Principal Parts of Frequently Encountered “Irregular” New Testament Greek Verbs

       Principal Parts of Irreg. Greek VERBS p.4 

The verb tenses in Greek are divided into six basic “systems” called Principal Parts (“mouse-over” images, then click, and click again for enlarged viewing). Each system has a distinct verb stem, from which all the various tenses and their respective “voices” are built (first image). In order to recognize a Greek verb, it is necessary to be familiar with its principal parts.The “regular” principal parts system is represented by the normal, “model” Greek verb λύω. The Principal Parts chart represented within the above image files delineates in alphabetical order the principal parts of many frequently encountered “irregular” verbs occurring in the Greek New Testament. To view all the pages at full-page size or to download the entire PDF, click here or view/download anytime from the sidebar, opposite.

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I’ll Not Remain “Mute” About This!

I’ll not remain mute about this.  I’ll teach you something about “Mute Stem” changes (JPEG) within Greek verbs, so you won’t need to remain “mute” about the subject, either!  As a New Testament Greek student it can be helpful in the “short run” (or longer) if you can visualize in your “mind’s eye” certain critical pieces of information.  Some of that critical information is this: “What happens when certain Greek consonants collide with other Greek consonants, and why? Please read the following treatise on “Mute Stem” changes where, below the following chart, I will give you a fairly easy way to “set up this chart” in your mind.

The basic components (the “labials,” “gutterals” and “dentals”) of the above “Mute Stems Changes”chart can be fairly easily replicated in your mind if you remember this “set up” process.  While these three categories of Greek letters (“labials,” “gutterals” and “dentals”) are listed horizontally as they function within the chart, it’s easier to set them up vertically. Here’s how:

(1) Start reciting the Greek alphabet: αβγ...δthen start writing the letters (vertically) as soon as you get to β, γ, δYou now have the first letter of each of the three categories of letters.

(2) Next, vertically write (with Greek letters) the first letters of the acronym:preachers’ kids (are) terrific”…or…π, κ, τNow you have the second letters of each row.

(3) For the final vertical row, add the Greek equivalent of an“h” to the letters you just wrote (π, κ, τ), resulting in: φ, χ, θ. With this done, you can now more easily memorize the results of collisions with various consonants that occur.

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Participle = “Verbal Adjective”

When you see a Greek word that looks like a verb at its beginning that has declined endings, that word must be a Participle. It is critically important that the beginning Greek student learn the declension of the 3rd Declension noun ἀρχῶν, ὁ (ruler). From this noun active participle endings are derived, and the noun’s stem (ἀρχ-) is replaced with a verbal stem (or, as I like to say in class, “We’re putting Noah back into the ‘ark’ [ἀρχ-] and sending him on a vacation.”  The resultant verb stem + declined endings = a verbal-adjective, the grammatical description for a participle (e.g., λύων, λύοντος…).

When studying and memorizing participle endings, it is helpful to remember the nominative singular forms of each of the active, middle and passive endings that occur. Including thematic vowel changes, there are four active forms of participle endings (one of them used “passively” with Aorist passives) and three middle/passive forms. Since participles are verbal adjectives, the student will observe a verbal stem with declined endings in all three genders. The active endings (nominative singular) are represented by: -ων,    -ουσα, -ον (Present, 2nd Aorist); -ας, -ασα, -αν (1st Aorist); -εις, -εισα, -εν (1st2nd Aorist passive; remember: Aorist Passives always utilize “active looking” endings); and -ως, -υια, -ος (Perfect). Since each of these groups of endings are declined in a similar way with the masculines and neuters in the 3rd declension and the feminines in the 1st declension (like γλῶσσα), knowledge of the nominative singulars becomes a “jumping off” point in the student’s mind for recognition of any other case forms he may encounter. The middle/passive endings are much more simple, occuring in the 2nd declension for masculine and neuter forms, and the 1st declension for the feminines (like ἀγάπη) and represented by; -ομενος, –ομενη, –ομενον (Present, 2nd Aorist); -αμενος, -αμενη, -αμενον (1st Aorist); –μενος, -μενη, -μενον (Perfect).

When the Greek “circumstantial” (temporal, adverbial) participle occurs (without an article) in the Present tense. The “temporal” (time-oriented) adverb used to translate a Present tense circumstantial participle is “As” (or “While”). The time frame of the “dependent” (temporal, circumstantial) clause should be consistent with the time frame of the indicative verb of the “independent” (main) clause.

(PRESENT) βλέπει τὸν κύριον ἐρχόμενον πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ …
“He is seeing the Lord (as He [the Lord] is) coming toward him and he is saying to him…” (John 1:29a)

When the Greek “circumstantial” participle occurs in the Aorist tense. The “temporal” (time-oriented) adverb used to translate an Aorist tense circumstantial participle is “After.” Again, the time frame of the “dependent” (temporal, circumstantial) clause is translated concurrent with the time frame of the indicative verb in the “independent” (main) clause. (ibid, p. 69)

(AORIST) ἐλθῶν οὖν ὁ Ἰησους εὖρεν αὐτὸν.
“Therefore after He came Jesus found him.” (John 11:17a)
(Better): “Therefore after Jesus came He [Jesus] found him.”


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“Okay, I’ll Make a ‘Contract’ (Verb) with You”

Here’s a look at “Contract Verbs” made a lot easier. Remember, the only two tenses that are impacted by “contractions” of vowels are the Present and Imperfect, since these are the only two tenses that utilize a “Present” stem (1st Principal Part) with nothing added to the end before it encounters the thematic vowel(s) of the personal endings.

Notice that I’ve set up this chart in a “logical” fashion, where the contract verb vowels (α, ε, or ο ) and the potential vowels that they can collide with in forming tenses and moods (modes).  These are listed in a logical progression, either alphabetically (above) or in a similar progress from short ε, to ει, to η (long “e”), to , to οου, and ω.  Not only is this a logical way to set up a chart like this, it also reveals patterns of results of the collisions that make the entire chart more memorable in your head.

(1) Observe the collision of α with any “e-class” vowel: short (ε), diphthong (ει), and long “e” (η or) results consistently in α.  When colliding with “o-class” vowels:  short (ο) , diphthong (οι), or long (ω), the result is always as long as possible: ω.

(2) Moving on, the ε contract vowel when colliding with other vowels always gets longer, either a little longer:  to a diphthong (ει), or as long as possible (η or ω) within the category of vowel with which it’s colliding.

(3) The final contract vowel ο also gets longer through it’s collisions with other vowels— to an ου diphthong when meeting ε, an ο, or an ου; to an οι diphthong when colliding οι diphthong when colliding with anything that has an ι in it (ει, and ); and to ω when it encounters any long vowel (η or ω).

Click image below for to view in a separate window, or click here for a downloadable image (JPEG also available from the sidebar). Also, click to download this PDF for an extended look at all the results of all the collisions for each type of “Contract Verb” in every “Present” and “Imperfect” tense situation where they occur.

**REMEMBER, too, that the predominant indicator that a “contraction” (collision) of vowels has occurred is the Greek circumflex (~) accent that appears (most often) over the location of the contraction.
NOTE:  For you language “geeks,” the English word “contract” comes from two Latin root words (cum + tractus) which mean “to draw together.” A legal “contract” is a “drawing up/together” of certain conditions.  A housing “contractor” also “draws together” certain skilled workers to complete the construction project. Other English derivatives would be “tractor” and “traction.”

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The “Bottom Line” on μι-Verbs

Don’t be intimidated by these “irregular” New Testament Greek verbs.  If you pay attention, they too reveal structural “patterns” that you can find some comfort level in recognizing in context. The primary “bottom line” characteristics of μι-Verbs are presented in the image below, and also as part of a downloadable PDF that includes μιVerb Indicative Mode formation charts as well as a listing of the most frequently occurring μι-Verbs in the New Testament.

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“Go ahead and salivate!” — A Proven Method for Greek Vocabulary Study and Mastery

Here’s a proven method for vocabulary card creation, study and mastery. It’s based on the principle, familiar to some, called “conditioning” (“conditioned reflex”). In the 1890s Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov demonstrated a repetitive occurrence in the behavior of dogs when presented with food accompanied by an additional stimulus (e.g., ringing a bell). Each time the dogs were presented with food, evoking salivation, a bell was rung simultaneously. After numerous trials of food presentation, accompanied by a ringing bell, with consistent occurrences of salivation by the dogs, the trials were run the ringing without food being presented—yet the dogs continued to salivate in successive trials.

This same “conditioning” principle is very effective in producing consistent memory results when studying Greek vocabulary. Since most pre-printed vocabulary cards only include the Greek word on the front of the card with the corresponding definition on the back, it’s important to create your own vocabulary cards with an important addition. Even if you use pre-printed cards, adding this additional information is critically important. “What is the additional information?” you may ask.  It is simply this: Write the Greek vocabulary word (learning occurs here, too) not only on the front of the vocabulary card, but also on the back of the card—with the definition immediately under it. In this way, you are associating the original Greek word (i.e., the “bell”) with its definition (i.e., the “food”), so that, when you turn the card over to the front side, even though it’s not really there, after repetitive viewings you will actually “see” the definition under the Greek word on the front side of the card as well!  In a sense, you can “salivate” all the way through your study of frequently used New Testament Greek vocabulary in gaining a mastery of those words. Try it; it really does work!!


picture-3.png FRONT of  Card (click to enlarge)
BACK of Card (click to enlarge)

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The “Rhyme & Reason” of 3rd Declension Greek Noun Irregularities

As you grapple with the inherent “irregularities” of Greek  3rd Declension nouns, I would strongly encourage you to be diligent to memorize the 3rd Declension Greek noun endings from this comprehensive nouns chart, just as you would the other two (easier?) declensions with their various genders and/or variations (i.e., 1st Declension). If you will do that, you will find that they are easier to identify in context, and the reasons for their various “irregularities” will be much easier to comprehend. The following discussion and related charts (click for larger, clearer view) should also provide some study help visuals.



Note:  The two pages imaged above discussing and charting the declension of various types of 3rd Declension nouns are also available anytime from the sidebar as a downloadable PDF.

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