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48 Adjectives: Part I

2014.04.0410

A dedicatory plaque from the cave of Apollo on the north slope of the Acropolis. Athenian Agora Excavations.


 

Adjectives

You have already learned Greek nouns and pronouns. This lesson introduces a closely-related category of words: the ADJECTIVE.

Adjectives describe or further define nouns (and pronouns). An adjective must agree with its noun in GENDER, NUMBER, and CASE. Like definite articles and pronouns, therefore, adjectives must have forms to represent each possible combination of gender, number and case.

Greek adjectives are formed using the SAME THREE DECLENSIONS – and the SAME PERSISTENT ACCENT RULES – that are used by Greek nouns. Furthermore, just as each noun belongs to a particular declension, each adjective belongs to a specific declension family or grouping. There are four main declension families:

  • Three-Ending 1st and 2nd Declension Adjectives (2-1-2)
  • Two-Ending 2nd Declension Adjectives (2-2)
  • Two-Ending 3rd Declension Adjectives (3-3)
  • Three-Ending 1st and 3rd Declension Adjectives (3-1-3)

In order to make clear the declension family to which a given adjective belongs, each is listed with all of its NOMINATIVE SINGULAR forms in a vocabulary entry or lexicon. For example:

  • Nominative singular forms in –ος, –η (-), –ον
    • Three-Ending 1st and 2nd Declension Adjective (2-1-2)
  • Nominative singular forms in –ος, –ον
    • Two-Ending 2nd Declension Adjective (2-2)
  • Nominative singular forms in –ς,
    • Two-Ending 3rd Declension Adjective (3-3)
  • Nominative singular forms in –ς, –α,
    • Three-Ending 1st and 3rd Declension Adjectives (3-1-3)

In this lesson, we review the most common type of adjective: Three-Ending 1st and 2nd Declension (2-1-2)

 

Three-Ending Adjectives: 1st and 2nd Declension (2-1-2)

The vast majority of adjectives use regular MASCULINE and NEUTER 2nd DECLENSION endings when modifying nouns of these genders, and 1st DECLENSION endings when modifying FEMININE nouns. This pattern is similar to that used by the pronouns such as αὐτός αὐτή αὐτό and ἐκεῖνος ἐκείνη ἐκεῖνο, though with –ον in the nominative/accusative singular of the neuter.

ἀγαθός, -ή, -όν good, brave, noble (S 287; GPH p. 21)

Singular:

M  F  N
Nominative ἀγαθός ἀγαθή ἀγαθόν
Genitive ἀγαθοῦ ἀγαθῆς ἀγαθοῦ
Dative ἀγαθῷ ἀγαθῇ ἀγαθῷ
Accusative ἀγαθόν ἀγαθήν ἀγαθόν

Plural:

M  F  N
Nominative ἀγαθοί ἀγαθαί ἀγαθά
Genitive ἀγαθῶν ἀγαθῶν ἀγαθῶν
Dative ἀγαθοῖς ἀγαθαῖς ἀγαθοῖς
Accusative ἀγαθούς ἀγαθάς ἀγαθά

 

Stems in –ε, –ι or –ρ

If the stem of the adjective ends in –ε, –ι or –ρ, the singular forms of the 1st DECLENSION change the –η– to –-. Note that this change matches that of 1st DECLENSION NOUNS.

δίκαιος, -α , -ον just (S 287; GPH p. 22)

Singular:

M  F  N
Nominative δίκαιος δικαία δίκαιον
Genitive δικαίου δικαίας δικαίου
Dative δικαίῳ δικαίᾳ δικαίῳ
Accusative δίκαιον δικαίαν δίκαιον

Plural:

M  F  N
Nominative δίκαιοι δίκαιαι δίκαια
Genitive δικαίων δικαίων δικαίων
Dative δικαίοις δικαίαις δικαίοις
Accusative δικαίους δικαίας δίκαια

 

Big and Many

Two common adjectives of the 2-1-2 type show additional small changes:

  • μέγας, μεγάλη, μέγα big
  • πολύς, πολλή, πολύ much, many

μέγας, μεγάλη, μέγα (stem: μεγαλ-) big (S 311; GPH p. 34)

Singular:

M  F  N
Nominative μέγας μεγάλη μέγα
Genitive μεγάλου μεγάλης μεγάλου
Dative μεγάλῳ μεγάλῃ μεγάλῳ
Accusative μέγαν μεγάλην μέγα

Plural:

M  F  N
Nominative μεγάλοι μεγάλαι μεγάλα
Genitive μεγάλων μεγάλων μεγάλων
Dative μεγάλοις μεγάλαις μεγάλοις
Accusative μεγάλους μεγάλας μεγάλα

Note that except for the singular forms μέγαςμέγαν, and μέγα, the adjective declines as a regular 2-1-2 adjective.

 

πολύς, πολλή, πολύ (stem: πολλ-) much, many (S 311; GPH p. 33)

Singular:

M  F  N
Nominative πολύς πολλή πολύ
Genitive πολλοῦ πολλῆς πολλοῦ
Dative πολλῷ πολλῇ πολλῷ
Accusative πολύν πολλήν πολύ

Plural:

M  F  N
Nominative πολλοί πολλαί πολλά
Genitive πολλῶν πολλῶν πολλῶν
Dative πολλοῖς πολλαῖς πολλοῖς
Accusative πολλούς πολλάς πολλά

Note that except for the singular forms πολύς, πολύν, and πολύ, the adjective declines as a regular 2-1-2 adjective.

 

Contract Adjectives

A handful of adjectives that end in –εος, –εα, –εον contract in Attic Greek, producing the endings –ους, –η, –ουν (S 290). There is one example from our vocabulary list:

χαλκοῦς -ῆ -οῦν (stem: χαλκέ-) bronze

Singular:

M  F  N
Nominative χαλκοῦς χαλκῆ χαλκοῦν
Genitive χαλκοῦ χαλκῆς χαλκοῦ
Dative χαλκῷ χαλκῇ χαλκῷ
Accusative χαλκοῦν χαλκῆν χαλκοῦν

Plural:

M  F  N
Nominative χαλκοῖ χαλκαῖ χαλκᾶ
Genitive χαλκῶν χαλκῶν χαλκῶν
Dative χαλκοῖς χαλκαῖς χαλκοῖς
Accusative χαλκοῦς χαλκᾶς χαλκᾶ

 


Usage

Depending on its placement, a Greek adjective has three possible functions.

1. Attributive Position

Greek adjectives describe nouns when they are in the attributive position:

  • ὁ κακὸς βασιλεύς = the bad king
  • ὁ βασιλεὺς ὁ κακός = the bad king
  • βασιλεὺς ὁ κακός = the bad king
  • κακὸς βασιλεύς = a bad king

Note that while the adjective modifies its noun in gender, number, and case, it does not necessarily modify the noun in declension! βασιλεύς is 3rd Declension, but κακός is 2nd Declension.

 

2. Predicate Position

Outside the attributive position, Greek adjectives function as predicates to the noun:

  • ὁ βασιλεύς κακός = The king (is) bad.
  • αἱ θλίψεις ποιοῦσι τὸν βασιλέα κακόν = Troubles make the king bad.

 

3. Stand Alone (Substantive)

Greek routinely uses adjectives substantively:

  • ὁ κακός = the bad man, the bad person
  • κακός = a bad man, a bad person
  • οἱ κακοί = the bad men, the bad people

If the definite article is neuter singular – or occasionally neuter plural – the substantive can serve as an abstract noun:

  • τὸ κακόν = the bad thing; evil
  • τὸ ἄδικον = the unjust thing; injustice
  • τὸ καλόν = the beautiful; beauty

 

– τὸ τέλος –


Key Terms and Concepts

  • THE FOUR ADJECTIVE DECLENSION FAMILIES
  • ADJECTIVES WITH STEMS IN –ε, –ι OR –ρ
  • CONTRACT ADJECTIVES
  • ADJECTIVES IN ATTRIBUTIVE POSITION
  • ADJECTIVES IN PREDICATE POSITION
  • ADJECTIVES AS SUBSTANTIVES
  • ADJECTIVES AS ABSTRACT NOUNS

Vocabulary

 

1st and 2nd Declension (2-1-2)

  • ἀγαθός -ή -όν good, brave, noble
  • αἰσχρός -ά -όν ugly, disgraceful
  • αἴτιος -α -ον responsible, guilty
  • ἄλλος -η -ον other
  • ἀμφότερος -α -ον both
  • ἄξιος -α -ον worthy
  • ἄριστος -η -ον best
  • δεινός -ή -όν awesome, terrible
  • δῆλος -η -ον clear, visible
  • δίκαιος -α -ον just
  • δυνατός -ή -όν able
  • ἕκαστος -η -ον each
  • ἑκάτερος -α -ον each of two
  • ἐλεύθερος -α -ον free
  • ἐμός -ή -όν my, mine
  • ἐναντίος -α -ον opposite
  • ἕτερος -α -ον other
  • ἐχθρός -ά -όν hated, hostile
  • ἡμέτερος -α -ον our
  • θεῖος -α -ον divine
  • ἴδιος -α -ον one’s own, private
  • ἱερός -ά -όν holy, sacred
  • ἱκανός -ή -όν sufficient
  • ἴσος -η -ον equal to (+ dat.)
  • ἰσχυρός -ά -όν strong
  • κακός -ή -όν bad, cowardly
  • καλός -ή -όν beautiful, noble
  • κοινός -ή -όν common
  • λαμπρός -ά -όν bright, brilliant, famous
  • λοιπός -ή -όν remaining
  • μακρός -ά -όν long, tall, large
  • μέγας, μεγάλη, μέγα big
  • μέσος -η -ον middle
  • μικρός -ά -όν small, little, short
  • μόνος -η -ον alone, single
  • μυρίος -α -ον countless thousands
  • νέος -α -ον young, new
  • οἰκεῖος -α -ον domestic, one’s own
  • ὀλίγος -η -ον few, little, small
  • ὅλος -η -ον whole, complete
  • ὅμοιος -α -ον like, resembling
  • ὀρθός -ή -όν straight, true, regular
  • παλαιός -ά -όν old
  • πλεῖστος -η -ον most, largest
  • ποῖος -α -ον what sort of?
  • πολέμιος -α -ον hostile
  • πολύς, πολλή, πολύ much, many
  • πονηρός -ά -όν worthless, bad; painful
  • πότερος -α -ον which of the two?
  • πρότερος -α -ον before, earlier
  • ῥᾴδιος -α -ον easy
  • σός -ή -όν your, yours (sing.)
  • σοφός -ή -όν wise
  • ὑμέτερος -α -ον your, yours (pl.)
  • ὕστερος -α -ον following, next, later
  • φανερός -ά -όν clear, evident
  • φίλος -η -ον beloved, dear
  • χαλεπός -ή -όν difficult
  • χαλκοῦς -ῆ -οῦν bronze
  • χρήσιμος -η -ον useful

Exercises

Ι. Memorize the vocabulary.

ΙΙ. Decline in full the following adjectives. Watch the accents!

  1. θεῖος -α -ον
  2. ἴδιος -α -ον
  3. ὅλος -η -ον
  4. αἰσχρός -ά -όν
  5. ἄλλος -η -ον

IΙΙ. Decline each noun/adjective pair in full. Remember that an adjective must agree with its noun in GENDER, NUMBER, and CASE.

  1. Much time
  2. Big contest
  3. Clear night
  4. Bronze weapon
  5. Wise advice

IV. Render each of these abstractions into Greek using a definite article and an adjective.

  1. Goodness
  2. Hostility
  3. Difficulty
  4. Public affairs
  5. The rest

 

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Adjectives: Part I by Wilfred E. Major and Michael Laughy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.