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Hellenistic Greek © 2009, 2015
Lesson 10: First Aorist of Compound Verbs
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The Lesson at a Glance

Compound Verb

In this lesson you will learn to recognize compound verbs—verbs formed by combining a preposition and a verb.

Consonant Blends with σ (ς)

Nine Greek letters change when they are followed by a sigma (σ or ς). You will learn to recognize these spelling changes and understand their significance.

Grammatical Discussion

Several verbs in Greek are formed from a combination of a simple verb stem plus a preposition. The preposition is added to the beginning of the verb stem. The verb παρακαλέω (I comfort, urge), for example, is made up of the preposition, παρά plus the simple verb, καλέω.

The meaning of such compound verbs is sometimes obvious from the meanings of their two parts, but this is not always the case. Sometimes the preposition simply intensifies the meaning of the verb to which it is added.

Augments with Compound Verbs

Compound verbs present a particular challenge for recognizing their aorist forms. The augment is slightly more difficult to find because it is not located at the beginning of the word, but once you realize what is happening, it is quite easy to do. The augment is added at the beginning of the simple verb stem, not at the beginning of the preposition. Compare the present and aorist forms of the following verbs.

Present ➞ Aorist

ἀποκτείνω ➞ ἀπέκτεινα

παρακαλῶ (παρακαλέω) ➞ παρεκάλησα

In addition to the placement of the augment, notice that the σ is missing from the aorist form ἀπέκτεινα. This omission is explained below.

Notice that the final vowel of παρά and ἀπό is omitted in the aorist forms of these verbs. The augment takes the place of this final vowel for all prepositions that end in vowels, except περί (around, about, concerning) and πρό (in front of, before).

While there were very many prepositions in Hellenistic Greek, only sixteen could be added to a verb to form a compound verb. You are not expected to understand all sixteen yet, but I've included the complete list below. As compound verbs are introduced in the vocabulary lists, the prepositions they use are also introduced.

ἀνἀ, ἀντί, διά, εἰς, ἐκ, ἐν, ἐπί, κατά, μετά, παρά, περί, πρό, πρός, σύν, ὑπέρ, ὑπό

Exercise 2: Find the Augment

Click here to practice finding the augment in the aorist form of compound verbs.

Spelling Changes Caused by the Aorist Σ

Is this really important?

The principle involved in these spelling changes is important not only for the aorist verb forms. It is used in other forms as well. These same changes take place any time a σ is added after one of these special nine consonants.

Verbs whose stems ends with one of the nine consonants listed in the chart below will undergo certain predictable spelling changes when the aorist σ is added to their stem. Study the following chart well.

Stem Consonant


New Spelling

π or β or φ

+ σ =


κ or γ or χ

+ σ =


τ or δ or θ

+ σ =


Compare the present and aorist forms of the following verbs as examples of this process:

Present ➞ Aorist

πέμπω ➞ ἔπεμψα

διδάσκω ➞ ἐδίδαξα

πεἰθω ➞ ἔπεισα

Exercise 3: Consonant Blends and the Greek Aorist

Click here to practice recognizing the aorist forms of verbs whose stem-final consonant is one of the nine discussed in this section.

Sibilants, Liquid, and Nasal Consonants

Verbs whose stem ends in a sibilant (an “s” or “z” sound) also undergo a spelling change for the aorist tense. When the aorist σ is added, the sibilant at the end of the stem is usually deleted (Compare τ, δ, and θ in the chart above). If the sibilant is double, however, it will be treated like κ, γ, and χ in the chart above. Compare the present and aorist forms of βαπτίζω (stem: βαπτίζ-) and κηρύσσω (stem: κηρύσσ-).

Present (lexical form)






Verbs with stems that end in λ orρ (“liquid” consonants) or μ or ν (“nasal” consonants) do not add the σ tense sign for the aorist tense. Many of these verbs make a slight change to the spelling of their stem to signal the aorist tense. Often the vowel in the middle of the stem will be lengthened. Compare the present and aorist tense forms of ἀπαγγέλλω (I announce), ἐγείρω (I raise up), and ἀποκτείνω (I kill). Look carefully at the spelling of the stems.

Present (lexical form)




ἐγείρω ἤγειρα



Exercise 4: Sibilant, Liquid, and Nasal Consonants and the Greek Aorist

Click here to practice recognizing the spelling changes associated with sibilant, liguid, and nasal consonants.



παρακαλέω, παρεκάλεσα

I urge, beg, comfort (παρά-καλέω)


περιπατέω, περιεπάτησα

I walk (around), go (around), live, conduct myself (περι-πατέω)


ἀποκτείνω, ἀπέκτεινα

I kill, put to death (ἀπό-κτείνω)



beside, with, by
You will learn later to associate the different meanings of this preposition with different grammatical cases.



around, about, concerning
You will learn later to associate the different meanings of this preposition with different grammatical cases.



from, by, since

Reading and Translation

1. [ὁ ἀσπασμός = greeting]

ἤκουσεν τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας ἡ Ἐλισάβετ (Luke 1:41)

Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting

Notice the case of τὸν, τῆς and ἡ. The case indicates that Ἐλισάβετ should be treated as the subject of the sentence, while Μαρίας should not.

2. [ὑποστρέφω = I return; εἰς = to, toward, into, in]

Μαριὰμ. . . ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς (Luke 1:56)

Mary. . . returned to her home

3. What gender is αὐτῆς?

αὐτῆς is feminine. It is assigned feminine gender because it refers to Μαριάμ (Mary).

4. Which letter is the augment in ὑπέστρεψεν?

The augment in ὑπέστρεψεν is the first ε. This word is a compound verb, made up of the preposition ὑπό plus στρέφω. The augment belongs at the beginning of the stem (στρέφ-), after ὑπό.

5. [ἀπό = from]

Ἰησοῦς. . . ὑπέστρεψεν ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (Luke 4:1)

Jesus. . . returned from the Jordan

13. [κύριε is the vocative case form of κύριος. The vocative case is used to address someone directly. To say, "Steven, hand me that picture, please" in Hellenistic Greek, you would say "Steven" in its vocative case form.

The word προφήτας looks like a feminine noun, but it is actually masculine. Use the article (τοὺς) to determine its case and number. Guess at its meaning.]

κύριε, τοὺς προφήτας σου ἀπέκτειναν (Romans 11:3)

Lord, they killed your prophets

14. [αὐτόν = him]

αὐτὸν παρεκάλεσαν

They begged him (Matthew 8:34)

15. τὸν κύριον παρεκάλεσα

I begged the Lord (2 Corinthians 12:8)

Vocabulary Quizzes

Click here to practice recognizing the new vocabulary presented in this lesson.
Click here to review previously introduced vocabulary.
Click here for even more vocabulary review (if you just can't get enough :-)