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Irene Droppert
English - Modern Greek
The Netherlands

Until the seventies of the last century the word «εις», which means in, was still used in the newspapers. Later this preposition was combined with the masculine definite article «ο», in the accusative (4th case) «τον» to «εις τον». In the daily usage «εις» was reduced to «σ» and «εις + τον» together to «σ + τον» = «στον». This happened with 2nd and 4th cases single and plural of the definite article.

The preposition «σε» denotes a movement. Unlike in English, Modern Greek doesn't make a distinction between a movement to and from or in and out a location.

This preposition is used to express the aim of the movement to a location and at the same time the presence in and at a location.

The Greeks are using «σε», where we use the prepositions in English: in, on, to, into and at.

The preposition «σε» is more often used than all other prepositions together. Three main things for the usage of «σε» are:

1. To express the indirect object:

ελληνικά αγγλικά
1Το δίνω στον Αντώνη. I give it to Adonis.
2Δίνω το βιβλίο στην Ελένη. I give the book to Helen.
3Το δίνει σ'εμένα. He / she gives it to me.
4Αυτός δίνει στην Άννα ένα δαχτυλίδι. He gives a ring to Ann.
5Το έδωσε σ'εσένα. He gave it to you.
6Πες το στον παππού σου. Tell it to your grandfather.
7Το έδωσα σ'αυτήν. I gave it to her.
8Χάρισε το βιβλίο στον Πέτρο. He gave the book to Peter.
9Έστειλα αυτό το γράμμα στην Ελένη. I sent that letter to Helen.
10Φτιάχνει τούρτα στων παιδιών τα γενέθλια. She makes α cake for the childrens'birthday.
  • Since certain verbs such as to giv to, to donate to, to sent to and to make for express a motion from a direct object to a indirect object, the relation between the two objects and the movement is not difficult to determine.
  • In the sentences 3, 5 and 7 a strong personal pronoun in the accusative is to be seen as an indirect object.
  • Except in sentence 10, where «σε» + the genitive (2nd case) is used, the remainder sentences are in the accusative.

2. Ιn order to determine the distance:

ελληνικά αγγλικά
Στις διακοπές μείναμε σ’ένα μεγάλο σπίτι. During the holiday, we stayed in a big house.
Η Αγγέλα άφησε μήνυμα στο τραπέζι. Angela left a message on the table
Ο Κώστας μένει στην Πάτρα. Kostas lives in Patra.
Είναι σε μια σύσκεψη. He / she is at a meeting.
Ο Παύλος κάθεται στον κήπο. Paul is sitting in the garden.
Ξαπλώνω στον καναπέ. I am lying on the couch.
Το τρένο πηγαίνει στην Αθήνα. The train is going to Athens.
Ξαφνικά άκουγε βήματα στις σκάλες. She suddenly heard footsteps on the stairs.
Αυτός ο δρόμος συνεχίζει στον επόμενο χωριό. This road goes to the next village.
Ανέβηκα στο λεωφορείο και κατέβηκα στο κέντρο. I got on the bus and got off in the center.
Πήγαμε στου Νίκου (το μπαράκι). We were going to Nico's bar.
Είμαι στου θείου μου. I'm at my uncles (in kis house).
  • Generally MG makes little or no difference between the presence at a location or the motion to a location, except in verbs.
  • In the two final sentences the genitive is used. This happens in expressions such as: somebody's house, bar, shop etc. A clear example of it is «Μένω στου Πέτρου»- I stay at Peters' house'.

3. Τo denote time or period:

ελληνικά αγγλικά
Το τρένο φεύγει στις οχτώ. The train leaves at eight.
Το έργο αρχίζει στα δέκα λεπτά. The movie starts in ten minutes.
Πάρε με τηλέφωνο πάλι σε δυο μέρες. Call me back in two days.
Σε λίγο θα είμαι εκεί. I'll be there in a short time.
Γεννήθηκε στις 16 Φεβρουαρίου. She was born on February 16.
Σε λίγες μέρες θα πάμε στο σπίτι πάλι. In a few days we will go home again.
Στις είκοσι μια Ιούνιου πήγαμε στις διακοπές. On the twenty-first of June we went on holiday.
Αυτό το έτος στο χειμώνα πήγαν στην Αυστρία. This year they went to Austria, in winter.
Έκανα το έργο σε πέντε ώρες. I created the piece of work within five hours.
Καθάρισα το δωμάτιο σε χρόνο ρεκόρ. I cleaned​ the room more quickly than ever.
  • In most circumstances «σε» is used to indicate a point of time when the event or action takes place, or length of time during or afterwards. It may also describe a specific period, for instance: in a short time.
  • The figures from the days of the months are preceded by «στις» and subsequently inflected in the feminine form. The first of the month however is denoted without «σε»: «την πρώτη Ιούνιου» - on the first of June.
  • «σε χρόνο ρεκόρ» also means: in record time.
  • Apart from the usage of «σε» in front of the indirect object and the strong personal pronoun, it has the following meanings:
  • The motion to or into and from a location
  • The motion on or at a location
  • The presence of somebody on or at a location
  • Something happens at a certain point in time
  • Something happens within a certain period

Also quite simple the nearness of a location may imply the usage of «σε»

Because the relations between nouns in Modern Greek are considered significantly simpler than in English.
  • We use in English a number of prepositions to indicate the distinction on which one noun relates to the other.
  • In cases where we use in, into, on, at and to the Greek only use «σε».
  • the book is on the table
  • the child swims in the sea
  • he lives on the river
  • the paining is hanging on the wall
  • the boy goes to school
  • a book in Greek
  • το βιβλίο είναι στον τραπέζι
  • το παιδί κολυμπά στη θάλασσα
  • Μένει στον ποτάμι
  • το εικόνα κρεμάει στον τοίχο
  • το αγόρι πηγαίνει στο σχολείο
  • ένα βιβλίο στα ελληνικά
The Greek don't use «σε» to make a distinction in the relation of the nouns compared to eachother, but by means of of the verb:
ελληνικά αγγλικά
1Είδα στον ύπνο μου τη γιαγιά μου. I saw my grandmother in my dream.
2Ο φάκελος είναι στο συρτάρι. The envelope is lying in the drawer
3Κάθεται στην πολυθρόνα. She is sitting in the armchair.
4Ο πατέρας μου έμεινε στο σπίτι. My father stayed at home.
5Θα λάμψει στην εκτέλεση της. They will sparkle during her performance.
6Ζει στον ποταμό. He lives on the riverside.
7Το νερό απλώθηκε στο πάτωμα. The water spread over the floor.
8Έδεσε ένα σχοινί στο λαιμό του σκύλου. He tied a rope around the neck of the dog.
9Ξέσπασε σε δυνατά γέλια. He burst out laughing loudly.
10Εξελίθηκε σε μια όμορφη νέα γυναίκα. She evolved into a beautiful young woman.
  • The above examples denote the meaning of the sentence, when «σε» is used together with a verb. The nature of the verb demonstrate which interpretation was given when it is used.
  • Sent. 1: «βλέπω σε» - to see something, on, at, or in etc.
  • Sent. 2: «είμαι σε» - to be somewhere, in, on, at or inside
  • Sent. 3: «κάθομαι (πάνω) σε» - to sit on or in something.
  • Sent. 4: «μένω σε» - to stay somewhere in or on
  • Sent. 5: «λάμπω σε» - to shine on, in or during
  • Sent. 6: «ζω σε» - to live on, at or in a location
  • Sent. 7: «απλώνω σε» - to spread out, on, at or in
  • Sent. 8: «δένω σε» - to tie at, on, in or to
  • Sent. 9: «ξεσπάω σε» - to burst in, into or from
  • Sent. 10: «εξελίσσομαι σε» - to evolve to

As already observed, the nature of a verb, used together with «σε», indicates what is meant. However, when «σε» is used to express a movement from, in or to a location, the wrong conclusion regarding the choice of the correct connection easily could be drawn without a specific indication. After all it also might be explained as a presence on, at and upon a location.

To avoid these indistinctnesses the following adverbs of place can be preceded «σε»: «μέσα» - inside and «πάνω» - above, on top .

Other adverbs of place, often used with «σε», are: «γύρω» - round about, around, «μπροστά» - in front, «δίπλα» - next, next door, nearest and «κοντά» - close, near.

  • μέσα στο αυτοκίνητο
  • πάνω στη στέγη
  • πήγα στο σπίτι
  • πέρασα μέσα στο σπίτι
  • μπροστά στο μαγαζί
  • δίπλα στο εστιατόριο
  • κοντά στο κέντρο
  • in the car
  • on the roof
  • I went home
  • I went into the house
  • in front of the shop
  • next to the restaurant
  • close to the centre

The above adverbs may be alternatively placed behind the noun, to separate them sufficiently from the clause with the preposition:

  • στο αυτοκίνητο μέσα
  • στη στέγη πάνω

This phenomenon does not only occur in constructions with «σε» + an adverb, but also with other prepositions + adverbs.

  • The adverbs «γύρω», «μπροστά», «δίπλα» and «κοντά», used together with the preposition «από» have an opposite meaning.
  • The usage of «μέσα σε» to express a movement in and a presence at a location is slightly complicated, because for a movement from outside into a location followed by a movement to the outside on another location, «μέσα από» is used, because MG is considered this as a passing movement.
  • When somebody looks through the window from a position inside to something which takes place outside or vice versa, MG also considers this as a passing movement from the person who is looking.
The following examples denote «σε» with a figurative meaning, where it is clear that the clause with the preposition is determined:
  • 1. By a verb part of speech with a verb:
ελληνικά αγγλικά
1Δεν μπορείς να αλλάξεις το σίδερο στο χρυσό. You can not turn iron into gold.
2Υπακούσαμε στις διαταγές του. We obeyed his orders.
3Θα ανθίσταμαι στον πειρασμό. I will resist the temptation.
4Δεν έφταιγαν σε τίποτα. They weren't to blame for anything.
5Πίνω στην υγεία σου. I drink to your health.
  • In expressions, where things are transformed, it usually is expressed with «σε», such as in sentence 1.
  • The verbs in the sentences 2, 3 and 4: «υπακούω» - to obey, «ανθίσταμαι» - to resist, to withstand and «φταίω» - to blame are in MG, in contrast to in het English, intransitive verbs.
  • The function of «σε» in a good running sentence is often inexplicable. The use of the preposition in abstract expressions is in such a way extensive that it is too much to be mentioned here.
  • 2. By a noun:
ελληνικά αγγλικά
6Η βελτίωση στις διπλωματικές σχέσεις με την Κίνα. The improvement of diplomatic relations with China.
7Ο ιερός θεσμός στο(ν) γαμό. The sacred institution of marriage.
8Είμαι πτώμα στην κούραση. I'm exhausted.
9Η απογοήτευση των Ελλήνων στην κυβέρνησή τους. The disappointment of the Greeks in their government.
10Η ανησυχητική τροπή στις σχέσεις μεταξύ των δύο χωρών. The alarming turnaround in the relations between the two countries.
  • In sentence 6 the accusative is used due to the usage of «σε». In the genitive the sentence is: «Η βελτίωση των διπλωματικών σχέσεων»
  • Ditto in sentence 7: «Ο ιερός θεσμός του γάμου»
  • Sentence 8 is one of the standard expressions in the informal spoken language and literally means I'm a corpse in exhaustion
  • The sentences 9 are 10 are self-explanatory: to be disappointed in and a turnaround in.
  • 3. Bij a adjective or adverb:
ελληνικά αγγλικά
11Βαθιά στην καρδιά μου γνώριζα ότι... Deep inside I know that...
12Είναι συνεπής στο λόγο του. He keeps his word.
13Στην τελική ανάλυση μπορούμε να πάμε When all is said and done we can go.
14Έφτασαν ακριβώς στην ώρα. We arrived just in time.
15Η άρνησή του με έφερε σε δύσκολη θέση. His denial brought me in a disadvantageous position.
  • Sent. 11: «βαθιά» is used as an adverb here.
  • Sent 12: «συνεπής» means consequent and is an adjective in this sentence.
  • Sent 13: «στην τελική ανάλυση» literally means after the final analysis. «τελική,» is the adjective inflected feminine because «ανάλυση» is a feminine noun.
  • Sent 14: «ακριβώς» is an adverb after which «σε» is used.
  • Sent 15: «φέρνω σε δύσκολη θέση» also means to be embarrassed. «δύσκολη» is the feminine inflected adjective.
  • 4. By a number or quantity:
ελληνικά αγγλικά
16Στο ένα τέταρτο της τιμής. For a quarter of the price.
17Ταξιδεύω πάντα στην πρώτη θέση. I always travel first class.
18Έφτασε δεύτερος στον αγώνα δρόμου. He was second in the race.
19Το θερμόμετρο κατέβηκε στο μηδέν. De thermometer sunk to zero.
20Αυτό το προϊον πωλήθηκε σε εκατοντάδες. This product was sold per hundred.

In the sentences 16 up to and including 20 numbers and quantities are used.

  • A large number of abstract phrases, originated from the formal vernacular and preceded by «σε» exist, such as:
  • σε τελυταία ανάλυση
  • σε μηνιαία βάση
  • σε σημαντικό βαθμό
  • in the final analysis
  • on a monthly basis
  • on a large scale
  • At the same time also plenty of expressions exist, consisting of «σε" + an abstract noun + a preposition representing various connections:
  • σε αντίθεση με
  • σε αντίθεση προς
  • σε σχέση με
  • σε συνδυασμό με
  • σε συνεργασία με
  • σε σύγκριση με
  • in contrast to
  • with respect to, as opposed to
  • in relation to
  • in combination with
  • in cooperation with
  • in comparison to/with

This system exists and is clear. Because of this system it is not possible to merge «se» + the definite article in the nominative (1st case). Hence the words «σο» (masc.), «ση» (fem.) and «στο» (neut.) don't exist. In the first two occasions that's not a problem. With «στο» however it is, because the 1st and the 4th cases of this gender are the same. When this word is used it is always in the 4th case. Keep herewith in mind that «στο» also may occur as a variant for «στον», when preceded a noun beginning with «ν-» or «μ-» whereby the final «-ν» has been left behind.

Drawing together the article and «se» in the genitive and the accusative:
articles masculine feminine neuter
definite singular 2nd case στου στης στου
definite singular 4th case στο(ν) στη(ν) στο
definite plural 2nd case στων στων στων
definite plural 4th case στους στις στα
indefinite σ'ένα(ν) σε μια(ν) σ'ένα

A clear delimiter is indicated when using the indefinite article «ένα» + an abbreviated «σε».