Case of the article in "Τα παιδιά τους είναι αγόρια"


The only other language I know with any significance is Latin (yeah, I know), so I'm used to noun/pronoun inflections. As I understand it, the accusative is the object of the verb in the sentence, the nominative is the subject, and the genitive denotes possession. In Greek, the definite article ο, η, το is also used as a third-person pronoun of sorts in some cases.

This is where I get confused. In most sentences I see that include possession the genitive of the article is used. For example, apparently "Her children are boys" is "Τα παιδιά της είναι αγόρια". The genitive "της" is used and that makes perfect sense to me. However, in any sentence I see where it's a third-person plural it seems the accusative "τους" is used, e.g. the one in the title: "Τα παιδιά τους είναι αγόρια". My intuition would have led me to write "των" instead as that's the genitive, but indeed "τους" seems to be the correct one to use and I can't understand why. In my mind "Their" is a genitive plural in English so the pronoun should be genitive plural in Greek too. In Latin I would do it the same way (Google Translate agrees there, whatever that's worth) and use "eorum" or "illorum" which are genitives. So it's difficult to understand why in this context it has to be accusative plural.

Sorry for the long-winded explanation but it's a pretty specific problem and I can't find the answer to it online.

July 29, 2019

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A few pointers which might clear things up.

First, είναι does not trigger accusative. There are a few verbs, είμαι being the most important, but also including υπάρχω and γίνομαι, which don't really have an object. When you're saying something "is" something, rather than doing something, the phrase or sentence stays in nominative.

Secondly, the τους in the above sentence is a possessive pronoun and not an article. This can be a little confusing when you're starting out, as τους is also the masculine accusative plural article.

Third, the genitive plural article (for all genders) is των. This is equivalent to an apostrophe of possession in English, or an "of the". It requires another noun to follow it, declined to plural genitive also. I'll give you a few examples which might help. For me, when I was starting out, it helped me to break down the sentences extremely literally, so I've done that for you here:

  • Τα παιδιά μου - my children/the children mine (lit)
  • Τα παιδιά σου - your children/the children yours (lit)
  • Τα παιδιά τους - their children/the children theirs (lit) [τους is a possessive pronoun here]
  • Τα παιδιά των γονέων - the parents' children/the children of the parents (lit)
  • Οι τοίχοι των σπιτιών - the houses' walls/the walls of the houses (lit)
  • Αγαπάω τους σκύλους μου - I love my dogs/I love the dogs mine (lit) [τους is a plural accusative masculine article here]
  • Αγαπάν τους σκύλους τους - they love their dogs/they love the dogs theirs (lit) [the first τους is the article, the second is the possessive pronoun]
  • Αγαπάω τους σκύλους των γονέων μου- I love my parents' dogs/I love the dogs of the parents mine (lit)

Hope that clears things up for you a little.

July 29, 2019

Thanks! My faulty assunption here was that the possessive pronoun was declined in the same way as the article.

July 29, 2019

Did katharevousa use των for the plural possessive?

I've seen a few examples that I interpreted that way, but I'm conscious I'm doing a lot of guessing whenever I encounter katharevousa...

July 31, 2019

Yes, what is correct in katharevousa is τα παιδία των.

July 31, 2019
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Some usage in Modern Greek is similar to that in Katharevousa. But Katharevousa per se is not taught on this course.

July 31, 2019

Agreed, I was just taking the opportunity of asking anyone who might know here :)

July 31, 2019
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