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Hellenistic Greek © 2015, 2020
Lesson 26: Pronouns: Interrogative and Indefinite
(τίς, τί, τις, τι)
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Lesson at a Glance

Indefinite Pronoun

A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun or noun phrase. In the examples, “Someone called this morning" and "Mary called this morning” The word someone functions like the noun (name), Mary, but it does not name anyone in particular. We call this an indefinite pronoun.

Interrogative Pronoun

Pronouns used specifically for asking questions are called interrogative pronouns. In English, who and what are used this way.

Grammatical Discussion

Introduction: What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a word that functions like a noun, but without naming a specific person or entity directly. Observe the words "she" and "it" in the following sentences.

  1. Mary brought a blue umbrella.
  2. She brought a blue umbrella.
  3. Mary brought it.

"She" in sentence 2 functions like "Mary" in sentence 1. The little word "it" in sentence 3 functions like the Noun Phrase "a blue umbrella" in the other two sentences. Yet neither "She" nor "it" names Mary or the blue umbrella directly. They merely refer to those entities.

These pronouns (she and it) are definite. That is, they refer to specific words or phrases available in the context.

What is an indefinite pronoun?

Now consider the pronouns someone, anyone, and anything in the following sentences:

  1. This morning someone left the front door open.
  2. Is anyone listening?
  3. Make sure you are not leaving anything behind.

These pronouns are indefinite. That is, they do not refer to any person or thing already mentioned in their context.

The little word τις can function this way in Greek.

  1. καὶ ἐάν τις ὑμῖν εἴπῃ τι, ἐρεῖτε ὅτι ὁ κύριος αὐτῶν χρείαν ἔχει (Matthew 21:23)
    If anyone says anything to you, say "the Lord has need of them."
    If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them.

What is an interrogative pronoun?

An interrogative pronoun is one used to ask questions. English has several of these.

  1. Who left the door open?
  2. What are you talking about?
  3. Where are my keys?
  4. When are we supposed to arrive at Camila's house?
  5. Why did we agree to learn Greek?
  6. How do you learn so quickly?

The Greek interrogative pronoun covered in this lesson functions similarly to who and what in English. One of its forms, the neuter singular nominative and accusative form, also functions like why.

  1. τίνα λέγουσιν οἰ ἀνθρώποι εἶναι τὸν υἰὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου; (Matthew 16:13)
    Who do people say the Son of Man is?

  2. τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; (Romans 4:1)
    What, then, shall we say?

  3. καὶ περὶ ἐνδύματος τί μεριμνᾶτε; (Matthew 6:28)
    And regarding clothing, why do you worry?
    And why do you worry about clothing?

Forms of the Indefinite and Interrogative Pronouns

The indefinite and interrogative pronouns are identical except for accentuation. The basic forms are given in the table below without accents.

The masculine and feminine forms are the same, and the neuter forms are only slightly different.

The Greek Indefinite Pronoun



Masculine and Feminine


Masculine and Feminine






















Notice that the endings are third declension forms.

The stem of this pronoun is τιν-. As you have seen with other words, the ν of the stem is omitted whenever an ending beginning with σ/ς is added. Notice also that like other neuter forms you have seen, the nominative and accusative neuter forms are identical.

Pay special attention to the masculine and feminine accusative singular (τινα). It is identical to the nominative and accusative plural neuter form.

Enclitics — Λόγοι Ἐγκλιτικοί

When used as an indefinite pronoun, τις is enclytic (ἐγκλιτικός). That is, "it leans" (ἐγκλίνει) on the preceding word for its accent. It is pronounce as if it were a part of the word before it. As a result, it frequently appears without an accent mark, and in some circumstances the word before it will have two.

  1. ὁ ἀδελφός σου ἔχει τι κατὰ σοῦ (Matthew 5:23)
    Your brother has something against you.
  2. διδάσκαλε, εἴδομέν τινα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί σου ἐκβάλλοντα δαιμόνια (Mark 9:38)
    Teacher, we saw someone casting out deamons in your name.

The general rules for recessive accents that you learned near the beginning of this course determines the number of accents we see. The accent of the indefinite pronoun—pronounced as a part of the word before it—will move back as far as those rules allow. If the accent on the previous word is farther than three syllables from the end of the pronoun, a second accent is needed at that point. Look at the second accent mark on εἴδομέν τινα in sentence 18. It is on the third syllable from the end of τινα. εἴδομεν has its own accent on its first syllable. The second one belongs to τινα.

The indefinite pronoun cannot function as enclitic when it is the first word of the sentence since there is no word before it. In that case, it is accented on its final syllable.

  1. τινὲς δὲ τῶν Φαρισαίων... (Luke 62)
    But some of the Pharisees...

The two-syllable versions of this pronoun, when they follow a word whose accent is on the next-to-last syllable, do receive their own accent. It is placed on the final syllable of the pronoun, and in all except the genitive plural, it is an accute accent ( ´, or grave ` per the basic rules of accentuation). The genitive plural receives a circumflex ( ῀ ).

  1. καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος δύο τινὰς τῶν μαθητῶν αὐτοῦ ὁ Ἰωάννης ἔπεμψεν... (Luke 7:18-19)
    And calling a certain two of his disciples, John sent them...
  2. κατέβη ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς Ἁνανίας μετὰ πρεσβυτέρων τινῶν (Acts 24:1)
    The high priest, Ananias came down with some elders.

Non-enclitic Forms

When τίς is used as an interrogative pronoun, it is not enclitic. It always has its own accent: an accute on the first syllable.

  1. τίνα λέγουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἶναι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου; (Matthew 16:13)
    Who do people say the Son of Man is?
  2. τίς ὑπέδειξεν ὑμῖν φυγεῖν (Matthew 3:7)
    Who warned you to flee?
  3. τί ἐστιν τοῦτο; (Mark 1:27)
    What is this?
  4. τίνος ἡ εἰκὼν αὕτη καὶ ἡ ἐπιγραφή; (Mark 12:16)
    Whose image and title is this?
  5. οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς ἀπὸ τίνων λαμβάνουσιν τέλη ἢ κῆνσον; (Matthew 17:25)
    From whom do the kings of the earth take toll or tribute?

Just as in English the interrogative pronouns who, what, which, etc. can be used in sentences that are not questions, so can the Greek interrogative pronoun τίς.

  1. οἶδά σε τίς εἶ (Luke 4:34)
    I know who you are.
  2. οὐδεὶς γινώσκει τίς ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς εἰ μὴ ὁ πατήρ (Luke 10:22)
    No one knows who the Son is except the Father.

Use this "quiz" to practice reading questions in Greek, and learn the names of five animals while you are at it!

Guided Practice with Reading and Translation

Before clicking the button to reveal an English translation, attempt reading the Greek text on your own, then reveal the translation provided to check your understanding. If you are unable to read the Greek text after looking at it carefully, reveal the translation and read it, then hide it again and reread the Greek. Think about how the Greek and its translation are related.

  1. In the twelth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, when Jesus is told that his mother and brothers are waiting for him, he responds with a rhetorical question:

    τίς ἐστιν ἡ μήτηρ μου καὶ τίνες εἰσὶν οἱ ἀδελφοί μου; (Matthew 12:48)

  2. τίνα με λέγουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἶναι; (Mark 8:27)

    Ancient Greek infinitives, like εἶναι (infinitive of εἰμί) frequently appeared with a subject in the accusative case (με in the sentence above): με... εἶναι. In English it would sound odd to say, "Who do people say me to be? Sometimes we need to translate the Greek infinitive using a finite verb in English, "Who do people say I am?"

  3. [ὑμεῖς = you (nominative/vocative plural)]

    ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνα με λέγετε εἶναι; (Mark 8:29)

  4. [δύναται is a form of the lexical middle verb δύναμαι. Do you remember that verb? If not, take a moment now to review its meaning.
    σωθῆναι is the aorist MP infinitive of σώζω.]

    τίς δύναται σωθῆναι; (Mark 10:26)

  5. [οἶδα = I know (You will learn about the form of this verb later.)]

    οὐκ οἴδατε τί αἰτεῖσθε. (Mark 10:38)

  6. [χωρίζω = I separate
    ἡμᾶς = us (accusative)]

    τίς ἡμᾶς χωρίσει ἀπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Χριστοῦ; (Romans 8:35)

  7. [Σύ = you (nominative/vocative singular)
    σου = you (genitive singulary)

    Σὺ δὲ τί κρίνεις τὸν ἀδελφόν σου; (Romans 14:10)

  8. [ὦτα is the accusative plural form of οὖς, ear. ἀκουέτω is a third person singular imperative: "let him hear!", "let her hear!"]

    εἴ τις ἔχει ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω. (Mark 4:23)

    English lacks a gender neutral way to represent what the Greek text says here. The command does not carry any gender implication in Greek.

  9. ἄνθρωπός τις κατέβαινεν ἀπὸ Ἰερουσαλὴμ εἰς Ἰεριχὼ... (Luke 10:30)

  10. τινὲς δὲ τῶν Φαρισαίων εἶπαν· (Luke 6:2)

  11. [Translate the relative pronoun ὅ as "what" in the following sentence.
    ἔξεστιν is a form of ἔξειμι. Translate it here as "is allowed" or "is legal".]

    τινὲς δὲ τῶν Φαρισαίων εἶπαν· τί ποιεῖτε ὃ οὐκ ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν; (Luke 6:2)

  12. [ἐπερωτῶ/ἐπερωτάω = ἐπί + ἐρωτῶ/ἐρωτάω = I request something, I ask for something

    Ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ (Luke 8:9)

  13. [εἴη is the third person singular, present active optative form of εἰμί. We have not studied the optative mood yet. For now, translate this form as "could be" or "might be".]

    τίς αὕτη εἴη;

  14. τίς αὕτη εἴη ἡ παραβολή;

  15. After the parable of the sower in Luke's Gospel we are told,

    Ἐπηρώτων δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ τίς αὕτη εἴη ἡ παραβολή. (Luke 8:9)

  16. [ποῦ = Where?]

    εἶπεν δὲ αὐτοῖς· ποῦ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν; (Luke 8:25)


New Vocabulary

The following words were introduced in this lesson for the first time.







ποῦ is an interrogative adverb. It does not change forms.




που is an indefinite adverb. It does not change forms.



where, wherever, whereas, sometimes

This subordinating conjunction is a combination of the relative pronoun ὅ plus the adverb ποῦ. While it frequently refers to location in space, it can refer to location in time.


ἔξειμι, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____

I go out, leave.

ἔξεστι(ν): The third person singular form of this verb (ἔξεστι or ἔξεστιν) has a special usage that can seem only remotely related to its usage in other forms. It is used impersonally as in "it is possible," "it is allowed," "it is legal." In the New Testament, this is the verb's most frequent sense.


_____, _____, _____, οἶδα, ______, _____.

I know

This verb is one of the most irregular in Ancient Greek. While it appears over 300 times in the New Testament, it appears only in forms you have not yet studied (Perfect, Pluperfect, Future Perfect). Still, it is worth your time to begin learning its forms now since its perfect forms function like present, and it's pluperfect forms function more like aorist.



I separate some things, divide something, leave, depart


οὖς, ὠτός, τό


Use the following exercise to answer the question, ποῦ ἐστιν ἡ θήρ; (ἡ θήρ = the beast, the animal). Drag the names of the animals to where they belong.

Review Vocabulary

Take a few minutes to review the following words used in this lesson, but introduced in earlier lessons.


ὁράω (ὁρῶ), ὄψομαι, εἶδον, [ἑώρακεν], ______, ὤφθην

I see


ἐκβάλλω, ἐκβαλῶ, ἐξέβαλον, [ἐκβέβληκα], [ἐκβέβλημαι], ἐξἐβλήθην

I cast out, throw out<βρ> (ἐκ + βάλλω)


προσκαλοῦμαι (προσκαλέομαι), ______, προσεκαλέσαμαι, ______, [προσκέκλημαι], ______

I summon (someone), call (someone) to myself
(πρός + καλέω)


ἐρωτάω, ἐρωτήσω, [ἠρώτησα], ______, ______, ______

I ask, ask for, request

Practice answering a few more questions.