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Getting started on ancient Greek
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4 Case endings

Greek nouns must have one of five case endings – you have now met two of these.

Firstly, you met the nominative case.

This is the dictionary form of a noun, the one to learn when studying vocabulary. You have encountered many examples, but the term ‘nominative’ has not been employed until now. The purpose and uses of the nominative case are discussed in Sessions 6 and 7.

Here are two examples of nominative case endings, plural as well as singular:

Table 1 Nominative case endings
singular plural
τιμή τιμαί
λόγ λόγοι

Secondly, you’ve met the form just introduced, the genitive case. Here are two example of genitive case endings:

Table 2 Genitive case endings
singular plural
τιμῆς τιμῶν
λόγου λόγων

In a Greek dictionary, the genitive singular ending will be included along with the definition of the noun. This important piece of information enables the reader to predict all of the noun’s endings – this is a point you will return to shortly. For the moment though, concentrate on the dictionary entry and what can be deduced from it.

Example

τιμή, -ῆς, ἡ   honour

The dictionary entry can be broken down as follows:

  • τιμή: the noun in the nominative case
  • -ῆς: the genitive singular ending. In full, the word would read τιμῆς
  • ἡ: the definite article, showing the word’s gender (feminine in this instance)
  • ‘honour’: the meaning

Activity 3 Test your learning – case and gender

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Read the dictionary entries provided and select all statements that are true. (If you need to refresh your memory of grammatical gender, you can refer back to Section 6 of Session 4.)

ποταμός, -οῦ, ὁ   river

a. 

The genitive singular is ποταμοῦ


b. 

The gender is feminine


c. 

The genitive singular is ποταμός


d. 

The nominative singular is ποταμός


e. 

The gender is masculine


The correct answers are a, d and e.

πυλή, -ῆς, ἡ   gate

a. 

The genitive singular is πυλή


b. 

The gender is masculine


c. 

The gender is feminine


d. 

The genitive singular is πυλῆς


e. 

The nominative singular is πυλή


The correct answers are c, d and e.