Greek Medio-Passive Voice Explained: Lesson 1

Let’s try to handle the dreaded Modern Greak medio-passive voice. You have to know some Modern Greek already and you definitely have to be able to read the alphabet. There is an archaic conjugation for the medio-passive voice too but we will be mostly skipping it because it’s just for a couple of words (and some Greeks don’t know how to use it themselves). We will also focus on the formation of medio-passive voice and not on its proper usage.

In the first three lessons we we will learn how to conjugate the Modern Greek medio-passive voice in the present, then the other lessons will deal with the other tenses. First, though, I want to make sure that you know the forms for be because those are kind of important.

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Now you’re asking a friend thus informally:

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You’re in the introduction phrase and you ask formally:

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Okay so far. These three forms are thus είμαι, είσαι and είστε for me, you and you (many/formal). What is important for us for the medio-passive (let’s just call it passive shall we?) are the last three letters of these words: μαι, σαι and στε. Let’s call these the golden endings.

Notice how στε could actually be written σται as well and it is almost just because they wanted to keep the same number of letters that they have στε and not σται. In General, in Greek, the plural form for you is almost always the singular form plus that τ somewhere.

If you use that τ, however, and keep it three letters you get to another golden ending, the form for he/she which is ται. So we have these three letter golden endings so far:

μαι for me, σαι for you, ται for he/she and στε for you guys/you formal

If you forget any of these four golden endings, just refer to the forms of the word be to get them back (I guess you also have to remember that the one for he/she/it is ται and not ναι too but that’s not such a big deal is it).

The golden endings are indeed very nice because they apply easily and using them is simple. Just in a minute, I will explain you how.

Before that, though, we have to learn another two endings which use a little bit different system. We will thus call the remaining two endings the silver endings. It is very easy to tell those apart from the golden endings because a of feature of them:

Unlike the golden endings, the silver endings have more than three letters!

Alright then, how do we learn the silver endings.

The first one we get by combining the ending of the word are (as in they are) by the ending ται. First, what is they are:

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Of course it is είναι. The ending is ναι but remember, it has to have more than three letters because it is a silver ending (you have no golden ending for they thus you are supposed to use the silver endings) thus we combine it with the ending for he/she/it ται and we get νται. Then finally we wash it with soup (so we add ού from soup to the beginning of the word) to get the final version:

The silver ending for they is ούνται.

Right, the last ending that you need to learn is the silver ending for we. Again, there is no golden ending for we so we have to use a silver one. The ending, again, we can almost get from the word for we are:

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Right, it ends in μαστε. We change it a bit to add the the stressed letter ό (in a similar way like we added ού before - think that now we take a shower instead of using soup because it is we who are taking it and not somebody else... we prefer comfort) in front of it to arrive at όμαστε. Thus we can state that:

The silver ending for we is όμαστε.

It is very important to note that this ό is stressed (it has this stess mark above it) because it takes away the other stressed of the word and remains the only stressed letter in all forms that we will encounter (we prefer the comfort of shower and we want to stress! that). This silver ending is unique in that way and it also makes things easier for us.

Anyway, before we go on let’s review our endings. We have two kinds of endings for different persons (most of the endings we can get by using various forms of the word be):

We have four golden endings: μαι for me, σαι for you, ται for he/she and στε for you guys/you formal.

Then we run out of gold and we have to use silver instead:

We have two silver endings: όμαστε for we and ούνται for they.

These are the endings you are going to need to be able to conjugate the verbs in the present. Four golden and two silver - not much, is it. Now we will be able to conjugate very soon but before that I want to make sure that you remember something.

You have to know that there are three ways to deal with a verb in Greek depending on its conjugation. Grammar books tell you that all the words that are not stressed in the last ώ (or its alternative άω which is the same because they can be used interchangeably) in their ending fill in the A conjugation.

An example is βλέπω which means I see. It is not stressed in the ending thus it is part of this A conjugation. A counter-example would be say μπορώ for I can which is stressed on the last ώ so it is clearly NOT a part of the A conjugation. We will be using the example of βλέπω first.

There is one main thing to be known about this conjugation:

The key to A conjugation is the letter ε.

You can remember that key to A (or unstressed in the end) conjugation is ε by thinking of the word Agε.

Right, so how does the key works? Well, it’s simple:

The key to each conjugation gets attached after the root of the verb and before the golden endings for appropriate forms.

Right, then there is still one thing to know... what is the root of the verb? Luckily, this is one of the easiest things for us to learn:

The root of the word is simply the word without the ending (ω)!

So, you have βλέπω for I see. Let’s form the medio-passive informal you form of this word. You take βλέπω, remove the ending ω to be left with βλέπ, add the key which is ε for the first conjugation so you have βλέπε and then you also add the golden ending which we have learned to be σαι for informal you so you have βλέπεσαι. That is the medio-passive form of the word and it means you are being seen.

Try the same process for the he/she/it case:

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You can also say that for the you formal/plural form:

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It does work. You just have to have the ending and the key. Try it for another word:

Greek for I carry is φέρω.

It is clearly another A conjugation word because the stress mark (’) does not fall on the lat ω. If you make it into passive, you make it mean she carries herself which, in Greek, has come to mean she behaves herself. How would you say:

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Alright. This works for the other conjugations too, only the keys are different. Stay tuned because we will learn how to deal with the remaining keys in the next lesson.

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