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Greek/Formation of 2nd aorist participle


QUESTION: Hi.  It is my understanding that the second aorist active participle is normally formed from the aorist stem plus the endings of the present active participle.  So, for example, from βαλλω we get βαλων, -ουσα, -ον.  

I came across this word in my reading:  καταβάς (from καταβαινω).  I looked it up using an online resource that gives the "morphology" of words from the text (Greek New Testament), and it says that it's the second aorist participle, nominative, masculine, singular.  I don't understand how.

I know that the first aorist active participle has endings like πας, παςα, παν.  So an ending of -ας for nominative masculine singular makes sense for a first aorist (but even then it would normally be -σας because of the characteristic sigma of the first aorist).

So I'm a little confused how the second aorist participle καταβάς is formed.  It doesn't seem (to me at least) to follow any regular pattern.  And I couldn't find anything in any of my Greek grammar books that explained it.  

I appreciate any help you can offer.  Thanks!

ANSWER: Hello,

actually the word   καταβάς is not  the second aorist active participle, but the ATHEMATIC AORIST participle active, nominative, masculine, singular, of the verb καταβαίνω.

Such an ATHEMATIC AORIST participle active is  formed of the basic stem καταβα- without any thematic vowel + the same endings as the adjective πᾶς , πᾶσα, πᾶν,  so that we have the participle καταβάς, καταβᾶσα, καταβάν.

In ancient Greek in fact  there are three aorists:

1)the First Aorist with the tense marker -σα (sigmatic aorist) or – α (asigmatic aorist).
[See   ἔλυσα (sigmatic)from λύω and ἔφηνα (asigmatic)from φαίνω]

2)the Second Aorist (aka “strong aorist”)  that does not show the tense marker –σα /-α,  but is based on a variant of the same stem.
[See   ἔβαλον from βάλλω, whose  basic  stem is βάλ-, not βάλλ- that we find in the present. See also βαλών,βαλοῦσα, βαλόν]

3)the Athematic Aorist (aka “third aorist”) or better Athematic Long-Vowel Aorist that  has  no thematic vowel between the basic stem and the endings, and moreover lengthens the  vowel of this basic stem in the Indicative mood.
[See the Indicative ἔβην from βαίνω whose basic stem is βα-, and the participle καταβάς, καταβᾶσα, καταβάν].

Only few verbs have the athematic aorist,such as βαίνω, γιγνώσκω, διδράσκω, δύω, as well some verbs with -μι as the ending of the first person singular present indicative.

To sum up,  the athematic aorist participle καταβάς follows the regular pattern of the  ATHEMATIC AORIST.

Hope this can be helpful to you, although the matter is not so easy.
Feel free however to ask me again.

Best regards,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you very much for your help!  None of my basic grammar books mention a third aorist, so this must be an advanced issue.  You are very knowledgable about Greek, and I appreciate your willingness to help people like me.

May I ask a second question?  (If I should post another question separately, not as a follow up, ignore the rest of this and I will post it separately.)

My next question is about subject verb agreement.  The subject should agree with the verb in number, correct?  A plural subject takes a plural verb.  

Here are some passages that seem to violate that rule:

ἐκλήθη δὲ καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν γάμον.  

Here is my translation:  "(But/moreover/in addition) Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding."  But the verb, ἐκλήθη, is aorist indicative passive, 3rd person singular.  "Jesus and his disciples" is a plural subject.  Or perhaps the sense of the passage is this:  Jesus was invited to the wedding, and oh by the way, his disciples were too.

καὶ ἠγάπησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι μᾶλλον τὸ σκότος ἢ τὸ φῶς, ἦν γὰρ αὐτῶν πονηρὰ τὰ ἔργα.

My translation:  "and men (humans/people) loved the darkness more than the light, for their deeds were evil/wicked."

This one is even more puzzling to me.  The subject is plural (τὰ ἔργα), and the verb is singular (ἦν).  I don't see any way to smooth over the disagreement with an "oh by the way" interpretation.  The passage literally reads "their deeds was evil."

I've checked other sources to make sure that this isn't a copying error in one book.  The wording is the same in multiple texts.   

I've run into this subject/verb agreement issue several times.  These are just two instances of it that I was able to find again quickly.  Are they simply grammatical errors made by the author of the text, or is there some special rule about subject/verb agreement in Greek that I don't know?

Thanks again!  It is wonderful to have someone like you to ask these questions.



glad to have helped you.

As for the sense of the passage  ἐκλήθη δὲ καὶ ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν γάμον (John 2:2),it is just:  “Jesus also was invited to the wedding, and his disciples [were] too”.

As you can see, this  passage does not violate the rule that states that the subject must agree with the verb in number, and then  plural subject takes a plural verb.

In fact, the subject of the verb, ἐκλήθη, aorist indicative passive, 3rd person singular, is ὁ Ἰησοῦς, not οἱ μαθηταὶ preceded by the conjunction καὶ meaning “and also”/”too” in this context, instead of the simple “and”.

With regard to the other passage you mention, i.e.  καὶ ἠγάπησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι μᾶλλον τὸ σκότος ἢ τὸ φῶς, ἦν γὰρ αὐτῶν πονηρὰ τὰ ἔργα ("and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil",John 3:19:), this is quite a different matter.

In fact, the neuter plural subject (τὰ ἔργα) as well as any neuter plural subject can have the  verb in the 3rd.person singular, instead of the 3rd.person plural, because the neuter plural ending –α  is considered as a collective noun, i.e. a number or collection of people, animals  or things taken together and spoken of as one whole, and then it usually takes singular verb forms.

This is why the verb is singular (ἦν) and this isn't a copying error  nor   a grammatical error made by the author of the text, but  a special rule about subject/verb agreement in Greek that you did not yet know.

Hope all is clear enough.
Best regards,


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I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning ANCIENT GREEK. So, do not ask me please questions regarding MODERN GREEK as it is different from Ancient Greek either in spelling/meaning or in pronunciation.


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