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16 Prepositions and Prefixes

2007.01.0827

The plinth for a bust, now missing, inscribed as a dedication by Kittos. 4th c. B.C. Athenian Agora Excavations.


Greek Prepositions

Prepositions in Greek for the most part work as they do in English (S 1636 ff.). The principal difference is that the object of a Greek preposition must be inflected in either the genitive, dative, or accusative case. The preposition together with its object is called a PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE.

The original or core meaning of Greek prepositions often indicates DIRECTION. This chart shows the directions that each case generally indicates:

Prepositions image 1

Three prepositions illustrate this dynamic. Note that these three have no accent.

εἰς + acc. “into”

εἰς τὸ στόμα “into the mouth”

(εἰς is sometimes shortened to ἐς ἐς τὸ στόμα)

ἐν + dat. “in”

ἐν τῷ στόματι “in the mouth”

ἐκ + gen. “from, out of”

ἐκ τοῦ στόματος “out of the mouth”

(ἐκ becomes ἐξ before a vowel: ἐξ αἵματος)

 

Accents, Elision, and Aspiration

Prepositions – with the exception of εἰς, ἐν, and ἐκ – normally have an ACUTE accent. If the preposition has two syllables, the acute falls on the ULTIMA.

ELISION is common with prepositions; they frequently drop their final vowel before a word beginning with a vowel. In such cases, the preposition has NO ACCENT. There are two important exceptions: περί and πρό. Neither allows for elision.

After a preposition drops its final vowel, if it then ends in a STOP CONSONANT, that consonant becomes ASPIRATED if the following word begins with an aspirated – i.e., marked with a rough breathing – vowel or diphthong.

ἀπὸ τῆς ἐλπίδος “from the hope”

ἀπ’ ἐλπίδος “from hope”

ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος “from the blood”

ἀφ’ αἵματος “from blood”

 

Prepositions + Accusative Case

ἀμφί around, about

ἀνά up, through

διά because of, through

εἰς/ἐς into

ἐπί against

κατά down, along, according to

μετά after, behind

παρά to, throughout, beside

περί near, around

πρός toward

ὑπέρ above, over, beyond

ὑπό under

 

Prepositions + Dative Case

ἀμφί around, near

ἀνά upon

ἐν in

ἐπί on, for the purpose of, because of

παρά with, near

περί about

πρός by, in addition to

σύν with (the help of)

ὑπό under

 

Prepositions + Genitive Case

ἀμφί around, for the sake of

ἀντί opposite, instead of, for the sake of

ἀπό from

διά through

ἐκ from

ἐπί on, at

κατά  down, against

μετά with

παρά from

περί about

πρό before, in front of

πρός toward, (swear) by

ὑπέρ over, on behalf of

ὑπό under, by

 

The Man and the Lion

Note the following story of a man and a lion (ὁ λέων, λέοντος), which illustrates well some of the most common prepositions and their cases.

Prepositions Image 3
Prepositions Image 4

From: https://classics.uncg.edu/course-resources/greek/an-adventure-with-a-lion/

 


Prepositions as Prefixes

Prepositions often double as prefixes for verbs. The core meanings of the most common prefixes are as follows.

ἀμφί around

ἀνά up

ἀντί back

ἀπό from

διά through

εἰς into

ἐκ out of

ἐν in

ἐπί on

κατά down

μετά with

παρά beside, to

περί around

πρό before

πρός toward

σύν with

ὑπέρ above

ὑπό under

 

Prefixes, Elision, and Aspiration

When prefixes are attached to verbs, any final vowel drops out – or ELIDES – if the tense stem to which it is added begins with a vowel. As with prepositions, the prefixes περί and πρό are an exception to this rule, and do not elide. If a prefix drops its final vowel, the remaining consonant becomes ASPIRATED if the tense stem begins with an aspirated vowel or diphthong.

We have already encountered in earlier lessons some verbs that have prefixes. Note the changes that occur to the prefixes in some of these examples.

ἀνίστημι (ἀνα + ἵστημι) raise, appoint

ἀποδίδωμι (ἀπο + δίδωμι) give back

ἀφίημι (ἀπο + ἵημι) let go, allow, forgive

ἐπιτίθημι (ἐπι + τίθημι) put on

καθίστημι (κατα + ἵστημι) set down, establish

παραδίδωμι (παρα + δίδωμι) hand over, deliver

πάρειμι (παρα + εἰμί) be present

παρίστημι (παρα + ἵστημι) present

προστίθημι (προς + τίθημι) add to

 

ἐν, ἐγ-, ἐμ- in
σύν, συγ-, συμ-, συλ- with

When the prepositions ἐν and σύν are used as prefixes, they retain these forms when the verb begins with a vowel. When the verb begins with a consonant, they ASSIMILATE with this consonant.

  • They retain their form (ἐν and συν) before a dental (τ, δ, θ)
  • They become ἐμ and συμ before a labial (π, β, φ, ψ)
  • They become ἐγ and συγ before a palatal (κ, γ, χ, ξ)
  • συν becomes συλ before λ.

For example:

ἐν + βάλλω = ἐμβάλλω

σύν + λαμβάνω = συλλαμβάνω.

ἐν + ἐργέω = ἐνεργέω

 

– τὸ τέλος –

 


Key Terms and Concepts

  • PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE
  • THE “DIRECTION” OF CASES
  • GENERAL RULES FOR ACCENTS OF PREPOSITIONS
  • ELISIONS AND PREPOSITIONS
  • ASPIRATION OF PREPOSITIONS
  • ELISION OF PREFIXES
  • ASPIRATION OF PREFIXES
  • CONSONANT ASSIMULATION OF ἐν AND συν

 

Vocabulary

Prepositions + Accusative Case

ἀμφί around, about

ἀνά up, through

διά because of, through

εἰς/ἐς into

ἐπί against

κατά down, along, according to

μετά after, behind

παρά to, throughout, against

περί near, around

πρός toward

ὑπέρ above, over, beyond

ὑπό under

Prepositions + Dative Case

ἀμφί around, near

ἀνά upon

ἐν in

ἐπί on, for the purpose of, because of

παρά with, near

περί about

πρός by, in addition to

σύν with (the help of)

ὑπό under

Prepositions + Genitive Case

ἀμφί around, for the sake of

ἀντί opposite, instead of, for the sake of

ἀπό from

διά through

ἐκ from

ἐπί on, at

κατά  down, against

μετά with

παρά from

περί about

πρό before, in front of

πρός toward, (swear) by

ὑπέρ over, on behalf of

ὑπό under, by

Exercises

Ι. Some Greek prepositions can only take one case, some two, others three. Rewrite the Greek preposition vocabulary, this time organized by the number of possible cases each can take. Besides each preposition, list its English definition and the case. In other words, your new list should look as follows.

Prepositions that take only one case: ἀντί, instead of, for the sake of (genitive), etc.

Prepositions that take only two cases: διά, because of, through (accusative), through (genitive), etc.

Prepositions that take three cases: ἐπί, against (accusative), on, for the purpose of, because of (dative), on, at (genitive), etc.

ΙΙ. This lesson provides a review of the most common Greek prefixes derived from prepositions. For each, using a dictionary or your own good knowledge of English vocabulary, try to come up one English derivative that uses the same Greek prefix, e.g.: ἀμφί: amphitheater. Note: there is one prefix that does NOT have a common English derivative. Which is it?

III. Practice filling out a blank “Man and the Lion” preposition sheet. A completed one is available here: lion preposition worksheet. A blank one is available here: lion preposition practice.

 

 

License

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Prepositions and Prefixes by Wilfred E. Major and Michael Laughy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.