Differences between Modern Greek and Ancient Greek

The two are different. Duolingo teaches Modern Greek. Here are some of the reasons you shouldn't use the course to learn Ancient Greek.

1. Ancient Greek had different pronunciations and more letters

In Ancient Greek, Φ (φ), Θ (θ) and Χ (χ) were aspirated versions of Π (π), Τ (τ) and Κ (κ) respectfully. These sounds shifted to the Modern sounds "f", "th" (in "that", not "thing") and "ch" (or "h").

Additionally there were the letters Ϝ (digamma) and Ϙ (koppa) in some regions. Letters also varied in style depending on region since Greece was a collection of city-states before it became an Empire proper.

2. Vowels had more diacritics

Yep. There were markings on the letters that indicated more than stress, like how to breathe, what pitch to use and how long a vowel is. You can read more about it here:

3. The grammatical features aren't always the same

One of the ways Ancient Greek differs from Modern Greek is the presence of dual noun articles (meaning you use the article when talking about two of those nouns exactly). Ancient Greek also has a fifth case, the Vocative case. Many of the words, although similar, also have to pronounced in different ways.

Wrap-up: Which should I learn?

I'm not going to say one Greek language is better than the other. The two are both great languages to learn for opportunities. However, I would recommend Modern Greek to people who want to travel to Greece or talk to Greek people, and Ancient Greek for those who just love Greek history, mythology and the archaeological findings to the point where they need to know everything about it. Just know that Duolingo teaches Modern Greek and the most in might help you with if you want to learn the Ancient Greek is teaching words derived from Ancient Greek.

There is also Koine Greek (the intermediate phase between Ancient and Modern Greek, also known as Biblical Greek) which might be more along some people's interests depending on what period of Greek history they are interested in.

Question for all readers: Why do you like to learn Greek? What kind do you like, or are learning?

My answer is the alphabet (Το αλφάβητο είναι όμορφο) and the pronunciation. I also love the idea of going to Greece for various reasons. I'm learning Modern Greek because it seems to be the most useful for my purposes. :)

September 4, 2017


I want to learn Ancient Greek to read the philosophers in their native language. So far I have only looked into modern Greek, but I am getting my book on Ancient Greek on June 18.

June 13, 2018

Very nice article. But I can't resist pointing out something. This and That have the same phoneme: ð, I guess you meant This and Thing, or vice-versa.

Take care. Greek is such a soothing language to listen to, but Ancient Greek sounds even better to me.

September 4, 2017

Really? I guess I didn't think about it. I thought the two sounded different. Could just be the vowels.

I'll edit it.

September 5, 2017

how do you know ancient greek? thats so cool

September 4, 2017

Great discussion DragonPolyglot :)

In Modern Greek, the "th" sounds are the other way around though.
Delta (Δδ) is a "th" sound like "that" and Theta (Θθ) is a "th" sound like "thing".

If anyone is interested, this song is an example (helpfully includes lyrics in time with the music too): Θυμός (Thimos):

September 6, 2017

Thanks for taking the time to make this post, however, I'd like to make some small corrections; In modern Greek, the letter θήτα represents the sound th (as th in 'thing', not 'that'..). As for the grammatical cases, Greek did not lose the vocative case but the dative. The dative case got lost (somewhere around the 11th century A.D.) due to phonological changes such as ωμέγα sounding like όμικρον.

December 8, 2017

I studied Koiné Greek in college while studying the Modern Greek here. The pronunciation really confused me a lot.

September 4, 2017

Funny thing is, the modern pronunciation is more accurate for Koine than the reconstructed pronunciations that were made for Attic Greek but are also falsely used for Koine.

May 27, 2018

I'm studying philosophy and would really like to learn a bit of Ancient Greek to go back to the original texts. Any recommendations on good beginners' books/ courses?

November 23, 2018

Check out an older Duolingo discussion ;)

November 25, 2018

I'm here to try to understand Percy Jackson, or am I just a crazy fangirl?

January 6, 2019
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