Αυτοί is used for masculines, αυτές for feminines and αυτά for neuters. When there is one male in a group of females, αυτοί is used and not αυτές, like in French (and other languages as well).
How do you tell which ι/η ο/ω to use? Are there spelling rules or must we learn each word one at a time?
There are many rules about endings. For example:
Plural MASCULINE nouns, adjectives, pronouns ending in /i/ are spelled with οι (δρόμοι, καλοί, αυτοί).
Singular FEMININE nouns, adjectives, and pronouns ending in /i/ are spelled with η (λύση, καλή, αυτή).
Singular NEUTRAL nouns ending in /i/ are spelled with ι (παιδί, αυτί/αφτί).
The /o/ sound in the last syllable of nouns, adjectives and pronouns spelled with a ο (δρόμος, βιβλίο, καλός, καλό, αυτός, αυτό).
Active voice verbs end in -ω.
But in other cases, when the vowel is in the middle of the word there are no rules. You learn one root and then you know how to spell the whole family.
It's all because η, ει, ι, οι and ω, ο used to be pronounced differently in ancient greek. As the language evolved, the phonetics simplified, making some letters sound the same, but writing kept the old distinctions based on etymology. Yes, there are these rules, but I know many native Greeks who have to look in the dictionary when they need to write an essay.
Yes, Greek has HISTORICAL ORTHOGRAPHY (ιστορική ορθογραφία). Except for _Dimitris' rules you must know ancient Greek in order to understand why a word is written as it is written. (I had to check the second ι in ιστορικός for instance)
Dimitris what I know the Greeks did not learn modern Greek in school before 1976. No wonder that the generations before that have difficulties in orthography.
I love how "istorikí ortografía" can be read and understood from such a low level as mine. The only language where it's possible, I guess (and maybe being native french-speaker helps a lot too)
Thank you for your useful and detailed answer. I hope more such spelling and grammar rules are added to the 'tips and notes' sections of the lessons. Please enjoy a lingot with my gratitude.
Thank you! Please feel free to ask anything. I'm a language teacher out there :)
If I only listen and fo not look at the word, then it is sometimes hard to make the difference between αυτοί and αυτή. Both sound the same. Only additional words in the sentence make me realize which one i need to write :D
Maybe I am wrong, but how does wone distinguish aurally between αυτοί and αυτί?