Ancient Greek Learning Blog #2 — Verb Hell

Χαίρετε φίλοι μου! (Hello my friends) and welcome back to my Ancient Greek Learning Blog. This time I want to write about the hellish force that clearly dwells behind the Greek verbal system.

Principal parts and augment

Firstly, as I stated in my previous post, I have slowly started going through the second Unit of Hansen and Quinn's book and have, thus far, done nearly all the drills and will soon continue with the exercises; my goal of finishing this by the end of next week will, therefore, be quite easily attained. However, I was rather unprepared for the number of things one is required to learn in order to be able to form all possible forms of a Greek verb since, before you are even able to begin your attempt and conjugating a specific verb, you are required to learn the verb; but, unlike English and most other languages I have learnt so far, you are required to learn six principal parts for each verb. Frequently, they appear to be formed using some type of pattern, but often, each principal part cannot be derived from any other principal part. This is similar to how you must learn several parts of irregular English verbs — go, went, gone, going — in order to form all possible tenses and moods and such, but taken to the absolute extreme. Indeed, it appears as if Ancient Greek has retained most — if not all — of the complexity of the Proto-Indo-European verb. Thus, if you wish to learn the verb for “to teach, to educate”, you will have to learn the following six principal parts of that verb: παιδεύω, παιδεύσω, ἐπαίδευσα, πεπαίδευκα, πεπαίδευμαι, ἐπαιδεύθην.

There also exists the so-called past indicative augment “ἐ-” which can be seen being attached to two of the above-described principal parts. It can also be prefixed to the first principal part's root, παιδευ-, to form ἐπαιδευ-. This, when the correct endings have been added onto it, is used to express the imperfect indicative. But speaking of endings …


…, there are quite a few of those in Ancient Greek. Indeed, unlike most other modern European languages where you generally only have a couple of endings — often depending on the verb's ending —, Ancient Greek has quite a large number of them. I have thus far only learnt a minuscule amount of them as I am only at Unit 2, but they will be introducing more of them over the upcoming units.

For example, let us take the above-mentioned example of παιδευ- vs. ἐπαιδευ-; even though the latter was formed from the former by simply having a prefix attached to it, the endings are different. Not drastically so, but enough to get, perhaps, slightly confused. Thus, παιδεύω means “I teach”, whereas ἐπαιδεύον translates as “I was teaching”; the ending was in the present indicative active but -ον in the imperfect indicative active.

I have found that identifying the various ending and principal part combinations is somewhat easy to accomplish, but actually forming any of these verb forms is rather difficult; and I am certain that this will become even more difficult — this includes the identification of the various forms as well as the formation of them — as more verb forms are introduced, especially the middle and passive voices and the subjunctive and optative moods.


First and foremost, I have written an email to the creator of LGPSI regarding the strange accentuation of certain words — i. e. some words having two accents upon them when they are followed by a declined version of εἰμί — and received a reply; and, as I had already imagined, it does appear to be an accentuation quirk instead of a mistake. He was kind enough to attach a video of his detailing this.

Additionally, I have been making some progress with LGPSI and am able to easily comprehend both Κεφάλαιον τὸ πρῶτον and Κεφάλαιον τὸ δεύτερον but am still struggling a tad with Κεφάλαιον τὸ τρίτον (even though I can already make out quite a bit there as well). The reason for this is, mostly, that the third chapter contains quite a few new words, verbs for the most part, so that I will need to lookup more words than I did with the previous two chapters.

I put the vocabulary I did not understand from LGPSI into its own vocabulary set on my flashcard program, separate from that of H&Q's. This is mostly due to there being quite a few concepts within the first three chapters of LGPSI that I have yet to get taught by H&Q, such as third-declension nouns, personal pronouns and adjectives.


Considering I have been doing quite well when it comes to finishing the second Unit, my updated goal is to finish Unit 2 by the beginning of next week — Tuesday should be easily doable — and then finish Unit 3 by the beginning of the week after next week.

Until then, have a nice time!