Periodically I go out looking for useful tools for Greek learning. My recent impetus has been reading in a few of Lucian of Samosata’s works and finding my NT-primary parsing skills to be sorely-tested by the job. So, I have been using Anki to build up my recognition of various different verb forms that are rare or non-existent in the NT. There is always more to learn… To further strengthen this weak point in my skills, I know I need more practice parsing various irregular verbs. Wanting more practice with sight-conjugating and parsing verbs and not wanting to spend the time to make cards for a multitude of verbs, the vast majority of which give me no problems, I decided to look for a tool to help. On the principle that if something is worth doing someone has probably done it already and put it on the internet for free, I went looking for a verb-parsing/conjugating tool online. Success! I found some old treasures long forgotten and some new tools. As a collateral gain, I also found an interesting tool to replace a long-lost dear friend: an online Ancient Greek verb conjugator.
Train your sight-parsing skills
Theoretically, any given Greek verb can have several hundred different forms, most of which are completely obvious after having learned a few paradigms (okay, a lot of paradigms). Most verbs don’t have all the forms, or even many of them (at least in extant literature), but there still is an awful lot of different forms to learn. Then there are those verbs which take delight in defying normalcy. Of course, one can always learn a barrage of complex explanations for the forms, if so inclined. However, for the sake of reading, what matters is not whether the form can be explained via an appeal to certain sound-processes in Proto-Indoeuropean, but whether the reader knows the form. This requires sight-familiarity with the word, which generally requires practice “sight-parsing” the form.
Sight-parsing is important. In a given context it is often possible to figure out what a verb form “must be” based on clues in the context, but it is time-consuming and hinders reading. Much better to be able to look, see, comprehend. That, of course, requires practice. Lot’s of it. And the more rare the verb form, the less practice one gets with it in reading, necessitating ways to practice outside of reading. Enter two (well, three) online verb parsing practice tools.
Ancient Greek Tutorials
Ancient Greek Tutorials is set up to function in tandem with Mastronarde’s Attic Greek learning materials. However, it is unnecessary to be using those materials to benefit from the drills as they can be tailored along a variety of parameters to test different types of verbs and verb forms from the database of over 1,500 verb forms. There are also drills for noun forms, accentation, and a variety of other resources. While the site does not look elegant, there is lots of good content. For some reason it does not work entirely well on Firefox (at least as I have Firefox configured), but fine with other browsers.
Σφίγξ Classical Greek Grammar Drill
Σφίγξ Classical Greek Grammar Drill offers another approach, slightly more intuitive, though still not elegant. It draws verb forms from a database of a few regular verbs and the the “top 101 irregular verbs” from James Morwood’s Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek. Again, the big value here is focused practice recognizing irregular verbs, some of which are common and reading them will become second nature, others of which are not particularly common. Or, if you are like me and have had a highly NT-centric Greek formal education, many of the verbs are just outside the scope of what you have focused on learning well to date and will round out your Ancient Greek verb knowledge.
And, for a similar tool aimed only at the NT, check out MasterGreek. Again, not elegant, but a tool that gets the job done, assuming the job you want to get done is limited to practicing forms that only occur in the NT. That will cover a lot of the key forms to know for Ancient Greek, but not all of them, by a long shot.
Online Greek verb conjugator
Once upon a time I had a neat program called Καλός (beautiful software). This program would spit out all the possible forms of a given verb. Useful for checking your work when doing Greek composition and for seeing patterns in some of the odder verbs. Alas, on one fateful day about 2 years ago a notorious Microsoft Windows update fatally crashed my computer (still kind of bitter about this). After reinstalling, I carried out the laborious process of re-installing all of the programs I once had. To my deep disappointment, the program Καλός seemed – both then and now – to have disappeared from the face of the internet. I’m sure it is holed up somewhere, but I have never been able to find it, even after checking out a few shady-looking links. To make a long, pathetic story short, I have been without the immense convenience of a verb conjugator program ever since. Until now.
Meet Verbix’s Ancient Greek Verb Conjugator. Input a Greek verb and it spits out all the (common) forms of the verb. I don’t know if it produces poetic forms or not, but that is no concern to me at this point. Two of the labels are different from what is normal in (English) grammars of Greek. Instead of “middle” it uses “medium” and instead of “subjunctive” it uses “conjunctive” (like the German Konjunktiv). No real difficulty there. This site is a real win for checking verb conjugation forms and as an aide for composition! As a bonus, it does the same thing for a plethora of other languages, as well as is able to parse a wide variety of modern language verbs, including Modern Greek!
Above I have listed and described three different tools for practicing verb-parsing, especially of those irregular forms that are so crucial. Also, one really neat new resource which shows all the different forms of a Greek verb. These tools can buoy up the floundering learner when entering new territory, especially when moving from NT-primary reading to sampling from the wider world of Greek where optatives run wild and where a variety of verbs never encountered in the tame confines of the NT can be seen lurking in the texts. Hopefully these resources will prove to be treasures for the years to come!