I'm learning Koine Greek. One of the example sentences that my lecturer has dreamt up is the following:

Τα σημεια θεου ανθρωποις εστιν;

I'm not exactly sure how to translate this. It seems to say

Are the signs of God men?

A more logical sentence might be

Are the signs of God for men?

I guess I'm confused by the -οις ending on ανθροποις. What case is it?

  • 4
    Support the creation of a Greek language stack exchange area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/101509/greek-language (this time, we are doing really good and the next phase of the proposal is in reach. Vote there!) Apr 7, 2017 at 12:11
  • As a general comment, note that diacritics aren't optional in Greek. It may be that you just don't have the keyboard for it though.
    – brianpck
    Apr 7, 2017 at 12:53
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    @brianpck While I 100% agree with you that diacritics ought not be optional, I've come across some instructors, particularly of NT Greek but not limited to it, who teach without them. I think a case could be made to do without, as diacritics were only invented with the Alexandrians and didn't even catch on right away, but I would only advocate such a thing well after the grammar was already learned as a useful tool in deciphering inscriptions or weighing on problematic words whose meanings hinge on the placement of an acute.
    – cmw
    Apr 7, 2017 at 14:55
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    @C.M.Weimer I agree, except that the spiritus should always be written.
    – Cerberus
    Apr 7, 2017 at 15:45
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    Yeah I type Greek using the Greek keyboard provided on an ipad. It doesn't allow for accents and Iota subscripts unfortunately Apr 8, 2017 at 14:35

2 Answers 2


ανθρωποις (note the omega, not omicron, as you later wrote it) is dative plural, and indeed it is often translated into English with "for," as you divined. The precise meaning will be determined by context. Other ways of putting it are, "Are there signs of god for men?" and, "Do men have the signs of god?" (the dative of possession/the possessor; Smyth §1476).

The full paradigm for 2nd decl. nouns:

N. ἄνθρωπος
G. ἀνθρώπου
D. ἀνθρώπῳ
A. ἄνθρωπον
V. ἄνθρωπε


N. ἀνθρώπω
G. ἀνθρώποιν
D. ἀνθρώποιν
A. ἀνθρώπω
V. ἀνθρώπω


N. ἄνθρωποι
G. ἀνθρώπων
D. ἀνθρώποις
A. ἀνθρώπους
V. ἄνθρωποι
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    Do you think it would be preferable to include or exclude the dual here? The question specified koinē, which doesn't really use it.
    – Draconis
    Apr 7, 2017 at 15:05
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    @Draconis I added it for the sake of completeness. Who knows, maybe TheIronKnuckle will move onto Homeric next.
    – cmw
    Apr 7, 2017 at 16:30
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    @C.M.Weimer I took a class on Homer and still never bothered to learn the dual formally..."Wow, that's weird...must be dual!" Not that I recommend that approach :)
    – brianpck
    Apr 7, 2017 at 16:49

There are some references about the dative case without preposition being used to indicate the agent (e.g. here). I understand that this would result in "are the signs of gods [made / made up] by men?".

I wonder, as others said earlier, if there is more context available.


My original answer, which changed after the discussion in the comments, was "are the signs of gods [to be found] in men?".

  • Could you provide some comments about why you think this is a valid translation? I don't think I've seen the dative used alone like this with a spatial meaning: don't you think ἐν would be required for this reading?
    – brianpck
    May 4, 2017 at 16:41
  • @brianpck If indeed the absence of preposition cannot be used for spatial meaning, then this kind of closes it; I chose it because of the meaning making more sense under this possible use of the dative. However googling a little after your comment I read that the use of dative without a preposition shows the cause of the subject - which would make it "are the signs of gods [made] by men?". (Sorry, not a philologist so my expression might be blurry.)
    – Helen
    May 4, 2017 at 16:57
  • That is possible, though it's rare to have a personal noun used as a dative of instrument or with forms of "to be." The most likely reading is in the accepted answer: dative of possession.
    – brianpck
    May 4, 2017 at 17:23

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