Module 3

Accents and Accenting Verbs I

© 2021 Philip S. Peek, CC BY 4.0

Why Learn Accents?

Accents tell you how to pronounce words correctly. They can also assist in identifying hard-to-decipher noun and verb forms. As you improve in reading Greek, you will begin to hear how the syllable sounds and accents work together to create meaning and beauty.


Most Greek words have one syllable whose musical pitch varies slightly from that of the other syllables of the word. This difference of pitch is called the word’s accent (τόνος). In English, we accent words by increasing stress on the accented syllable—relative, religious—rather than by a difference in musical pitch.

In order to understand pitch better, say the following out loud:

The house is there.


The house is there?

Note that when you pronounce the word house in the statement the intonation of your voice is neutral but when you pronounce house in the question the pitch of your voice raises. When you raise the pitch of house, you indicate that you are asking a question.

Unlike English, all Greek words have their accents marked. Marking accents as part of spelling is a later convention, introduced possibly by the Alexandrian scholar Aristophanes of Byzantium in 200 BCE. Before this time the Greeks themselves did not mark their words with accentual notation, and, just like native English speakers, did not require them to know how to pronounce the words of their language. The accent of a Greek word is learned as a part of its spelling.

Accent is indicated in the following way:


Acute (ὀξύς) accent: marked a raising of the musical pitch


Grave (βαρύς) accent: marked a neutral musical pitch

Circumflex (περισπώμενος) accent: marked a raising and lowering of pitch

Since English speakers accent words by stress not pitch, for the purpose of this course, simply stress the accented syllable like you would in English, ignoring the type of accent. If you wish to hear what a pitch accent in Greek may have sounded like, follow the links found at the end of this module.


Note carefully the following orthographical conventions:

  • accents occur directly over vowels and over the second letter of diphthongs, as in ῾Ελένη, Εἰλείθυια, δρᾶμα, ψεῦδος;
  • when an acute (´) or grave accent (`) and a breathing appear over the same syllable, the breathing is written first: ἄνθρωπος, ὕπνος, ὅν;
  • when a circumflex accent () and a breathing appear over the same syllable, the breathing is written under the circumflex, as in ἦτα;
  • accents, like breathings, are written before capitalized vowels, including vowels followed by iota adscript, but over the second letter of diphthongs whose first letter is capitalized: ῾´Ομηρος, Αἵρεσις, ῾´Αιδης;
  • the circumflex accent () only occurs over long vowels or diphthongs, δρᾶμα, ψεῦδος.

As you read, translate, and write in ancient Greek you will readily internalize these conventions and so there is no need to commit them to memory.


In order to accent a word correctly, you must know how to break it into syllables. A syllable occurs for every vowel or diphthong a Greek word has. To determine the number of syllables, count the vowels and diphthongs:

Ὅμηρος (3);

Ἤτα (2);

Αἵρεσις (3);

Ἀχιλλεύς (3).

A syllable in Greek includes any initial consonants + the vowel or diphthong that directly follows + the first letter of a double consonant following the vowel or diphthong:





Practice Counting Syllables. Check your answers with those in the second column.


αὐ-τό-νο-μος (4)


-δυσ-σεύς (3)


οἶ-νος (2)


Εἰ-λεί-θυι-α (4)


φι-λο-σο-φί-α (5)


ἄγ-γε-λος (3)


ἄγ-κυ-ρα (3)


-ξύρ-ρυγ-χος (4)


αἰ-θήρ (2)


εἰ-ρή-νη (3)

Consider the Greek word, Εἰλείθυια, the goddess of childbirth. We break this word into syllables like so: Εἰ-λεί-θυι-α. Each vowel and each diphthong is a syllable. The last three syllables are referred to by their sequence:


not named


antepenult (before the next-to-last)


penult (almost last)


ultima (last)

The initial syllable Εἰ- is not named because it is not one of the last three syllables.

Vowel Length

In the paradigms and accenting practice of this text, macrons mark alpha, iota, and upsilon if long. Short vowels and diphthongs are not marked. In authentic texts and in the Practice Translating of this text, macrons do not occur. Diphthongs are by definition long with this exception: final -αι and -οι are short for purposes of accentuation except in the optative, a mood learned in Part II of the 21st-Century series. -αι and -οι are final when they appear as the last two letters of a word, λῦσαι but not λύσαις.

Recessive and Persistent Accent

In recessive accent, the accent occurs as far from the ultima as the possibilities of accent allow. Most verb forms have recessive accent. Nouns and other parts of speech have persistent accent, presented in detail in Module 11. In persistent accent, the accent stays on the same vowel or diphthong it is on in the nominative singular form, and does not change unless it has to in accordance with the possibilities of where accents can occur.

Possibilities of Accent

Memorize these two possibilities. As the text progresses, you will learn how to accent adjectives, nouns, pronouns, and verbs. Appendix X offers a complete explanation of accent and contains additional practice exercises.

  1. An acute accent can appear on the antepenult, penult, or ultima.
  2. An acute accent can only appear on the antepenult if the ultima is short.

Accenting Verbs of Three Syllables or More

Long vowels are marked with a macron. Short vowels are not marked. Read from top to bottom and apply the first line that meets the criteria:


If the ultima is short, put an acute on the antepenult. Stop!



If the ultima is long, put an acute on the penult. Stop!


Accent διδωμι.

Check the ultima. If the ultima is short, place the accent on the antepenult. Stop! You are finished. If the ultima is long, place the accent on the penult. Stop! You are finished.

  • The ultima, -ι, is short and so place the accent on the antepenult: δίδωμι.

Accent ποιεω.

Check the ultima. If the ultima is short, place the accent on the antepenult. Stop! You are finished. If the ultima is long, place the accent on the penult. Stop! You are finished.

  • The ultima, -ω, is long and so place the accent on the penult: ποιέω.

Practice Accenting Verbs of Three Syllables or More. Check your answers with those in the Answer Key. Remember that final -αι and -οι are short for purposes of accentuation, except in the optative, a mood learned in Part II of the 21st-Century series. There are no optative forms in the below.

  1. διδωμι, ἐδιδου, διδομεθα, ἐδιδουν, διδομεν, ἐδιδομην, διδοται, διδοσαι
  2. διδοιης, ἐδομην, διδοᾱσιν, διδοτε, ἐδιδους, ἐδιδοσο, διδοσθαι, διδονται
  3. διδοιην, διδομεθα, διδοσθε, διδοιημεν, διδοιμην, διδοτω
  4. τιθημι, ἐτιθην, ἐτιθεις, τιθησιν, τιθεμεν, ἐτιθει, τιθεσαι, τιθεται
  5. τιθεμεθα, ἐτιθεμην, τιθεσθε, τιθετε, τιθεᾱσιν, ἐθεμην, τιθενται, τιθεσθαι
  6. πραττετε, ἐπραξα, ἐπραχθην, ἐπραττον, ἐπραχθητε, πεπρᾱχα, πραττεται, πραττεσθαι
  7. γενησομεθα, ἐγενομην, ἐγιγνου, γεγονα, γεγενησθε, γιγνεται, γιγνεσθαι
  8. ποιεει, ποιησειν, ἐποιησα, ἐποιεον, ἐποιεου, ἐποιηθην, ποιεεται, ποιεονται
  9. δοκεεις, ἐδοκεες, δοκεειν, ἐδοξε, ἐδοχθη, ἐδοκεομην, δοκεεσθαι, δοκεεται
  10. ὁραω, ὀψομεθα, ὁραειν, ὀψεσθε, εἰδομην, ἑωρακα, ὁραεται, ὁραονται

Ancient Greek Pitch Accent

To hear what an ancient Greek pitch accent may have sounded like, follow the links below:

Stefan Hagel, Austrian Academy of Sciences1

Ἰωάννης Στρατάκης, Podium-Arts.2

Anakreon of Teos, Ἀνακρέων ὁ Τήϊος, c. 582–c. 485 BCE. Alive during the tumultuous Archaic Age (700–480 BCE), Anakreon was born in Teos, a Greek city on the border of the Persian empire. In 545 the Persians attacked the Greek city-states lying on and off the coast of Asia Minor. Anakreon fought against the invaders, though, he says, he did nothing noteworthy in the battle. Anakreon eventually fled Persian rule and found refuge at the court of Polykrates, tyrant of Samos. After the assassination of Polykrates, Hipparkhos, tyrant of Athens, brought Anakreon to his court. When Hipparkhos was murdered in an uprising against him, Anakreon left Athens, returning to his native Teos, where he spent the rest of his days. Considered one of the best of the lyric poets, in his poetry Anakreon employs a deceptively simple style with subtle wit, humor, nuance, irony, and complexity.

Module 3 Practice Reading Aloud. Practice reading aloud this poem by Anakreon; pay attention to the sound each syllable makes and the rhythm of the words.

πῶλε Θρῃκίη, τί δή με λοξὸν ὄμμασι βλέπουσα

νηλέως φεύγεις, δοκεῖς δέ μοὐδὲν εἰδέναι σοφόν;

ἴσθι τοι, καλῶς μὲν ἄν τοι τὸν χαλινὸν ἐμβάλοιμι,

ἡνίας δἔχων στρέφοιμί σἀμφὶ τέρματα δρόμου·

νῦν δ λειμῶνάς τε βόσκεαι κοῦφά τε σκιρτῶσα παίζεις,

δεξιὸν γὰρ ἱπποπείρην οὐκ ἔχεις ἐπεμβάτην.

Verse Translation

Thracian filly, why eye me sidewise? With heartless

Glance you flee and see no skill in me. Yet look how

Deft I am, I can insert the bit, around the

Racecourse post with reins in hand I can ride astride

You. For now in meadows you graze, playing, lightly

Leaping, lacking any expert guide to ride you.

To listen to Anakreon’s poem read by me and performed by Stefan Hagel, follow this link:

Anakreon’s Thrakian Filly.3

To listen to the translation set to an original music score by Roshan Samtani, follow this link:

Roshan Samtani’s Musical Translation of Thrakian Filly,4

Guitarist, composer, and educator Dr. Roshan Samtani graduated with degrees in jazz studies (William Paterson), music history (BGSU), and ethnomusicology (PhD. Brown Univ). He resides in Madrid, Spain, and occasionally takes on dedicated students of the guitar.

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