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Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

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1 English noun endings

A language that relies upon word endings is called an inflected language. Greek is an inflected language whereas English is, for the most part, uninflected. English nouns do, however, change their endings in certain situations. The most common change is the addition of a final ‘s’ to indicate that a noun is plural rather than singular, i.e. that the noun refers to more than one item.

  • boy —> boys
  • house—> houses
  • elephant —> elephants

Rarely, an English noun might undergo a more radical change:

  • goose —> geese
  • mouse —> mice
  • woman —> women

In grammatical terms, we say that the ending of an English noun changes according to its number (singular or plural). Greek nouns do the same. Number is treated in more detail in Sessions 6 and 7.

Another change that English nouns can undergo is to acquire an apostrophe + ‘s’ to indicate ownership or possession:

  • Fred’s shop
  • Jane’s car
  • the pilot’s licence

If the noun is plural, the ‘s’ and the apostrophe are reversed:

  • the god’s anger (singular: one god)
  • the gods’ anger (plural: many gods)

Greek nouns change their ending in similar circumstances. The ending that denotes ownership or possession, the ‘genitive case’ ending, will be the focus of this session.