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Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

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3 The genitive case

The genitive case has a range of uses, but to begin with, think of it as the ‘of’ case. Here are more examples, with the genitive ending highlighted:

  • ἄγγελος θεοῦ      a messenger of god (or god’s messenger)
  • φόβος θανάτου      fear of death
  • βουλή Ἀφροδίτῆς   a plan of Aphrodite (or Aphrodite’s plan)

Note that although Greek possesses a definite article (‘the’), it has no indefinite article (‘a’ or ‘an’). This often needs to be supplied in an English translation.

  • Vocabulary
  • θάνατος, ὁ   death
  • φόβος, ὁ      fear

Note that it is the word ending, not the order of the words, that affects the meaning. φόβος θανάτου and θανάτου φόβος mean the same thing: ‘fear of death’.

You saw earlier that in English, if the noun is plural the apostrophe and the ‘s’ swap places.

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

Greek noun endings also vary according to whether they are singular or plural. The genitive plural ending of a noun always ends in -ων.

  • φόβος θεῶν   fear of gods

Activity 2 Test your learning – genitive case

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

In Greek, which noun could be expressed using a genitive case?

1. The mother of Achilles

a. 

mother


b. 

Achilles


The correct answer is b.

2. The daughter of Zeus

a. 

daughter


b. 

Zeus


The correct answer is b.

3. The defeat of Athens

a. 

defeat


b. 

Athens


The correct answer is b.

4. Sparta’s victory

a. 

Sparta


b. 

victory


The correct answer is a.

5. The gods’ quarrel

a. 

gods


b. 

quarrel


The correct answer is a.