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Grammar Terms Explained


 

 

Basic Grammar Terms

Grammatical Combination

 

It is important for students of scripture to study the grammar. Much of the confusion regarding scripture results from four common errors: (1) careless handling of the article; (2) twisting scriptures to support denominational doctrines; (3) overlooking the various figures of speech, metaphors, analogies, and symbolism; (4) taking things out of context. Misunderstanding the grammar involved can change or distort the meaning intended.

 

This section is not intended to provide a complete understanding of Greek grammar; there are any number of good books which will do that. Rather, this section is intended to provide a simple, quick reference point for understanding the basic meaning of several Greek grammar terms used in this book.

 

Basic Grammar Terms

 

accusative

The accusative primarily denotes that towards which motion is directed; it expresses the immediate object of a transitive verb; it embraces the idea of the end, or direction, or extent of motion or action.

 

active

The active voice describes the subject as producing the action.

 

anacoluthon

 

The latter part of a sentence does not continue in the same manner as the first part of the sentence. There is a break in the sequence between the first part of the sentence, and the latter part, which proceeds in a different manner than begun. The first thought may be interrupted by a parenthesis, by a change of person, from singular to plural, or sometimes the thought is simply abandoned.

 

aorist

 

The aorist is an indefinite tense, indicating action simply as occurring, without reference to progress; it signifies nothing as to completeness, but simply presents the action as attained; most similar to the English past tense.

 

There are three fundamental tenses in Greek: the present, representing continuous action; the perfect, representing completed action; and the aorist, representing indefinite action. There are two fundamental ways of viewing action, punctiliar, a point; or linear, progressive. The aorist may be represented by a dot (●), the present by a line ( ― ),

and the perfect by the combination of the two (●― ).

 

article

 

A particle used to point out an object, or draw attention to it, or point out individual identity. Articles were originally pronouns. Articles can be either definite (the), or indefinite (a, an).

 

clause

 

A group of words used to convey a meaning that cannot be expressed with a single word or phrase.

 

conditional

clauses

 

First-class      A supposition of fact; something that is assumed to be a fact.

 

Second-class  A supposition of possibility; something that is assumed to not be fact, but yet may be true.

 

Third-class      A supposition of uncertainty; something which is more probable of coming true, but also has some chance of not coming true.

 

Fourth-class    A supposition of something unfilled; something which is less probable of occurring in the future than condition three; in most cases, it is quite unlikely to happen.

 

dative

The case that shows location; may be spatial, temporal, or logical.

 

derivative

A derivative is a word derived from another word.

 

diminutive

A diminutive is a smaller version of something.

 

future

Expresses action which will take place in some time yet to come.

 

genitive

The genitive is the case of definition or description; qualifies, defines, limits to class or kind; possession.

 

imperative

The imperative mood commands; denotes an appeal to the will of another; expresses the potential reality of action.

 

imperfect

The imperfect tense is used to indicate action in the past which has not come to completion, and the results continue into the present; continuous action in the past with continuing results.

 

indicative

The indicative is the mood of certainty; it is a statement of fact; unqualified assertion or simple question of fact; it assumes reality.

 

infinitive

middle

The infinitive is a verbal noun, or a verb used as a noun.

 

There is no English parallel for the Greek middle voice.  The middle voice indicates that the subject participated in results of the action, or acted on the verb; it stresses the agent more than the action; relates the action more intimately to subject.

 

neuter

Indicates that the gender of the subject is neither male nor female.       

 

participle

A participle is a verbal substantive, or a verbal noun used as a adjective.

 

particle

Words or small parts of speech used for emphasis.

 

passive

The passive voice is that use of the verb which denotes the subject as receiving the action.

 

perfect

The perfect tense denotes an action or event as now complete; its point of view, therefore, is in the present.  It may also denote a past act whose consequences remain.

 

preposition

A word or particle used to express relationships; often used to express emphasis or intensity.     

 

present

The fundamental significance of the present tense is the idea of action in progress.

 

prolepsis

A figure of speech anticipating what is going to happen, and speaking of future events as though they were presently happening or had already happened.

Understanding the prolepsis opens up and clarifies many otherwise difficult parts of scripture.

 

pronoun

A word used in place of a noun to identify the actor.

 

relative

A word used to connect different expressions; may be pronoun or adverb. 

 

subjunctive

The subjunctive is the mood of mild contingency; the mood of probability; it assumes unreality; it asserts conditionally, requiring another clause to complete its meaning. 

 

substantive

A noun, or any word or group of words used as a noun. 

 

temporal

Having to do with time; expressing the time of action as past, present, or future.  Time is a minor consideration in Greek tenses. 

 

vocative

Functions as the case of direct address. 

 

 

Grammatical Combinations

aorist

imperative

Instantaneous command; to be done at once; may be a single action. 

 

aorist

indicative

Expresses an action that occurred in the past; similar to the English past tense.

 

aorist

subjunctive

Anticipation of a future event whose occurrence is considered a fact; something which will definitely happen in the future; called the prophetic tense; also used to indicate forbidding something before it happens, never to do it. 

 

future

indicative

A variation of the aorist subjunctive; often used interchangeably with the aorist subjunctive; anticipation of a future event. 

 

imperfect

middle

Indicates that the subject participated in an action that was begun in the past. 

 

perfect

indicative  

Indicates completed action in the past; something which has come to fulfillment. 

 

 

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October 2009