I recently began learning from Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek. He says you should learn the lexical form, stem and article of a noun. Can these things not be worked out if you just learn the lexical form?

I want to start memorising the vocabulary as I mean to go on, so my question is which forms of the noun do I have to learn to be able to read and translate from Koine Greek?

2 Answers 2


As Mounce said, it's important to learn the articles of all the nouns because it's not always obvious what they should be from just the lexical form. A good example of that is ἡ ἔρημος (the desert, wilderness) which is a second declension noun. Most second declension nouns are masculine and have ὁ for the article, but ἡ ἔρημος is feminine and takes the feminine article.

It's also important to learn the stem of all the nouns because the lexical form isn't always a good indication of what it should be. For example, ἡ νύξ (the night) has for its stem νύκτ-, which isn't obvious. Another example is ὁ πατήρ, which might lead you to think that the stem would be πατ-, when actually it's πατρ-.

One good way to learn the stem is to learn the genitive singular and drop the ending. For example, the genitive singular of πατήρ is πατρός. By dropping the ending -ός, you get the stem πατρ-.

  • 1
    Ah thanks, this explains how the grammar is listed without the stem in Mounce's book.
    – Owl
    Apr 15, 2020 at 13:28

The stem can't always be derived from the lexical form. For example, in the third declension, the nominative singular (i.e. the lexical form) is usually formed by adding an -s, which often obscures the end of the stem:

  • glauc-s > glaux, onych-s > onyx, pteryg-s > pteryx
  • tapēt-s > tapēs, Tyrinth-s > Tyrins, pod-s > pous
  • clōp-s > clōps, katēliph-s > katēlips, Arab-s > Araps

And, unfortunately, the lexical form can't always be derived from the stem either. This often goes back to something called Proto-Indo-European ablaut, and doesn't follow any regular pattern in Greek; it just has to be memorized.

  • Stem patr-, but lexical form patēr
  • Stem geront-, but lexical form gerōn
  • Stem rhētor-, but lexical form rhētōr

So you need to memorize both. Similarly, the gender isn't always predictable from the form—there's no good way to know which of the nouns I just listed are masculine vs feminine without memorizing each one—so you'll need to learn that too.

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