Syntactical Classification of Greek Nouns, Verbs Tenses, and Participles

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Introduction to 'syntax' and purpose of classification

 One aspect of grammar is syntax.  The term ‘syntax’ refers to the relationship of words - and phrases - within a sentence. (Whereas ‘morphology’ or ‘accidence’ deals only with the formation of words themselves, not how they relate to other words in the sentence.)

This section attempts to classify different types of words (either nouns, verbs, or participles) into different syntactical categories (i.e. to show syntactical relationships of words and clauses).  Among Greek grammarians, there are differences of thought as to what each of these categories should be called.  But these designations are merely "labels" to describe "uses" and relationships of words. The labels by themselves are unimportant, but the meanings associated with them are very important.

The ‘form’ of a word does not change for different categories.  (For instance, when classifying the genitive case, the form of a particular word in the genitive will always be the same.)  Therefore, in classifying a particular form of a word, the use (or category) can only be told by context.  These categories are not absolutes; they are only put forth as a tool to help better understand what the meaning of a passage is.  In many instances, the category is a matter of interpretation, since the particular instance may actually be able to fit into a number of different categories.  However, the value of thinking through the syntactical use of a particular form in a NT verse will often yield much light from God’s holy word.  (2 Timothy 2:7 – "Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in all things.")

 For instance, notice the genitive form of the word ‘God’, in Jude 21: "keep yourselves in the love of God".  Does this mean "keep yourselves in the place where God is loving you," or "keep yourselves loving God"?  Is God doing the loving (making God the subject of the action ‘love’), or are you loving God (making God the object of the word ‘love’)?  Pondering this (and countless other words and phrases) can yield much light from God’s Word.

The following pages outline some of the different ways in which each noun case, verb tense, and participle form can be used.  (It is not meant to be an exhaustive outline or list; please consult one of the grammar books mentioned below for a more thorough presentation of this subject matter).

These categories have different names associated with them based on which grammar book is being consulted.  A good reference for a more detailed explanation (and more examples) of these categories is Wallace’s book, "Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics".  Another popular (and more concise) book is "Syntax of New Testament Greek" by Brooks and Winbery.  Both of these books are considered ‘intermediate’ level grammar books.  A good ‘beginner’ (first year) book that introduces some of these concepts while teaching the basics, is David Alan Black’s book, "Learn to Read New Testament Greek."

Please be sure to see the list of 'Reference Sheets' where many of these uses and classifications can be printed out for quick reference.

1. Classification of Nouns
    A. Nominative Case
    B. Genitive Case
    C. Dative Case
    D. Accusative Case
2. Classification of Verb Tenses
    A. Present Tense
    B. Imperfect Tense
    C. Aorist Tense
    D. Future Tense
    E. Perfect Tense
3. Classification of Participles

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