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Getting started on ancient Greek
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7 Forms of the article

Like Greek nouns, the shape of the Greek definite article (i.e. the word ‘the’) varies according to its case (e.g. nominative, accusative and genitive) and number (singular or plural). Unlike nouns its shape also varies according to gender (masculine, feminine or neuter; this course covers the first two).

The nominative singular forms ὁ (masculine) and ἡ (feminine) should be familiar from your study of dictionary forms.

  • ἡ τιμή
  • ὁ λόγος

The accusative singular forms are τόν (masculine) and τήν (feminine).

  • τὴν τιμήν
  • τὸν λόγον

Study note

The article is a valuable tool for reading Greek. If you are unsure of the case of a noun, the shape of the article might tip the balance in favour of one case over another. This can be invaluable in the early stages of learning Greek as a shortcut to identifying a noun’s ending. For this reason, students of Greek are advised to memorise the forms of the article as soon as possible, to observe its shape carefully when reading, and to extract every drop of information from it.

Activity 11 Identify the case

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Identify the case of the following pairs of articles and names. Although some of the nouns belong to unfamiliar declensions, the article provides enough information to answer the question.

τὸν Ἀλέξανδρον

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


The correct answer is b.

ὁ Μιλτιάδης

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


The correct answer is a.

τὴν Κλεοπάτραν

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


The correct answer is b.

τὸν Σωκράτη

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


The correct answer is b.

ἡ Σαπφώ

a. 

nominative


b. 

accusative


The correct answer is a.

Discussion

The names are:

  • Alexander, accusative case
  • Miltiades, nominative case
  • Cleopatra, accusative case
  • Socrates, accusative case
  • Sappho (seventh-century BCE lyric poet from the island of Lesbos), nominative case

Ἀλέξανδρος is the only name on the list that follows a pattern which you have met. It is second declension, like λόγος.