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The Definite Article

Declension Uses me/n ... de/  Reading



 The word the in English is used with a noun and defines it, 
i.e. gives it a particular reference, e.g.
  • the book on the table,
  • the girls in blue

so the is called the definite article.


It contrasts with a (an before a vowel) which has an indefinite reference, e.g.
  • a day in my life,
  • he gave her an apple.
This indefinite article is not generally translated in Greek
(except that tij may be used to give emphasis)
but the definite article is important.


Because it is an adjective it has to agree with its noun, 
i.e. it has
  •  the gender (masculine, feminine or neuter)
  •  the number (singular or plural)
  •  the case (nominative, accusative, genitive or dative)

of the noun it defines.


The declension of the definite article (the) is as the nouns
lo&g -oj,    a)rx -h&,   e1rg -on
  • no t- in the nominative of the masc. and fem.
  • no final -j in the masc. nom. sing.
  • no -n in the neut. nom. and acc. sing.
Singular Plural
Masc. Fem. Neut. Masc. Fem. Neut.
Nom. o(  h(  to_  oi9  ai9  ta_ 
Acc. to&n th&n to&  tou&j ta&j ta& 
Gen. tou~  th~j tou~  tw~n tw~n tw~n














Uses of the Definite Article:


The definite article usually follows English usage except that it is found in Greek:


(i) with names of people and places:


  • o( Zeu&j  Zeus
  • ai9   0Aqh~nai  Athens


(ii) in the plural for a class or group:


  • ai9 gunai=kej  women
  • oi9 a!nqrwpoi  the human race


(iii) with abstract nouns:


  • h( sofi/a  wisdom
  • o( po&lemoj  war


(iv) for possession:


  • ti/ma to_n pa&tera honour your father
  • filei= tou_j pai=daj he loves his children


(v) with de/ for it means and s/he, and they to pick up people mentioned indirectly.

[This is an original use of the article as a pronoun]


  • filw~ thn a)delfh&n:  h( de\ polla_ gignw&skei.

I love my sister, and she knows many things.


  • a)po_ tw~n Pe/rsw~n ou) feu&gomen: oi( de\ tou_j e0leuqe/rouj ou) nikh&sousin.

We do not flee from the Persians, and they will never conquer the free.


The idiomatic pair of particles  me/n .... de/ 

A heavy, literal translation is
  • 'on the one hand ... on the other hand';
the sense is given more idiomatically with emphasis, or 'but', 'whereas' for the second part, the responding clause.


The particles come second word in their clause, and can contrast pronouns, verbs or nouns according to the order.


The part of the verb 'be' (am, is, are) is often omitted.


With the definite article me/n .... de/  has the sense of:

one ... another, some ... others


Examples of the use of me/n .... de/

e0gw_ me\n filo&sofoj, su_ de\ fi/lippoj.
I am a wisdom-lover (i.e. philosopher), whereas you are a horse-lover.
su_ me\n a)ndrei=oj ei0, e0gw_ d' ou!.
You are brave, but I (am) not.
diw&kousi me\n oi(  0Aqhnai=oi, feu&gousi de\ oi( ba&rbaroi.
Pursuing are the Athenians, but running away the barbarians.
oi( me\n  0Aqhnai=oi diw&kousi, oi( de\ ba&rbaroi feu&gousin.
The Athenians give chase, whereas the barbarians run away.


to_ me\n pneu~ma pro&qumon, h( de\ sa_rc a)sqenh&j.
The on the one hand spirit willing, the on the other hand flesh weak.

[i.e. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.]

o( me\n dou~loj e0sti/, o( de\ e0leu&qeroj.

One man is free, another a slave.

tw~~~~n  0Aqhnai/wn tou_j me\n filei=, tou_j de\ misei=.
Of the Athenians some he likes, others he dislikes.


e0gw_ me\n le/gw, su_ de\ a)kou&eij.
I speak, whereas you listen.
a}ra filo&bibloj ei0; e0gw_ me\n ei0mi, oi9 de\ stratiw~tai ou!.
Are you a book-lover? I am, but the soldiers are not.
polloi\ me\n oi9 tre/xontej, o)li/goi de\ oi9 nikw~ntej.
Many (are) the runners, few the winners.


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