how to speak Greek

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?

conversation_change subject in Greek_alphabetagreek_learn greek_online greek lessons

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?

Get more of my best learning tips plus learning offers only for Greek language enthusiasts (with a bit of a sunshine, too) here:

Happy Greek learning!

~ Danae

5 Ideas To Help You Refresh Your Greek Speaking Skills And Build Your Confidence

When Ana moved to Athens, she was excited. She couldn’t wait to meet new people, wander around the city, absorb every second of her new life there.

She was prepared to face the challenges: different language, culture, mentality. New habits, new rhythm and way of life.

Ana spoke some Greek already. She had met a few nice people she chatted with every day: “Καλημέρα, τι κάνετε;”

But within her first year in Greece, Ana realized - better: experienced - that daily speaking wasn’t a recipe; even if you follow all the steps from your course book, you won’t necessarily get it right.

refresh Greek speaking_alphabetagreek.png

Most of the times, it was difficult to catch up with fast pace, every day communication: at the grocery store, with her Greek friend on the phone or, the hardest of all, in a larger group of Greek speaking people.

She knew the grammar rules; but the rules kept slipping away. She knew the words; but the words kept not making sense if put together at a fast, natural speech speed.

Her friends switched to English. And, eventually, so did she.

Have you ever felt like Ana?

I sure did. When I spoke to my English speaking friends, I often found myself stumbling and mixing up words:

  • Words that look the same in the 2 languages, but have a completely different meaning

  • Words that sound alike

  • Tiny words, such as prepositions, that I couldn’t remember where to add them: before the verb, after the verb, between the two verbs?

  • Large words I didn’t remember how to pronounce

Some of my English speaking friends even spoke Greek, so switching to my language felt safe, but also disappointing: “Ugh, there goes my chance to practice”, I’d think.

If you ever felt like that too, here’s what I want you to know, when the words don’t come out easy:

You have every right to make mistakes, mispronounce words, mix up the meaning. Even if you know the grammar. Even if you understand what others say to you. Not just once, but a 100 times.

You have the right to feel overwhelmed, to get annoyed, to exclaim, even, that Greek is the hardest language (even if you don’t believe it).

You have the right to feel tired and make a pause from your learning. If you need it, do it. You’re not a language learning machine, you’re human.

But when your Greek heart calls you back again and you know that speaking Greek is still one of your priorities, then treat your speaking with care.

Here’s how to build your confidence again:

Create the circumstances to avoid another round of overwhelm about your speaking - at least for the next little while (because, well, life!).

And because I’m all about practical advice you can easily implement, here are 5 short and simple ideas:

  • Sing. If you’re into learning with music (it doesn’t work for everyone) learn the lyrics to your favourite Greek songs and sing along. Singing is not speaking (as in expressing yourself freely), but the rhythm and the flowing language through music are both a first step and a confidence booster when you want to hear yourself speaking Greek again.

  • Send a short voice message to wish something or just say hi to a friend or relative instead of a written message, on Messenger or Instagram. Prepare a bit if you want to, but aim for something short that doesn’t require lots of thinking or editing.

  • Chat with only one friend in person (online or offline) and ask them to chat in Greek only. The 1-1 interaction with someone you feel comfortable with is a safe space for shy or self-conscious learners who get quite disappointed by their mistakes, especially when they are in larger groups.

  • Join a short and practical conversation class or speaking program, online or offline or ask your teacher to set aside 10-15 minutes just to speak about something that interests you - outside the course book and the role play activities.

  • Make today a recording of yourself speaking, not more than 1-5 minutes. If you need help with “what should I be talking about?” ideas, you can sign up for the mini-speaking challenge: you’ll receive one short speaking prompt daily, for 3 days, plus a few words + phrases to get you started. At the end, you can send me your voice recording and receive a few ideas about how and what to improve. See how the challenge works, here.

Speaking in another language is a lot of work

And especially at the “in between” levels, where you know the basic grammar well enough but you still make mistakes, your self-confidence can be shaken.

When you’re past the basic vocabulary and you are longing for a chat in flawless Greek, it’s easy to become impatient, stressed out, and often disappointed and overwhelmed.

Remember though, that the learning journey has its ups and downs.

Sometimes you’ll celebrate and feel happy, other times you’ll stumble and feel disappointed.

But if you know you’re here to stay, start again, take action and use your recent experience to create resilience and perseverance.

Which idea are you going to try next for your speaking? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for learning with me,

~ Danae

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?

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

Don’t hesitate to add these phrases in your speaking. Also keep observing other phrases using this structure.

This will help you sound more natural and add some everyday Greek in your speaking.

Did You Like This Article?

Get more of my best learning tips plus learning offers only for Greek language enthusiasts (with a bit of a sunshine, too) here:

Happy Greek learning,

~Danae