Appendix 1: Declension

Here is an overview of the declension of the Greek noun and the use of cases. It is easy to recognize the cases, especially with the help of the definite article, but it's a little more difficult to form them. There are only four cases, and the endings are distinctive, which makes things easier than in Latin. The sources of confusion are contraction, accents and the antics of ν and σ. A Greek word can only end in a vowel, ν or σ sound, incidentally. The last letter of the stem (which may never be actually seen!) determines which endings are used. The endings are shown in the box. The case endings of the α, ο and consonant declensions are all different for the different cases. The nominative of a neuter noun is the same as the accusative, and the nominative and accusative plurals end in α. If an α-declension noun is masculine, the genitive singular is in -ου. All genitive plurals end in -ων, which always is accented and takes a circumflex in α-declension nouns. All datives have an ι, even if subscript and not pronounced, and dative plurals have σ as well.

Five different sets of endings are shown, and these are precisely the ones that also occur in Latin. The stem vowel is retained for υ and ι,ε to show clearly how the endings are attached. In Latin, these are the fourth and fifth declensions. There are a few common words that should be learned individually, shown in the box at the left. Their forms are influenced by various contractions, but the cases are still recognizable. The genitives give clues to their declensions.

A summary of case uses follows. English equivalents are used as examples, so you know what is meant. The words in italics are the ones put in the case. For Greek examples, see the lesson texts.

Nominative: this is the case for naming things, and is the most used case. The things named are identified and pointed out as the subject of what is said. The Vocative is the case of a thing addressed, and is usually either same as the nominative, or a shortened version of it, and is seldom used in geometry, so we shall say no more.


Genitive: many of the uses correspond to English "of."

Dative: many of the uses correspond to English "to."

Any case other than the nominative (the oblique cases) can be used with a preposition to make its meaning clearer. In most cases, the preposition is required, but sometimes it can be omitted.

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Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 12 February 2001
Last revised