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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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”?
- Τι έγινε; (What happened?)
- Οι γείτονες έκαναν πάρτυ. (The neighbours had [did] a party.)
Imagine you’re sitting at a café, ready to order. The waiter comes:
- 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”.
- 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.
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?
What do you say when you meet someone you know?
How do you say “done!” ?
How do you say “no big deal?”
The food is almost ready. What do you ask?
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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