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     Lesson 11 Index     printable pages


11.3: 1)  The third declension.  An overview

2) Consonant stems ending in λ  or   


You learned the endings of  τίς, τί in  9.1.  This is basically the same set of endings that you will find now in the third declension (even though the interrogative pronoun / adjective is not considered to belong  to the third declension).  






       -ς *









       -α *



*In the cases marked with an asterisk, some nouns of the third declension are different: in the Nominative, they may have no ending, and in the accusative, they may take  ν instead of   α.


While the stems of the 1st declension typically end in the vowel   α / η, and those of the 2nd declension in o, stems of the 3rd declension may end a) in a variety of consonants or b) in the vowels  ι or υTo avoid confusion when learning the 3rd declension it is important to divide it, in the first place, into these two groups.  The stems ending in consonants will prove to be different enough to warrant a further division into subtypes corresponding to their phonetic differences.  You may want to review the classification of consonants in 2.2.  Here is an overview of the consonantal stems you will encounter in the third declension.  We will spread their study and practice over several lessons.  If you are curious about the contrast between the stem in the Nominative and the general stem, check the footnotes.




Types of consonants

"General"  stems

shown in the Genitive 


mark of the Nom


Liquids:   λ ρ



 long vowel

   ὁ ῥήτωρ, ῥήτορος

Dental stops :   τ δ θ


 ἐλπιδ-ς >  ἐλπίς1

      + ς

   ἡ ἐλπίς, ἐλπίδος


  πρᾶγμα 2

(neuter) no mark

   τὸ πρᾶγμα, πράγματος

and the dental nasal   ν



 no mark: the vowel is long throughout

   ὁ αἰών, αἰῶνος



long vowel

   ὁ δαίμων, δαίμονος 

Labial stops :   π β φ



      + ς

   ὁ κλώψ, κλωπός

Palatal  stops :   κ γ χ



      + ς

   ἡ φάλαγξ, φάλαγγος 

to be studied later!

The group  ντ


 λέων 2

 long vowel

   ὁ λέων, λέοντος

to be studied much later!

Sibilant :    σ

γενεσ-ος > ε-ος > γενους


 different vowel

  τὸ γένος, γένους




ἡ ἅλς, ἁλός 4, because  λ and  undergo no change when they are followed by  σ.  One important trait of third declension nouns must be kept in mind:  when the stem in the nominative differs from its form in the genitive, it is the latter form of the stem that serves as general stem, i.e. is the basis for all the other cases.


I decline here ὁ ῥήτωρ  in combination with the adjective κακός, κακή, κακόν, to illustrate the fact that the noun and the adjective follow each its own declension.  






   ὁ κακὸς ῥήτωρ

   οἱ κακοὶ ῥήτορες


   τοῦ κακοῦ ῥήτορος

  τῶν κακῶν ῥητόρων


   τῷ κακῷ ῥήτορι

  τοῖς κακοῖς ῥήτορσι(ν)


   τὸν κακὸν ῥήτορα

   τοὺς κακοὺς ῥήτορας


There is a small group of nouns whose stem ends inthat will require some attention later, not because of consonantal changes but because their internal vowel changes.  They are the names of kin (πατήρ = father, μήτηρ  = mother, θυγάτηρ  = daughter, and ἀνήρ  = man).   For future reference, cllick here for their declension.



1) Dentals drop before  σ.  

2) τ at the end of a word is dropped

3) The general stem  γενεσ-  contrasts with the Nominative  γένος.  This is called "gradation of the vowel."  This group of 3rd declension words will be studied later!

4) In Classical Greek ὁ ἅλς, ἁλός = salt;  ἡ ἅλς, ἁλός  = the sea.  KoinÍ Greek has the neuter  τὸ ἅλα, ἅλατος.