Introductory Ancient Greek Language/Lesson 6
Note:to be able to see the Greek accent and breathing marks easier you may wish to increase the text size of your web browser.
A declension is a group of nouns, adjectives, or pronouns that all form their gender, number, or case in the same way or in similar ways. In ancient Greek to change the case, gender, or number all you need to do is change the case ending. There are three declensions in ancient Greek. The first declension will feature later, because this, called the second declension, is the easiest to present by way of introduction.
The second declension only has two sets of endings: the masculine is the same as the feminine; and neuter. So to show that the word “λόγος” is the target (accusative) of the action in a sentence you would say “λόγον.” λόγος" is translated as word; reason; or account (and many others). One might say “γράφω λόγον,” meaning “I write a word”. While “γράφω λόγους” would mean “I write words.” Notice that the personal pronoun “I” is not necessary in Greek. There is a Greek word for it, “ἐγώ”, and when it is used it implies an emphasis, so that “ἐγώ γράφω λόγους” means “*I* write words”.
Now it might seem that “λόγος” should be neuter, since it is an inanimate object. But, in Greek, each word has a gender, and unless referring to a human, it does not indicate actual gender. In Greek lexicons (dictionaries) the gender of a word is shown by writing the definite article that has the same gender as the word after the word. So to show that λογός is declined as masculine the lexison says "λόγός, ὁ.".
In the dative singular under the omega(ω) there is a small mark. This mark, called "an iota subscript", is an iota written under either α, η, or ω, and helps to identify the function of the word, often signalling the dative case. The iota subscript is not pronounced, but simply helps to identify the word's function. When a greek word with an iota subscript is written in capitals, the iota is promoted to the main line, following its vowel.
The nominative case is normally translated into English simply as the word and the indefinite article. Words in the nominative case are understood to be the subject of the sentence. E.g. λόγος = a word. But when the definite article is present, ὁ λόγος = the word.
The genitive case is normally translated into English with "of". It is similar to the English possessive case. E.g. λόγου is "of a word".
The dative case is normally translated into English with "to,""for," or "with." The dative case shows that the word is the indirect target of the action in a sentence(i.e. an indirect object). E.g. λόγῳ means to, for, or with, a word.
The accusative case is normally translated into English simply as the word and the indefinite article. Words in the accusative case are understood to be the direct object of the action in a sentence. E.g. λόγον = a word. But when the definite article is present, τὸν λόγον = the word.
The vocative case is normally translated into English simply as the word itself. It is a direct address. In English, for “λόγε”, one might say "O word".