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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


2 Strategies To Keep The Conversation Flowing

Have you ever wished you could speak Greek the way you wanted to in just one day?

Even if we don’t admit it, as much as we enjoy the process of learning, we sometimes act as if it’s possible to learn everything.

We dive into a sea of unknown vocabulary, pile up expression after expression, get lost in a forest of new meanings and nuances.

Courageous? Yes, definitely.

Helpful? Not always.

And then there’s overwhelm and loss of motivation.

How to keep going? How to keep talking?

When we explore the idea of a slow learning process, where the slow language journey doesn’t seem scary anymore, we come to realize the need to navigate the area: We need a compass.

And that’s because you’ve already covered the foundation of the Greek language and you expect to put your learning in use:

  • Put the words in meaningful sentences

  • Understand what you hear in a conversation

  • Reply back

  • Be part of an engaging conversation

And this is what the compass is here for.

To help you with 2 strategies to use, when you still feel your Greek is not “there” yet.

Now, a note about this apparently generic and a bit simplified definition. You’ve noticed I didn’t say “when you’re a Beginner/Intermediate etc” or “when you hold the A1, B2, C1 etc. CEFR level”.

Levels and categories are all useful and give us some information about our learning.

But if we feel we can’t talk the way we want to, or we can’t express our ideas and thoughts and can’t have the pleasure of a chat or a conversation, then levels don’t mean much.

In fact, we might get stuck behind the labels.

But back to our strategies: here’s how they help us find our focus and make connection with the person we talk to - and also our self.


Focus on what’s meaningful to you

Imagine you knew every single word in your own language.

Would you use them all in a conversation? You might had never had the chance to use them all in a lifetime.

I believe language is as alive as we are. The words we use are weaved into our existence and experience.

When we talk about things we like or don’t like doing, when we talk about our schedule, as exciting or boring as it can be or about our feelings, ideas and beliefs, all these words come to life.

And we share this glimpse of our life with the person we talk to.

We let the person zoom into our life and our thoughts.

The same way we don’t talk about everything under the sun, we’re not obliged to learn everything under the sun. We’re free to choose our focus.

When we realize we have a choice in our learning, this is when the magic happens.

We allow ourselves to narrow down and target the areas that are relevant to our life. We then focus even more on the things we mostly talk about.

And then we break the steps down: we don’t just learn the vocabulary with soulless repetition activities (we might use them, yes, but not rely on them), we invite the words in our world, we dig deeper in their meanings, we make them ours.

By focusing on one area, one topic or theme, we’re eventually able to make the connections in multiple levels:

  • connections within the language, between root words for example, which help us form associations, vital to our learning (For more on why and how this is effective, read this great, geeky article here)

  • connections to our own experience, which help us retain vocabulary better as it is relevant to who we are

  • connections to the person or people we talk to, as we start a chat or keep a conversation going, which eventually help us make authentic connections with other humans.

For example, let’s say you’re a person who lives in the city, you like long strolls out in nature, you’re a science fiction writer and your hobby is photography. You also dislike cooking and are not interested in fashion.

How would you prioritize your learning?

Talking about cooking or learning a long list of words about clothes won’t make much sense to you when you feel you still need to find the right words to make a conversation about things that matter to you.

Focus on what you need, then focus some more and then break it down in small, practical steps.

Jazz up the chat with questions

When we feel we can’t use the language the way we wish in a chat with a native speaker, we tend to answer to their questions but avoid making questions.

It could be because we’re not fast enough as the conversation goes on.

Or because we become so shy, we’d rather hide instead of keep being in the conversation.

On the other hand, it might be because we‘re eager to practice, so, subconsciously, we want to take advantage of the opportunity and talk as much as we can.

What this means though, is that the other person starts losing their interest in the chat.

They don’t get any sign you’re interested in them so they stop talking.

Spicing up a conversation doesn’t necessarily require a perfect use of vocabulary or grammar.

Yes, you might stumble. You might forget. This doesn’t need to bewilder you.

Showing your genuine interest to the person you talk to - that’s what makes a good conversation.

And the way to do that is with questions about them.

You might have noticed that in the Greek culture personal questions such as asking about the family or the origin, are not uncommon between people who meet for the first time and they’ve been chatting for a while.

And by origin I mean the grandparents’ birthplace which is usually a village (χωριό) or island (νησί).

So don’t hesitate to break the ice by asking (or asking back) about someone’s family or birthplace for example.

Questions help us to balance the conversation, especially when we still have limited vocabulary or when we still hesitate too much to use it.

Don’t forget them. Sprinkle them in your next chat. They’ll give you a delicious sense of accomplishment.

And if you’re ready to start speaking more Greek, here some helpful steps:


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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?"

Recap:

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.

Recap:

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!

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