Watch Out for These Common Mistakes Made While Speaking Greek

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Are you learning Greek? Is English your native language? If so, there are some common mistakes you might be tempted to make while speaking Greek because the concepts are either a little different in English or they don’t really exist. It is important to keep these mistakes in mind as you learn so that you can prevent yourself from making them in the first place.

Mixing Up the Gender of Greek Nouns

English doesn’t separate nouns into genders, so when trying to speak in Greek, it’s easy to get confused. Greek nouns have three genders:

  • Masculine – ο σκύλος – o skilos – the dog
  • Feminine – η μητέρα – i mitera – the mother
  • Neuter – το κορίτσι – to koritsi – the girl

As you can see, there really isn’t any gender-related pattern concerning which nouns are masculine, feminine, and neuter, which means that this can be a challenge to get right. Each gender has its own articles. When learning vocabulary lists, be sure to study the articles with the word itself. You will be less likely to get this wrong if you do.

Not Understanding the Alphabet

Another issue for English speakers when learning Greek is failing to pronounce the Greek letters properly. Greek has its own alphabet, and it could take some time getting used to it. We covered the ins and outs of the alphabet in a previous article. For your reference, here are the letters:

  • Α α, άλφα, alpha
  • Β β, βήτα, veta
  • Γ γ, γάμα, gamma
  • Δ δ, δέλτα, delta
  • Ε ε, έψιλον, epselon
  • Ζ ζ, ζήτα, zeta
  • Η η, ήτα, eeta
  • Θ θ, θήτα, theta
  • Ι ι, γιώτα, yota
  • Κ κ, κάπα, kappa
  • Λ λ, λάμδα, lamtha
  • Μ μ, μι, mee
  • Ν ν, νι, nee
  • Ξ ξ,, ξι, xee
  • Ο ο, όμικρον, omekron
  • Π π, πι, pe
  • Ρ ρ, ρο, ro
  • Σ σ, σίγμα, segma
  • Τ τ, ταυ, taf or tau
  • Υ υ, ύψιλον, eepsilon
  • Φ φ, φι, fee
  • Χ χ, χι, hee
  • Ψ ψ, ψι, psee
  • Ω ω, ωμέγα, omega

Getting the Verb Tenses Wrong

In the Greek language, verb tenses can be a challenge. When we first learn about verbs, we tend to stick to the present tense. However, this can only get you so far. When learning about verbs, it is also important to study the other tenses. It will also make your speaking sound a lot more sophisticated.

Here is a look at some of the verb tenses you might encounter in Greek:

  • Present – expresses an ongoing action
  • Imperfect – describes an ongoing action in the past
  • Future – expresses an action occurring in the future
  • Aorist – also called the past simple, this tense expresses a past, simple action
  • Perfect – this tense describes an action that occurred in the present and was successfully completed in the present
  • Pluperfect – this verb describes an action that occurred, and was completed, in the past.
  • Future perfect – expresses an action that occurs in and then has been completed in the future

It is important to get these tenses right, but in order to do that, you may need to consult with a qualified Greek teacher.

Not Pronouncing the Digraphs Correctly

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a digraph is defined as:

a group of two successive letters whose phonetic value is a single sound (such as ea in bread or ng in sing) or whose value is not the sum of a value borne by each in other occurrences (such as ch in chin where the value is \t\ + \sh\)

The Greek language has several digraphs, and many of these involve vowels. They are also commonly mispronounced. Don’t make this mistake! Here’s a look at the common digraphs and how to pronounce them:

  • Οι – pronounced “ee”
  • Ευ – pronounced “ev” or “ef” depending on the word
  • Αι – pronounced “e” as in “end”
  • Ει – pronounced as “i” the way it is pronounced in words like “in” or “information”

 

The best way to approach these potential mistakes is to study the accompanying grammatical principals well enough so hat you don’t fall victim to making these mistakes. Just read through this list and make sure you understand the grammar. That way, when you practice speaking Greek, you will be more likely to do things correctly.


The Learn Greek section on GreekBoston.com was written by Greeks to help people understand the conversational basics of the Greek language. This article is not a substitute for a professional Greek learning program, but a helpful resource for people wanting to learn simple communication in Greek.

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