4 - Grammar 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,


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.


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).


  • 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.


  • 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:


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


γ) τα ελληνικά: is the language.


  • 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.


  • 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".


  • 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”:


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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:


  • 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.


  • 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.)


  • 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


  • 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.


  • 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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How To Use The Future Tenses In Greek

Do you ever get confused with the use of Future tenses in Greek?

For example, why & when do we say:

  • “Θα πιω νερό” instead of “Θα πίνω νερό”?

  • “Η Άννα θα φύγει αύριο” instead of “Η Άννα θα φεύγει αύριο”?

  • “Θα διαβάσουμε πολλά βιβλία” instead of “Θα διαβάζουμε πολλά βιβλία”?

Today I’m going to show you how to use and distinguish these two Future tenses.

By the end of this blog post you’ll be able to use them correctly aaand ... come up with your own resolutions for the New Year. Exciting?!

That's right, you'll use what you've learned (or revised) right away.

Happy New Year, by the way! To learn how to say this in Greek, click here.

So. You might be wondering.

What’s the difference between the 2 Future tenses?! (Also, are there more??)

First of all, there are 3 Future tenses: Simple, Continuous and Future Perfect.

Here, we’re looking at the two first, the Simple and the Continuous.

#1 The Simple Future

In my favourite Grammar for Greek learners, Greek: An Essential Grammar of the Modern Language, this is also called Perfective Future. It’s formed by θα + the perfective stem or the “aorist theme/stem” as we also use to call it. 

This is practically the reason why in most cases you first learn the Simple Past (Αόριστος: Aorist) and then the Simple Future; e.g. φεύγω → έφυγα → θα φύγω; By knowing the aorist stem -φυγ- it makes the Simple Future sound a bit ...simpler I guess?

The job of this tense is to describe future actions done at a specific time, without indicating the actual duration of the action.

Let’s see a few examples.

α. πίνω: to drink→ θα πιω

Imagine you’re reading the menu at a café. Your friend asks you:

"Τι θα πιεις; : What are you going to drink?"

Even if there is no verbal indication of time (tomorrow, at 10 am etc), the question is about the next moment. So you go ahead and reply:

"Θα πιω έναν καφέ. I’ll drink a coffee."

Let’s see another one.

β.. πάω/πηγαίνω: to go → θα πάω

Your cousin asks you about your work schedule:

"Πότε θα πας στη δουλειά; When are you going to work?"

"Θα πάω στις 8το πρωί. I’ll go at 8am."

Here, the question is about a future action done at a specific time. This is why your reply has the time + simple future here.

And let’s see a last example.

γ. μαγειρεύω: to cook → θα μαγειρέψω

"Τι θα μαγειρέψουμε αύριο για τους φίλους μας; What are we going to cook tomorrow for our friends?"


All the examples above use Simple Future to talk about future actions, without getting into details about how long these last. They might or might not include an indication of time, such as "αύριο: tomorrow", "το μεσημέρι: at noon", "τον επόμενο μήνα: next month", "τη Δευτέρα: on Monday" etc.

#2 The Future Continuous

This is also called the Imperfective Future.

Its job is to describe future actions along with indicating their duration. These actions might be repetitive, for example describing a habit, or continuous.

Good news: This Future is formed only with θα + the verb in present tense.

Let’s see some examples.

α. κοιμάμαι→ θα κοιμάμαι

"Το καλοκαίρι θα κοιμάμαι πολύ αργά. In the summer, I will be sleeping very late."

Well, if you ever spent the summer in Greece you now how true this is, right?

Because the repetition here is about sleeping late every night or most nights, this is why we use the Future Continuous.

β. βγαίνω - θα βγαίνω

"Θα βγαίνω κάθε μέρα για περπάτημα. I’ll be going out for a walk every day."

Again, here we’re talking about going out for a walk every day. By using the phrase “every day”, we indicate the repetition. (Unless it’s -25C like it is right now in Toronto. No way I’m doing this every day!)

γ. γράφω - θα γράφω

"Η Μυρτώ θα γράφει όλο το απόγευμα. Myrto will be writing all afternoon."

In this case we talk about Myrto writing all afternoon. Since it’s something she’ll be doing the whole afternoon, Future Continuous is naturally the tense to use.


Future Continuous is used to talk about habits and continuous acts in the future. When we indicate the time and duration, it's usually with phrases such as "όλη μέρα: all day", "όλο το απόγευμα: all afternoon", "κάθε μέρα: every day" etc.

So how does it sound so far? Are you ready to make your own New Year’s resolutions?

Now, for resolutions we need both future tenses, depending on what we want to do. Is it something we promise doing every day, making it a habit? Or something we’ll hopefully complete this year?

Here some ideas to get you started:

Simple Future

  • Θα μάθω ελληνικά. I’ll learn Greek.

  • Θα πάω ταξίδι στην Ισλανδία. I’ll go for a trip to Iceland.

  • Θα γραφτώ στη χορωδία. I’ll sign myself up for the choir.

  • Θα καθαρίσω την αποθήκη (επιτέλους!). I’ll clean the storage room (at last!).

  • Θα ξεπεράσω τους φόβους μου. I’ll overcome my fears.

Future Continuous

  • Θα περνάω περισσότερο χρόνο με την οικογένειά μου. I’ll be spending more time with my family.

  • Θα κοιμάμαι νωρίς. I’ll be sleeping early.

  • Θα πηγαίνω κάθε Σάββατο στο γυμναστήριο. I’ll be going every Saturday to the gym.

  • Θα φροντίζω τον κήπο μου. I’ll be taking care of my garden.

  • Θα διαβάζω περισσότερο. I’ll be reading more.

What are your resolutions this year? Let me know in the comments!

This article contains an affiliate link, which means you'll be supporting Alpha Beta Greek at no extra cost to yourself if you buy through the link. I only recommend books and resources of high quality that I trust and love to use myself. 

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3 Greek Grammar Mysteries (+ how to solve them once and for all)

Today’s article is about 3 common Grammar mistakes Greek learners make.

But ...we will look at them in a playful way - like a mystery game. Do you want to join?

By the end of this article you’ll be able to solve 3 Grammar mysteries and gain a new insight into your Grammar learning (a bit more mysterious? a tad more playful? Why not!)

Learning Greek One Step At A Time: #2 Grammar

Last week I shared with you the first part of the 3 step series currently on the blog  Learning Greek One Step At A Time. This week I’m focusing on Grammar, the most controversial of the 3; Grammar lover or Grammar hater, this post is for you!

How To Use Formal & Informal Correctly In Greek

Have you ever felt confused with these two questions? Τι κάνεις; and Τι κάνετε; Which one to use with a friend? Which one to use in a formal context? And which one to use with many people?

If you already know some Greek, you know their meaning: Τι κάνεις; [How are you? Comment vas-tu?] Τι κάνετε; [How are you? Comment allez-vous?]. But how about their use?

For French speakers, the distinction seems obvious (keep reading, however; this post might surprise you!).

For English speakers or for students who learn Greek through English and do not have this distinction between singular and plural or plural for politeness in their own mother tongue, the use of formal and informal might be complicated to learn and use.

In this post, I will help you distinguish these two forms and learn how and when to use them when you speak Greek. 

French Politeness

Let's jump back in history for a while. Sometime during the 19th century when French was the language of commerce, politics, diplomacy (et aussi de tout ce qui est beau if you allow me the comment!), Greek language borrowed the French personal pronoun “vous” [εσείς: you, plural] to address one person in a superior position.

For example, someone who was rich, had power and influence on others.

Until that time, the Greek language didn’t have this distinction.

It’s interesting that in Ancient Greek there was absolutely no special word or phrasing to address those in power or the elders.

The personal pronoun was simply σύ [you, one person] and ὑμεῖς [you, many people]. If you already read Greek and you’re interested in Ancient Greek as well, there is this nice article about it.

Bottom line is, politeness and respect had different ways to be expressed among people; plural for politeness came much later.

One, Many and Formal Context

Fast forward to modern Greece, things are somewhere in between.

When you learn Greek, it is common to find it initially hard to know when to use what.

After all, Grammar seems very clear, but politeness is not a Grammar thing, it is social.

Let’s break this down, shall we?

If you ask your friend Kostas how is he, then the question will look like this:

  • Τι κάνεις, Κώστα; [How are you Kosta?]

Grammar says: Kostas is one person so you simply need to use the singular form “Τι κάνεις;”

If you ask your friend Kostas and Maria how they are, then you might ask something like this:

  • Τι κάνετε (Κώστα και Μαρία); [How are you Kosta and Maria?]

Grammar says: Kostas and Maria are two people and you are asking them both so you use plural.

What’s this plural for politeness, then?

Let’s see what’s socially acceptable to ask - in most cases (Yep, hold on).

1.a. Τι κάνεις Κώστα; [How are you Kosta?]

Kostas is your friend, so you ask him in a friendly, informal way. This is why you use singular.

1.b. Τι κάνετε, κύριε Κώστα; [How are you Mr. Kosta?]

Kostas is still one person, however the context is formal and we use both Mr and the plural for politeness - which, by the way,  is the exact same form we use for plural or simply put, many people such as Kostas and Maria.

Let’s see one more example.

2.a. Λουίζα, είσαι εδώ; [Louisa, are you here?]

Louisa is someone you know well or she might be your child, your niece etc. In any case, the context is informal so you address her in a singular way. Politeness is defined by the way you ask, your face expression, tone, intention and pitch, not the grammatical number you use.

2.b. Κυρία Αντωνίου, είστε εδώ; [Ms Antoniou, are you here?] 

Ms Antoniou is someone you don’t know that well or she is a senior, she is your supervisor or manager or elder aunt. In any case, the context is formal and you speak to her in plural. Politeness is defined by the way you speak and the grammatical number you use.

So is it always the case? No. And this is where things get interesting.

Politeness Is A Social Thing!

In Greece, the recent past of addressing someone according to simply being one or many, along with the specific cultural factors, e.g. expressing proximity and familiarity or on the opposite, acting cold, both contributed to a more complicated use of plural for politeness.

Here’s a list of situations in which you can usually use this type of plural:

  • speaking to a superior (manager, supervisor, director etc)

  • speaking to a senior, an elder person

  • speaking to someone you don’t know, e.g. in the street, or the shop

And here’s a list of situations where you can usually choose the plural for politeness:

  • when you want to be polite with all the people above

  • when you want to create a distance between you and the other person, e.g. when you’re offended and would rather react cold

  • when you want to honor someone

  • when you are speaking to someone you know or a child in a fun, playful way, you might ask “Τι κάνετε, πώς είστε;” and continue the conversation in singular.

However, since politeness is not just defined by the grammatical number, you can equally be polite by using the singular:

  • if someone speaks to you in singular, even if they don’t know you

  • if you feel some kind of proximity, for example chatting with the person next to you in the bus, who might be as well a senior!

By understanding that politeness is used by the intention, tone, pitch you have, and in addition the grammatical number of choice in any given circumstances (εσύ / εσείς), using it in Greek eventually becomes a habit. (So... you're nearly there!)

Yes, it might initially seem as one more thing to remember, but language is far from mere words, isn't it? 

It’s also expression of feelings, cultural norms and complex systems of communicating with each other.

And I bet these are some of the reasons we love learning it.

Do you find it clear how to use formal and informal in Greek? Let me know in the comments!

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