Wermuth’s “Famous Quotes & Memory Joggers” —OR— “Beginning Greek Grammar’s Top 20”

When teaching Beginning Greek, I have found it helpful for students to keep a “running list” of clear, concise statements about study methodologies or translation observations that will keep them on track by steering their thinking in the right direction.  Below (and also downloadable as a PDF from the sidebar) is a listing of those Famous Quotes and Memory Joggers that I utilize as I am teaching.  
  1. Before completing translation exercises, always study vocabulary and structures (paradigms) first!
  2. The primary “force” (function) of a Greek tense is “kind of action,” not “time.”  “Time” is a consideration occurring and governed via “Indicative Mode” verbs.  In all other modes, the focus is “kind of action.”
  3. All Greek neuter nouns repeat their “Nominative” endings in the “Accusative” (sing. and plural, respectively).
  4. The Locative, Instrumental, and Dative (L.I.D.) cases can be easily recognized by the “iota” that appears in the ending—for the most part (except with 3rd declension nouns) either an ‘iota subscript” or an “iota sandwich” (i.e., –οιςor –αις). Even the “L.I.D.” case acronym is helpful, since it is also spelled with an “I.”  So remember, ι = L.I.D.
  5. When a Greek verb form can be either Middle or Passive, “always try Passive first!”
  6. “Stick to your cases!”
  7. Because of its consistency in appearance and designation of “gender,” the Greek “Definite article” (ὁ, ἡ, τὸ) is your “friend.”
  8. When a Greek pronoun (1st, 2nd, or 3rd personal) appears in the “Nominative” case— singular or plural — it always indicates emphasis.
  9. The only mode that has “augments” (indicator of past time) is the Indicative Mode. (For this and more, see the “Signal Flags” [click] chart image from the sidebar of this blog site.)
  10. When you observe a Greek word that looks (in part) like a verb (at the beginning) and that word occurs with a “definite article,” that word must be participle.
  11. The only two (2) tenses in Greek that utilize a “present stem” (1st principal part) are the Present tense and the Imperfect tense (all voices).
  12. When identifying verb tenses (via their personal endings’ thematic vowel), remember “α means Aorist!” (For this and more, see the “Signal Flags” [click] chart image from the sidebar of this blog site.)
  13. When observing Greek Subjunctive verbs in context, it’s important to ask yourself the following question:  “What’s the ‘use’?” (no kidding). In order to translate a subjunctive word or phrase, you must know what “use” of the Subjunctive governs that word or phrase. Some examples: Is it a “purpose clause” (with  ἵνα)? Is it an “if” clause (with ἐάν) is it a 1st person plural “exhortation” ( = “we should . . .”)? Is it a “question of doubt as to what the speaker (1st person sing. or plural) should say or do? So, when things apparently seem difficult, remember to ask yourself, “What’s the ‘use’?!!”
  14. Remember: Aorist Passives (any mood/mode) always utilize endings that are “Active” in appearance.
  15. The “tense sign” indicator (“flag”) for 1st Aorist Passive Indicative verb forms is –θη– . (For this and more, see the “Signal Flags” [click] chart image from the sidebar of this blog site.)
  16. 1st Aorist Passive Subjunctives can be readily identified by observing the “signal flag” (characteristics) of either a θῆor θῶ. (Notice the “circumflex” accents, resulting from the collision of stem vowels with thematic vowels on the endings. For more, including similar qualities for 2nd Aorist Passive Sujunctives, see the “Signal Flags” [click] chart image from the sidebar of this blog site.)
  17. 1st Aorist Passive Participles are probably the most “outstanding” Greek forms. Apart from a scant number of verbs (like κολουθεω), whose lexical vocabulary forms have a –θε– incorporated within the stem, these participles may be easily observed and identified by noticing the consistent “signal flag” (characteristics) of that same θε quality within the construction of  Aorist Passive Participles. For more, including similar qualities for 2nd Aorist Passive Participles, see the “Signal Flags” [click] chart image from the sidebar of this blog site.)
  18. Remember: Eleanor hates sigmas” (σ added to the stem).  Yes, your hypothetical cousin “Eleanor“—whose name trans-literally has those smooth, “liquid” Greek letters: λ, ν or ρdoes not like any contact whatsoever with a Greek σ, which, of course, is normally added to Future and 1st Aorist verbs, and which may also find proximity to liquid letters in noun declension scenarios.  Other rules apply when these “liquid” letters collide with Greek “sigmas.”  So, beware:  “Eleanor (λ, ν, ρhates sigmas!”
  19. When a “Yes”answer is expected to a Greek question, the Greek negative οὐ is used. Example: (Matt. 7:22) οὐ τῷ ὀνόματιἐπροφητεύσαμεν; = We prophesied by Thy name, didn’t we? (Ans.: “Yes.”)The best way to translate the question appropriately, is to “put the answer in the hearer’s mind” through an affirmative statement at the beginning of the question. Also, in the above example, one can almost visualize the questioner affirmatively nodding his head up and down. Conversely, using μή+ Indicative mode in direct questions expects a “No” answer. Example: (John 6:67) εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοῖς δώδεκα μή καὶ ὑμεῖς θέλετε ὑπάγειν; = Then Jesus said to the Twelve, “You do not wish to go away also, do you?” Here one can visualize the questioner shaking his head (“No”) from side to side.
  20. Since the only two (2) tenses in Greek that utilize a “present stem” (1st “principal part”) are the Present tense and the Imperfect tense (see point 10, above), these are also only two (2) tenses of “Contract Verbs” — verbs whose stems end with either an α, ε, or οthat are impacted by the collision of vowels that occurs with these types of verbs (i.e. the ending stem vowel + the thematic initial vowel of the personal endings).  Of course, the main indicator (“flag”) of this resultant collision of vowels is the Greek “circumflex” accent ( ~ ).