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Getting started on ancient Greek
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6 The definite article

A noun in a Greek dictionary will appear with its meaning, naturally, and some additional information. One extra item is the definite article, i.e. the word ‘the’. This will be shown in one of three forms: ὁ, ἡ or τό.

The form of the article depends on the noun’s gender: masculine, feminine or neuter. English nouns do not have gender in this grammatical sense, although many European languages do, including French, German, Spanish and Italian. Gender is important because it influences the endings of any adjectives accompanying the noun.

Masculine nouns are accompanied by ὁ:

  • ὁ θεός     the god
  • ὁ λόγος   the word

or, in their dictionary form:

  • θεός, ὁ     god
  • λόγος, ὁ   word

Feminine nouns are accompanied by ἡ:

  • ἡ γῆ       the land
  • ἡ νίκη    the victory

These words would be presented in a dictionary as:

  • γῆ, ἡ       land
  • νίκη, ἡ    victory

Neuter nouns are accompanied by τό:

  • τὸ πλοῖον   the boat
  • τὸ ῥόδον    the rose

The dictionary forms would be:

  • πλοῖον, τό   boat
  • ῥόδον, τό    rose

Nouns denoting male and female individuals will be masculine or feminine – ‘priest’ will be masculine, ‘priestess’ feminine. But in most cases the grammatical gender of nouns needs to be learned. The article ὁ, ἡ or τό will identify the gender for you.

Greek proper names, unlike English, usually occur with an article:

  • ὁ Σωκράτης   Socrates
  • ἡ Ἀθήνη      Athena

Activity 9 Test your learning – noun gender

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

What is the gender of these nouns?

τιμή, ἡ   honour

a. 

masculine


b. 

feminine


c. 

neuter


The correct answer is b.

ἔργον, τό   work

a. 

masculine


b. 

feminine


c. 

neuter


The correct answer is c.

νῆσος, ἡ   island

a. 

masculine


b. 

feminine


c. 

neuter


The correct answer is b.

νόμος, ὁ   law, custom

a. 

masculine


b. 

feminine


c. 

neuter


The correct answer is a.

πόλεμος, ὁ   war

a. 

masculine


b. 

feminine


c. 

neuter


The correct answer is a.