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Getting started on ancient Greek
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5 Declensions

Greek noun endings fall into patterns, called ‘declensions’. There are three declensions in total, with some variations inside each. The standard method for learning case endings is to learn the declension of one representative noun for each pattern. Two such nouns are τιμή and λόγος.

The case endings you have met so far are:

Table 1 Two case endings
τιμή, honour (1st declension)
singular plural
nominative τιμή τιμαί
accusative τιμήν τιμάς
genitive τιμῆς τιμῶν
λόγος, word (2nd declension)
singular plural
nominative λόγος λόγοι
accusative λόγον λόγους
genitive λόγου λόγων

The declension of a noun can be determined from its dictionary entry. Remember that the dictionary entry shows the nominative form of a noun (e.g. τιμή) and its genitive singular ending (-ῆς). A noun with the same nominative and genitive singular as τιμή will follow the same pattern of endings. In grammatical terms, it belongs to the same declension as τιμή, or ‘declines like’ it.

  • First declension:
  • τιμή, -ῆς, ἡ    honour
  • βουλή, -ῆς, ἡ   plan, council
  • κόρη, -ης, ἡ     girl
  • νίκη, -ης, ἡ    victory

Here are some nouns that belong to the same declension as λόγος:

  • Second declension:
  • λόγος, -ου, ὁ    word
  • ἄγγελος, -ου, ὁ   messenger
  • δοῦλος, -ου, ὁ     slave
  • ποταμός, -οῦ, ὁ   river

Activity 6 Identify the declension

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Using the dictionary entries, decide whether each of these nouns belongs to the first declension, like τιμή, or the second, like λόγος.

στρατηγός, -οῦ, ὁ   general

a. 

first declension (like τιμή)


b. 

second declension (like λόγος)


The correct answer is b.

πύλη, -ης, ἡ   gate

a. 

first declension (like τιμή)


b. 

second declension (like λόγος)


The correct answer is a.

φωνή, -ῆς, ἡ   voice

a. 

first declension (like τιμή)


b. 

second declension (like λόγος)


The correct answer is a.

διδάσκαλος, -ου, ὁ   teacher

a. 

first declension (like τιμή)


b. 

second declension (like λόγος)


The correct answer is b.

ἐπιστολή, -ῆς, ἡ   letter

a. 

first declension (like τιμή)


b. 

second declension (like λόγος)


The correct answer is a.

κώμη, -ης, ἡ   village

a. 

first declension (like τιμή)


b. 

second declension (like λόγος)


The correct answer is a.

Activity 7 Case endings – first declension

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

These nouns decline like τιμή. Identify their case endings.

  • Vocabulary
  • νίκη, -ης, ἡ     victory
  • φωνή, -ῆς, ἡ   sound, voice
  • πύλη, -ης, ἡ    gate

νίκης

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


c. 

genitive


The correct answer is c.

φωνήν

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


c. 

genitive


The correct answer is b.

πύλη

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


c. 

genitive


The correct answer is a.

Activity 8 Case endings – second declension

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

These nouns decline like λόγος. Identify their case endings.

  • Vocabulary
  • ξένος, -ου, ὁ       foreigner
  • σύμμαχος, -ου, ὁ   ally
  • ποταμός, -οῦ, ὁ     river

ξένον

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


c. 

genitive


The correct answer is b.

συμμάχου

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


c. 

genitive


The correct answer is c.

ποταμός

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


c. 

genitive


The correct answer is a.