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Urgent Need For Greek Spelling Tips

Γεια σας,

I am a beginner in Greek, and while I picked up how to read Greek pretty fast, I am at a loss when it comes to spelling.

The reason is because there seems to be multiple duplicate sounds in Greek. For example:

  • ε + αι
  • υ + ι + η + ει
  • ο + ω

As you can see, it can get really confusing when I am trying to spell a word like ευχαριστώ, and frankly most words.

Are there rules that one may follow to help to spell correctly? This is really, really hurting my progress as of course a misspelled word is often counted wrong (which I support and understand). I am trying to work through the course I I do with other languages, but due to this problem I can move only very slowly.

Let me know if you can help, or if you have the same problem.

October 18, 2016



Here are some spelling tips that we've learned at primary school:

  • Masculine and feminine nouns in plural number end in -οι. (eg άνθρωποι = humans)
  • Neuter nouns that end in -ος in singular, end in-η in plural number. (eg δάση = forests)
  • Verbs in 1st singular in present tense end in -ω. (eg τρώω = I eat)
  • Verbs in 3rd singular end in -ει. (eg τρέχει = he/she/it runs)
  • Present participles are written with -οντας when the "ο" isn't stressed (eg τρέχοντας = running) and with -ώντας when the "ω" is stressed (eg τραγουδώντας = singing).

There are certainly more of them, but I can't remember all of them now. I guess that you will learn them anyway by experience. :-)



I am referring a bit more specifically to basic phonetics though, not necessarily verb conjugation. It is nice of you to let me know about them though, as they too are important.


I'm not sure what you mean with "basic phonetics" in this connection since the pronunciation does not let you distinguish between those groups of sounds - they are pronounced completely identically and there is no phonetic difference between e.g. ε and αι.


What I mean is a rule similar to "i before e except after c" and the like. Spelling rules. That way, based on the surrounding letter I can have a hint as to what letter to use.


Unfortunately, I don't think there are such form-based rules.

It's more like "when do we use ee in English and when ea" -- there's no way to tell that we write speak but meek.

In fact, it's a reasonably good comparison, because in older English, the two were pronounced differently, and that is the reason why the words are spelled differently -- but now those two sounds have merged in nearly all English dialects. So now we have pairs such as tea, tee; leak, leek; meat, meet etc.

The only reasonable way to know whether ea or ee is appropriate (unless you're a speaker of one of the handful of British dialects that conserves a pronunciation difference) is either etymology (know how the word was pronounced in Middle English) or simply learning it by heart.

Which is what you'll have to do with Greek, I'm afraid.

At least for vowels in word stems. For vowels in endings, there are rules that you can learn, such as the ones @panagiotists13 posted - but they are based on grammar, not on the letters in the word.



Thank you for letting me know.


Unfortunately, mizinamo is right :-) there are no phonetic differences in modern Greek between ε and αι. We are certain that in ancient Greek there were phonetic differences, but these differences no longer exist.

P.S. Attempts have been made to "recreate" the ancient Greek pronunciation, such as the Erasmian pronunciation (which may be close but but no one really knows), but this is a highly theoretical subject that I am incapable of answering.


I see, thanks.


Many Greek words have been imported into Latin and modern European languages (not only Romance languages), sometimes with a different meaning: so in some cases, like ευχαριστώ (cfr. English Eucharist), a comparison with them can be of help.


The orthography of Greek is historical in most cases, not phonetic. So the Greek alphabet is not sufficient to express all sounds of Greek. Are there long or short vowels in phonetics in Modern Greek speech? Officially there aren't. But I think there are, depending on the emphasis or the stress of the voice. Also: For instance how a foreign can pronounce -γι- in the word Παναγιά (=Madonna) in a form? Absolutely wrong if is trying it without hearing from a native speaking, it would be like Πανα-γ-ι-ά, not Πανα-γι-ά.

There were many attempts since the 19th c. to simplify the Greek language in her written form. Ioannis Vilaras ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yianis_Vilaras ) was the first, who tried to change the orthography to phonetic, all ο with ο and all ι with η etc. Take a look at his work downloading the book: http://anemi.lib.uoc.gr/metadata/9/f/9/metadata-39-0000028.tkl . But the tradition is too strong in Greek language. The last revision in the Greek language is in 1982, when the Greek Parliament decided to reject the aspiration signs and use one accent for stressed words, a reform that was not accepted by many Greeks, as unhistorical. Even so, it is not so bad as in English for instance, where one has to learn how to write almost every word separately . Most of the Greek words have suffixes that change and are the same, and also one has to learn the theme, the invariable part of the word. Also etymology helps too much, as many words have the same core origin.

Just to notice it.


I see, thanks.

English has hard spelling, but not as bad as you say. The challenges come in when you come across an imported word like "Menu" and "Chivalry" (lots of words were taken from French), and when you compare the differences between native pronunciation and correct pronunciations (yes, there is usually a difference). We also have this deal where we simplify some vowels so it's easier to speak fast.

For instance "alphabet" isn't pronounced "Ahl-fah-beh-t", but typically "Ahl-fuh-beh-t". I know people, and sometimes my self pronounce "for" as "fur". The short 'a' sound in the middle of a word is often made a short 'u' sound in pronunciation. (Ever heard an English speaker say "I want uh [insert noun here]" instead of "I want A"?)

Otherwise our spelling is generally straight forward if you know the diphthongs; We only have two duplicate sounds, which are c and k, and sometimes c sounds like s (which I admit, I do not even know the rule here and I am a native English speaker).

That is why I am looking for tips about the spelling standards of Greek, that way I do not have to guess every single time and learn how to spell "almost every word separately". :)


I will try to give you some rules, apart from those you already gave.

When you meet these two vocals together α+υ or ε+υ, then the υ sounds in some cases like an f and in some cases like a v.

Examples where α+υ and ε+υ sound like an f:

Αυτοκίνητο sounds like aftokinito and ευχαριστώ sounds like aefcharisto. Ευτυχώς (aeftichos)

Examples where α+υ and ε+υ sound like a v:

Αύριο (avrio), ευημερία (evimeria), ευηπόληπτος (evipoliptos), αυγό

But, when you meet together o+υ, then they give you as a sound the sound of oo in pool. So πουθενά sounds poothaena

One more rule! When you see these two dots above one vocal πχ ϊ, ϋ, then this vocal sounds like it would sound if it was alone. So, προϋπόθεση, won't sound like proo, but like proipothesi. Ησαΐας, won't sound like isaeas, but like isaias. So you will read them as you would if they were alone and not combined together.

Also something that you forgot above is that these make the same sound: υ, η, ι, ει, οι

I don't think there are any additional rules, but please if you find a word that is difficult please feel free to ask. I may remember something more!In any case you can check the sound of the words through forvo.com. It has helped me a lot with italian. :)

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