Greek Medio-Passive Voice Explained: Lesson 5

In the last lesson, we learned how to conjugate the past continuous forms and now we will start learning how to do that for the past simple forms.

The endings used in conjugating them are the same as the endings used in the past active voice so you will need to know them.

You can just think of any active word in the past to get the past simple endings (considering they are the same for both active and passive). For example, how would you say:

1 translation: I understood

And from that you get the past active and past passive ending for I which is α.

Try this:

2 translation: did you understand?


3 translation: the past passive and active ending for informal you is

One more example:

4 translation: they did not see me

And then:

5 translation: the past passive and active ending for they is

And so on. I'm not going to mention them all and just remind you, if you still do not remember them perfectly, that:

The past simple endings are as follows: α, ες, ε, αμε, ατε, αν.

(Quick tip: the endings sound kind of like α, ες, ε, - I see, αμε, ατε, αν - Am ate An.)

The main difference between active and passive simple past endings is that in the active the endings go bare α, ες, ε, αμε, ατε, αν while in the passive the endings get ηκed: they get ηκ in front of them. So, in practice, the endings for the passive past are as follows:

The passive endings get ηκ in front of so they are as follows: ηκα, ηκες, ηκε, ηκαμε, ηκατε, ηκαν.

This is nice for us too because we can safely state that whenever a word has ηκ in the ending, chances are it is the past tense of a passive verb.

Also, just like in the active past, the accent in the past always falls onto the third syllable from the end (have that in mind!).

Now let’s get to forming the past of the medio-passive which will be a more interesting task in itself. Here is the thing: now our task is actually easier because we do not have to focus on B1 or B2 - all B verbs are conjugated the same. So if it is B, that is, if the accent falls onto the last ώ - we use the B way, and if it does not - we use the A way. Easy as that.

So, I will tell you right away:

The PAST B key is ηθ!

If you are into Greek mythology (which is of course part of the past), maybe the name of the island Ithaca (which is the legendary home of Odysseus) can help you rememember the PAST ending ηθ.

Then the rest of the formation is the same as for the present (just remember the appropriate endings: ηκ+(one of: α, ες, ε, αμε, ατε, αν).

Let’s get an example. As we love to do, let’s say again that the word for I love is αγαπώ. It’s actually B1 but you don’t need to care in the past - you just go the B way. To get the past form you get to the root of αγαπώ by removing the last letter as we always do: we are left with αγαπ. Then you add the B PAST key which is ηθ and then you add the ending which is ηκ+the active ending (thus one of α, ες, ε, αμε, ατε, αν)).

So, how would you say:

6 translation: I was loved

Remember that I am afraid is φοβάμαι. You will have to get to its non-existant now form φοβώ and then apply all of the steps. Try asking:

7 translation: were you afraid?

Also remember that I sleep is κοιμάμαι to ask formally:

8 translation: How much time did you sleep?

Before this gets boring, do:

9 translation: She was not afraid because they slept.

And that’s good. You can do the B category in the past now just by knowing the B past key ηθ.

A minor disappointment might be that the ηθ key might not work for all words because some of them are exceptions and need a different key. For example, βαριέμαι for I am bored actually takes not ηθ but έθ as the past key and becomes βαρέθηκα instead of βαρήθηκα for I was bored*.

Some need yet different keys: you are going to encounter this sometimes in the past. However, knowing the general rule will get you far and you will be understood most of the time anyway.

Good then, you got the past B key. I don't want to overwhelm you so we will learn the past A key in the next lesson. It will also be more challenging than this one too.

Here are the take-aways for talking about the simple (that is, non continuous) passive past tense for now:

Passive simple past endings are the same as the active simple past endings.
Thus the passive past endings are ηκ+(α, ες, ε, αμε, ατε, αν).
For PAST B key just go with ηθ.

That's it. Stay tuned for more past and an a little bit more challenging lesson.

Answers to Lesson 5

1 answer: κατάλαβα
2 answer: κατάλαβες;
3 answer: ες
4 answer: δεν μου είδαν
5 answer: αν
6 answer: αγαπήθηκα
7 answer: φοβήθηκες;
8 answer: Πόσο χρόνο κοιμηθήκατε;
9 answer: Δεν φοβήθηκε γιατί κοιμήθηκαν.