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Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin
Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

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9.1 Person and number

Take a look at the following examples:


  • ὁρ τὸν ποταμόν (horō ton potamon)I see the river
  • ὀρθῶς λέγεις (orthōs legeis) – you speak correctly

  • θάπτομεν τὸν στρατιώτην (thaptomen ton stratiōtēn we bury the soldier

The endings here express (among other things) the grammatical concepts of person and number. There are three ‘persons’:

  1. the 1st person corresponds to the speaker (‘I’, or ‘we’)
  2. the 2nd person corresponds to the person addressed by the speaker (‘you’)
  3. the 3rd person refers to a third party (‘he / she / it’ or ‘they’). It is the standard person used in narrative prose, e.g. in the descriptive passages of novels.

Persons can also be singular or plural in number, i.e. one or many. The difference between ‘I’ and ‘we’ is not one of person (they are both 1st person), but number. Table 20 below shows the possible combinations of person and number:

Table 20 Person and number
1singularI give
2singularyou (singular) give
3singularhe / she / it gives
1pluralwe give
2pluralyou (plural) give
3pluralthey give

Greek verb endings provide a lot of information about a verb in addition to its number and person. This includes whether a verb describes action in the present (‘I give’), the past (‘I gave’) or the future (‘I will give’). We will not cover these and other features here. If you choose to study Greek, you will be introduced to the different verb endings and their implications gradually and over an extended period of time. For now, be aware that word endings provide important information for both verbs and nouns.