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9 The Greek Noun: Feminine and Neuter

2008.16.0653

Altar to Artemis; ca. 100 A.D. Athenian Agora Excavations.


Feminine Nouns and the Definite Article

I. Feminine Nouns

In our last lesson, we learned endings for nouns that were masculine. Now we add nouns that are FEMININE. For the THIRD DECLENSION, feminine nouns use the same case endings as masculine nouns:

Singular Plural
Nominative ς ες
Genitive ος ων
Dative ι σι
Accusative α ας

 

II. The Trouble with Sigma

As noted in our discussion of masculine nouns, two of the case endings involve adding a sigma to the stem: nominative singular = –ς, dative plural = –σι. Let us take a look at the sound changes that occur when these sigmas are added to the stems for two feminine nouns:

ἐλπιδ hope
νυκτ night

Note that the first stem, ἐλπιδ, ends in a dental (-τ/-δ/-θ). As we know, when a sigma follows a dental, the dental disappears and the sigma remains: e.g., δ + σ = σ. The second stem, νυκτ, ends in –κτ, a stem ending that the Greeks treated as essentially the same as a palatal (-κ/-γ/-χ). Recall that when a sigma follows a palatal, the result is the double consonant ξ: e.g., κ + σ = ξ (S 241).

With these sound changes in mind, note how ἐλπιδ and νυκτ decline:

ἡ ἐλπίς, ἐλπίδος hope (S 257)

Singular Plural
Nominative (ἐλπιδς →) ἐλπίς ἐλπίδες
Genitive ἐλπίδος ἐλπίδων
Dative ἐλπίδι (ἐλπιδσι →) ἐλπίσι
Accusative ἐλπίδα ἐλπίδας

ἡ νύξ, νυκτός night

Singular Plural
Nominative (νυκτς → νυκς →) νύξ νύκτες
Genitive νυκτός νυκτῶν
Dative νυκτί (νυκτσι → νυκσι →) νυξί
Accusative νύκτα νύκτας

 

III. The Definite Article

Note that the vocabulary entry for our two nouns begins with . This is the DEFINITE ARTICLE for all FEMININE NOUNS (S 332; GPH p. 41). Recall that the definite article in Greek must match its noun in gender, number, and case. As with the masculine forms of the definite article, the feminine needs eight forms to cover the two numbers (singular and plural) and four cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative):

Singular Plural
Nominative αἱ
Genitive τῆς τῶν
Dative τῇ ταῖς
Accusative τήν τάς

Most nouns have only one grammatical gender, such as:

ἡ ἐλπίς, ἐλπίδος hope

A handful of nouns referring to people or gods, however, can be either MASCULINE or FEMININE, depending on the gender of the person/divinity. In such instances, the vocabulary entry includes both the masculine and feminine article.

, παῖς, παιδός (male or female) child

, ἡ δαίμων, δαίμονος (male or female) divinity

 

IV. Some Examples

Remember that when a definite article accompanies a noun, both must parse the same. In other words, they must be the same in gender, number, and case. Note the following examples:

ἡ ἐλπίςἐλπίδος hope

Singular Plural
Nominative ἡ ἐλπίς αἱ ἐλπίδες
Genitive τῆς ἐλπίδος τῶν ἐλπίδων
Dative τῇ ἐλπίδι ταῖς ἐλπίσι
Accusative τὴν ἐλπίδα τὰς ἐλπίδας

ἡ νύξ, νυκτός night

Singular Plural
Nominative ἡ νύξ αἱ νύκτες
Genitive τῆς νυκτός τῶν νυκτῶν
Dative τῇ νυκτί ταῖς νυξί
Accusative τὴν νύκτα τὰς νύκτας

ἡ παῖς, παιδός girl

Singular Plural
Nominative ἡ παῖς αἱ παῖδες
Genitive τῆς παιδός τῶν παίδων
Dative τῇ παιδί ταῖς παισί
Accusative τὴν παῖδα τὰς παῖδας

ἡ δαίμων, δαίμονος goddess

Singular Plural
Nominative ἡ δαίμων αἱ δαίμονες
Genitive τῆς δαίμονος τῶν δαιμόνων
Dative τῇ δαίμονι ταῖς δαίμοσι
Accusative τὴν δαίμονα τὰς δαίμονας

Neuter Nouns and the Definite Article

I. Neuter Nouns

All the nouns we have so far discussed have been either masculine or feminine in gender and have used the same endings to indicate number and case. The third and final grammatical gender, NEUTER, has similar endings, though with a few changes.

Neuter nouns of the THIRD DECLENSION add the following case endings to their stem to indicate number and case. Note that there is no ending (!) added in the NOMINATIVE and ACCUSATIVE SINGULAR.

Singular Plural
Nominative α
Genitive ος ων
Dative ι σι
Accusative α

 

II. Sounds That End a Greek Word

One of the most common stem endings for NEUTER nouns of the THIRD DECLENSION is –ματ. For example:

σωματ body

ὀνοματ name

Since τ is a dental, the addition of a sigma to the stem (dat. plu. –σι) results in a sigmaτ + σ = σ. Interestingly, it is also a general rule that, unlike English, only a limited number of SOUNDS may END A WORD OF GREEK ORIGIN: a vowel sound, or the consonants –ρ/-ν/-ς (ξ, ψ). If a Greek word ended in any other consonant, that consonant would be dropped (S 133). (The only exceptions to this rule are ἐκ and οὐκ!)

Since the neuter adds no ending to the nominative and accusative singular, stems ending in –ματ drop the final –τ, in order to avoid having a word end in this letter (S 258).

As a result, our two nouns decline as follows (S 258; GPH p. 10):

τὸ σῶμα, σώματος body

Singular Plural
Nominative (σωματ →) σῶμα σώματα
Genitive σώματος σωμάτων
Dative σώματι (σώματσι →) σώμασι
Accusative (σωματ →) σῶμα σώματα

τὸ ὄνομαὀνόματος name

Singular Plural
Nominative (ὀνοματ →) ὄνομα ὀνόματα
Genitive ὀνόματος ὀνομάτων
Dative ὀνόματι (ὀνοματσι →) ὀνόμασι
Accusative (ὀνοματ →) ὄνομα ὀνόματα

 

III. The Definite Article

Note that the vocabulary entry for our two nouns begins with τό. This is the DEFINITE ARTICLE for all NEUTER NOUNS (S 332; GPH p. 41). Recall that the definite article in Greek must match its noun in gender, number, and case. As with the masculine and feminine forms of the definite article, the neuter needs eight forms to cover the two numbers (singular and plural) and four cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative):

Singular Plural
Nominative τό τά
Genitive τοῦ τῶν
Dative τῷ τοῖς
Accusative τό τά

Remember that when a definite article accompanies a noun, both must parse the same. In other words, they must be the same in gender, number, and case. Note the following examples:

τὸ σῶμα, σώματος body

Singular Plural
Nominative τὸ σῶμα τὰ σώματα
Genitive τοῦ σώματος τῶν σωμάτων
Dative τῷ σώματι τοῖς σώμασι
Accusative τὸ σῶμα τὰ σώματα

τὸ ὄνομα, ὀνόματος name

Singular Plural
Nominative τὸ ὄνομα τὰ ὀνόματα
Genitive τοῦ ὀνόματος τῶν ὀνομάτων
Dative τῷ ὀνόματι τοῖς ὀνόμασι
Accusative τὸ ὄνομα τὰ ὀνόματα

 

IV. The Neuter Laws

Three rules apply to ALL NEUTER nouns in Greek, regardless of declension.

1. The NOMINATIVE and ACCUSATIVE SINGULAR must be IDENTICAL. This pattern applies to both the neuter noun and its definite article.

2. The NOMINATIVE and ACCUSATIVE PLURAL also must be IDENTICAL, and end in a short –α. This pattern applies to both the neuter noun and its definite article.

3. Whenever any NEUTER noun is the subject of a verb, the verb is regularly 3rd PERSON SINGULAR, even if the neuter subject is plural! The reason seems to be that neuter plurals were originally conceived to be collective nouns (S 958), much as the words army and team are collective nouns in English.

τὸ φῶς δείκνυσι…. The light shows…

τὰ φῶτα δείκνυσι….The lights show…

– τὸ τέλος –


 

Key Terms and Concepts

  • FEMININE THIRD DECLENSION ENDINGS
  • FEMININE DEFINITE ARTICLE
  • NEUTER THIRD DECLENSION ENDINGS
  • SOUNDS THAT END A GREEK WORD
  • NEUTER DEFINITE ARTICLE
  • THE THREE NEUTER LAWS

 

Vocabulary

  • ὁ, ἡ δαίμων -ονος divinity
  • ὁ, ἡ παῖς, παιδός child
  • ἡ ἐλπίς -δος hope
  • ἡ μυριάς -άδος ten thousand; “countless numbers”
  • ἡ νύξ, νυκτός night
  • ἡ πατρίς -ίδος fatherland
  • τὸ αἷμα -ατος blood
  • τὸ γράμμα -ατος letter
  • τὸ θέλημα -ατος will, wish, desire
  • τὸ ὄνομα -ατος name
  • τὸ οὖς, ὠτός ear
  • τὸ πνεῦμα -ατος wind, breath, spirit
  • τὸ πρᾶγμα -ατος thing; (pl.) circumstances, affairs, business
  • τὸ ῥῆμα -ατος word, saying
  • τὸ σπέρμα -ατος seed, offspring
  • τὸ στόμα -ατος mouth
  • τὸ σχῆμα -ατος form, appearance
  • τὸ σῶμα -ατος body
  • τὸ ὕδωρ, ὕδατος water
  • τὰ ὑπάρχοντα -όντων circumstances, property (only occurs in the plural!)
  • τὸ φῶς, φωτός light
  • τὸ χρῆμα -ατος thing, (pl.) money

NOTE: Three entries on this list have irregular nom./acc. singular forms:

  • τὸ οὖς, ὠτός ear (stem ὠτ-); cf. medical terms with oto-. This monosyllabic noun is accented like ὁ, ἡ παῖς, παιδός, i.e., the genitive plural is ὤτων.
  • τὸ ὕδωρ, ὕδατος water (stem ὑδατ-); cf. “hydr-” words in English (dehydrate, hydrogen).
  • τὸ φῶς, φωτός light (stem φωτ-); cf. “phosphorescent” and “photo” in English. This monosyllabic noun is accented like ὁ, ἡ παῖς, παιδός, i.e., the genitive plural is φώτων.

Exercises

Ι. Memorize the feminine and neuter definitive articles and the lesson vocabulary, and practice declining each. Memorize also the lesson vocabulary, and practice declining ἡ μυριάς -άδος; ἡ νύξ, νυκτός; τὸ φῶς, φωτός; τὸ χρῆμα -ατος.

ΙΙ. Give the case(s) and number(s) for each inflected form, and provide the vocabulary entry (definite article, nominative singular, genitive singular). Review the persistent accent rules for nouns. Based upon these rules, and the vocabulary entry for each, place the appropriate accent mark on each form.

  1. στoματα
  2. πραγματι
  3. νυκτων
  4. σχημασι
  5. πατριδος
  6. μυριαδας
  7. χρηματα
  8. ἐλπιδα
  9. ὑδωρ
  10. αἱματων

III. For the following sentences, provide the correct masculine, feminine, or neuter definite article to accompany each noun (i.e, match each noun in gender, number, and case). Translate the sentence.

  1. καὶ ________ ἐλπίδα καὶ ________ αἷμα ________ πατρίδι δίδωσι.
  2. ________ ὄνομα ________ ἄρχοντος ἐστὶν ________  Ἀχιλλεύς.
  3. ________ δαίμων ἐστὶν ________ σπέρμα ________ νυκτός.
  4. ________ χρήματα ________ ἄρχουσιν οὐκ ἀποδίδωσι.
  5. ________ ἀγῶνας ________ ποδῶν καθιστᾶσιν.
  6. ________ ὕδωρ οὐ πάρεστιν.
  7. _______ παῖδες ______ δαιμόνων δεικνύασι ______ ῥήματα  _______ ἄρχουσιν.

IV. For the following sentences, provide the correct masculine definite article for each noun. For each verb, give the person and number. For each noun, give the case and number. Translate the sentence into Greek.

  1. The rulers are not giving hope and money to the offspring.
  2. The god of light is giving back breath to the bodies.
  3. The goddess does not allow night to be present.
  4. There is money for the fatherland.
  5. He is mixing the water and blood.

Readings

Classical and Biblical sentences: AGE Readings 2.

 

License

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The Greek Noun: Feminine and Neuter by Wilfred E. Major and Michael Laughy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.