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Decoding the Modern Greek Cases

If you’ve ever studied another language or linguistics, you may have come across a particularly prickly piece of grammar called the “case system.” And if you’re learning Modern Greek, buckle up because this case system is something you absolutely must learn to accurately understand and use the language.

For native English speakers, cases often feel confusing. There are a few remnants here and there, such as with pronouns: He/him/his and she/her/hers are just two examples. 

But even if you speak another language that uses cases, such as Russian or German, it’s possible to get confused because while there are similarities between cases across languages, they aren’t an exact fit. This is because each language has its own amount of cases. 

Getting back to Modern Greek, this language has four cases: Nominative, accusative, genitive, and vocative. They are used to govern articles, adjectives, pronouns, and nouns and differ based on gender and plurality. 

What does that mean? Let’s break it down. 

The Modern Greek Case System in a Nutshell

The modern Greek case system is a grammatical system that highlights the function of a word in a sentence. In the case of Greek, the functions a noun can take are fairly simple:

  • Nominative denotes the subject of the sentence.
  • Accusative denotes the direct object.
  • Genitive denotes possession.
  • Vocative denotes someone you’re speaking directly to or calling out. This one isn’t going to be used as much as the other three.

The article (“a”, “the”, “these” etc.) and the adjective (“tall”, “blue”, “beautiful” etc.) attached to the noun will also take on the same case.

But how is a case shown? 

Each case has its own ending. In Standard Modern Greek, a noun’s dictionary form will be in the nominative case. The ending of the noun, usually the last one or two letters, will be removed and replaced with a new ending that tells you which case the word is in. 

Let’s look at the phrase meaning a tall man. In Greek, this would be ο ψηλός άνδρας. Here is how it would look in each case:

  • Nominative case: Ο ψηλός άνδρας κοιτάει τον ορίζοντα. (The tall man is looking at the horizon.)
  • Accusative case: Είδα τον ψηλό άνδρα στο πάρτι. (I saw the tall man at the party.)
  • Genitive case: Το όνομα του ψηλού ανδρα είναι Νίκος. (The name of the tall man is Nikos.)
  • Vocative case: Ώρα να φύγουμε, ψηλέ άνδρα! (Time to go, tall man!)

In some cases, a preposition can also change the case of a word. These you will need to memorize as you learn the prepositions.

Pronouns, in particular, are affected by case. But we’ll want to cover that in an entirely separate lesson. Not because it’s difficult per say, but because there’s some nuance there. 

It’s also important to note that there are some phrases that take endings from Ancient Greek. We won’t cover that here, because it’ll make this more confusing. Especially if you’re just starting out.  

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s look at each case more closely. 

The Modern Greek Nominative Case

In contemporary Greek, the word endings tell you which case a word belongs to. It’s a simple thing, but you need to know it well in order to write and speak properly.

The first case (nominative) is where a word indicates the subject of the sentence. It is also be used denote source, origin, separation, and causation. For example, you might say, “He came from Australia,” or “Because of rain, he left.”

You’ll also find the nominative used in sentences related to “being.” Take this sentence:

Ο Ματθαίος είναι γιατρός. | Matthew is a doctor. 

In this case, both the “Matthew” and “doctor” are in the nominative case. 

The Modern Greek Accusative Case

The accusative case is a grammatical form that a noun, pronoun, or adjective takes when it acts as the direct object of a verb. For example, if you say, “Steven builds a house,” the noun “house” is in the accusative case because it’s the direct object of the verb “builds.”

Certain prepositions may also take the accusative case, such as:

  • Στον (m) Στην (f)/Στο (n)/ Στους (m.pl)/Στις (f.pl)/Στα (n.pl): in/into
  • Με: with
  • Από: from
  • Χωρίς: Without
  • Για: For, about

When used with a preposition, the following noun takes the accusative case:

  • Μιλούσαμε για τη νέα μέθοδο. | We were talking about the new method. 

After the preposition για, we see that the feminine article, adjective, and noun phrase η νέα μέθοδος becomes για τη νέα μέθοδο.

It can also be used to indicate time:

  • Την Τετάρτη | On Wednesday
  • At five o’clock | Στις πέντε

The Modern Greek Genitive Case

The genitive case is used to show possession between two nouns. It is a handy way of indicating the relations between nouns in many languages. It can be used to say things like “my hat” or “Harry’s house.” It can also be used for indirect objects. 

Some examples include:

  • Αυτό είναι το βιβλίο της Μαρίας. | That’s Maria’s book.
  • Του έδωσα τον χάρτη. | I gave the map to him.

The Modern Greek Vocative Case

The vocative case is used when addressing someone directly, or calling out to an individual by name, or welcoming or referring to them by name. It is one of the easiest cases to learn, and it is usually identical to the nominative case in form.

It is sometimes accompanied by the particle o, which can add emphasis or emotion to a sentence. This use of the vocative case is not common, but it is used when it is necessary to emphasize the point.

In some cases, the accusative case is used instead of the vocative case. 

Some examples include:

  • Άγγελε, έλα εδώ! | Angel, come here!
  • Μαρία, πώς είσαι; | Maria, how are you?
  • Φίλε μου, μην ανησυχείς. | My friend, don’t worry.
  • Πατέρα, πες μου την αλήθεια. | Father, tell me the truth.
  • Γιατρέ, τι πρέπει να κάνω; | Doctor, what should I do?)

The Case Forms Side-by-Side

If all this makes sense to you (and even if it doesn’t), you’ll still need to know what these forms look like. 

In this section, we’ll cover how the article “the”, nouns, and adjectives change in each case through examples. In the near future, we’ll do a separate article on pronouns and articles.


  • Nominative: ο άνθρωπος | the person 
  • Accusative: τον άνθρωπο | the person (direct object) 
  • Genitive: του ανθρώπου | of the person 
  • Vocative: άνθρωπε | oh person (used when addressing someone directly)

The plural form looks like this:

  • Nominative: οι άνθρωποι | the people 
  • Accusative: τους ανθρώπους | the people (direct object) 
  • Genitive: των ανθρώπων |  of the people 
  • Vocative: άνθρωποι | oh people (used when addressing someone directly)

The Greek phrase “ο μακρύς δρόμος” means “the long road.” Here are examples of how it changes in the four cases:

  • Nominative: ο μακρύς δρόμος |  the long road 
  • Accusative: τον μακρύ δρόμο | the long road (direct object) 
  • Genitive: του μακριού δρόμου | of the long road 
  • Vocative: μακρύ δρόμε | oh long road (used when addressing someone directly)

And the plural versions are as below:

  • Nominative: οι μακρύοι δρόμοι | the long roads 
  • Accusative: τους μακρύους δρόμους |  the long roads (direct object) 
  • Genitive: των μακρυών δρόμων | of the long roads 
  • Vocative: μακρύοι δρόμοι | oh long roads (used when addressing someone directly)


The Greek word “η ώρα”  means “the hour.” Here are examples of how it changes in the four cases:

  • Nominative: η ώρα | the hour 
  • Accusative: την ώρα | the hour (direct object) 
  • Genitive: της ώρας | of the hour 
  • Vocative: ώρα | oh hour (used when addressing someone directly)

And in the plural:

  • Nominative: οι ώρες | the hours 
  • Accusative: τις όρες | the hours (direct object) 
  • Genitive: των όρων | of the hours 
  • Vocative: ώρες | oh hours (used when addressing someone directly)

The Greek phrase “η ευγενική γυναίκα” means “the kind woman.” Here are examples of how it changes in the four cases:

  • Nominative: η ευγενική γυναίκα | the kind woman 
  • Accusative: την ευγενική γυναίκα | the kind woman (direct object) 
  • Genitive: της ευγενικής γυναίκας | of the kind woman 
  • Vocative: ευγενική γυναίκα | oh kind woman (used when addressing someone directly)

And here is the phrase in the plural:

  • Nominative: οι ευγενικές γυναίκες | the kind women 
  • Accusative: τις ευγενικές γυναίκες | the kind women (direct object) 
  • Genitive: των ευγενικών γυναικών | of the kind women 
  • Vocative: ευγενικές γυναίκες | oh kind women (used when addressing someone directly)


The Greek word “Το παιδί” (To paidi) means “the child”. Here are examples of how it changes in the four cases:

  • Nominative: Το παιδί | the child 
  • Accusative: Το παιδί | the child (direct object) 
  • Genitive: Του παιδιού | of the child 
  • Vocative: Παιδί  | o child (used when addressing someone directly)

The Greek word “τα παιδιά” means “the children”. Here are examples of how it changes in the four cases:

  • Nominative: Τα παιδιά | the children 
  • Accusative: Τα παιδιά | the children (direct object) 
  • Genitive: Των παιδιών | of the children 
  • Vocative: Παιδιά | oh children (used when addressing someone directly)

Now, let’s look at the article, adjective, and noun together:

  • Nominative: Το όμορφο παράθυρο | the beautiful window 
  • Accusative: Το όμορφο παράθυρο | the beautiful window (direct object) 
  • Genitive: Του όμορφου παραθύρου | of the beautiful window 
  • Vocative: Ω όμορφο παράθυρο | oh beautiful window (used when addressing someone directly)

And in the plural:

  • Nominative: τα όμορφα παράθυρα | the beautiful windows
  • Accusative: τα όμορφα παράθυρα | the beautiful windows (direct object) 
  • Genitive: των όμορφων παραθύρων | of the beautiful windows 
  • Vocative: ω όμορφα παράθυρα! | oh beautiful windows (used when addressing someone directly)

Exercises and Reference

If you’re using platforms like Duolingo or Rosetta Stone, you’ll end up doing case exercises without explicit definitions and rules around how to use them. You’re also likely to notice them through reading (I use LingQ). And, hopefully, as you improve your listening skills, you’ll be able to notice the cases when watching Greek films or listening to music. 

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