Introduction to Modern Greek Alphabet:
Lesson 5

By Linas

Look at this Greek word now:


I bet you can guess its meaning in two tries. Look at it in lowercase as well:


This word means café and this Φφ letter is the Greek letter for f (its name is phi). Granted you know this letter, you can write the Greek word for Wisdom which is of course Sofía (it uses the usual iota Ιι). Write it capitalized:


Answer: Σοφία
Not correct. Please try again.

Try the Capitalized word for Film which is of course Fílm with the same usual iota Ιι:


Answer: Φίλμ
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Good. The word for food is fagitó with the Greek eta Ηη:


Answer: φαγητό
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It’s good that we learned this letter. Here’s another one, the Greek letter theta:


This is a very Greek letter: the th sound as that in the English word theatre. You can also find it in the word think or similar words. In the international phonetic alphabet, the word think is written as |θi ng k| where θ is a tribute to this theta theatre letter. You could write the word for I want by using this letter because it’s thélo using both this theta Θθ letter and an omega Ωω:

I want

Answer: θέλω
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You are in a stage now where you can write full sentences. Let’s start small and write I would like a coffee which is Tha íthela énan kafé. The second word uses the ita Ηη while the third word uses a simple iota Ii and both the th sounds are theta Θθ letters. Everything else is pretty straightforward. Try it:

I would like a coffee.

Answer: Θα ήθελα έναν καφέ.
Not correct. Please try again.

Greek for I will buy something is tha agorázo káti where the th is the same theta Θθ letter and then the last i is a simple iota Ιι:

I will buy something.

Answer: Θα αγοράζω κάτι.
Not correct. Please try again.

Nice. Just to check whether you haven’t forgotten our x or ks sound of the letter xi from words like táxi, I want you to write the name for I know which is Xéro (write it capitalized, the o is omega):

I know.

Answer: Ξέρω.
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Nice. Now I want you to look into this word:


If that still doesn’t look familiar, look at its uppercase version:


It could be transcribed as boilí but the first i is the upsilon Υυ while the second í is the ita Ηη. The surprising thing is... this word is pronounced voulí with ou like in soup because:

The letter O+Y that is ου combination is pronounced in Greek like the English ou in soup.

It should normally be pronounced as oi but that’s not how it works. The Greeks who spoke English were probably thinking well, this omicron upsilon looks like ou so why not pronounce it like that?

You can now write the Greek word for where which is pronounced like poo (yeah, I know), and written like poí with an upsilon Υυ as the last letter:


Answer: πού
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Getting back to our βουλή word, apart from ου, you must have also noticed the Greek letter beta. Here it is enhanced:


The letter beta is pronounced like a v and it’s now called veta. It used to be pronounced like a traditional Greek b but with time this has shifted towards a v as in vet. Try writing a Greek word for book which is related to the Bible because it is written biblío with all iota Ιι and of course pronounced vivlío:


Answer: βιβλίο
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Good. I now want to teach you a general rule which is going to come in handy for us. You remember that we had the letters ι, υ, and η for the same sound? That’s because we had a lot of words sounding similar in Greek and it is still important to at least distinguish between them in writing. The thing is, there are 3 more possible ways to express the same i sound. You can learn all of them in one go now:

The Greek letter combinations ει, οι, υι also stand for the i sound.

It’s easy to remember because it’s ε, ο, υ + iota making the sound. Thus, in general, where there is one iota, the sound is i. By knowing this, you now know six ways to have the i sound in Greek.

Most letters with i make the sound i except αι because:

The Greek letter combination αι makes the sound similar to e in let.

You will have no problem remembering this if you think of the Greek word for and which is:


The word is written kai (with a iota ι) but pronounced ke because the combination αι is always pronounced e in Greek.

Here’s the Greek word for is, the pronunciation of which you should now be able to guess:


As you can see, it has the combination εί which is pronounced i and another combination αι which is e so the word is pronounced íne. I want you to use this and write the Greek phrase where is the road? which would be pói eínai o drómos; (with an upsilon Υυ in pói and iota ι in the remaining places, as well as all omicron ο). And yes, it ends in ; because the Greek question sign is not ? but ;...

Where is the road?

Answer: Πού είναι ο δρόμος;
Not correct. Please try again.

You might wonder... what’s the semicolon in Greek if the question sign is semicolon? Well, the semicolon is a dot like this:


Nice. We not only know all the major Greek letter combinations that you couldn’t guess yourself and almost all but one Greek letters, we have even learned some of the important Greek punctuation. As older English would have it, time is come to learn the last letter. The letter psi. Take a look at this letter in its capitalized and simple forms:


The letter psi is the symbol of psychologists in the whole world because the word psychology roughly meant the science of the soul in Ancient Greek translated to modern terms. The letter is actually pronounced ps.

Practice the letter ps in the following examples. First, the word for bread which is psomí with a iota ι and an omega ω:


Answer: ψωμί
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First, the word for fish which is psári with another iota ι:


Answer: ψάρι
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Let’s end this course with the Greek word for psychology since it does use the letter ps and it is of Greek origins. It is written psihología where the first i is the upsilon Υυ and the second is a bare iota Ιι:


Answer: ψυχολογία
Not correct. Please try again.

Well done! We now know the letter combinations of ει, οι, υι pronounced i, μπ pronounced b in the beginning and mb anywhere else in the word as well as ντ pronounced d in the beginning and nd anywhere else, αι pronounced e, αυ and ευ pronounced av and ev (and sometimes af and ef when it sounds better), ου pronounced like ou in soup, and then γγ or γκ pronounced like ng in finger not in the beginning of the word. We also know the pronunciation rules of a lot of Greek letters and we have learned the letters Ββ, Θθ, Φφ, Ψψ or simply β, θ, φ, ψ today which adds up to our existing letters and means that we know all of the letters of the Greek alphabet. Take a look:

Αα, Ββ, Γγ, Δδ, Εε, Ζζ, Ηη, Θθ, Ιι, Κκ, Λλ, Μμ, Νν, Ξξ, Οο, Ππ, Ρρ, Σσς, Ττ, Υυ, Φφ, Χχ, Ψψ, Ωω

Indeed, you have finished the course now. Psychological research suggests that there is some hormone in the brain attached to achieving a task. If there is one, you should get some of it now. However, having in mind your outstanding achievement of having finished this course, I want to give you some final remarks and advice: read, read with audio! You have finished the course to learn the alphabet but that doesn’t mean that you have learned the alphabet. You still need to do lots of reading before you can read the alphabet correctly and fast. I recommend you find some books where you have audio as well so that you can read and look at the text at the same time. This is essential to you mastering the alphabet and it is a really fun thing provided you have an interesting text. Good luck in continuing to learn Greek!