Lesson 49: Nominal Word Clusters/Determiners


0710. The consideration of the structure of nominal word clusters as wholes (§§680-706) did not permit closer examination of the function of certain high frequency words belonging to the closed classes (i.e. the members of which are fixed and can be listed §§016.6, 017) or of the relationships between sub-clusters signaled by cases, particularly the genitive. In this and following lessons the function of a closed class usually given the designation "determiners" will be analyzed. For the function of the cases in nominal word clusters see §§0885-894.

Determiners are like adjectives in some respects (e.g. declension patterns, attributive relation to nominal heads), but differ from adjectives in other important respects (cf. §683.1).


710. Foremost among the determiners is the article (§§120-1240). Its function as a signaler of grammatical structure was considered briefly in §§125-129. It figured prominently in the description of nominal word clusters in §§680-706. It remains to consider the "meaning" and function of the article systematically.

711. As a modifier of a noun (or nominal head) the article determines the noun in one of two ways:

711.1 Individual: ὁ πατήρ, the known, particular father, whom both reader and writer know is meant.

(1) ἐδίδαξεν με ὁ πατήρ Jn 8:28
the father (viz. God) taught me

711.2 Generic: ὁ δοῦλος, the slave as a genus, as opposed say, to the child, peer, king, etc.

(2) ὁ δὲ δοῦλος οὐ μένει ἐν τῇ oἰκίᾳ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα Jn 8:35
the slave does not abide in the house forever

In content, the slave as opposed to the son.

711.3 The individualizing article also determines the thing par excellence

(3) ὁ προφήτης εἶ σύ; Jn 1:21
Are you the prophet?

I.e. the forerunner of the messiah, whom everybody expects.

711.4 When the individualizing article determines a "subject" previously introduced into the discussion, its use is known as anaphoric (anaphora: reference back [to something under discussion] ) :

(4) καὶ ἤκουσαν οἱ δύο μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ... Jn 1:37
and his two disciples heard ...

The two disciples were introduced in 1:35.

711.5 The "meanings" illustrated in 711.1-4 indicate why ὁ, ἡ, τό is often called the definite article: it determines nouns and nominal clusters as definite. But anarthrous nouns and nominal clusters may also be definite, i.e. the article is not indispensable to definite determination. And the article also serves other, more purely grammatical functions.

712. The article sometimes functions as a pronoun: it marks the continuation or change of subject in a narrative or dialogue, or contrasts two items. It is always joined to μέν or δέ.

712.1 The article marking a change in speaker (cf. §635.1):

(5) οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ ... Jn 1:38
They said to him ...

Jesus had just been speaking.

Cf. Mt 3:14, 4:20, 22, 12:3. Bl-D §251.

712.2 ὁ μὲν ... ὁ δὲ ... contrasting two items is no longer common (in contrast to classical usage) (cf. §635.2):

(6) ὁ μὲν ... ὁ δὲ ... Heb 7:20f.
that one ... but this one ...

Cf. Gal 4:23, Acts 17:32. Bl-D §250.

712.3 The correlation of other determiners with the article is also possible, e.g. oἱ μὲν ... ἄλλοι δὲ ... ἕτεροι δὲ (Mt 16:14).

Bl-D §306(2).

713. The article as a grammatical device. Where the article functions more or less exclusively as a grammatical device, i.e. where it is lexically entirely empty, it can rarely be represented in translation. It is impossible, for example, to represent, in English translation, the second article in the nominal cluster

(7) ὁ λόγος ὁ ἐμός Jn 8:37
my word

simply because the structure of English does not correspond at this point to the structure of Greek. Even where the article has some "meaning," it is not always possible or desirable to represent it in translation. The anaphoric article (§711.4), for example, is often used with proper names in narrative:

(8) ἔλεγεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς Jn 8:31
Jesus then said

The writer reminds the reader that it is that Jesus speaking who is the main figure of his narrative (Jesus was then a common name like John).

The article in Greek is often a purely grammatical device and should be assigned only grammatical "meaning" in such instances.

714. The article as a signaler of ease (gender, number). In §§125-129 it was observed that the article often serves to signal the case (gender, number) of the head and attributives in nominal clusters. In addition to its utilitarian function when used with fully inflected items, it is especially helpful in the case of indeclinables:

(9) εὑρίσκει Φίλιππος τὸν Ναθαναήλ Jn 1:45
Philip finds Nathaniel

In (9) the article marks the indeclinable name Ναθαναήλ as accusative and therefore as the object of the verb. Although Φίλιππος is declinable, the article makes the structure of this sentence immediately clear. In signaling case the article contributes to grammatical lucidity. Bl-D §260(2).

715. The article as a "substantivizer." The article may signal that words other than nouns are being used in noun position in the formation of nominal clusters. Since nouns are more precisely designated substantives, the article is said to "substantivize" non-substantive words. This means only that the article alerts the reader to the fact that something other than a substantive is coming where a substantive is expected. The article is so used:

715.1 With adjectives:

(10) οἱ λοιποί Mt 22:6
the rest (the others)

Cf. §688.1 for other examples. The article is by no means necessary to "substantivize" adjectives, any more than it is necessary to make nouns definite. Bl-D §264.

715.2 With adverbs:

(11) ἐκ τῶν ἄνω Jn 8:23
out of the above (heavenly regions)

Cf. §§5470.1, 705.3 for further examples. Bl-D §266.

715.3 With p-clusters:

(12) οἱ περὶ αὐτόν Mk 4:10
the ones around him

Cf. §705.2 for other examples.

715.4 The article also "substantivizes" quotations, phrases and words as such:

(13) ἐν τῷ Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν Gal 5:14
in the (saying), You shall love your neighbor as yourself

Other examples in §5470.2. Bl-D §267.

715.5 The article is used with numerals to indicate that some fraction of a previously stated or well-known sum is being introduced:

(14) μετὰ τῶν ἕνδεκα Acts 1:26
with the eleven

The twelve was presumably the larger group of disciples. This use of the article converges on the anaphoric use, §711.4. Bl-D §265.

716. The article signals modification structure in nominal clusters, as indicated frequently in §§680-706. In general the article identifies the immediate attributives of a nominal head and distinguishes them from attributives that belong to the predicate of the sentence. Note, in the following, how a preceding article signals the attributive relationship of a modifier to a head:

(15) τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον Col 3:9
the old man
(16) εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν καλήν Mk 4:8
into the good earth
(17) πέμψας με πατήρ Jn 8:18
the father who sent me
(18) τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθέν ὑπ' ἐμοῦ Gal 1:11
the gospel preached by me

Examples (15)-(18) involve adjectives and participles. Many other examples may be found in §§685ff.

7160. The article with pronominal adjectives. Variation between attributive and predicate order with the article is the means of distinguishing among the meanings of αὐτός (§§719-722), πᾶς (§740.1), ὅλος (Bauer s.v.). The article is an essential component in nominal clusters with the demonstratives οὗτος and ἐκεῖνος (§§684.3, 729-730).


719. Among the determiners, αὐτός, like the article (§§710-716), belongs in a class by itself because of its range and peculiarities of function. Its uses include:

719.1 A pronominal adjective of identity:

(1) τὸν αὐτὸν λόγον Mt 26:44
the same word

719.2 An intensifying pronominal adjective:

(2) αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα Rom 8:16
the spirit itself

719.3 A personal pronoun of the third person, mainly in the oblique cases:

(3) οὐδεὶς ἐπίασεν αὐτόν Jn 8:20
no one arrested him

These three uses can be distinguished by the structure of the word clusters (or sentences) in which αυτός appears.

720. As a pronominal· adjective of identity αὐτός appears in simple nominal word clusters (all terms in agreement) in attributive position (§684.1).

720.1 With other nominal head:

(4) ὁ [γὰρ] αὐτὸς Κύριος Rom 10:12
the same lord
(5) ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ τῇ αὐτῇ Lk 2:8
in the same region

Note: Either first or second attributive position is acceptable.

Another modifier may also appear in the cluster:

(6) τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν βρῶμα 1 Cor 10:3
the same spiritual food

720.2 As nominal head:

(7) οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ τελῶναι τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν; Mt 5:46
Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

A number of set phrases like το αυτό in (7) are in common use:

(8) τὸ αὐτό or τὰ αὐτά Mt 5:47
the same thing(s)
(9) ἐπὶ τὀ αυτό Acts 1:15
at the same place, together
(10) κατὰ τὸ αὐτό or κατὰ τὰ αὐτά Lk 6:26
in the same way
(11) ἐν καὶ τὸ αὐτά 1 Cor 11:5
one and the same

The clues to the use of αὐτός as a pronominal adjective of identity are: (1) it must appear in a nominal word cluster; (2) it must appear in attributive position (i.e. the article must precede).

721. As an intensifying pronominal adjective αυτός appears in simple nominal word clusters (all terms in agreement), but in predicate position (§684.3; contrast §720).

721.1 With a noun as head term:

(12) αὐτὸς [δἐ] ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ ἡμῶν 1 Thess 3:11
our God and Father himself

The translation -self is not always satisfactory. The English words even, very are sometimes more apt since αὐτός often directs attention to a person or thing in a way that borders on demonstrative force (even this man, this very man).

(13) αὐτὸς [δὲ] ὁ Ἰωάννης Mt 3:4
this very John
(14) αὐτὸς [γὰρ] ὁ Σατανᾶς 2 Cor 11:14
even Satan
(15) αὐτὰ τὰ ἔργα Jn 5:36
these very works

Two set phrases are in common use:

(16) ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ Lk 24:13
on that very day
(17) αὐτῇ τῇ ὥρα Lk 24:33
that very hour

English same can be used in an intensifying sense in some of these contexts. For example, (13) could be translated this same John, and (16) could be translated on that same day or, heightened, on that very same day, depending on the degree of intensity.

721.2 Αὐτός is used in an intensifying sense with some nominal heads that do not permit or do not require the article. In the absence of the article αὐτός is said to be in predicate position (contrast adjectives with anarthrous nouns, §687.6), i.e. it is intensifying.

721.3 With a pronoun as head term:

(18) ἐγὼ αὐτός Acts 10:26
I myself
(19) αὐτοὶ ὑμεῖς Jn 3:28
you yourselves

721.4 With a demonstrative pronoun as head term:

(20) αὐτοὶ οὗτοι Acts 24:15
these themselves
(21) αὐτὸ τοῦτο Phil 1:6
just this
(22) εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο Rom 9:17
for this very purpose

αὺτὸ τοῦτο in (21) and (22) is a crystallized phrase used in a variety of contexts and therefore subject to a variety of translations in English.

722. As a personal pronoun of the third person αὐτός appears alone, so to speak. In the nominative case it may agree with the personal ending attached to a finite verb. In the oblique cases it may serve as a grammatical item in the sentence (direct object, indirect object, etc.), or it may appear as a subcluster in a nominal word cluster, most often as a genitive of possession.

722.1 As a personal pronoun αὐτός serves all the grammatical functions served by the personal pronouns of the first and second persons (ἐγώ, σὐ, ἡμεῖς, ὑμεῖς).

722.2 In the nom. case αὐτός may serve as the subject of a verb:

(23) αὐτὸς γὰρ σώσει τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ Mt 1:21
For he will save his people

722.3 As the subject of a verb, αὐτός, like the other personal pronouns, is sometimes used for emphasis, contrast, or grammatical clarity.

(24) ἐγὼ ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι
αὐτὸς δὲ βαπτίσει ὐμᾶς ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ
Mk 1:8 I
baptized you with water,
but he will baptize you with the holy spirit

Since the subject of the verb is already expressed by the personal ending attached to the verb (§542), αὐτός in this structure was traditionally taken as intensifying. However, the emphasis or contrast produced in classical Greek is often minimal or lacking in hellenistic Greek, so that αὐτός may often be taken as a personal pronoun in the nominative as well as in the oblique cases.

In (24), nevertheless, ἐγώ and αὐτός are contrasted, a nuance that is made certain by the use of δέ (§632.1). Cf. Bl-D §277; Bauer s.v. 2.

722.4 In the oblique cases, αὐτός may function as a grammatical element in the sentence, e.g. as the object of a verb:

(25) ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω Jn 1:10
the world did not know him

Or as the "object" of a preposition:

(26) παρ' αὐτῳ ἔμειναν Jn 1:39
They stayed with him

It may appear in any other syntactical position in the sentence common to nouns and pronouns.

722.5 Αὐτός may also form a subcluster in a nominal word cluster:

(27) ἡ ὥρα / αὐτοῦ Jn 8:20
his hour
(28) τὸν πατέρα / αὐτῶν Mk 1:20
their father

See §696 (5), (9), (10) and (12) for other examples.