Greek Medio-Passive Voice Explained: Lesson 4

Let’s get to conjugating the passive voice in the past. We will need to make a distinction here and get done with it quickly before we move on, though.

Unlike the present which can only be simple in Greek, the past in Greek can be either simple or continuous.

In English, you can say I did and I was doing which would correspond to the simple (I did - once) and continuous (I was doing - prolonged action) forms. Similarly, you can say the two forms in the present by saying I do or I am doing in English.

In Greek, however, while you do have the distinction in the past, you do not have this distinction in the present: there is only the simple form.

I hope that is clear for you. In this lesson, we will first learn the past continuous (was swimming) form because it is a lot easier and then start talking about the past simple (swam) form. Let’s start.

For past continuous (so called imperfect) you use the present root with silver key with past continuous endings.

Thus the key in the continuous past is always the silver one regardless of anything else. If you remember, the silver keys are just like the golden keys but one letter from the end shorter; to refresh your memory, the golden keys are as follows:

1 translation: golden key for A (except the μαι form)

2 translation: golden key for the μαι form in A

3 translation: golden key for B1

4 translation: golden key for B2

So the silver key will be one letter from the end shorter and it will be what the past continuous will use.

Now apart from the silver key, they will also use the past continuous endings.

The thing you might want to know is... what are the past continuous endings? Well, they are separate endings but that’s no problem, though, because:

Just like you can get the present endings from the present forms of the word be, you can get the past continuous endings from the past forms of the word be.

That is you take the past forms for be (I was, you were, etc.) and you work out the endings. Here’s the only thing you need to know to do that:

Replace the ή from the past forms of be with ό to get the past continuous endings!

Let’s try that. How would you say:

5 translation: I was here

Right, we have ήμουν but we replace ή with ό and we’ve got the past-continuous ending όμουν!

Say to a friend:

6 translation: where were you?

So use this and say the past ending for you?

7 translation: past continuous ending for you

The last one:

8 translation: We were where you guys were.

So we got the endings όμαστε and όσαστε for past continuous we and you (plural) respectively.

Then he was is ήταν so the ending is όταν and then the last ending we are interested in, just like in the present if you still remember from the first lesson, we form by adding a ν so you got όνταν.

Thus we can say:

Past continuous passive endings are: όμουν for me, όσουν for you, όταν for he, όμαστε for we, όσαστε for you plural and όταν for they.

This is regular and it works fine for all categories... but a small exception which I will tell you right away:

The ending όταν for A category loses the stress and becomes oταν.

That’s it. All the exceptions. Just remember the past forms of to be to remember the endings.

Now we can form the past continuous using the formula which I have already said but will repeat now: the present root + silver key + past continuous endings.

They’re all easy so try just a few:

I rinse is ξεπλένω (it’s A obviously: look at the stress). Say:

9 translation: they were being rinsed

10 translation: it was being rinsed

Then I love is αγαπώ (it’s B1). Work out:

11 translation: I was beeing loved

You get the idea, don’t you? So we use the present root with silver key with past continuous endings for the past continuous forms.

Now what about the simple past forms? Here the matter is a bit different and we will have to start learning it in the next lesson.

But before that, since we are talking about the past forms anyway, I think, uhm, I’ll jump ahead of myself and talk about the future continuous forms in Greek.

In the present tense in Greek, you don’t have the distinction between simple and continuous like you do in the past but in the future the distinction is back again. However, those passive forms are extremely easy to form. In fact, I only mention them because there is no need to learn them for we have learned them already:

For the future continuous, just like when forming future continuous in the active voice, simply add θα to the present simple word.

So, for example, try saying:

12 translation: I will be sleeping

13 translation: You guys will be thinking about it entire day.

Easy, isn’t it? In this lesson, we have started talking about the past forms and learned how to make the past continuous forms and in a detour, you learned how to use the future continuous forms (which are the same as present actually).

Here’s a summary:

For past continuous you use the present root with silver key with past continuous endings.
You get the past continuous endings by remembering the words for I was, you were, etc. and changing the ή in their endings to ό.
Applying this rule, you get that the past continuous endings are: όμουν for me, όσουν for you, όταν for he, όμαστε for we, όσαστε for you plural and όταν for they (*there is a small exception where the ending όταν for A category loses the stress and becomes oταν).
For the future continuous, just like in the active voice, simply add θα to the present word!

We will now talk about forming the past simple forms.