Introductory Ancient Greek Language/Lesson 3
What is a Definite Article?
The definite article we use in English is the word 'the' and its the only one we have. Ancient Greek has three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. The definite article will change accordingly. For those who have some background in Spanish or French this is the same difference between 'la' and 'le' in French and 'el' and 'la' in Spanish. We do not have this distinction in English.
Also unlike English, Greek differentiates between plural and singular. For comparison, this is the 'los' and 'las' of Spanish or the 'les' of French.
Unlike many modern languages ancient Greek also has cases, and the definite article reflects this.
Greek has five cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and vocative. Some of you taking this lesson may know what these words mean, but most probably won't. In English we use word order and helping words to understand what ancient Greek conveys with cases.
Nominative and Accusative
For example, take the sentence [The dog bites a cat.] In this sentence we understand that the dog is the subject doing the biting, while the cat is the direct object being bitten. In Greek the subject would be in the nominative case and the direct object in the accusative.
Because these cases explain to the reader what's happening in the sentence you can have a sentence structure in Greek such as [Cat bites dog.] which actually means that the dog bites the cat. This may be a little confusing, but this is just an introduction and it will make more sense when you see it in the actual Greek.
Words usually take the dative if they are indirect objects, like mir in German, as in [Dave gave the horse the apple]--Dave is the subject, and in Greek would be in the nominative, the apple is the direct object, in the accusative, and the horse is the indirect object, in the dative. Here's the same example in a table:
|the apple||direct object||accusative|
|the horse||indirect object||dative|
The dative is also used with prepositions and in certain idioms. One example of this in English is the use of the word 'with' expressing means. So, the sentence [The dog bites a cat with teeth.] would have 'dog' in the nominative since its the subject of the verb, 'cat' would be accusative since its the object, and 'teeth' would be dative, because they're the means the dog used to bite the cat.
The genitive case primarily denotes belonging. We have some examples of the genitive case in English. This is the difference we find between the first person pronouns me and my. The sentence [Achilles' spear is bright] would have 'Achilles' in the genitive and 'spear' in nominative.
Finally there is the vocative case which is only used when directly speaking to someone. Since ancient Greek is only used in the translation of texts you will rarely find this form. Examples would be in plays where a character addresses another.
The Definite Article Table