Greek Medio-Passive Voice Explained: Lesson 2

As you have seen, words like βλέπω, φέρνω are stressed in the middle of the word (on έ in this case) and not on the last ώ and that’s why they are part of the first (we call it A) conjugation. When the word falls on the last ώ, it is a different category - B. The category B is further subdivided into two subcategories B1 and B2 and we are going to learn about how to treat them in this lesson.

But wait... they are both stressed on the last ώ - so how do you tell which one is B1 and which one is B2 from the word? The problem is... nohow. You can’t really know from the word because they both end in the same ώ. Actually, the first one of them (B1) can be alternatively written as άω while B2 cannot be written like that so you could tell from the word in this case but it is often written as ώ and not άω and you can’t tell anyway. The general rule is that there are more B1 words that B2 words so if at doubt and can’t check, go with B1.

We will also learn the key of B1 first. The key of A was the letter ε. Do you see how that 1 in B1 looks almost like the letter ι. So you actually have the 1 from B1 as letter ι and that same ε from A so you have ιε. But actually if you compare 1 to ι you see that 1 also has its top part (a little ´ sign) which goes on the top of ε and becomes a stress mark. Thus:

The key to B1 is ιέ.

An example of B1 word is αγαπώ (do you see how nicely it is stressed in the last ώ - thus B1) which means I love. Do not forget that you need to remove that last ώ to get to the root of the word and then you add the key (this time it will be the key not for A but for B1 because it is a B1 word) and then the golden ending to get the mediopassive form. Take your time to work out how to say:

1 translation: I am loved

It is important that you recognize how ιέ is stressed and it takes away the stress from the remaining letters of the word. Just because the B1 key is like that... Word stress is pretty important in Greek: that’s why you need to pay attention.

In any case, how would you say:

2 translation: he is loved

Do you still remember the informal you ending (just look at the word you are if you don’t):

3 translation: you (informal) are loved

And then finally imagine you are talking formally to Scrooge from the Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol:

4 translation: You are not loved.

Good. Then we have the final key to learn for the golden endings.

The B2 key is ά.

You can imagine a video on YouTuba of yourself playing a tuba (that is 2-ba (two-ba)) to remember that B2 key is ά.

There are actually very few examples of B2 verbs that you need to know how to conjugate. There are, however, four words in Greek that have only the medio-passive voice and that are crucial to speak Greek. We will look at them now (but be aware that it is not our point to learn them in this course, although you can if you don’t know them yet - it is our point to learn to deal with the medio-passive voice instead).

Greek for I remember is θυμάμαι.

There is no word θυμὠ (or it simply has no meaning). However, the passive is very much used as you can see how remember can be an important word. You can recognize that it is B2 from the ά in θυμάμαι. Try to say:

5 translation: She remembers it.

The formal you is the same as the plural you so you can already ask:

6 translation: Why don’t you guys don’t remember it?

Nice. Then there is another word which is very important to Greek:

Greek for I sleep is κοιμάμαι.

That’s the only way to say I sleep and you can’t help it - you have to use the passive. The idea is that when you are sleeping you are doing sleep to yourself or something like that... whatever the case, there is no κοιμὠ either, just κοιμάμαι. How would you say:

7 translation: she is sleeping

8 translation: I am not sleeping yet.

I think you get the idea. The other two words of the same category are λυπάμαι which means I am sorry and φοβάμαι which comes from the same root as phobia (claustrophobia, for example) and means I fear (I am afraid). Awesome words like that are one of the reasons for learning Modern Greek.

If you want to say a negative command you just say the word in the present tense and use μην in front of it. How would you say don’t fear or more fit for English:

9 translation: don’t be afraid

Very good. With this, we now know how to use the golden endings for all the major medio-passive Greek verbs in the present...

But... there’s a small but important exception. You remember that I told you that the key for A was ε. Well, that is true for all the golden forms but one...

The key for A category verbs only for the I form is ο instead of ε!

It is just for that ending... That’s it. So let’s get back to φέρω for I carry... Remember, that if you make it into passive, it starts meaning carry oneself or, as it is understood in Greek, behave oneself. First, how would you say:

10 translation: You behave yourself well.

And then take the exception above into account when saying:

11 translation: I behave myself very well.

Right. You would expect it to be φέρεμαι but it is not due to the exception. Remember Βλἐπω for I see. How would you take into account the same exception to say:

12 translation: I am seen

This exception is actually intuitive because by having o instead of ε because in speech you have the same ω sound from Βλἐπω and just add the μαι. In speech, that’s intuitive.

Alrigh then, then there’s another half-exception which I am not sure is worth mentioning... but just so you know. The same key for I for the first person of the B2 conjugation can sometimes be encountered as ούμαι instead of άμαι although the other forms stay the same. This is because some people use it with the archaic ending ούμαι but actually many people prefer to use άμαι like it should be and just forget about ούμαι.

So to recap what we have learned in the first two lessons so far:

The golden endings are μαι for me, σαι for you, ται for he/she and στε for you guys/you formal.
The keys are ε for A (with an exception of o for μαι), ιέ for B1 and ά for B2.

Stay tuned because we will soon learn how to use the silver endings and then move onto the other tenses (the past, the future) of the passive voice.