There are three noun declensions in Greek. A declension is a grouping of nouns that are inflected with a shared set of endings. The difference in endings does not affect the translation procedure for first, second, and third declensions. The second declension nouns are characterized by an o as the final letter of the stem. They are largely masculine or neuter. First declension nouns are characterized by an h or a for the final letter and are mostly feminine. Third declension nouns have stems that end in a consonant.
We will learn the second declension before the first because it is more frequent. Second declension nouns are largely masculine, as indicated in lexical lists by placing the masculine definite article o[ (“the”) after the nominative singular form. Each noun should be learned with its definite article that indicates its gender. Second declension nouns that are neuter are marked by placing the neuter definite article to< (“the”) after the root.
In contrast to English, which uses “a” as an indefinite article (“a book”), Greek has no indefinite article. Thus, the Greek indefinite noun may be translated “book” or “a book.” Greek nouns are assumed to be indefinite unless marked by the article (“the”). The Greek article can actually be used for several functions beyond making a noun definite. For now, simply be aware of the nominative form of the definite article, which will indicate the gender of the noun being learned:
o[ = masculine (“the”)
h[ = feminine (“the”)
to< = neuter (“the”)
Greek nouns are masculine, feminine, or neuter in gender. Often this gender is more a syntactical feature than a metaphysical statement, as many inanimate objects are given grammatical gender. Thus “year” ( e@toj) is neuter, while “day” (h[me
Number and Agreement
As in English, Greek has both singular and plural nouns. The verb most often matches the number of the subject noun just as in English:
Students (plural) love Greek.
The student (singular) loves Greek.
In Greek, there are five inflectional forms marking the various cases or roles that nouns play in sentences.
Nominative Form Most Often Marks the Subject of the Sentence
Music calms the heart.
“Music” is the subject of the sentence. In Greek it would be marked with a nominative inflectional ending. With “is” verbs it can be used as a predicate nominative as in “It is he.” Here “he” (nominative) is used rather than the accusative “him.”
Genitive Form Often Expresses a Possessive, Description, Origin, Relation, Limits quality
The Pharisee went to the house of God (description)
The book of the chief was worn (possesive).
The writing of the prophet (origin)
The son of Mary (relation).
Note the different meanings of “of” in these sentences.
“Of God” or “God’s” would be marked in Greek with a genitive inflectional ending. We will generally use the keyword “of” when translating the genitive, although the genitive may actually function in many other ways as well.
He was struck by the catcher (agency)
“To the apostle” would be marked with a dative inflectional ending in Greek. The dative functions in many ways. In some contexts it may also be translated “for” or “at” or “by” or “with.” We will generally use the key words “to, for, at, by, with” (remember = 2 by 4, ate (at) with) when translating the dative.
Accusative Form Indicates the Object of the Sentence.
Joy saw the ball.
Elliott walked home.
“The ball” is the object of the sentence. It would be marked by an accusative inflectional ending in Greek. The accusative’s basic idea is limiting the content, direction, extent or goal of the verb or preposition it is associated with. It limits the quantity while the genitive will limit the quality (Wallace). It can also be used as
the subject of the infinitive and some verbs will take a double accusative (e.g. “he will teach you  all things ”).
Vocative Form Is Used for Direct Address
Sister, you are the one!
O Lord, how majestic is your name.
“Sister” receives a direct address and would be marked by a vocative inflectional ending in Greek.
You should be able to chant through this declension. Because the vocatives are so few and often the same as the nominative, you need only to chant the Nom.-Acc. The vocative will be recognized when it appears, and it is often the same as the nominative.
Masculine Second Declension Forms (Stem Ending in o)
Meaning of Inflectional Forms
(subject of sentence)
of a word
to a word
subject of the sentence
descriptive/possessive usually translated with keyword “of”
indirect object/agency/location usually translated with keyword “to, by, for, with at”
direct object of a sentence
direct address (e.g., O words, tell us how to read Greek)
Note that in the neuter the nominative, accusative and vocative always have the same form. The genitive and dative neuter have the same endings as the masculine. You should be able to chant through this paradigm, lumping the vocative with the nominative.