Lesson 1


Lesson 2


Lesson 3


Lesson 4


Lesson 5


Lesson 6


Lesson 7


Lesson 8


Lesson 9


New Testament Greek
Course I
E-mail your Instructor  
FONT INFO: If you see boxes or question marks where you should see Greek text on this page, download and install the Gentium font.  
  Lesson 4 - Adjectives of the 2nd Declension, Attributive & Predicate Positions, Adjectives as Substantives  


  • can be masculine, feminine, or neuter
  • agree with the noun they modify in number, case and gender
  • are declined in similar fashion as nouns

Convention for giving adjectives in a lexicon

Look at the adjectives in the vocabulary list on page 36, section 5.1.3 in your text book. (See pages 15-16 in the 1986 edition.) As in the case of nouns, there are a few letters after each word. But the significance of these letters is different for adjectives. The first adjective in the vocabulary list looks like this:

ἀγαθός, -όν

The word is ἀγαθός. That is the masculine nominative singular form. However, when modifying a neuter noun, it would have a neuter ending, ἀγαθόν. The -όν following the word is there to indicate this.

When modifying a feminine nom. sing. word,  ἀγαθή would be used. But because you have not yet learned feminine endings, your book only gives you the masculine and neuter endings. Later in the text book, adjectives will be listed with both neuter and feminine endings shown, just as they are in a lexicon.

ἀγαθός is declined as follows:

  masculine   neuter
  sing. plur.   sing. plur.
nom. ἀγαθός ἀγαθοί   ἀγαθόν ἀγαθά
gen. ἀγαθοῦ ἀγαθῶν   ἀγαθοῦ ἀγαθῶν
dat. ἀγαθῷ ἀγαθοῖς   ἀγαθῷ ἀγαθοῖς
acc. ἀγαθόν ἀγαθούς   ἀγαθόν ἀγαθά
voc. ἀγαθέ ἀγαθοί   ἀγαθόν ἀγαθά

Remember that the definite article loses the final
ν in the neuter nom. sing. and acc. sing. The adjective ἄλλος ("other," "another") is declined similarly:


  masculine   neuter
  sing. plur.   sing. plur.
nom. ἄλλος ἄλλοι   ἄλλο ἄλλα
gen. ἄλλου ἄλλων   ἄλλου ἄλλων
dat. ἄλλῳ ἄλλοις   ἄλλῳ ἄλλοις
acc. ἄλλον ἄλλους   ἄλλο ἄλλα


  Attributive & Predicate Positions  

The Attributive Position

Just as in English, Greek will often interpose an adjective describing some attribute of a noun between the noun and its definite article:

the good word

ὁ ἀγαθὸς λόγος

τὸν ἀγαθὸν λόγον

The adjective ἀγαθός is in the attributive position in both phrases above. In the first example, the case is nominative. In the second example, the case is accusative. But in both examples, the word order is

Definite Article | Adjective | Noun

In Greek, there is another word order that has the same meaning.

the good word

ὁ λόγος ὁ ἀγαθός

τὸν λόγον τὸν ἀγαθόν

Again the adjective ἀγαθὸς is in the attributive position in both phrases. Again, the first example is nominative and the second is accusative. In these two phrases, the word order is

Definite Article |  Noun | Definite Article | Adjective

We might think of these phrases as saying, "the word, the good one..." But it is less cumbersome to simply translate, "the good word" as we did before.

The thing that these two word orders have in common is the position of the adjective relative to the definite article. In both word orders, the adjective immediately follows the definite article. That is the key to recognizing the attributive position.


The Predicate Position

If we divide a sentence into two parts, one containing the subject, and one containing the verbal idea, the latter is called the predicate.

When the verb is an action verb, the predicate may contain direct objects and indirect objects. As noted in lesson 3, Greek would use the accusative case and the dative case respectively for these.

But when the verb is a linking verb, in Greek as in English those nouns in the predicate that are connected with the subject by means of the linking verb are nominatives.

In Greek as in English, a linking verb takes a Predicate Nominative or a Predicate Adjective.

"He is the boss" The noun "boss" is a predicate nominative
"She is thrifty" The adjective "thrifty" is a predicate adjective

In the two examples above, notice that there is nothing about the form of the words "boss" or "thrifty" that would indicate they are in the nominative case. But when a 1st or 3rd person pronoun is used as a predicate nominative, the form will indicate that it is in the nominative case:

"The boy in the photograph is I." "I" is correct rather than "me" because it is a predicate nominative.
"The good students are they who study." "They" is correct rather than "them" because it is a predicate nominative.

So also in Greek, "The word is good" could be written with a linking verb and a predicate adjective in the nominative case:

ὁ λόγος ἐστὶν ἀγαθός ἀγαθός is a predicate adjective
and therefore is in the nominative case,
just as is the subject.

but not

ὁ λόγος ἐστὶν ἀγαθόν Accusative ἀγαθόν is incorrect.

However, if an adjective in the nominative case stands in the predicate position, the verb can be and often is omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.

The word is good.

ὁ λόγος ἀγαθός

Definite Article |  Noun | Adjective

Alternatively, we could write,

ἀγαθὸς ὁ λόγος

Adjective | Definite Article |  Noun

With either word order, the adjective is in the predicate position. Notice that what is characteristic of the predicate position, other than the nominative case, is the absence of the article immediately preceding the adjective.

In summary,


ὁ ἀγαθὸς λόγος

ὁ λόγος ὁ ἀγαθός

the good word attributive position
ὁ λόγος ἀγαθός

ἀγαθὸς ὁ λόγος

the word is good predicate position

An ambiguity arises when there is no definite article at all, either before the noun or before the adjective. In such cases, the adjective may be attributive or it may be part of the predicate. You will be dependent upon the larger context to determine whether or not a copulative should be supplied in your translation.

ἀγαθὸς λόγος - attributive or predicate
λόγος ἀγαθός - attributive or predicate

Distinguishing the Subject from the Predicate Nominative

Given that case rather than word order determines syntax, if there are two nominatives one of which can be assumed to be a predicate nominative, how do we know which one is the subject and which one is the predicate, and does it matter?

Notice that in the examples of predicate constructions above, the predicate is anarthrous. Even in the ambiguous situation, the definite article is absent. Mark it down that in every instance where we need to construe one nominative as the predicate nominative, the predicate nominative is anarthrous. This will also be true when the copula is explicit. Accordingly, if one nominative is articular and the other is anarthrous, the anarthrous nominative is in the predicate, and the articular nominative is the subject. Pronouns by virtue of their reference to an antecedent are specific even without a definite article. Hence, we can also say that if one nominative is a pronoun and the other is anarthrous, the anarthrous nominative is in the predicate, and the pronoun is the subject.

Why does it matter? Consider the following 

ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν (1 Jn 1:5) Both nominatives precede the verb. If "light" is the subject, the sentence would say that whatever is light can be said to be God, and that is not true. But the fact that "light" is anarthrous while "God" is articular confirms that the meaning is "God is light."
the - god (2nd decl. nom.) - light (3rd decl. nom.) - is
θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος  (Jn 1:1) The fact that "word" is articular while "God" is anarthrous makes it clear that John is telling us something about the word, namely, that the word was God.
god (2nd decl. nom.) - was - the - word (2nd decl. nom.) 
ἔργα τῶν χειρῶν σού εἰσιν οἱ οὐρανοί (Hb 1:10) "Works" and "heavens" are both nominatives. If "works" were the subject, then anything included in the phrase "works of your hands" would be "the heavens." But because "heavens" is articular while "works" is anarthrous, we know the subject is "heavens," and the meaning is the heavens are the works of God's hands.
works - of the - hands - of you - are - the - heavens

If both nominatives are articular, or if one is articular and the other is a proper name or a pronoun, then both are definite, and are interchangeable. Consider: Mt. 16:16: σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστός. It makes no difference whether σὺ (you) or ὁ χριστός (the Christ) is treated as the subject. The sentence is equally true either way.


When ordering a beverage, we may say, "I'll have a large." A large what? Large is an adjective and adjectives modify nouns, but there is no explicitly stated noun that is modified by large in this example. The adjective large is functioning as a substantive.

This is often done in Greek, and often in circumstances where the English translation needs the addition of the word "one" in order to make it clear that there is a concrete noun in view even if it is not explicitly stated. For example, Mt. 6:13 has ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ, "but deliver us from the evil one." There is no word for "one" in the Greek phrase. But it seems best to understand τοῦ πονηροῦ ("the evil") as referring to the devil and supply the word "one" in English.

  Assignment 4