like it here.  You say...

3. Is concerned about their new job.  You say...

4. Asks if you like this movie. You say...

You:

5. Break a glass.  You say...

6. Agree to go to the cinema on Saturday.  You say...

7. Suggest to meet with a friend. You say...

8. Can't believe this happened. You say...

 


Eager to learn some more? Join here our small and friendly Facebook community, only for Greek language enthusiasts!


Recommended for you:

How to use the verb γίνομαι : 18 tangible examples to apply right away

Language learning can be full of surprises.

One day you learn this verb and its meaning. You fill out a grammar activity or two and life’s good.

The next day you see the same word in a completely different context. Hmmm.

And then the following day you hear a native speaker use it in a completely different way.

“Wait a minute. What’s going on.” you’re thinking. "How many "faces" can a word possibly have?"

It’s been too many times I’ve wondered the same for English. But instead of experiencing my “trial end error”, let me save you some time and clear things up.

Let me introduce you to the “multifaceted” verb γίνομαι.

It’s a verb we love using in Greek. Seriously, we love it so much we use it every day. (And you know what? If you love it too, the verb will love you back.)

Okay, enough with the grammar romance (and the silliness). Off to some serious stuff.

Let’s see how to 1. conjugate γίνομαι and then 2. how to use it.

By the end of today’s vocabulary notes, you’ll be able to use it in 9 different ways and 18 different sentences.

Τι γίνεσαι;

First of all, γίνομαι means “to become” but we also use it as “to happen” or “to be”. It can be translated with other words as well, depending on the sentence it’s in. Let’s look closer:

Ask this question for “How are you doing?” - even if it literally means “What do you become?” Notice how we use here the 2nd person (εσύ ) γίνεσαι.

example 1:

- Τι γίνεσαι, Μαρία; (How are you doing?)

- Μια χαρά, εσύ; (Fine, you?)

This is one of the most common ways to ask instead of “Τι κάνεις;” - it also adds some familiarity.

Τι γίνεται;

Here is another version of this question.

You can use it to ask someone “How is it going?” using the 3rd singular person (γίνεται),

as in English.

example 2:

- Τι γίνεται, Μαρία; (How is it going?)

- Μια χαρά, εσύ; (Fine, you?)

I mentioned here the 3rd singular person. Here’s the “twist”: In Greek, this might be also used as a “what’s happening” kind of question.

example 3:

- Τι γίνεται εδώ; (What’s going on here?)

- Οι γείτονες κάνουν πάρτυ. (The neighbours are having [doing] a party.)

To sum up, so far the verb is used to ask questions about someone’s news, life, etc. but also to find out what’s going on.

Τι έγινε;

This is the simple past in the 3rd singular person. If we use it in the sense of “How is it going?” then we end up with something like this:

example 4:

- Επ, Κώστα, τι έγινε; (Hey Kosta, how are you?)

- Γεια σου Άννα, όλα καλά, εσύ; (Hi Anna, everything’s fine, you?)

Are you surprised? Colloquial Greek can accept the simple past έγινε to ask about someone’s life, news etc. even though Anna simply asked about Kostas’ current news.

Tip: With the addition of the quirky little word “ρε”, you can address a close friend “Τι έγινε, ρε; Όλα καλά;” Careful though, as  “ρε” can be perceived as impolite if said to a person you don’t know or don’t know that well or if said with a non friendly tone.

Now how about the 2nd meaning of “what’s happening” - or in simple past “what happened”?

example 5:

- Τι έγινε; (What happened?)

- Οι γείτονες έκαναν πάρτυ.  (The neighbours had [did] a party.)

Έγινε!

Imagine you’re sitting at a café, ready to order. The waiter comes:

example 6:

- Τι να σας φέρω; (What should I bring you?)

- Θα πάρω έναν ελληνικό, μέτριο. (I’ll take a greek coffee, medium sweet)

 - Έγινε! (Done!)

Have you heard of it in an answer before?

In this case, the simple past means “say it’s done!”. As in the English sentence here, the simple past is used to refer to a future action, soon to be completed. To stress out the speed and readiness, the person here replies with Έγινε! (literally: it became) which can be translated as “done”.

Θα γίνει φωτογράφος. Γίνε μέλος, τώρα!

It seems strange we had to get to number 5 to see the verb’s first meaning. But here it is.

When I was a child, one of the most common questions was: Τι θέλεις να γίνεις όταν μεγαλώσεις; (What do you want to become when you grow up?).

Never mind how bizarre now this sounds to me as a question to a 4 year old. The meaning of να γίνεις here shows the potential, the change to something different or new.

As in the examples 7 & 8 :

  • Η Μαριάνα θα γίνει φωτογράφος. (Mariana will become a photographer)

  • Προστάτεψε το περιβάλλον. Γίνε μέλος, τώρα! (Protect the environment. Become a member, now!)

It’s maybe this use of the verb that is mostly confusing as it takes the place of είμαι - to be. Είμαι though is more static and compared to γίνομαι, since it highlights the state someone’s in, not the process or progress.

Δεν έγινε και κάτι.

This is a common expression to say “no big deal”. Again the use is closer to “happen” rather than to “become”.

example 9:

- Πω πω, ξέχασα να πάρω εφημερίδα. (Oh no, I forgot to get a newspaper)

- Έλα, δεν έγινε και κάτι, θα πάρουμε όταν φτάσουμε. (Come on, no big deal, we’ll get one when we get there.)

Add some colour in  your sentence and squeeze this expression in!

Γίνεται; Δεν γίνεται! Γίνεται να πάμε;

Sometimes, γίνεται in a sentence as an impersonal verb is about something that can be done, can happen or in the English metaphorical sense of “work/doesn’t work”.

Let’s see this in the following sentences:

examples 10 - 12:

- Πάμε για καφέ; ([Shall] we go for a coffee?)

- Δεν μπορώ σήμερα. Γίνεται να το κανονίσουμε για αύριο; (I can’t today. Can [it be that] we arrange it for tomorrow?)

  • Προσπαθώ να ανοίξω τον υπολογιστή αλλά δεν γίνεται τίποτα. (I try to turn on the computer but nothing works/happens).

- Θα πάμε με το αυτοκίνητο της. (We’ll take [go with] her car)

- Γίνεται; (Can this work [it be done]?)

- Και βέβαια, δεν το χρειάζεται αυτές τις μέρες. (Of course, she doesn’t need it these days)

If this sounds a bit confusing, stick to using γίνεται / δεν γίνεται to say “this can be done/ can’t be done”. Gradually, and as you listen to how native speakers use it, you’ll get a good grasp of its meaning and way of use.

Έγινε το φαγητό; Δεν έχουν γίνει ακόμα τα καρπούζια.

Believe it or not, we also use it a lot with food words, to describe something is done or made or ready / ripened.

examples 13 - 15:

  • Πεινάω! Έγινε το φαγητό; (I’m hungry! Is the meal ready [done]?)

  • Είναι ακόμα Ιούνιος, δεν έχουν γίνει τα καρπούζια. (It’s still June, watermelons are not yet ripened [ready])

  • Περίμενε να γίνουν τα μακαρόνια και μετά στρώσε το τραπέζι. (Wait for the spaghetti to be ready [done] and then set the table.)

In all the examples, the meaning of something “ready to be eaten” (or not!) is what helps you remember the use of γίνεται here.

Γίνεται χαμός.

I couldn’t leave you without an idiom. Idioms add colour, fun, natural flow. Turn these initially incomprehensible phrases to something you can use right away:

Χαμός literally means “loss” but it’s usually not a gloomy word. We use it to describe a mess, a blast, frenzy, hustle and bustle etc. Let’s see the examples with γίνεται in 3 different tenses:

examples 16 - 18:

  • Έγινε χαμός στο πάρτυ! (The party was a total blast!)

  • Θα γίνει χαμός όταν γυρίσουν σπίτι. (There’s going to be trouble when they come back home)

  • Γίνεται χαμός στον δρόμο από την κίνηση. (The roads are a mess due to traffic.)

Ready for a quiz?

  1. What do you say when you meet someone you know?

  2. How do you say “done!” ?

  3. How do you say “no big deal?”

  4. The food is almost ready. What do you ask?

  5. Traffic in Athens is terrible today. What do you say?

Reply in the comments below and I’ll get back to you with my feedback.


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Read more from my blog:

Do you make these 10 errors in Greek?

It happens to me. Does it happen to you?

You have the right word in your head. Suddenly, another comes out. And now it’s too late to correct what you said because the conversation keeps going.

Or, you speak to someone who suddenly gives you a perplexed look. Then you become perplexed not really knowing what kind of error you made. Again.

Annoying, isn’t it? (Sigh)

Yet, be brave! You’re one more step closer to fluency.

How?

See it this way: Realizing you just made an error means you‘re starting to self-correct.

This is an important first step to internalize the aspects of the language you’re learning.

And let’s face it. No errors, no learning.

In the last post, we talked about errors in language and why we make them.

Today, I’m going to show you 10 common errors learners make in the Beginner and Intermediate level.

You’ll also find ideas about how to deal with them in different ways.

These ideas include fixing or avoiding them with some learning techniques or tips.

Let’s start!

#1 Ο Κώστας vs τον Κώστα: How to use the accusative for the masculine in Greek?

Or ο φίλος vs τον φίλο, ο διευθυντής vs τον διευθυντή ο υπολογιστής vs τον υπολογιστή and so on.

In short, this happens when the sentence has a verb that requires the accusative case of a masculine word or after most prepositions, such as με (with).

Example:

  • Είδα τον Γιάννη. (I saw Yanni)

  • Πήγα με τον φίλο μου για καφέ. (I went with my friend for coffee)

Interested in finding more about this common Greek Grammar mystery? Solve it here.

 

#2 Έλληνας, Ελληνίδα, ελληνικός, ελληνικά: How to use “Greek” in ...Greek?

In some languages (English for sure!) there is only one word to describe the “Greek everything”.

But in Greek, which is which?

α) ο Έλληνας - η Ελληνίδα: are the words to describe the male and female Greek.

Example:

  • Ο Κώστας είναι Έλληνας. Η Αθηνά είναι Ελληνίδα. (Kostas is Greek. Athena is Greek)

 

β) ο ελληνικός, η ελληνική, το ελληνικό: are the adjectives, which include the masculine, feminine, neuter plus their grammar numbers and cases:

Example:

  • ο ελληνικός καφές, η ελληνική σημαία, το ελληνικό νησί (Greek coffee, Greek flag, Greek island)

 

γ) τα ελληνικά: is the language.

Example:

  • Μαθαίνω ελληνικά. Μου αρέσουν τα ελληνικά. (I learn Greek. I like Greek)

You can use η ελληνική γλώσσα (the Greek language) as well, but always as two words together.

Note: If you want to say “I’m having a Greek lesson” you need to say “κάνω μάθημα ελληνικών” (I’m doing a lesson of Greek), because you need to use it in genitive.

 

#3 Πότε vs Όταν: When do we use πότε? And when do we use όταν?

Use “Πότε” when you’re asking a question about time. This is the adverb of time, used only in questions.

Example:

  • Πότε μίλησες με την Ελένη; (When did you speak with Helen? - direct question)

This works also for what we call in Greek grammar "indirect questions".

Example:

  • Με ρώτησε πότε μίλησα με την Ελένη. (She/he asked me when I spoke with Helen. - indirect question)

However, when there is a statement about time, connecting two sentences, we only use “όταν”:

Example:

  • Μίλησα με την Ελένη, όταν την είδα χτες στον δρόμο. (I spoke with Helen when I saw her yesterday on the street.)⠀

  • Το κινητό μου δεν βγάζει φωτογραφίες, όταν δεν έχει πολλή μπαταρία. (My phone doesn't take photos when the battery is low.)

  • Όταν έρθει το καλοκαίρι, θα πάω φυσικά στην Ελλάδα! (When summer comes, I'll go to Greece of course!)

Note for grammar geeks (I know you’re out there!): “Όταν” is a temporal conjunction, this is why it’s used for connecting sentences.


#4 Simple Past vs Past Continuous in Greek (Αόριστος vs Παρατατικός)

So here’s the story with these two tenses:

α) Past Continuous keeps the “stem” from the Present tense.

β) Simple past has a “stem”, a part of its own.

Let’s take the verb τρώω (to eat), for example.

It usually comes naturally to use the Present tense stem “τρώ-” in the past tense. And this is correct, it is a Past tense.

Just probably not the one you wanted to use.

Τρώ-” gives us “έτρωγα” (I was eating). This is the Past Continuous. In short, we use it for narrations, habits, to state a specific duration of time and with words or phrases such as όλη τη μέρα (all day), κάθε εβδομάδα (every week) etc.

The Simple Past stem is “φαγ-”, which gives us “έφαγα”. This is what we use to talk about past, completed actions.

Example:

  • Έτρωγα πρωινό, όταν με πήρες τηλέφωνο: this emphasizes how I was eating yesterday when I received your phone call.  

  • Σήμερα έφαγα πρωινό στο γραφείο: this means that today I ate my breakfast at the office.

 

#5 Simple Future vs Future Continuous (Απλός Μέλλοντας vs Μέλλοντας Συνεχείας ή Εξακολουθητικός)

This is in the same spirit as the last one.

In a way, we can see both #4 and #5 as similar concepts. Which means that the same logic is applied: we use Simple Future for the actions done, completed some time in the future.

On the other hand, Future Continuous is used for narrations, again to state a specific duration of time and with words or phrases such as όλη τη μέρα (all day), κάθε εβδομάδα (every week) etc.

Example:

  • Θα τρώω πρωινό κάθε πρωί στις 8.: this states how I will be eating breakfast every morning at 8.

  • Αύριο θα φάω με την Μαρία.: and here it states how I will eat tomorrow with Maria.

Interested in more examples and how to use Future Tenses correctly? Read here.

Note: The translations in English emphasize how and why we use these tenses in Greek. They're not always accurate in English.

 

#6 Σαν vs Όπως: Like vs Such As/As in Greek

In comparison, both can be used, with some differences in syntax:

Example:

  • Παίζει σαν παιδί. Παίζει όπως τα παιδιά. (Plays like/as a child)

  • Τρώει σαν λύκος. Τρώει όπως οι λύκοι (ή ο λύκος) (Eats like/as a wolf)

  • Ο Νίκος θέλει να τρέχει σαν την Άννα. Ο Νίκος θέλει να τρέχει όπως η Άννα. (Nikos wants to run like/as Anna does)

Note: Short comparison sentences with σαν are usually used as expressions. You’ll hear them more often than the sentences with όπως.

Example:

  • πονηρή σαν αλεπού (sneaky like a fox - more common than είναι πονηρή όπως η αλεπού)

  • γρήγορος σαν λαγός (fast like a rabbit - more common than είναι γρήγορος όπως ο λαγός)

  • κρύο σαν χιόνι (cold like snow - more common than είναι κρύο όπως το χιόνι)

It’s worth noting that σαν can be confusing because sometimes is also used to state the time, like όταν (when, once, as soon as):

Σαν νύχτωσε, πήγαν όλοι σπίτια τους. (Once it was dark, everyone went home.)

 

#7 Mου αρέσει (plus noun):

How to use “I like” in Greek?

Μου αρέσει ο or τον, η or την; 

After learning this tip you’ll never get confused again! (I always wanted to say that about Greek Grammar.)

Μου αρέσει is always, always used with nominative. It’s very straightforward.

I can hear you saying: “Hey! Greek has 3 grammar genders X 2 grammar numbers = 6 things to choose from and you’re calling this straightforward?.”

Ehem...how about straightforward-ish?

I ‘ll rephrase. If you know what to use (masculine or feminine, plural or singular) then yes, it’s only the nominative case you have to worry about. Oh, and “μου αρέσει” for singular vs “μου αρέσουν” for plural. (Sorry! But I know you got this.)

Example:

  • Μου αρέσει ο καφές. (I like coffee)

  • Μου αρέσει η ζεστή σοκολάτα. (I like hot chocolate)

  • Μου αρέσουν τα πορτοκάλια. ( I like oranges)

  • Μου αρέσουν οι λουκουμάδες. ( I like doughnuts - loukoumades)

 

#8 Stress/ accent: τόνος

Note: I’ll simply use the word “stress” here, to avoid confusion with the Greek accent.

Not knowing which syllable to stress, is a common problem. Especially if you’re used to stress only one syllable in your language, as in French for example, where the stress is on the last syllable. It’s true, it can take time to train your ear.

There are two golden rules however:

α) one-syllable words are never stressed, except for: ή (as a disjunctive) πού and πώς in a direct or indirect question

β) there’s never a stress beyond the 3rd syllable, counting from the last one, except from some words in dialects

Example:

  • Πού πας; (Where are you going?)

  • Θέλεις καφέ ή τσάι; (Do you want coffee or tea?)

  • Με ρώτησε πώς να πάει στην Αθήνα. (S/he asked me how to go to Athens)

Listening activities will greatly help you so don’t hesitate to add more if you feel that you ‘re stressing out too much. (I love puns. You can’t tell!)

 

#9 Confusion with the endings of nouns

This could make an article on its own, so I’m just noting one of the most common confusion about endings here.

Is it το πράγμα or η πράγμα ? And how is it in plural?

Words ending in -α are feminine and you know that already.

But sneaky neuter words end in -μα.

Example:

  • το πρόβλημα (the problem)

  • το διάλειμμα (the break/pause)

  • το ζήτημα (the matter/issue)

  • το μάθημα (the lesson)

  • το παράδειγμα (the example)

In plural, they will be:

  • τα προβλήματα

  • τα διαλείμματα

  • τα ζητήματα

  • τα μαθήματα

  • τα παραδείγματα

Pay attention, does it end in -μα or -α, next time you say or hear such a word?

 

#10 Translations word by word

This last one seems kind of obvious. But in reality, it’s not.

If we add the language transfer errors + our need to communicate, our attempt to translate word by word happens all too often.

There are 3 steps to make sure you avoid such errors:

α) Mimic language patterns the native speakers use

β) Be open and creative, as well as ready to challenge your mindset about expressing yourself in another language

γ) Avoid using Google Translate for whole sentences, idioms, expressions

Especially for the last one, Google might give you a word by word translation, which is often far from the actual structure, choice of words and meaning.

So there you have it!

Now let me know in the comments: Which of these 10 errors was the most difficult for you? And which one you never really had a problem with?


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