Lesson 3: Greek greetings and a grain of grammar
First, I’m afraid, a bit of grammar. Learning a little bit now will make things much quicker in the long run.
Greek has a case system. This means that nouns (words that name things) change their form depending on the job they are doing in the sentence. The words only change at the ends, and so they are still easily recognisable.
The two cases we need now are the nominative and the accusative. The nominative (nom. for short) is used for the noun doing the action in an ordinary sentence, also called the ‘subject’, while the accusative (acc.) is used for the thing or person acted on, the ‘object’. So in ‘The man saw the dog’, ‘man’ is nominative, ‘dog’ accusative.
Quite often the nominative and accusative forms of a word will happen to be the same.
Greek also has a system of genders: nouns can be masculine, feminine or neuter. In principle you have to learn the gender of each noun, but there are a few big groups that you can distinguish by the endings of their nominative forms. For example:
There are plenty of exceptions to the table above, but most are rare words. Only the first row is significantly misleading: there is a considerable number of common words ending in ος that are feminine and neuter.
Greek has an enormous range of greetings you can use. They fall into two classes: ‘nice wishes’ and ‘health’.
The formula here is to think of a noun, put it in the accusative, and prefix it by the right form of καλο'ς (nice: ‘calligraphy’ is ‘nice writing’). The form of καλο'ς depends on the gender of the noun. For masculine and neuter, use καλο'; for feminine, use καλη'. Hence:
As you can imagine, if the first of the month falls on a Monday, business tends to slow down slightly as every ’phone call starts with the string of greetings καλημε'ρα, καλη' βδομα'δα, καλο' μη'να.
Why the accusative? Presumably because these greetings are short for ‘I wish to you a nice day’ etc., making ‘day’ the object of ‘wish’.
The Greek for ‘health’ is υγει'α (as seen in ‘hygeine’), which gets shortened to γεια. This word forms the basis of:
In Lesson 4, we’ll see how easy it is to learn some vocabulary.
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