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Doing modern Greek when you're also studying Ancient Greek

Hey everyone,

I take ancient (I believe Attic) Greek on school, and I've just started my 3rd year of this course. I really like Greek, I find it a very beautiful language. Thus, I want to try the modern Greek course on here.

Now my question is, how different are the two? Will I get (very) confused by differences in grammar and such? Has anyone ever tried to study both of them at the same time who can tell me if it's better to wait with modern Greek?

August 31, 2016


  • 258

Modern Greek is to Ancient Greek as French, Italian etc are to Latin. There are many words in Modern Greek with Ancient roots etc. The grammar of Modern Greek is a lot easier.

  • 731

Not at all. Modern Greek has less noun cases, but still has four of them, while no important Neolatin that I know keep more than vestiges of the noun cases system.


I have asked this question several months ago and received some good answers. You can see the discussion here (somewhere in the middle of the thread):


  • 258

The post by Theo_Matrakas says it all very well.


This question does not have a real answer because there is no solid framework on how to measure similarity between whole languages. It depends on how you see the glass, half-full or hall-empty. There is a ton of vocabulary that's intelligible, hundreds of expressions that have managed to outlive the tides, verb-noun grammar is also similar with few trivial modifications. Why do I call them trivial? The reason for this is that there are LOTS of ancient, un-transformed verbs and nouns still in use and some of those are almost always used packaged with their old grammar - this is something that a native speaker knows but it can sometimes pass over the heads of non-native scholars or learners who are not really familiar with how modern Greeks use the language.

To further illustrate this argument, I've copy/pasted this from a Quora poster: "" Some things that have been lost are: 1) the infinitive 2) the optative mood 3) dual forms (although these were not too common in Classical Greek either) 4) participles (anyone who has read Cl. Greek literature knows how participles are very close to being the defining feature of Cl. Greek) - note that there is still a past participle 5) the middle voice (whose forms have been assimilated into the passive) 6) the dative case (Modern Greek still has the nominative, accusative and genitive) quite a chunk of the verb and noun paradigms (i.e. conjugation and declension has been 'simplified') """

1) Infinitives are all but lost, ex. Το δούναι και λαβείν, Το λακωνίζειν εστι φιλοσοφείν, etc. There is virtually no Greek who wouldn't know what's the idea behind this grammar. 2) I guess this is true. Maybe I can argue it, but I won't. 3) This is completely true, but with a caveat. Dual number is very, very scarce even in Ancient literature. Quoting wikipedia: "In classical Greek, the dual was all but lost, except in the Attic dialect of Athens, where it persisted until the fifth century BC. Even in this case, its use depended on the author and certain stock expressions." 4) "Ancient" active participles are used all the time as nouns, ex. Ο ευρών αμοιφθήσεται, о τολμών νικά, ο γράφων, ο δηλών. Again, there is no Greek who wouldn't know what this about. Suffice it to say that the active participle in Modern Greek is very similar to Ancient Greek. So this is downright false. Participles have stayed the course almost intact through the times. 5) This is true, but the two voices were almost similar to begin with. Again, virtually no trouble arises from this. 6) The dative survives in a ton of expressions ex. δημοσία δαπάνη. Again most educated Greeks know about the formation of the dative case they just don't use it except for those set phrases.

This is vastly different than say for example French, Italian, Portuguese having no noun declension where Latin had. It's day and night.

Syntax is what poses the biggest problem and, also, grammatical particles. I'd say that the gap is much smaller than French to Latin or Old English to Modern English. Personally, I find the similarity striking. But be advised: sometimes the mind is troubled more in processing something that seems familiar, but isn't, than something that is entirely new. But the bottom line is because the average learner of Modern Greek is also exposed directly or indirectly to Ancient Greek, the gap remains close.

Major problems in understanding Ancient Greek also arise from Ancient Greek having a ton of dialects and a lack of understanding of the premise of a text, of the context and not knowing about the various realia, customs, practices, etc. of old times.

  • 258

I have no words to thank you for this beautiful article. Ideas and words come to me but not one is sufficient to embrace all that I feel reading it. Please accept my warm and sincere gratitude.


I wish I had expressed my ideas in a better fashion, but this would take more time than what I had available.


The dative case is still used, if we talk about Katharevousa. Also, I believe Optative mood has survived but it has changed completely. Now, instead of being formed with -οι- and the proper endings, it uses the θα of future or να of the subjunctive mood, with past progressive and past perfect. Infinitive and Participles are still used in Katharevousa and sometimes the future and past of the middle voice appear again in Katharevousa. And indeed, dual number was scarce in Ancient Greek. The only time I found it, it was on the passage "Ἀλεξάνδρου ἀνάβασις", on a single line


It depends, there are ancient greek historians whose language is closer to the modern like Xenophon and others whose language cannot be understood if you have not studied ancient greek (even if you are fluent in modern greek) like Thoukidides. I would suggest that you try modern greek, you'll notice that its grammar is much simpler but ones needs more words to describe a situation. I'd say you give it a shot since the grammar is simpler and most of the words have their roots in ancient greek.


I learned Biblical Greek years ago. I was reading a book titled 'Linguistics for Students of Biblical Greek. It recommended learning Modern Greek. It just so happened that a friend of mine was starting a class on Modern Greek which I took. It helped a lot. After I learn some more Modern Greek, I plan to review the Biblical Greek, and perhaps learn some Homeric Greek. Greek is a very beautiful language any time.


I am doing a similar tactic, as I plan on studying classical Greek philosophy in graduate school. I've noticed that Modern Greek does not have the dative and that the language is generally much less inflected (comparable to German as opposed to Classical Greek or Latin). And I'm constantly encountering direct vocabulary loans, and that makes vocabulary acquisition much easier and interesting.


Thank you, all of you! I think I'll give it a shot then!


I have very little experience with Modern Greek, but I've taught Ancient (Attic) in college before. I haven't had any confusion resulting from learning Modern Greek yet -- in my opinion, they're so different that there's very little room for confusion, and the similarities are more helpful than detrimental.

The only thing is that you have to be careful not to pronounce your Modern Greek as Ancient or your Ancient Greek as Modern!

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