principles of greek syntax

principle 1

The subject of every sentence will be in the nominative case.


principle 2

Personal pronouns are often left out since they are implied. When the first or second person pronoun does occur, it denotes emphasis.

In the former sentence, εγω is implied. In the latter, it is written out. Hence, the latter sentence means to emphasize that it is εγω who went to the house.


principle 3

The subject is often omitted in sentences; it being understood in the verb:

  • και ηρωτησαν αυτον και ειπαν αυτω
  • and he asked him and said to him...

principle 4

A finite verb agrees with its subject in number and person.


principle 5

A neuter plural nominative often takes a singular verb. cf. BBG 9.16.

  • παντα (pl) δι αυτου εγενετο (sg)
  • ταυτα (pl) εν βηθανια εγενετο (sg) περαν του Ιορδανου.

principle 6

A predicate nominative is always in the nominative case. Distinguish these from direct objects which are accusative.


principle 7

Adjectives, possessive pronouns, participles, and the article always agree with whatever they are modifying in gender, number, and case.


principle 8

An articular participle will always be either attributive or substantival.


principle 9

A predicate nominative must agree with the noun it modifies in gender, number, and case.

  • και αυτη εστιν η μαρτυρια (agrees with αυτη)
  • ουτος εστιν ο υιος (agrees with ουτος) του θεου

principle 10

A predicate nominative will usually be anarthrous. When it is articular, an essential identity with the subject is asserted.

  • και ο λογος σαρξ εγενετο
  • εγω ειμι ο Χριστος 

principle 11

An attributive adjective may follow or precede the noun it qualifies but in either case the adjective  must be articular.


principle 12

The last vowel of the stem of many verbs will lengthen when it comes into contact with the tense formative. cf. BBG 19.12. Alpha and epsilon both become eta; omicron becomes omega.


principle 13

Augments only occur in the indicative.


principle 14

When there is a compound subject, the verb often agrees with the nearest one. In this construction, the verb usually precedes the subjects or stands directly after the first of them.

  • Μὴ θησαυρίζετε ὑμῖν θησαυροὺς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ὅπου σὴς καὶ βρῶσις ἀφανίζει καὶ ὅπου κλέπται διορύσσουσιν καὶ κλέπτουσιν· (Matt 6:19)

σὴς and βρῶσις are both governing the one verb ἀφανίζει. Since ἀφανίζει is closer to βρῶσις, it is singular. In English, such a construction would require a plural verb.


principle 15

The article will often stand without a noun (an "orphan article"). In such cases, it takes on the nature of a pronoun and always implies some person or persons previously mentioned.

  • στραφεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ θεασάμενος αὐτοὺς ἀκολουθοῦντας λέγει αὐτοῖς· τί ζητεῖτε; οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ ῥαββί, ὃ λέγεται μεθερμηνευόμενον διδάσκαλε, ποῦ μένεις;. (John 1:38)

Notice there is no noun. This word then becomes "they" and its antecedent is John's two disciples (v. 37).


principle 16

A singular, anarthrous πας means "every".
Matt 7:24
πας οὖν ὅστις ἀκούει μου τοὺς λόγους καὶ ποιεῖ αὐτοὺς ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ φρονίμῳ ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν·


principle 17

The plural παντες is generally anarthrous when the noun it modifies is implied but not present.

παντα δι αυτου εγενετο και χωρις αυτου εγενετο ουδε εν ο γεγονεν. (John 1:3)

ουτος ηλθεν εις μαρτυριαν ινα μαρτυρηση περι του φωτος ινα παντες πιστευσωσιν δι αυτου. (John 1:7)


principle 18

The article is sometimes used for a possessive pronoun. (GGBB p. 215)

  • μετα τουτο κατεβη εις καφαρναουμ αυτος και η μητηρ αυτου και οι αδελφοι και οι μαθηται αυτου και εκει εμειναν ου πολλας ημερας. (John 2:12)

The highlighted article here should be translated "his".


principle 19

When αυτος is nominative and in predicate position, it functions as an intensive pronoun. cf. BBG 12.10.

αὐτὸς γὰρ Ἰησοῦς ἐμαρτύρησεν ὅτι προφήτης ἐν τῇ ἰδίᾳ πατρίδι τιμὴν οὐκ ἔχει. (John 4:44)

For Jesus Himself, testified...


principle 20

When αυτος is in one of the oblique cases, it is the 3rd person personal pronoun.

καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· τί οὖν βαπτίζεις εἰ σὺ οὐκ εἰ ὁ χριστὸς οὐδὲ Ἠλίας οὐδὲ ὁ προφήτης;. (John 1:25)


principle 21

A relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent in gender and number. Its case is determined by its function in the clause it begins. BBG 14.10.

  • εὑρίσκει Φίλιππος τὸν Ναθαναὴλ καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· ὃν ἔγραψεν Μωϋσῆς ἐν τῷ νόμῳ καὶ οἱ προφῆται εὑρήκαμεν, Ἰησοῦν υἱὸν τοῦ Ἰωσὴφ τὸν ἀπὸ Ναζαρέτ. (John 1:45)
  • οὗτος ἦλθεν πρὸς αὐτὸν νυκτὸς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ῥαββί, οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐλήλυθας διδάσκαλος· οὐδεὶς γὰρ δύναται ταῦτα τὰ σημεῖα ποιεῖν σὺ ποιεὶς, ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ ὁ θεὸς μετ' αὐτοῦ. (John 3:2)

principle 22

An imperative or subjunctive verb is always negatived by μη, not ου.


principle 23

The agent of an infinitive (when it is expressed) will be in the accusative case (GGBB p. 192).

  • Καὶ καθὼς Μωϋσῆς ὕψωσεν τὸν ὄφιν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ οὕτως ὑψωθῆναι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,(John 3:14)

Note: the boldfaced text is the agent of ὑψωθῆναι.


principle 24

Nouns modified by demonstrative pronouns are nearly always articular; the pronoun either preceding the article or following the noun.

John 3:2
...οὐδεὶς γὰρ δύναται ταῦτα τὰ σημεῖα ποιεῖν ἃ σὺ ποιεὶς, ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ ὁ θεὸς μετ' αὐτοῦ.

John 1:39
λέγει αὐτοῖς· ἔρχεσθε καὶ ὄψεσθε. ἦλθαν οὖν καὶ εἶδαν ποῦ μένει καὶ παρ' αὐτῷ ἔμειναν τὴν ἡμέραν ἐκείνην

John 3:29
... αὕτη οὖν ἡ χαρὰ ἡ ἐμὴ πεπλήρωται.


principle 25

A PN is regularly anarthrous when it is separated from its demonstrative pronoun. cf.principle 24.


principle 26

  • A question introduced by μη expects a negative answer.
  • A question introduced by ου expects an affirmative answer. cf. BBG 31.19

John 3:4

  • λέγει πρὸς αὐτὸν ὁ Νικόδημος· πῶς δύναται ἄνθρωπος γεννηθῆναι γέρων ὤν; μὴ δύναται εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ δεύτερον εἰσελθεῖν καὶ γεννηθῆναι;

Mark 4:38

  • καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἐν τῇ πρύμνῃ ἐπὶ τὸ προσκεφάλαιον καθεύδων. καὶ ἐγείρουσιν αὐτὸν καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ· διδάσκαλε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἀπολλύμεθα;
principle 27

The conjunction ινα is usually followed by the subjunctive.

  • οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι' αὐτοῦ. (John 1:7)

principle 28

The Greek often uses the article with abstract nouns in which case it is left untranslated.

  • ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. (John 1:17)

principle 29

principle 30

An adjective is often used substantivally. This occurs when there is no noun for it to modify; cf. GGBB p. 294.
Gal. 3:11
ὅτι δὲ ἐν νόμῳ οὐδεὶς δικαιοῦται παρὰ τῷ θεῷ δῆλον, ὅτι ὁ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται·
John 4:46
ηλθεν ουν παλιν εις την κανα της γαλιλαιας οπου εποιησεν το υδωρ οινον και ην τις βασιλικος ου ο υιος ησθενει εν καφαρναουμ

principle 31

principle 32

The comparative degree usually takes the object of comparison in the genitive, or it may be followed by the comparative particle η. The things compared are generally in the same case.

  • ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ὅτι εἶπον σοι ὅτι εἶδον σε ὑποκάτω τῆς συκῆς, πιστεύεις; μείζω τούτων ὄψῃ. (John 1:50)
  • Ὡς οὖν ἔγνω ὁ κύριος ὅτι ἤκουσαν οἱ Φαρισαῖοι ὅτι Ἰησοῦς πλείονας μαθητὰς ποιεὶ καὶ βαπτίζει Ἰωάννης. (John 4:1) 
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