Second Declension Masculine

Characteristics of Greek substantives

Substantives encompass the classes nouns, pronouns, and adjectives (which go with nouns and pronouns).

Greek substantives have three primary characteristics: gender, number, and case. Adjectives always match the nouns or pronouns they go with in all three of these things.

Every noun in Greek is assigned to one of three genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. Many inanimate objects are of the neuter gender. For example, the Greek word ἄροτρον is neuter and means plow (as in what you you use to plow fields).

Gender is pretty straightforward except when nouns are declined like they are of a gender they are not. Note that this does not at all mean that nouns have two genders or anything like that: all nouns have one and exactly one gender. Some just look like they ought to be a different gender.

The best way to explain this is with an example. The Greek word ἀδελφός means brother, and is declined “like” second declension masculine nouns. In fact, this noun is masculine (like you would expect), so if we were to match it with an adjective – ἀδελφός καλός, “beautiful brother” – everything agrees.

The Greek word νῆσος means island, and is also declined “like” second declension masculine nouns. However this noun is in fact feminine in gender! Thus, if we were to match it with an adjective, it takes the feminine form of the adjective: νῆσος καλή, “beautiful island.” The adjective is feminine because the noun is feminine, even though it doesn’t look feminine.

This sort of mismatch is not very common, so don’t fret. However, there is even something more to give you hope: the definite article in Greek also matches nouns in gender, number, and case, so as long you know the forms of the definite article, you will be able to know the gender of words, no matter what they look like! (Well, words with definite articles at any rate). We’ll get to the masculine forms of the definite article below.

While number is self-explanatory (singular or plural), we will cover the concept of cases in a great deal more depth in the next section.

Cases in Greek

Substantives in Greek take endings that identify “what they are doing” in a sentence. The different forms made with the endings are called cases, and the different things these forms signify – the “what they are doing” bit – are called case functions. You can consider case functions a fourth “thing” – alongside gender, number, and case – substantives have, if you like. (Or you can view case function as being semantically under case).

Greek has five cases: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, and Vocative. Here’s a whirlwind overview on cases and case functions (at least for now – we’ll add more case functions to some cases later):


Things in the nominative case can:

  1. Be the subject (S) in a sentence: “Grammar stinks”
  2. Be the complement © of a linking verb (LV): “Grammar is hard


Things in the genitive case can:

  1. Indicate possession
  2. Be the object of a preposition


Things in the dative case can:

  1. Be an indirect object: “He gave the book (direct object) to her (indirect object)”
  2. Be the object of a preposition


Things in the accusative case can:

  1. Be a direct object: “He gave the book (direct object) to her (indirect object)”
  2. Be the object of a preposition


Things in the vocative case can:

  1. Be direct address: “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck” (Psalm 69:1).

The masculine forms of the Greek definite article

You’ve just gotta learn ‘em! We’ll worry about vocatives later.

Singular Plural
Nominative ὁ (proclitic) οἱ (proclitic)
Genitive τοῦ τοῖς
Dative τῷ τοῖς
Accusative τόν τούς

Second declension masculine nouns:


Singular Plural
Nominative -ος -οι
Genitive -ου -ων
Dative -ῳ -οις
Accusative -ον -ους

Notice the similarities to the definite article forms.

When learning the vocab for nouns in Greek, you have to memorize both the nominative and genitive forms. To get the root of the noun (what you add the endings to), you chop off the genitive ending. For example, for the word λόγος in Greek, which means “word” (among other things), you would memorize ὁ λόγος, τοῦ λόγου (the nominative and the genitive, with the definite article indicating the noun’s gender). To get the root we chop off the genitive ending, giving us λόγ-. Thus, we have:

Singular Plural
Nominative λόγος λόγοι
Genitive λόγου λόγων
Dative λόγῳ λόγοις
Accusative λόγον λόγους

2nd declension masculine