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

You probably know I have a love / hate relationship with Grammar.

I love Grammar because it’s logic, it’s predictable (even the fact that there are exceptions in every rule is kind of predictable, right?) and you can use its patterns creatively to make many new sentences and start speaking.

I also love Grammar because it’s like a mystery game. Cool so far!

“The dark side of Grammar” is that it can easily absorb you in never ending rules and exceptions, then overwhelm you, make you feel kind of like “you know nothing, Jon Snow” and doubt yourself and your abilities.

Like a mystery you can’t solve.

Yikes.

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!)

Before we start our investigation, here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Our "clues": break things down in “chunks” you can understand and learn; the verbs, nouns etc.

  2. Be the "detective": observe rather than criticize yourself (or the language you’re learning)

  3. How to "play": keep speaking, even if your Grammar is not perfect; this way you’ll keep learning more and more.

About the last one...If anything, living in an English speaking country for the last 5 years has taught me there will always be things I‘ll never learn and perfection doesn’t exist.

A proof? Native speakers don’t know everything either. As simple as that.

Should I keep my mouth shut and never utter a word because I make grammar mistakes? Absolutely not.

So, now that we’re ready, let’s take our magnifying glass and look closer.

Case #1 Investigation Level: Beginner

What’s the mistake here? Can you guess?

  • Είμαι με τον Νίκος.

  • Βλέπω τον Κώστας.

  • Μένω στον φίλος μου.

Our Grammar hint: When masculine nouns follow a preposition such as με or a transitive verb such as βλέπω, they lose the final ς . They become... ς less, so to speak.

What’s a transitive verb? It’s a verb that requires a Grammar object.

A good detective asks the right questions so here is what we need to ask to find the mysterious Grammar object:  “What? + your sentence’s verb”

For example: Βλέπω τον Κώστα. Τι βλέπω; Τον Κώστα. It doesn’t work with “Είμαι με τον Νίκο” because you’ll have the question “Τι είμαι;” (What am I?)  It doesn’t work with “Τι μένω” either.

Remember:

βλέπω → transitive

είμαι, μένω → intransitive

So what’s the correct way to say this?

  • Είμαι με τον Νίκο.

  • Βλέπω τον Κώστα.

  • Μένω με τον φίλο μου.

That’s it. Case #1: -ς in endings for masculine words is now closed.

Which brings us to ...articles.

Oh, the joy of articles in Greek!

Fear not, you’re awesome, you’ve got this.

Let’s see again one of the examples above and add one more.

Case #2 Investigation Level: Beginner

What’s the mistake here? Can you guess?

  • Είμαι με ο Νίκος.

  • Βλέπω οι φίλοι και οι φίλες μου.

Helpful tip from our top secret informant: Mistakes around articles can vary; they can be related to:

  • the Grammar gender (masculine - feminine - neuter)

  • to the case (nominative - accusative - genitive) or

  • the number (singular - plural).

Sometimes mistakes are related to the kind of article we have; is it definite or indefinite? (ο / ένας, η / μία, το / ένα).

In some other cases, especially in spoken Greek, articles can even be completely absent.

If you’d love to learn more about articles, I’ve included a free Mini Guide to Articles in the Greek Bibliotheke (the Free Resources Library which keeps on growing since last May!). Here’s how you can get your password and gain access to the Greek Bibliotheke:

Okay, now back to our first example.

  • Είμαι με ο Νίκος.

Our Grammar hint: When we have the preposition με we need the accusative case.

So what’s the correct way to say this?

  • Είμαι με τον Νίκο.

The second example has a transitive verb. If you didn’t skip the explanation on the transitive verbs above...amazing! Now you understand what that means. In case you skipped it, look for this clue above.

  • Βλέπω οι φίλοι και οι φίλες μου.

Our Grammar hint: Οbject words in sentences are always in accusative. (Okay, almost always. But you saw this exception coming, didn’t you?)

In addition, the words here are in plural so let’s keep that in mind when we try to switch the nominative to accusative.

So what’s the correct way to say this?

  • Βλέπω τους φίλους και τις φίλες μου.

Congratulations! Case #2: articles in accusative is now closed.

Hang in there Investigator! One more case to go before your well deserved donut break. (Guilty of watching too many police series back in the 90s. Is donut break actually a “thing”?)

Case #3 Investigation Level: Intermediate

What’s the mistake here? Can you guess?

  • Σταμάτησε να βρέξει.

  • Την είδε να έρθει.

  • Του αρέσει να ταξιδέψει σε πολλές χώρες.

Our Grammar hint: να + Present tense is used together with verbs indicating:

  • a start, continuity and end (such as αρχίζω, σταματάω, παύω, ξεκινάω, συνεχίζω, εξακολουθώ)

  • senses (such as ακούω, βλέπω, αισθάνομαι, παρακολουθώ) and

  • μου αρέσει, in all persons (σου αρέσει, της αρέσει etc)

The list is not exhaustive here and we definitely have more cases where να + Present tense is used. However, the verbs above tend to confuse most Greek learners so I’m thrilled you now know them.

So what’s the correct way to say this?

  • Σταμάτησε να βρέχει.

  • Την είδε να έρχεται.

  • Του αρέσει να ταξιδεύει σε πολλές χώρες.

Congratulations! Case #3: Use of the subjunctive mode; specific verbs + να + Present tense is now closed.

Now your turn. You got the clues. You got the detective spirit. How about keep playing?

You can start here:

  1. Η Μαρίνα δουλεύει με τον ________ (Γιώργος).

  2. Διαβάζω __________ (η εφημερίδα) και πίνω _________ (ο καφές) μου.

  3. Οι αθλητές κρατάνε _________ (οι μπάλες).

  4. Σας αρέσει να _________ (μαθαίνω) ελληνικά;

  5. Ξεκίνησαν να __________ (ταξιδεύω) το καλοκαίρι και δεν σταμάτησαν να _______ (φωτογραφίζω) τους ανθρώπους που συναντούσαν στα ταξίδια τους.

What do you think? What are the right answers? Let me know in the comments!

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