Our Everyday Greek

Nod your Head for No and say Ne for Y

By Dr. Dimitra Kamarinou

It is a frequent story that has been narrated to me by many tourists who travel in Greece by car. “I asked the villager if I was on the right way to our destination and my wife asked him if our destination was far from the village. The Greek man nodded his head making the sound “tsk” with his tongue behind the teeth and said something I didn’t understand. I thought he meant yes. It took us several hours to reach our destination. He actually meant no.” Though in many cultures tilting the head up and down is a head gesture used to indicate affirmation, in Greece and in some other South-eastern European countries such as Bulgaria and Albania it means no. By all means it is safer to learn some more Greek words than to trust the signal gestures. In Greek ναι (pronunciation Ne) is yes and όχι  (pronunciation Ohi) is no.

Unlike English, in order to build the interrogative and the negative form of the verb we don’t have to add an auxiliary verb, such as do. In most cases the interrogative and the affirmative forms of the verb are exactly the same and the question mark at the end of the sentence is the only indication of the question. For a negative sentence we just add the word δεν (=not) which expresses negation. It normally precedes the verb which it negates.

USEFUL TIP: Greek employs the same period, comma and punctuation as does English, with the exception of the question mark. The Greek question mark (;) is the same as the English semicolon.

This is how the interrogative, the affirmative and the negative sentences are built.

Interrogative sentence: Κάνεις ελληνικά; (= Do you learn Greek ?)

Formula: verb + object + ;

Affirmative sentence: Ναι, κάνω ελληνικά. (=Yes, I learn Greek.)

Formula: Ναι, + verb + object.

Negative sentence: Όχι, δεν κάνω ελληνικά. (=No, I don’t learn Greek.)

Formula: Όχι, + δεν + verb + object.

Note the comma after the ναι and the όχι.

Interrogative sentence: Είσαι καλά; (=Are you well?)

Formula: verb + adverb + ;

Affirmative sentence: Ναι, είμαι πολύ καλά. (=Yes, I am very well.)

Formula: Ναι, + verb + adverb.

Negative sentence: Όχι, δεν είμαι πολύ καλά. (=Νo, I am not very well)

Formula : Όχι, + δεν + verb + adverb.

Note that the personal pronouns such as εγώ (= Ι), εσύ (=you) are omitted, because they are implied by the verb’s ending. In case we want to refer to a particular person or thing then his name or the noun is mentioned. An example follows.

Interrogative sentence: Η Μαρία μένει στην Ελλάδα; (=Does Maria live in Greece?)

Formula: object + verb + location +;.

Affirmative sentence: Ναι, η Μαρία μένει στην Ελλάδα. (=Yes, Maria lives in Greece.)

Formula: Yes, + object + verb + location.

Negative sentence: Όχι, η Μαρία δεν μένει στην Ελλάδα. (=No, Maria doesn’t live in Greece).

Formula: No, + object + δεν + verb + location.

Some useful interrogative words that usually precede the verbs are:

Greek word  Pronunciation Meaning

Πώς;            POS                how?,

Πού;            POO                where?

Τι;                TI                     what?


Πώς είσαι; Είσαι καλά; Ναι, είμαι καλά. Όχι, δεν είμαι καλά.

Τι κάνεις; Είμαι πολύ καλά. Δεν είμαι πολύ καλά.

Πού μένεις; Μένω στην Αμερική. Δεν μένω στην Αμερική.

Πού είναι η Αθήνα; Η Αθήνα είναι στην Ελλάδα. Η Αθήνα δεν είναι στην Αμερική.

Πότε κάνει κρύο; Σήμερα κάνει κρύο. Δεν κάνει ζέστη.

EXERCISE: Answer the following questions with an affirmative and a negative sentence. 1. Κάνεις μπάνιο; (= Do you swim?) 2. Η γιαγιά σου μένει στην Ελλάδα; (Does your grandmother live in Greece?) 3. Τι κάνει η μαμά σου; Είναι καλά; (How is your mother? Is she good?)

Νote that σου (γιαγιά σου and μαμά σου) means your. When you give the answer you have to change it to μου (η γιαγιά μου, η μαμά μου) which means my.