Bible Review 9:3, June 1993

Greek for Bible Readers

Nouns of the second declension

By David Alan Black

Bible Review

“Men see apostles,” and “Apostles see men”: two simple sentences with the same words. In English, word order tells who is seeing whom, but in Greek, word order does not distinguish subjects and objects. That is the function of inflection (word change) of Greek nouns. The pattern of inflection of a noun is called a declension.

In Greek, grammatical relationships are indicated by particular suffixes applied to the nouns. If a noun is the subject of a verb, it must, in Greek, be put into the nominative case with the appropriate suffix. If it is the object of a verb, Greek puts it into the accusative case. Thus “Men see apostles” would be a[nqrwpoi blevpousin ajpostovlou~, where the suffixes -oi (nominative plural) and -ou~ (accusative plural) indicate subject and object respectively. However, keep in mind: The subject will not always be found before the verb, nor will the object always be found after the verb. In Greek it is the case form that decides which word is the subject or the object.

Greek has four basic cases: (1) the nominative, representing the subject (“Men see apostles”); (2) the genitive, representing the possessor (“The wisdom of men”); (3) the dative, representing the indirect object (“He gave gifts to men”); and (4) the accusative, representing the object (“Apostles see men”).

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