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Available 6/27

 
New Testament Greek
Course I
 
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  Lesson 2 - Tense, Voice, Mood, Present and Future Active Indicative, Movable ν  
  Tense  
 

In Greek, tense indicates not only time of action, but more especially kind of action.

In this lesson, the Present tense and the Future tense will be introduced. Clearly, we see a distinction between the time of the action represented by these two tenses. However, from the outset, we want to note the importance of kind of action. In an absolute way, tense indicates time of action only in the indicative mood. In other moods, it may indicate a time of action in a relative way. But tense is associated with kind of action in all moods.

The German word "Aktionsart," meaning "kind of action," is often used with reference to what is indicated by the tense of a verb. There are three basic kinds of action:

The first is linear. It is also called durative, continuous, or progressive. It can be represented graphically by a line. In this case, the speaker conceives of the action as happening. The Present tense indicates this kind of action.
The second is punctiliar and can be represented by a point. In this case, the speaker conceives of the action without any notion of its continuance. This kind of action is associated with the Future tense. Note carefully that the future tense does not imply the action takes place instantaneously. Rather we should say the speaker conceives of the fact of the action without indicating continuity.
The third kind of action is ongoing result of previous action, and can be represented graphically by a line proceeding from a point. In this case the speaker conceives of the action as being the ongoing result of a previous event.

Read more about the linear Aktionsart of the Present tense.

 
  Voice  
 

 

Voice refers to the relationship between subject and verb. In English, it answers the question, is the subject active or passive with respect to the action? Consider the following two sentences:

The bull tramples the ground.

The ground is trampled by the bull

In the first sentence, the subject is "bull" and the bull is actively trampling. The verb "tramples" is in the Active voice.

In the second sentence, the subject is "ground" and the ground is passively being trampled. The verb "is trampled" is in the Passive voice.

There are three voices in Greek. They are the Active, the Middle, and the Passive. In this first course, we will only concern ourselves with the Active Voice

 
  Mood  
 

Think of different moods (also called "modes" in some grammars) as different degrees of contingency. There is the Indicative Mood which contemplates the action with no contingency at all. The action is indicated. It is real, or at least the speaker presents it to be considered as real. Even if the statement is false, it is at least presented as if it is a fact. Negating the action does not alter the mood. Saying, "I do not eat spinach" leaves no more contingency in the matter than saying, "I eat spinach."

We will only study the indicative mood in this introductory course. But to help clarify what we mean by mood, or degrees of contingency, consider a mood where there is more contingency. The Subjunctive Mood is illustrated in the following sentences:

Might you eat some spinach?

Were I to eat spinach, I would get sick.

Should I get sick, I would not be able to go to work.

If you were unable to go to work, you would not be paid.

In English, we use the words "were," "should," "might," or "would" when we are speaking in the subjunctive mode. In each of the sentences above, only the possibility of eating spinach, or of being sick, or of being unable to go to work is being considered. The reality remains contingent. The case is contemplated with the action being hypothesized.

Greek grammarians had various names for the subjunctive mood, but one name was διστακτικὴ ἔγκλισις, "the mood expressive of doubt." In contrast, the indicative mood was called ὁριστικὴ ἔγκλισις, "the definitive mood."

 
  The Present Active Indicative  
 

Because the verb λύω ("I loose") is regular throughout its conjugation, it is often the first verb a student learns, and it is the verb used to illustrate the omega conjugation throughout its various tenses, voices and moods.

The stem is λυ, and the various endings added to this stem are personal endings, identifying the person and number of the verb. In the absence of a named subject, a pronoun is not necessary to indicate the subject. The person, whether 1st ("I"), 2nd ("You"), or 3rd ("He," "She," "It") is indicated by the ending.

We do this in English for 2nd person imperative verbs. We may say, "Go to the corner and turn left." The verb is "Go" but what is the subject? We say the subject is understood to be "You." "You go to the corner and turn left." In Romantic languages, the person is implied for all three persons. And so it is in Greek.

Below is the PRESENT ACTIVE INDICATIVE conjugation of λύω.

  singular     plural  
1st person λύω I loose   λύομεν we loose
2nd person λύεις you loose   λύετε you (plural) loose
3rd person λύει he, she, it looses   λύουσι they loose

The idea of using different verb forms for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person subjects and for plural and singular subjects should not seem strange to us. We do this in English, though not as consistently. Again, consider the verb "go". We say, "I go" but "he goes." The form of the verb changes to reflect a change in person. We say "he goes" but "they go." The form of the verb changes to reflect a change from singular to plural.

Memorize the endings by themselves:

  singular     plural  
1st person ω     ομεν  
2nd person εις     ετε  
3rd person ει     ουσι  

Say them aloud.

Then say them aloud rapidly, repeatedly.

You may prefer my 3 year old niece's rendition:

The Present Active Indicative forms of λύω might also be translated, "I am loosing," "you are loosing," "he is loosing," "we are loosing," "you (plural) are loosing," "they are loosing." In English, we may mean one thing if we say "He pitches" and something a bit different if we say "He is pitching." In the former case, we may mean he regularly plays the position of pitcher. In the latter case, we may mean, he is pitching at this very moment. In Greek, the present active indicative is used for both of these ideas. In both cases, the Aktionsart is linear, but in one case the action is habitual or iterative. When translating from Greek, you will need to let the nature of the verb and especially the context of its use determine the whether or not to use "-ing" in English.

 
  Future Active Indicative  
 

The Future Tense does not use the same stem as does the Present tense. In fact, there are 6 basic verb stem forms, or "principal parts" for each Greek verb. The Present tense uses the 1st principle part and the Future tense uses the 2nd principle part. However, for most of the verbs we will be learning in this course, the only difference between the Present stem and the Future stem is the letter σ (sigma). So for now, you can learn this simple rule: To form a Future tense verb, start with the Present tense stem, add σ, and then add the personal endings.

Below is the FUTURE ACTIVE INDICATIVE conjugation of λύω.

  singular     plural  
1st person λύσω I shall loose   λύσομεν we shall loose
2nd person λύσεις you will loose   λύσετε you (plural) will loose
3rd person λύσει he, she, it, will loose   λύσουσι they will loose

In the case of λύω, the addition of the σ is uncomplicated. But when the present stem ends with a consonant, in certain cases the consonant and the σ will combine to form a new letter.

 

The labials (formed with the lips) β, π, and φ combine with σ to form ψ

β, π, or φ + σ = ψ

The future of βλέπω (I see): The π in βλεπ- combines with σ to form βλεψ-. Then the personal ending is added to form βλέψω.

 

The palatals (formed with the palate) γ, κ, and χ combine with σ to form ξ

γ, κ, or χ + σ = ξ

The future of ἄγω (I lead): The γ in αγ- combines with σ to form αξ-. Then the personal ending is added to form ἄξω.

 

ζ and the dentals (formed with the teeth) δ, θ and τ simply drop out before the addition of the σ.

ζ, δ, θ, or τ + σ = σ

The future of σῴζω (I save): The ζ in σῳζ- drops out prior to the addition of σ to form σως-1. Then the personal ending is added to form σώσω.

1 is an "improper diphthong." The ι in such diphthongs, called a "iota subscript," was often dropped. In the case of σῴζω, the ι was not retained throughout the conjugation. "It is uncertain in the case of σῴζειν (from σω-ίζειν) to what extent the ι has been carried over from the present into the other tenses (formed on the stem σω-)." (Blass & DeBrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 15.)

 
  Movable ν  
 

In both the Present and Future active indicative, the third person plural form may have a ν added to the end of the word. For example, instead of λύουσι, you may see λύουσιν, and instead of λύσουσι, you may see λύσουσιν. There is no strict rule that explains when this occurs, although it tends to be that the ν is added prior to a word that begins with a vowel. Think of the movable ν as optional. But be familiar with it so that you are not stumped when you encounter it, and that will be often.

 
  Summary of Lesson 2  
 
  • TENSE indicates not only time of action, but more especially kind of action.
  • VOICE pertains to the relationship between subject and verb
  • MOOD can be thought of as the degree of contingency
  • In the Present Active Indicative, the kind of action is linear, the relationship of the subject to the verb is active, i.e. the subject is performing the action rather than being acted upon, and the degree of contingency is zero, i.e., reality rather than hypothetical activity is in view.
  • The Present Active Indicative is conjugated by adding personal endings to the stem.
  • For the most of the verbs we will learn in this course, the Future Active Indicative is formed by adding a σ to end of the present stem prior to adding the personal endings to the stem. Sometimes, this σ is combined with the previous letter to form a new letter, a consonantal blend.
  • In both the Present and Future Active Indicative, the third person plural form may have a ν added to the end of the word.
 
  Assignment 2  
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