colloquial Greek

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...

 


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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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One Simple Trick To Sound More Natural In Greek

What are the subtle differences between speaking fluently / at an advanced level and speaking like the locals?

Studying a lot, for example reading and getting your hands on anything you find interesting and effective for you will take you a long way.

But when it comes to speaking, like “real life speaking” with locals, is this enough?

The first time I went to Canada, I was indeed speaking English at an advanced level.

I could attend University lectures and talk about these topics adequately. I could write an essay.

When it came to speaking about everyday topics though? Not even close.

Avoid sounding like a robot

I didn't become fluent overnight, but I slowly tried my best to avoid sounding like a robot. How?

I came up with a strategy: I took a few lessons to get a boost in my speaking about everyday topics and also learn about local small talk.

Also, I started paying attention to the way locals talked to each other; noted everything down and attempted to use it. The information I got from my lessons as well as the eavesdropping :-) paid off during all the years I lived in Toronto.

And here’s what I found: There is a way to learn how to sound more natural even before reaching the advanced level. It's a little trick that has to do with using pauses to your advantage.

Pauses that include filler words.

Here’s a visual example to see what I mean:

With Christmas around the corner... what makes a Christmas tree a great Christmas tree? Imagine a tree like this one:

And then imagine adding fillers. Such as ornaments, extra branches or garlands.

Fillers fill in the space between the branches and make your tree stand out; as with ornaments, filler words you naturally use in your native language can help your sentences sound richer when you also speak in Greek.

Why are filler words useful for your speaking?

Filler words are a natural pause to think, without stopping speaking altogether, and before keep going on with what you want to say.

They help your audience understand you have more things to add.

Of course, filler words or sounds are different from language to language.

Often, learners make mistakes by translating the filler words from their language to their target language (which is definitely what I did, too).

This simply proves how much we’re used at using them; we try to find a way to add them in our target language.

In addition, these words & sounds can give you valuable time in order to remember a tricky word or think a bit about what you want to say.

What does λοιπόν, βασικά, έτσι mean in Greek?

Have you ever come across these words?

Below, you’ll find a list of some of these very common filler words & sounds we use in Greek and a link to a great mini - series videos to watch and listen how to use them.

1. Λοιπόν [Lipón]

Translated as “so” or “well”, λοιπόν initiates a topic if used at the beginning of a sentence, or at the end of a question:

Λοιπόν, πάμε να μιλήσουμε για τα ρήματα τώρα.

Τι θα φάμε, λοιπόν;

It even connects sentences, when one of them is the conclusion:

Αγαπώ την Ελλάδα, γι’ αυτό λοιπόν έμαθα ελληνικά!

2. Έτσι [Étsi]

“Like this”, έτσι: when used as a filler word it goes after a question in order to reinforce the meaning, especially when you know the others agree or have to agree with you:

Δεν είναι σωστό, έτσι;

It’s also used when you explain something to others:

Μου αρέσει, έτσι, να πηγαίνω βόλτα στην Αθήνα.

3. Βασικά [Vasiká]

If you know how young people use “basically” in English, then βασικά is basically the same. It highlights the meaning of a sentence, at the beginning of a sentence, in the middle or even at the end.

Βασικά, δεν ξέρω την αδερφή της.

Δεν ξέρω, βασικά, την αδερφή της. 

Δεν ξέρω την αδερφή της, βασικά.

4. Εεεεεε … [ééééé]

Not a word, but a sound, as the sound “um” in English. Use it when you try to think or remember something at the beginning of a sentence. It can prove very handy as you try to remember a certain word; we tend to use it a lot!

Εεεεεε … νομίζω ότι μου αρέσει πολύ αυτό το βιβλίο.

5. Θα έλεγα [Tha élega]

This means “I’d say” and as a filler word goes well with statements, such as:

Είναι, θα έλεγα, τα πιο ωραία σουβλάκια της Αθήνας!

6. Ας πούμε [As púme]

This means “let’s say” and it’s used for examples or when explaining something to others or telling a story:

Το ωραίο κλίμα, ας πούμε, είναι από τα θετικά της Ελλάδας.

Και τότε όλοι έμειναν, ας πούμε, σπίτι και έπαιξαν χαρτιά.

7. Ξέρω ’γω [Kséro 'gó]

This is commonly used when you’re wondering about something, since it's literally translated as "do I know (?)" but really means "I don't know":

- Σου αρέσει αυτό το τραγούδι;

- Ξέρω ‘γω; Καλό είναι.

Among young people, it can be used much more frequently, between any word or meaning:

Θα πάω, ξέρω ‘γω, αύριο να δω μια ταινία…. άκουσα, ξέρω ‘γω, ότι η ταινία αυτή ήταν, ξέρω ‘γω, καλή.

This last one sounds a bit annoying? It is!

As with your native language, find the right amount of how and when to use them to get this nice flow when you speak - even if at the same time you're looking for the right word to say.

Here you’ll find a mini series of 3 videos with locals speaking in Greek and using all of the filler words above. Can you spot them?


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