Lesson 3 of 7

Here are the main things you need to know about Greek that will help you study the New Testament in Greek.

Be forewarned – this gets complicated. I share this with you for two reasons: If you encounter these terms in your studies, you will have a basic idea of what they mean (if it is a standard use and not some non-standard situation), and also to demonstrate how complicated Greek grammar is and thus convince you to trust qualified people who tell you that word is fulfilling a certain function and therefore means ________.


In Greek there are several roles that the nouns play in a sentence,  and each role is given a different form (called a case), and each form is spelled differently so one can tell right away what role it is playing in the sentence. This is important in part because the words of a sentence in Greek can be switched around into different orders.

Here are the primary cases of Greek nouns and their primary use (there are a few other minor cases that share the written forms of one of the major cases):

We will used this sentence as an example of each case: “The boy threw his dog’s bone at the snake.”

Nominative Case          The subject of the sentence       boy

Accusative Case           The direct object of the sentence (answers “What?”)  bone

Genitive Case               Possession and related ideas      his dog’s

Dative Case                  Indirect object                         the snake


Greek verbs are more complex than our verbs in English because they have more aspects that should be considered. They have voice, mood, tense, person and number.  Below is my over-simplified explanation of those verbal characteristics.

The voices are the active, middle and passive. They tell us whether the action is being done by the subject of the sentence (the active voice), received by the subject (passive voice), or both (middle voice).

The Moods (sometimes called Modes) are the Indicative, Imperative, Subjunctive, Optative.

In the indicative mood, the action of the verb is the normal way we describe action. This is the most common mood. It has several subcategories.

Imperative means it is a command.

Subjunctive usually expresses unfulfilled action, things like doubt, wish, desire, various types of questions, and one type of command. There are several types of subjunctives.

Optative, is very rare in the New Testament, it is similar to the Subjunctive but even weaker. It shows  a high level of uncertainty expressed in wishes and desires, indirect questions, and other uses.

The person and number of Greek verbs are similar to those of English. They are the first, second and third persons singular – I, you (singular), he/she/it, and then for the plural forms are the first, second and third persons plural – we, you (pl), they.


For the Greek tenses, the type of action is primary, the time of the action is secondary.

Present             Ongoing action usually in present time for the speaker or writer

Imperfect         Ongoing action in the past

Perfect             Completed action in the past with results that are still felt in the present

Pluperfect        Both the action (completed action) and the results stay in the past

Aorist               Simple, undefined action. The emphasis is on the fact or reality of the action, which has usually already occurred. It has several uses.

Future              Either ongoing or undefined action in the future

Infinitive          to eat, to run, to sing. It is a written form that does not change. It does not have mood, voice, person and number as the verbs do.

As you can see, the Greek verbs are quite complex with many layers.

It will be good for you to click on the Strong’s number and view the explanations of how the verb is used in the form in which it is found in that verse because they have various uses. Sometimes the examples will include the specific verse you are looking at. Also consult various versions of the Bible to see the range of meaning given as well as the similarities in how it is expressed.


Greek participles can get pretty complicated pretty fast because they have characteristics of both verbs and nouns, but the main thing you need to remember to do basic Bible study is this – if a word is labeled as a participle, it is usually translated with a word ending in “ing” or with something like “the one who …”. Try to pay attention to its verb-like qualities and its noun-like qualities, but if you get overwhelmed, consult several translations and you will see some similarities emerge.


In Greek, prepositions are very important. They are often added to a noun or verb, and they influence the meaning of the word. We get many of our English prepositions from Greek.