Εμένα με λένε Σίσυφο: The two forms of personal pronouns in the accusative

Updated: Apr 9

Introduction

The accusative of Greek personal pronouns, has two forms: a short form and a full form. They both replace direct objects.

​Νominative

Accusative (full form)

Accusative (short form)

εγώ

εμένα

με

εσύ

εσένα

σε

αυτός

αυτόν

τον

αυτή

αυτήν

την

αυτό

αυτό

το

εμείς

εμάς

μας

εσείς

εσάς

σας

αυτοί

αυτούς

τους

αυτές

αυτές

τις / τες

αυτά

αυτά

τα


Short form

The short form always depends on a verb and it cannot stand alone in a sentence. It is more common than the full form, and in Standard Greek it can be used in the following cases:


i. Before verbs in the indicative and the negative imperative (with μην)

Σε αγαπάω. – I love you.

Θα τα φάω. – I’ll eat them.

Το έχω διαβάσει. – I’ve read it.

Μη μας πειράζεις. – Don’t pester us.


ii. After verbs in the imperative (unless it is a negative imperative, with μην)

Άσε με ήσυχο. – Leave me alone.

Πες το. – Say it.

but:

Μην το λες. – Don’t say it


iii. After active participles

Κοιτάζοντάς το πάλι, πια δεν το θέλω. – Looking at it again, I don’t want it anymore.

Τη μαθαίνουμε μόνο μιλώντας την. – We learn it only by speaking it.


- The form τες

The feminine gender of the third-person plural in the short form, has two variants: τις and τες.

The latter is rarer, and it is used only when the pronoun comes after the word it depends on. Τhis means that you use τες instead of τις when you have an imperative or an active participle, because these are the only cases when the short form comes after the word.


Φέρ’ τες εδώ. – Bring them here.

Κοιτάζοντάς τες μόνο, δεν κάνεις τίποτα. – By just looking at them, you can't achieve anything.

but:

Μην τις φέρνεις. – Don't bring them.

Αν μόνο τις κοιτάς, δεν κάνεις τίποτα. If you only look at them, you can't achieve anything.


- When not to use the short form

An essential condition for the short form to be used, is that the speaker does not wish to emphasise the object represented by the personal pronoun.


Full form

That being said, the main uses of the full form are:


i. As an emphatic personal pronoun

* Notice the semantic differences between the two sentences in each pair.


Σε κοιτάω. – I’m looking at you.

Εσένα κοιτάω. – I’m looking at you / It’s you who I’m looking at.


Παντρέψου με. – Marry me.

Παντρέψου εμένα. – Marry me [and not someone else].


Πάρε με μαζί σου. – Take me with you.

Πάρε εμένα μαζί σου. – Take me [and not someone else] with you.


Μη με ρωτάς. – Don't ask me.

Μη ρωτάς εμένα. – Don't ask me. (Ask someone else, not me)


Βγήκε βρίζοντάς σε. – She came out swearing at you.

Βγήκε βρίζοντας εσένα. – She came out swearing at you [in particular].


* Sometimes, the difference can go deeper than simply emphasising.


Με ρωτάς; – Are you asking me?

Meaning:

"I don't understand if what you said was a question or a statement", or

"I'm surprised that you're asking this question"


Εμένα ρωτάς; – Are you asking me?

Meaning:

"You should know yourself / You're the one who should know", or

"How do you expect me to know?"


ii. As an independent personal pronoun (not depending on any verb or participle)

Εμένα ψάχνεις; – Are you looking for me? / Is it me that you're looking for?


- Ποιον προτιμάς; -Whom do you prefer?

- Εσένα. -You.


- Εμένα με λένε Ελισάβετ, εσένα; - My name, is Elisabeth, and yours?

- Εμένα, με λένε Μαρίνα. - My name, is Marina.


* The last example can be analysed as follows:

- As for me, they call me Elisabeth, and [what do they call] you?

- As for me, they call me Marina.

Essentially, the full forms here are used to draw attention to oneself or to the other speaker, and also distinguish oneself from the other speaker.


- Use of the full form with prepositions and conjunctions

Because it can stand alone in a sentence, the full form can also be used after prepositions and conjunctions, in patterns like the following:


- Μ’ αρέσει. - I like it. lit: It appeals to me

- Κι εμένα. - Me too. lit: [It appeals] to me too


Θέλει εμένα ή εσένα; – Does he want me or you?


Είμαι καλύτερος από εσένα. – I'm better than you.


Μόνο με εσάς θέλω να παίξω. – I only want to play with you


Μιλάνε για εμένα. – They're talking about me.


Το δέμα είναι για εσένα – The parcel is for you.


Mίλησε μόνο σε εμάς. – He only spoke to us.


- A common practise in everyday language: Omission of initial ε

Note that the initial ε that some full forms have, is very often omitted after prepositions. Therefore:

εμένα μένα Μιλάνε για μένα. – They're talking about me.

εσένα can become: σένα Το δώρο είναι για σένα. – The gift is for you.

εμάς μας Είναι καλύτερη από μας. – She's better than us.

εσάς σας Το κλέψαμε από σας. – We stole it from you.

This can cause εμάς and εσάς to look identical to their short forms:


Έλα σε μας. – Come to us. Full form (Έλα σε εμάς / Έλα σ' εμάς)

Έλα να μας δεις. – Come to see us. Short form


- Position of the full forms in the sentence

Full forms are more flexible than short forms when it comes to their position in the sentence. The only restriction they face, is that they can only come after an active participle, just like the short forms. All four sentences in the following two pairs are possible (but when the pronoun comes first, it is even more emphasised).


Ρωτάω εσένα. – I'm asking you.

Εσένα ρωτάω. – I'm asking you.


Εμένα ρώτα. – Ask me.

Ρώτα εμένα. – Ask me.


But you can only have:

Ρωτώντας εμένα θα μάθεις. – You'll learn through asking me.


- A quirk of the third person in the full form

There is a good reason why in this article there are no examples of full forms in the third person. Because of their emphatic nature, they may switch to being demonstratives, rather than personal pronouns.

Remember that the words αυτός -ή -ό and αυτοί -ές -ά can also mean ‘this / that’ and ‘these / those’ respectively. This doesn’t change how they are used, but it would make the examples more complicated by adding nuances of demonstrative pronouns.


Το θέλω. – I want it.

Θέλω αυτό. – I want this one (in particular)


Κοίτα τον. – Look at him.

Κοίτα αυτόν. – Look at this guy.


Μην τους πληρώσεις. – Don't pay them.

Μην πληρώσεις αυτούς. – Don't pay those people. (It is other people that you should pay, not them)


Conclusion

Distinguishing between the short and the full forms of the personal pronouns in the accusative, is not as difficult as the length of this article suggests. As you advance in the language, you will intuitively be making the right choice without thinking much. If you've made it to this paragraph, congratulations I don't know if I would have.