How to read Greek

Single Letters

is always pronounced as a in father
as v in violent
doesn't have an English counterpart; it sounds like a soft version of g in brag but continued;
before and (and all *e* and *i* sounds) it sounds as y in yield
as th in that
as e in met
as z in zone
as ee in see
as th in thin
as ee in see
as k in ask
before and (and all *e* and *i* sounds) it sounds as Qu in Quebec (as it is in French)
almost as l in lizard but the tongue touches the back of the front teeth
as m in man
as n in not
as x in six
as o in port
as p in step
as r in British English very; it is slightly trilled
as s in sea;
it is pronounced as z in zone before voiced consonants (,,,)
same as , but is only encountered at the end of a word
as t in bet
as ee in see
as f in fire
doesn't have an English counterpart; sounds as the German ch in Bach;
before and (and all *e* and *i* sounds) it sounds almost as H in Houston
as ps in rhapsody
as o in port

Letter Combinations

exactly like
exactly like
exactly like
exactly like
as oo in loot
as uff in cuff before voiceless consonants;
as av in maverick before voiced consonants (,,,,) and vowels;
as ef in chef before voiceless consonants;
as ev in eleven before voiced consonants (,,,,) and vowels;
at the beggining of a word as b in base;
in the middle of a word as mb in timber
at the beggining of a word as d in door;
in the middle of a word as nd in tender
at the beggining of a word as g in good;
in the middle of a word as ng in finger
exactly like , but is always encountered in the middle of a word
as ts in bits, but pronounced as one unit
as dz in red zone, but pronounced as one unit

Note : This is all you have to know in order to speak Greek with an acceptable accent. What follows is just an overview of some details in the pronunciation, that will improve your accent, but they are not extremely essential for reading Greek.

The *i* modifier

All consonants are pronounced differently if an *i* sound (,,,,,) is following.

As has been noted, the consonants pertaining to the throat (*laring'ikA*),,,,, have different pronunciation, when they precede an *i* or *e* (,) sound (they turn into the corresponding palatal sound, i.e., *g'*, *k'*, *gh'* and *kh'* respectively).

The letters and before an *i* sound as the Italian gl and gn, e.g., as in migliori and bagno.

When an *i* vowel is inserted between one of the other consonant sounds and a vowel it's effect is that either a *gh'* or a *kh'* sound is inserted. The former corresponds to voiced consonant sounds (,,,,,) and the latter to unvoiced consonant sounds (,,,,,).

Thus = *bha*, but = *bhgh'a* and = *sa*, but = *skh'a*

There are two excpeptions to this : = *mn'a* and = *rgh'a*.

There are a few cases though where the *i* sound has to be spoken explicitely, for example is pronounced *mierOs*, not *mn'erOS*. It is also possible that two words are spelled the same but have different pronunciations and meanings. For example, may mean "permission" or "vacation", so will be pronounced *Adhia* or it may mean "empty" and be pronounced *Adhgh'a*. Another example is with *Idhios* meaning "self-","eigen-" and *Idhgh'os* meaning "same".

Comments

Two more consonants
The consonants and are called ("double") consonants, because they virtually represent the consonant combinations and respectively. To pronounce those two "double" consonants pronounce the corresponding (single) consonants.

One special case
The consonant is pronounced like the "n" in the English word "finger" (something between *n* and *n'*) when it precedes the consonant , e.g. = *sinkhorO*.

The final consonants
The final is pronounced *z* (az the "z" in "zebra") if the first letter of the next word is a voiced consonant, e.g. = *pEzmou*
If a word ends in and the next word starts with , or then the two consonants are pronounced as *ng*,*mb* and *nd* respectively, e.g. = *tongIpo*. If the next word starts with , or then they are pronounced as *mbz*, *ndz* and *ngz* respectively, e.g. = *tongzEno*.

Silent letters
There are a few cases where a letter is not pronounced. Those are:

  1. The letter of the letter combination when the following letter is or , e.g. =*eforIa* (BTW, that's where the English word "euforia" comes from!)
  2. One of two identical consonants, e.g. =*Ala*
  3. Often the letter in the consonant combination , e.g. =*pEmti*

Main Page