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Adjective - Grammar of Biblical Greek

Note: Version 0.1 Release 1-alpha.

Glossary

An adjective is a part of speech which describes a noun or pronoun (or a word functioning as a noun or pronoun).

John 10:11          
ἐγώ εἰμι ποιμὴν καλός
egō eimi ho poimēn ho kalos
I I am the shepherd the good

I am the good shepherd

Article

Overview

Adjectives describe (or modify) a noun or a pronoun. Adjectives function (or are used) in four distinct ways;

  1. Attributive – giving information about the noun. It tells of an attribute or a quality of the word it modifies.
  2. Substantive – taking the place of a noun (or pronoun), acts like a noun
  3. Predicate Nominative – asserting something about the subject of the sentence
  4. Adverbial – used to modify (or give information) about a verb

Often the final determination as to how an adjective is being used (or its function in the sentence) must be based on context after taking into account the form of the adjective.

Adjectives may also be used as a comparative .

Form

Greek adjectives must match the noun they modify in, number , and gender . Because of this, they can take the form of all three genders: masculine , feminine , and neuter . If the adjective is functioning as an attributive, it will also agree with the noun it modifies in case . An adjective is listed in a lexicon in its nominative, singular, masculine form.

Adjectives will show these these various forms by using the same endings as nouns. See Master Table 1 and Master Table 2 Master Tables . (The set of suffixes used by each adjective is determined by its stem, just as is true with nouns. See adjective_paradigms .

Adjectives will decline according to the stem of the adjective, NOT THE STEM OF THE NOUN THEY ARE MODIFYING. In other words, the feminine dative singular for the adjective πάς will always be πάςῃ. It will not change when modifying any other dative feminine noun.

Example: The final vowel (α) in the feminine declension for the adjective πάς, πάσα, πάν ( *all, each, every *) changes to an (η) in the dative singular.

The first declension noun εὐλογία does not undergo the same vowel change. As long as the adjective agrees with its noun in number, and gender, the specific form of its endings makes no difference to translation.

Ephesians 1:3            
εὐλογήσας ἡμᾶς ἐν πάσῃ εὐλογίᾳ πνευματικῇ
ho eulogēsas hēmas en pasē eulogia pneumatikē
who has blessed us with every blessing spiritual

who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing

In this example the adjectives πάςῃ and πνευματικῇ are feminine singular and agree with the noun εὐλογιᾳ in gender and number. They also agree in case because they are functioning as an attributive adjective (see below).

Most first declension nouns are feminine (but some are masculine). Most second declension nouns are masculine (but some are feminine or neuter). Third declension nouns may be masculine, feminine, or neuter.

The entry in the lexicon will identify the gender of each noun. However, if the definite article is present in the text, the definite article always agrees with the noun it is modifying in case, number and gender. The definite article (if present) in the text may also serve as an indicator of the gender of the noun.

The adjective (like the article) will always take the form that represents the true gender of the noun. In the example below ποίμην may look like it is feminine because it ends with “ην”, but it is a third declension masculine noun. An adjective modifying ποίμην must therefore decline in the masculine form. In this example both ποιμήν and καλός are nominative masculine singular.

John 10:11          
ἐγώ εἰμι ποιμὴν καλός.
Egō eimi ho poimēn ho kalos.
I I am the shepherd the good

I am the good shepherd.

Function

Attributive function

This is the most common use of an adjective. Both restrictive adjectives and ascriptive adjectives may have an attributive function.

  1. Restrictive adjectives follow a pattern of noun- definite article- adjective or (definite article-noun-definite article-adjective)
  2. Ascriptive adjectives follow one of four patterns:
    • Definite article- adjective- noun or
    • Definite Article- noun- adjective or
    • noun- adjective or
    • adjective- noun

An attributive adjective may come before or after the noun it modifies. An attributive adjective will usually have an article. Attributive adjectives must agree with the noun they modify in case, number, and gender. As stated above attributive adjectives will occur in one of several patterns. One of the most common patterns is noun- definite article- adjective (which may also include a definite article in front of the noun). Attributive adjectives following this pattern are restrictive.

John 2:1            
Καὶ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ γάμος ἐγένετο
Kai hēmera trite gamos egeneto
And on the day the third wedding there was

and there was a wedding on the third day

Another pattern for attributive adjectives is: definite article – adjective- noun.

Matthew 12:35            
ἀγαθὸς ἄνθρωπος ἐκ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ θησαυροῦ
ho agathos anthrōpos ek tou agathou thēsaurou
the good man out of the good treasure

The good man from the good treasure..

Attributive adjectives may also occur with no definite article. The pattern for attributive adjectives without an article is generally: noun-adjective

1 John 2:7                  
οὐκ   ἐντολὴν καινὴν γράφω ὑμῖν ἀλλ’   ἐντολὴν παλαιὰν
ouk   entolēn kainēn graphō hymin all’   entolēn palaian
not a commandment new I am writing to you but an commandment old

I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment…

Note: if there is NO article, the adjective could be functioning as a predicate nominative. See Predicate Function below.

Substantive Function

Adjectives functioning as a Substantive are parsed as a Noun Substantive in the Unfolding_Word_Greek_New_Testament

Sometimes, an adjective is used, but there is no noun nearby that it agrees with in case, number,and gender. There is therefore no noun that it could be modifying. When this occurs the adjective is functioning as a noun. In this case, the reader understands that the writer is referring to some unnamed person or object in the sentence. The unnamed person or object is simply identified by the adjective. An adjective functioning in this way is called a substantive (because the substance of a noun is implied by the adjective). A substantive adjective will usually have an article immediately preceding the adjective.

If an adjective is functioning as a substantive , its case will be determined by its function within the clause. Its number and gender will be determined by the person or thing it represents.

Romans 1:17                
καθὼς γέγραπται δὲ δίκαιος   ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται
kathōs gegraptai ho de dikaios   ek pisteōs zēsetai
as it has been written the but righteous [man/person] from faith he will live

as it has been written, “But, the righteous will live by faith.”

Predicate Function

Adjectives functioning as a Predicate are parsed as a Noun Predicate in the Unfolding_Word_Greek_New_Testament.

If an adjective does not have an article, but the modified noun does have an article, the adjective is probably functioning as a predicate. Predicate adjectives are adjectives that describe nouns using a linking verb. Often the linking verb is not present in the Greek text and must be supplied when translating in English. Predicte adjectives must agree with the noun they are modifying in gender and number. Some languages need a verb in every sentence, so the understood verb may be added to the translation in order to make the sentence grammatically correct in the target language.

Predicate adjectives never have the article preceding them. The absence of the article is a big clue that an adjective is a predicate adjective. However, a final determination must be based on context. If the noun has an article, and the adjective does not have an article, then the adjective is functioning as a predicate adjective. If there is no article before the noun or the adjective, the function of the adjective must be determined based on context. Predicate adjectives occur in three basic patterns.

The first pattern is: adjective-definite article-noun

Matthew 5:3          
Μακάριοι   οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι
makarioi   hoi ptōchoi pneumati
Blessed are the poor in the spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit

A second pattern is: definite article-noun-adjective

John 3:33      
θεὸς ἀληθής ἐστιν
ho Theos alēthēs estin
the God true he is

God is true

A third pattern occurs when no article is present

James 1:12          
Μακάριος   ἀνὴρ ὃς ὑπομένει πειρασμόν
makarios   anēr hos hypomenei peirasmon
Blessed is the man who he endures a trial

Blessed is the man who endures testing.

Adverbial Function

Some adjectives can be used as an adverb. In this case the adjective will usually be in the neuter gender and accusative (or dative) case. The most common adjectives used as an adverb are: βραχύ (short), ἲδιον (one’s own), μίκρον (small), ὀλίγον (little), μόνον (alone), πολύ (many), πρῶτον (first), ὕστερον (second).

Matthew 6:33        
ζητεῖτε δὲ πρῶτον τὴν βασιλείαν
zēteite de proton tēn basileian
you seek but first the kingdom

But seek first his kingdom

Comparisons
Adjectives may be used to make a comparison between two nouns.
  • The positive degree of an adjective makes a simple assertion about the kind or quality of an object.
  • The comparative degree asserts that the person or thing described by it has this quality in a higher degree than some other person or thing.
  • The superlative degree asserts that the person or thing described by it has the highest degree or more of the stated quality than all the others in a group.

Comparative degree form

When an adjective is used to compare its noun to another noun, it is functioning as a comparative adjective. Comparatives are formed by adding -τερος (masc.), -τερα (fem.), or -τερον (neut.) to the end of the adjective. (Some irregular adjectives take the suffixes -(ι)ων or -ον instead.)

Caution:
  • Some adjectives use the positive form to indicate a comparative degree.
  • Some adjectives use a comparative form to indicate a superlative degree.

Therefore the translator must be observant of the context and take the context into account when translating the text.

John 13:16            
οὐκ ἔστιν δοῦλος μείζων τοῦ κυρίου αὐτοῦ
ouk estin doulos meizōn tou kyriou autou
not he is a slave greater than master his

a servant is not greater than his master

Superlative degree form

An adjective that compares a noun to two or more other nouns is a superlative adjective. The suffixes that show the superlative form are: -τατος (masculine), -τατη (feminine), and -τατον (neuter), or -ιστος (masculine), -ιστη (feminine), and -ιστον (neuter).

Caution:

  • Sometimes adjectives use the comparative form of an adjective to express a superlative quality.
  • At other times the superlative form may be used to simply make a comparison
1 Corinthians 15:9            
ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ἐλάχιστος τῶν ἀποστόλων
egō gar eimi ho elachistos tōn apostolōn
I for I am the least of the apostles

For I am the least of the apostles.

Elative

Both comparative and superlative adjectives may be used with an elative sense. When an adjective is used as an elative the quality expressed by the adjective is intensified, but no comparison is intended.

Mark 4:1          
καὶ συνάγεται πρὸς αὐτὸν ὄχλος πλεῖστος
kai synagetai pros auton ochlos pleistos
and it is gathered to him crowd very large

and a large crowd gathered around him

Luke 1:3  
κράτιστε Θεόφιλε
kratiste Theophile
most excellent Theophilus

most excellent Theophilus

Grammar of Biblical Greek