Verb Moods & Voices

In my attempt to explain the grammatical phenomena called Διάθεση and Φωνή I was going to use the direct English translations ‘’Mood’’ and ‘’Voice’’.

But upon further reading I discovered that Moods and Voices in the English Grammar are kind of similar but also different to their counterparts in Greek. This could cause a whole lotta confusion both for the grammar nerds among us AND for the non-grammar people who read these articles for the funzies and not for the mental gymnastics.

mental gymnastics in taming the greek grammar

Therefore, despite the title, in this article I will *not* use the terms Voice and Mood at all!
Yay! 🎉

Before we start, here is a reminder of a sentence’s MVPs:

Verb is the action
draw, discover, ostracize, develop

Subject: who is doing the action?
 I draw, You discover, He ostracizes, She develops

Object: to whom is the action directed?
I draw a mustache, You discover Atlantis, He ostracizes his enemy, She develops a vaccine

The greek verbs are part of multiple groups, cliques and categories, just like people: You might be a serious suit-wearing banker and a heavy metal leather-wearing groupie and a hot-earl-grey-drinking Trekkie AND a world class stone-skimming champion.

🏅  🏦  🛸  🤘     the possibilities are endless!     ☕  💼  🎸  ⛰️

Allow me to introduce you to a wonderful category of verbs
that I call Subject Shenanigans and it's four subcategories:
(or, 'Διαθέσεις' if you are reading a Greek Grammar book)

 1  The subject of the verb is actively doing something.
The action can either
~ affect someone or something else:

Εγώ ράβω το φόρεμα.
I sew the dress
Εσύ τρώς το σούσι.
You eat the sushi

~ or affect no one / nothing:
Εμείς παίζουμε.
We are playing
Τα κορίτσια ζωγραφίζουν.
The girls are drawing

 2  Τhe subject is doing something to itself.

Οι γάτες πλένονται.
The cats wash themselves
Εγώ βάφομαι.
I paint myself (I do my makeup)*
Ο κάβουρας χτενίζεται.
The crab combs himself (The crab combs his hair)*
Η Μαντόνα εξασκείται στη μουσική.
Madonna practices herself at music (Madonna practices music)*

*In Greek there are verb actions that we do to ourselves,
but when translated in English they have a clear object.

 3  Something happens to the Subject by someone/something else.

Το κτίριο καταστρέφεται από το σεισμό.
The building is destroyed by the earthquake
Ο ιός μεταφέρεται από τα σταγονίδια.
The virus is transmitted by the droplets
Το φαγητό ζεσταίνεται από τη φωτιά.
The food is heated by the fire
Η Μέριλ βραβεύεται από την Ακαδημία.
Meryl is awarded by the Academy

 4  Νothing happens to the subject and the subject isn’t doing something to someone. The Subject is in a state or a condition.

Η αγάπη πεθαίνει.
Love is dying
Η Ρενάτα κοιμάται.
Renata is sleeping
Ο έφηβος βαριέται.
The teenager is bored
Ο σκύλος κάθεται στον καναπέ.
The dog is sitting on the couch

I know what you’re thinking. This last category feels a bit arbitrary.
What does being in a state even mean? When I sleep, don’t I technically sleep myself ? And couldn’t play be in the 4th category? What about eat?

You know, I often think that grammar rules are like countries’ borders. Someone, one day, took a stick, drew a line on the dirt and said ‘’This is MyLand and that is YourLand. No crossing.’’ and everyone shrugged and went along with it. (Α very historically accurate report on how borders were made. Pass it on.)

Same for grammar. Someone said ‘’this verb’s neutral, that verb’s active’’. But lots of things in grammar are more like a therapy session:

✨🌸 They are neutral if you ~ really believe ~ that they are. 💫📿

Let’s move on to the next category.

This one is the Verb's Looks Category. ('Φωνές' in the Greek Grammar book) Nothing to do with actions and where they go and by whom and all that. Here, the verbs are divided by answering a simple question:

What does your verb ending look like?

It can either be -ω
(παίζω, παρακολουθώ, ψιθυρίζω, λαξεύω, γρυλίζω)

or -μαι
(χαίρομαι, βαριέμαι, σκέφτομαι, κάθομαι, σαπουνίζομαι)

of what the Subject does with these verbs.
Your subject’s states and actions are strictly between you and your therapist.

As you can see,
the first category has more to do with the actual meaning of the verb and what the Subject is doing with it,
the second category is more about what the verb looks like on the surface, its aesthetics , if you will.

Simply put, the second category exists to remind us that -μαι verbs do have a Middle / Passive meaning most of the time:

I hit myself / I am hit
I destroy myself / I am destroyed

but not all the time:
δέχομαι την πρόταση.
I accept the offer
έρχομαι στο σπίτι.
I am coming home

🌈 t h e   m o r e   y o u   k n o w

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