The Greek Verb

The verb is the part of a sentence that expresses the action or state of being. Some verbs require an object to complete the sentence where others do not due to their inherent meaning. Transitive or intransitive is a characteristic of the verb, not expressed or modified by the voice. Transitive verbs take a direct object. Intransitive verbs do not need a direct object to complete their meaning.

Five Identifying Features of the Greek Verb

The Greek verb has five identifying features: Mode (Mood), Tense, Voice, Person, Number.

Mode (Mood)

Represents the way in which the action is perceived. Two viewpoints are expressed: that which is actual and that which is possible.


Identifies type and time of action. The kind of action is the principle idea involved with the Greek tense, whereas the time of action is secondary. Kinds of actions are continuous, occurring, and completed.


Indicates how the subject relates to the action or state of the verb.


The subject is producing the action or state expressed by the verb.


The subject participates in or directly benefits from the result of the action or state expressed in the verb.


The subject receives the action or state of the verb.

Person and Number

Person and number determine the relation of the subject to the action of the verb. The verb will always agree with its subject in person and number.

Deponent or Defective Verbs

Deponent means “to lay aside” and defective is used to imply that a word has no active voice. However, both terms are inadequate to describe the use of a middle or passive in place of the active voice. The active form did exist; however, through use dropped off because the middle or passive voice by the nature of the word and its use became predominate. However, to say it has “laid aside” its active voice is incorrect and contrary to the history of the verb.

Deponent is not a voice; although some grammarians use the concept of a deponent verb to label verbs they perceive to be active, but do not use the active voice in form. Through the natural development of the language certain middle or passive forms that were better suited to convey what the Greek mind was thinking became predominate to the point that the active voice is no longer seen in use; however, there is a difference between the lack of a voice and the use of one voice for another, so to label this as a deponent verb is inappropriate.

Careful consideration needs to be given to all words perceived as “active” by the English mind that are in the middle or passive form in Greek. Upon close examination of these words there is often no justifiable reason to modify the meaning of the Greek voice of the verb to force them into the concept of English grammar. All “so called” deponent verbs actually are verbs emphasizing a middle or passive voice, not an active voice, and therefore should be translated appropriately to the Greek grammar. Unfortunately, due to the limits of the English language it can be difficult to fully express the Greek meaning. An example can be found in John 1:9 where a passive form of “ρχομαι” is used for men entering the world. There is no doubt that this does not have an active meaning because entry into the world is not based upon the action of the man who enters it; however, translating this in a passive is impossible in the English due to its limitation with expressing a middle and passive form, therefore it is translated as an active; although still understood as a passive.


Present Tense of the Verb

The present tense primarily expresses linear action; however, depending on context can focus on a point in time. With the Greek verb the time is secondary to the type of action; therefore, the present tense is not restricted to only expressing action going on in the present time. The time element is expressed by the mode more than the tense; however, the progressive force of the present tense needs to be considered regardless of what mode it is used with, especially the Subjunctive and Optative modes.

Imperfect Tense of the Verb

The imperfect tense expresses a linear or continuous action in past time. The time element is more predominate because it is exclusively used with the Indicative mode.

The Aorist Tense of the Verb

The aorist tense expresses punctiliar action. It states the action is accruing without indicating continued action. The time element is basically non-existence within the tense, expect for in the Indicative mode, and therefore relies upon the context.

The Future Tense of the Verb

Primarily punctiliar, though linear in some contexts. Often used with the Indicative to indicate future time.

The Perfect Tense of the Verb

Durative and Punctiliar. Completed action with abiding results.

The Pluperfect Tense of the Verb

The Linear and Punctiliar. The past tense of completed action with abiding results.

In this use, verbs that denote a present state in the perfect denote a past state in the pluperfect. These verbs are linear in force, functioning practically like imperfects when put into the past. The reality of the fact is stressed, which present it more strongly than could be done with the aorist. It must be translated into English by the simple past.


The Active Voice


In the active voice the subject is represented as producing that action, or in the case of a linking verb, as existing

The Simple Active

The subject directly performs the action or just simply exists.

The Causative Active

The active does not produce the action, but rather causes it to take place.

The Middle Voice


The basic significance of the middle voice is that it represents the subject as acting with reference to itself in some way. Therefore, there is a special emphasis on the subject. The middle is strictly speaking, never used without some sort of reference to the subject.

The Direct Middle

This use is sometimes referred to as the “reflexive Middle.” The results of the action are directly referred to the subject.

The Indirect Middle

This use of the middle portrays the subject as producing the action rather than participating in the results. The subject acts for itself.

The Permissive Middle

This use denotes the subject as having someone else do something for him, or letting someone else do something to him.

The Reciprocal Middle

The middle reflects an interchange of action between or among members of a plural subject. The subject is always in the plural.

The Passive Voice


The passive voice represents the subject as being acted upon by someone or something outside of itself. Therefore, the subject is the recipient of the verbal idea.

The Passive with a Direct Agent

When the original or direct agent of the action being produced in a passive verb is indicated, the normal construction if ὑπό with the ablative.

The Passive with an Intermediate Agent

When the action expressed by a passive verb is performed on behalf of another, the agent performing the action is the intermediate agent or medium, the usual construction is δια with the genitive.

The Passive with an Impersonal Agent

When the agent, through which the action is produced, is an impersonal or inanimate thing, the usual construction is the instrumental case, with or without the preposition εν.

The Passive with no Agent

The passive was used in order to avoid directly naming God as the agent. This is referred to as the “Theological Passive.”


Indicative Mood

Indicates the verbal idea as actual.

Subjunctive Mood

Denotes that which is objectively possible, contingent upon certain existing and known facts.

Optative Mood

The mood of strong contingency or possibility. It expresses no definite anticipation of realization, rather, it only presents the action as conceivable.

The Imperative 

The mood of command or entreaty – the mood of volition.

The Infinitive

A verbal noun used in place of the verb to express more forcefully the action. The use of a definite article with the infinitive has no major effect upon its variations in use; rather, it restores the noun aspect of the word over its verbal characteristics. It also carries some grammatical significance in the natural use of the article with the cases and prepositions. As a result of its dual nature, the infinitive is one of the most widely used parts of speech in the Koine because it can perform a large number and variations of functions.

© 2017 Luther Walker | All Rights Reserved | ISBN-10: 0-9993211-0-2, ISBN-13: 978-0-9993211-0-2 | This book or any potion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.