Greek verb parsing guide
The following table is slightly adapted from the parsing guide in Elements of New Testament Greek by Jeremy Duff, Cambridge University Press, 2005, p.251. The further notes are based on the same book, cross referenced to Reading Greek by the Joint Association of Classical Teachers, and Complete Ancient Greek by Gavin Betts and Alan Henry, as well as Wikipedia, Ancient Greek Grammar Tables. The section on participles comes mostly from the Wikipedia article. Ancient Greek is not the same as Biblical Greek, but it is close enough when using simple grammatical tables as a cross-reference. The information here is not complete, and is intended as an aid for use with the web app.
The extra usage notes below the table contain more information, including a summary of the participles. It is quite alright to use this guide as a cheat sheet while you are solving a matchup puzzle, whether a grammar one or a vocabulary one. Just open this in a separate tab in your browser. You will gradually get used to the Greek verb, and wean yourself off these "training wheels". Do not try to memorise this information until you know most of it from experience. It is assumed that you have done a semester of Greek, whether Classical or Biblical.
|Indicative||Other moods incl part and inf|
|Active and Middle||Passive||Active and Middle||Passive|
Further notes for the table:
For regular verbs, the stem of a verb is determined by the tense and the voice. The ending (and the augment, if any) is determined by the mood (indicative, imperative, subjunctive, infinitive or participle). Classifying the infinitive and participles as moods is for convenience, because it enables more information to be summarised systematically.
Reduplication plus kappa nearly always signifies an active perfect. Every form of the active perfect has reduplication and kappa, including participles and the infinitive.
θ is usually an indicator of the passive, but can also come as part of a verb stem, eg. ἐπιποθέω, "to desire". It would be easy, when confronted with the first singular, present active indicative, ἐπιποθῶ, to think it is a first singular, aorist subjunctive passive, for example, but this would be wrong.
An epsilon augment means the verb is in the indicative only.
(First) aorists in the active and middle voices (apart from the subjunctive mood) mostly have -σα- before the ending. Aorists in the passive voice (apart from the subjunctive) usually have either -θε- or -θη-.
Second aorists are not represented in the above table. They have an augment in the same place as the first aorist, but no sigma.
The subjunctive occurs in the present, aorist, and perfect tenses only, in all three voices. The perfect subjunctive is rare in Biblical Greek. In the present and aorist tenses, it has a long vowel after the stem, always following the thematic pattern ο ε ε ο ε ο. The lengthening of the vowel of course means that ο/ε becomes ω/η.
Further information on verbs:
Unless otherwise stated, the prototype verb used in the examples below is λύω, "loosen". For the second aorist, it is always λαμβάνω, "take, seize".
Except where marked, all participles follow a 2-1-2 pattern, similar to the adjective καλός, "beautiful". The exceptions are marked 3-1-3, and are similar to πᾶς, "all, every". The summary information here is not complete (it gives no paradigms), but it enables you to take a good guess at the parsing of a word. Participles occur in all three voices, and in the same four tenses in each voice. These are the same four tenses for which there exists an infinitive.
Present active participle:- (3-1-3 endings): λύων, λύουσα, λῦον
Future active participle:- same as present active, with sigma (3-1-3 endings): λύσων, λύσουσα, λῦσον
1st Aorist active participle:- (3-1-3 endings): λύσας, λύσασα, λῦσαν
2nd Aorist active participle:- (3-1-3 endings): λαβών λαβοῦσα λαβόν
Perfect active participle:- (3-1-3 endings): λελυκώς, λελυκυῖα, λελυκός
Present middle participle: λυόμενος, λυομένη, λυόμενον
Future middle participle:- same as present middle participle, with sigma: λυσόμενος, λυσομένη, λυσόμενον
1st Aorist middle participle:- same as future, with alpha: λυσάμενος, λυσαμένη, λυσάμενον
2nd Aorist middle participle: λαβόμενος, λαβομένη, λαβόμενον
Perfect middle participle: λελυμένος, λελυμένη, λελυμένον
Present passive participle:- same as present middle participle: λυόμενος, λυομένη, λυόμενον
Future passive participle:- same as future middle participle, with -θη-: λυθησόμενος, λυθησομένη, λυθησόμενον
1st (and 2nd) Aorist passive participle:- (3-1-3 endings): λυθείς (gen. λυθέντος), λυθεῖσα, λυθέν
Perfect passive participle:- same as perfect middle participle: λελυμένος, λελυμένη, λελυμένον
The infinitive exists for four tenses, and in all three voices for each tense. The four tenses are: present, future, aorist and perfect. The present and future active infinitive end in -ειν. All other infinitives end in -αι, or more specifically, in -σαι, -ναι or -σθαι.
Only the aorist active infinitive ends in -σαι. Only the perfect active and the aorist passive infinitives end in -ναι. All others end in -σθαι, which therefore includes no present infinitives, all middle infinitives, and all passive infinitives except the aorist. Hence, -σθαι is the most common ending. See also Ancient Greek Grammar Tables on Wikipedia.
Distinguishing infinitives from participles and finite verbs:
Context will usually tell you the general category of a word. These notes are intended to reduce the workload, to help you focus on reading. There is more to parsing a Greek verb than knowing whether it is an infinitive or not, but this helps a lot in practice.
Infinitives end in -ειν or -αι. The -αι category is subdivided into -σαι, -ναι or -σθαι. No finite verb forms (those conjugated in agreement with their subject), and no participles, end in -ειν. Consequently, if a word ends in -ειν, it is definitely an infinitive.
The situation with infinitives in -αι is slightly harder. Some finite verb and participle forms also end in -αι. Regular finite verbs, with few exceptions, only end in -αι when the ending is -μαι, -ται or -νται. This always follows the same pattern: first person singular: -μαι; third person singular: -ται; and third person plural: -νται. No infinitives end in -μαι, -ται or -νται, so there is no confusion.
However, a small few finite verb forms end in -σαι, the same ending as the aorist active infinitive. The finite verb forms are: the second person singular for the perfect indicative middle/ passive; and the second person singular for the aorist middle imperative. An example of each is, for the second person singular perfect indicative middle/ passive (λέλυσαι "you have been freed", eg. 1 Cor 7:27), and for the second person singular aorist middle imperative (λῦσαι, "be free!"). The second person singular aorist middle imperative is the same as the aorist active infinitive (for λύω, these are both λῦσαι). Context should be sufficient.
As for distinguishing infinitives from participles, the feminine forms always follow the same patterns as the first declension noun endings. Hence, the nominative plural feminine always ends in -αι. When the declension pattern for the participle is 3-1-3 (see above), it is nearly always -σαι; when it is 2-1-2, it is always -ναι. These can be confused with infinitives. The problem only arises with the nominative plural feminine, however, so the only concern for the student is to rule out this possibility, and then it must be an infinitive. The forms are not actually the same (for example, the aorist active infinitive is λῦσαι, whereas the aorist active participle nom. pl. fem. is λύσασαι). Still, rather than remember each form (there are too many), to classify something as a participle or infinitive, it is easier to simply check the context.
Distinguishing participles from finite verbs:
This is harder than distinguishing infinitives. There are a few things that can get confused, so the only solution is to be aware of them (it would be too difficult here to give exact rules). The most common is that the 3rd person plural for a given tense/mood/voice is often similar to the dative plural masculine/ neuter for that tense/ voice. For example, the third person present indicative active is same as the present active participle, dative plural masc/ neuter (λύουσι). Both have the same tense and voice, but one is a finite verb, the other a participle; nevertheless, the words are spelt identically. There are four cases where the relevant participle is almost the same: for the present indicative active (as given), and the future indicative active, the relevant participle is the same; and for the aorist subjunctive active, and aorist subjunctive passive, it differs by one vowel. In the aorist subjunctive active, it is a difference between λύσωσι (verb) and λύσασι (aorist active participle, dative plural, masculine or neuter).
Other endings can also cause problems. It is left as an exercise to consider the cases where these can arise. Firstly, the endings -ον and -αν can belong to a participle or a finite verb. Also, both can end in -αι, but remember that participles will be either -ναι or -σαι, and finite verbs very rarely end in -σαι, as given above.
Note that -σαι belongs to many different participle forms (nom. pl. fem. in several tenses), but it will most likely be an aorist active infinitive, since these are more common (by a long way) in the Greek New Testament.
About these notes:
The notes are to help you decode the grammar when using the app, and are not intended as a substitute for textbook study. They will be quicker than a textbook if you are trying to solve a matchup puzzle, and will help you to learn grammar in context, but they will not teach you grammar on their own. Neither should the web app be used as the sole method of instruction. A good textbook and a competent instructor are better places to start, and from there you can incorporate the web app into your study programme incrementally.
I myself am using the web app as my primary method of study. You should have done at least one semester of Biblical Greek to get much out of it, because until then you will not have enough understanding of grammatical context. If you use it for a while, please get back to me and let me know about your experience. Tell me especially how much Greek you have done, and how the app works for you. If you need to supplement it with anything in particular, let me know what you use. If there is something you would like me to add, suggest it, using the contact form.