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Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

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2.1 The alphabet

The alphabet was introduced in Session 1, and reinforced in Sessions 2 and 3 through speaking and writing. These should provide you with a good working knowledge. Going forward, the experience of reading Greek, and perhaps writing it, will help your knowledge to become second nature.

Activity 4 Problematic letters

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Think back to the beginning of the course, and to any letters that were difficult to remember or confusing. Are there any letters that still cause problems?


There is, of course, no single answer to this question. The important point is to find ways to familiarise yourself with any tricky letters, for example by writing them down or by finding examples of words that use them.

Hints and tips

Two areas that usually need additional work are:

  • Capital letters: these can cause problems because they appear less frequently than their lower-case counterparts. It is worth keeping capitals under review, especially those that differ significantly from lower case. Delta (Δ) and lambda (Λ), for instance, are often confused.
  • Breathings: when reading, the main difficulty is remembering to pronounce the rough breathing. When writing, the main difficulty is to remember to include a breathing at all, and to place it on the second letter of a word that starts with a diphthong, like εἰμί, ‘I am’.

Finally, can you recite the alphabet yet? If asked to look up the words ζωή, θύρα and ξίφος in a dictionary, would you be able to find them?