Lesson 10: Nouns/The Third Declension


III. Third Declension: Stems in a Consonant or Consonantal ι, υ

150. Nouns of the third declension end in a consonant or in consonantal ι, υ (§§905, 932, 933). There are two basic patterns, one for masculine and feminine nouns, and one for neuters. Variation on the two basic patterns is due largely to phonetic changes occasioned by the juxtaposition of certain consonants, the restriction imposed upon final consonants (only certain consonants can stand at the end of a word), and vowel gradation in certain stems. The third declension in Greek is comparable to the third and fourth declensions in Latin.

↓        ι and υ sometimes represent two older consonants which disappeared before Greek assumed its classical form (when they represent consonants they are written ι̯ and υ̯ in grammars to distinguish the consonantal from the vocalic form, but they are never written as ι̯ and υ̯ in Greek texts).

Consonantal ι sounded like English y in yet; consonantal υ like English w in water. ι̯ and υ̯ are also called semivowels. No special sign for them has survived in the Greek language, but ι̯ was written as ϝ (digamma, i.e. double-gamma, so called because it had the appearance of one [Γ] gamma written over another). English knows their counterparts. Consonantal ι appears in English in opinion, union; consonantal υ in persuade, quick. The fickle behavior of these semivowels may be illustrated by English w: the w-sound occurs only before vowels (we, wound; wh in when is actually pronounced hw or w). Written but not pronounced: write, wrong (initial); know, blow (final); two, who, sword (coalesced with following vowel): answer, toward (disappeared before vowel of unaccented syllable). Pronounced but not written: one, once. The w-sound may be written as w (work), u (quote), or o (memoir).

The original presence of ι̯ and υ̯ accounts for the form of certain words in Greek and kindred languages, e.g. εἶδον for ἐ-ϝιδον saw; cf. videre in Latin and video in English (Ϝ in this case = v).

↑       Third declension nouns ending in ι̯ and υ̯ are, of course, affected.

151. As the article serves as the model for first and second declension nouns, τίς, τί who? which? what? (interrogative pronoun) serves as the model for the third declension. The full declension must be committed carefully to memory.

  masc.-fem. neuter
N τίς τί
G τίνος τίνος
D τίνι τίνι
A τίνα τί
N τίνες τίνα
G τίνων τίνων
D τίσι(ν) τίσι(ν)
A τίνας τίνα

1510. Mnemonic hints:

1510.1 The stem of τίς, τί is τιν- (τι-). Τιν- appears in all forms except a) masc.-fem. nom. sing., dat. plur. of both genders (ν is dropped before -σι, §929.7), and b) neuter nom. and acc. sing. (ν may stand here, but the original stem may have been τι-).

1510.2 The middle cases (gen., dat.):

  a) gen. and dat. singular endings are identical for both genders, i.e. -ος in gen., -ι in dat.
  b) gen. and dat. plural endings are identical for both genders, i.e. -ων in gen., -σι in dat.

That is to say, the difference in gender affects only the nom. and acc. cases of both numbers; the middle cases are identical for both numbers in all three genders.

1510.3 The gen. plur. in -ων is like the gen. plur. of first and second declension nouns and the article.

1510.4 Neuter:

  a) the nom. and acc. sing. are always identical; the nom. and acc. plur. likewise (cf. second declension neuters).
  b) the nom. and acc. sing. have no ending; the nom. and acc. plur. end in -a, as do neuters of the second declension and the neuter article.

1510.5 The ν given in parenthesis in the dat. plur. forms is called ν-movable. Such a ν is regularly added to any word ending in -σι when the next word begins with a vowel, but it may be added to such words when the next word begins with a consonant.

In the nominal system ν-movable comes into consideration only in the dat. plur. of third declension nouns. For ν-movable in the verbal system, s. §321.

152. Confusion may arise at the following points:

152.1 The gen. sing. of both patterns (-ος) looks like the nom. sing. of masc.-fem. nouns of the second declension (also in -ος e.g. ὁ λόγος).

152.2 The masc.-fem. acc. sing. in -α looks like the neuter nom. and acc. plur. in -α and the corresponding forms of second declension neuters, as well as the nom. sing. of nouns in -α in the first declension (e.g. ἡ ἡμέρα).

1520. Endings which have been utilized at more than one point may be summarized as follows:

1520.1 -ος

          a) masc.-fem. nom. sing., second declension
  b) masc.-fem., neut. gen. sing., third declension


          a) fem. nom. sing., first declension
          b) neuter nom. and acc. plur., second declension
          c) neuter nom. and acc. plur., third declension
          d) masc.-fem. acc. sing., third declension

1520.3 -ων gen. plur. in all declension patterns.

1520.4 -ας :

          a) masc. nom. sing., first declension (§132.3)
  b) fem. gen. sing., first declension (§132.1)
  c) masc.-fem. acc. plur., first declension
  d) masc.-fem. acc. plur., third declension

153. The indefinite pronoun τὶς, τὶ someone, something, any one, anything is declined exactly like τίς, τί except for accent. Τίς, τί is always written with acute accent in texts to distinguish it from τὶς, τὶ which is an enclitic (i.e. pronounced with the preceding word and accented accordingly, §074).

The grave accent on τὶς, τὶ (or lack of accent) in grammars and lexicons is a device to indicate that the indefinite pronoun is meant. As an enclitic, τὶς, τὶ may lose its accent under certain conditions.

154. On the basis of the model, τίς, τί one expects the following endings in third declension nouns:

  Singular     Plural
  masc.-fem neuter   masc.-fem neuter
N   -ες
G -ος -ος   -ων -ων
D   -σι(ν) -σι(ν)
A   -ας

1540. Irregularities. Aside from certain phonetic changes (§155), the endings of neuter nouns remain constant. The masculine-feminine pattern, however, has three important variations that must be noted.

1540.1 The masc.-fem. nom. sing. usually has -ς, but nouns ending in ν, ρ, (σ,) or οντ have no ending in the nom. sing. (like the neuters), with the consequence that a short final stem vowel is lengthened in compensation, e.g. ποιμήν (ὁ) shepherd, gen. τοῦ ποιμένος, stem ποιμεν- (ε is lengthened to η).

1540.2 The masc.-fem. acc. sing. usually ends in -α, but nouns ending in ι or υ may have ν instead, e.g. πόλις (ἡ) city, acc. τὴν πόλιν. Some stems ending in dentals preceded by ι also have ν, e.g. χάρις (ἡ) grace, acc. τὴν χάριν (but τὴν χάριτα also occurs), stem χαριτ-.

↓        The masc.-fem. acc. sing. ending is ν which, following a consonant, becomes vocalic (ν̥ = α), s. §906. Thus α and ν actually represent the same ending.

1540.3 The masc.-fem. acc. plur. usually ends in -ας, but in some cases the acc. plur. is borrowed from the nom. (i.e., -ες), with the result that nom. and acc. plur. are identical, e.g. βασιλεῖς (οἱ) kings, acc. pi. τοὺς βασιλεῖς (εῖς by contraction.

1541. The table given in §154 therefore requires modification at three points:

  Singular     Plural
  masc.-fem. neuter   masc.-fem. neuter
N -ς or —   -ες
G -ος -ος   -ων -ων
D   -σι(ν) -σι(ν)
A -α or -ν   -ας or -ες

Irregularities may be expected in masc.-fem. nouns in the nom. sing., acc. sing. and plur.

155. Phonetic changes. Certain phonetic changes occur in third declension nouns as the result of the juxtaposition of certain consonants and vowels, and the restrictions imposed upon final consonants.

155.1 In the masc.-fem. nom. sing. (-ς) and in the dat. plur. (all genders) (-σι), the juxtaposition of σ with certain consonants produces changes (consonants with σ, s. §§927, 929.7-9, 930).

155.2 Since only the consonants ν, ρ and σ (ξ, ψ, which are consonants with σ) can stand at the end of a word (§923), other final consonants are sometimes lost where there is no ending (neuter nom. and acc. sing., and occasionally masc.-fem. nom. sing.).

155.3 Intervocalic σ (i.e. occurring between vowels) is usually lost, and the vowels thus brought together contract (§930.2).

155.4 Certain nominal stems in the third declension show vowel gradation (§912).

1550. There are other explicable and inexplicable irregularities which will be noted. The large majority of third declension nouns, however, are readily identifiable on the basis of the model, τίς, τί (§151) and the additional options noted in §1541 for the masc.-fem. pattern. In the presentation of the third declension, all nouns represented in Bauer that do not conform to the pattern in question in every particular will be noted: §§ 160-203 are thus not only a schematic presentation of the third declension, but also a catalogue of deviations (cf. Appendix II).

156. Organization of the third declension. Two factors are utilized in the organization of third declension nouns: 1) the two basic patterns, masculine-feminine and neuter (§§150f.), and 2) the consonant with which the stem ends, since any phonetic changes are determined by the final stem consonant. On the basis of these two factors, the third declension is organized into seven classes, with subclasses in each case. The differences, especially among subclasses, are often minimal and may rest on a single point. The detailed analysis has the virtue of calling attention to every particular, but it should not be allowed to obscure the essential conformity of all third declension nouns to two patterns, the masculine-feminine and the neuter.

The classes and subclasses are as follows (cf. Appendix II):

1. Masculine and feminine nouns ending in a stop (mute)
a. those ending in a labial (π, β, φ)
  b. those ending in a palatal (κ, γ, χ)
c. those ending in a dental (τ, δ, θ)
2. Masculine nouns in -ντ-
a. those with no ending in the nom. sing.
b. those with -ς in the nom. sing.
3. Neuter nouns in -τ-
a. neuters ending in -μα
b. other neuters belonging to this class (irregular nom.sing.)
4. Masculine and feminine nouns ending in a liquid (λ, ρ)
a. stems showing no vowel gradation
b. stems showing variation between strong and middle grades
c. stems showing three grades
5. Masculine and feminine nouns ending in -ν- (nasal)
a. stems showing no vowel gradation
b. stems showing variation between strong and middle grades
c. stems showing variation between strong and weak grades
6. Nouns with stems in -σ-, (-εσ-, -οσ-, -ασ-)
a. neuters: -ος, -ους
b. masculines: -ης, ους (all proper names)
c. stems in -οσ-, -ασ-
7. Masculine and feminine nouns ending in consonantal -ι- and -υ- (also -ευ-, -αυ-, -ου-)
a. stems in -υ-
b. stems in -ι-/-ε-
c. stems in -ευ-/-ε-
d. stems in -ου-/-ο-

The largest classes are 1c, 3a, 6a, 7b. Nouns in 4b, while few in number (5), have high frequency. A number of subclasses are represented by fewer than ten nouns. See Appendix II for statistics and a full catalogue of classes less well represented.

157. As in the case of the article (§124), it is important to master the declension of τίς, τί. Master again means instant recognition in context. The most effective practice is scanning a Greek text for examples, at first verbally citing gender, number, case (with options), and then passing as quickly as possible to silent recognition.

1570. Word list. τίς, τί who? which? what? (interrogative pronoun) τὶς, τὶ someone, something, any one, anything (indefinite pronoun)