λίγο or λίγα ελληνικά?

Apollodorus

Member
English UK
If one wanted to say “I (have) learned a little Greek”, would it be “έμαθα λίγα ελληνικά”?

For some strange reason I keep feeling that it should be “λίγο” (singular) because it refers to one language. Would this be at all acceptable?

What about “δεν ξέρω πολύ/πολά ελληνικά”?

And could you use κάτι (some) e.g. “έμαθα κάτι ελληνικά” or would this be phrased differently?
 
  • sotos

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Λίγα, becoz Ellinika is neutral plural. (τα ελληνικά). The same with πολλά ελληνικά. Κάτι ελληνικά, or κάτι λίγα ελληνικά may be used, but you'd better avoid it as it is not very standard.
     

    koysair

    New Member
    greek
    Both phrases are correct for differenet reasons.

    You could say "έμαθα λίγο" in which case the word "λίγο" is used as an adverb and it defines the verb "έμαθα". That means that you have learned a little, you have not learned well. If you use "λίγο", it's better to say "έμαθα λίγο τα ελληνικά.

    You could say "λίγα ελληνικά" in which case the word "λίγα" is used as an adjective defining the noun "ελληνικά" which is neutral plural. That means that you have learned a little, not much greek.

    In both cases you are actually saying the same thing, however the second phrase is more commonly used.

    The same goes with "πολύ" (adverb) and "πολλά" (adjective), but in this case we only use the phrase "έμαθα πολύ καλά ελληνικά", which means that you have learned the greek language very well.

    "Κάτι" is only used here along with "λίγα", forming the phrase "κάτι λίγα ελληνικά". I don't think that you should avoid it, as sotos suggests, because it's a correct and common phrase.
     

    Apollodorus

    Member
    English UK
    OK so “κάτι” goes with “λίγα”.

    The construct with “καλλά” sounds interesting. Would it be more common (or “more Greek”) to say “δεν ξέρω/μιλάω καλλά ελληνικά” instead of “πολά”?

    And suppose someone wants to say e.g. “I learned/did (some) Classical Greek at school and after that I learned some Modern Greek”?
     

    dirida

    Member
    Greek
    As a native speaker, if I would hear someone saying "έμαθα λίγο ελληνικά" I would instantly think "yes...I see!"

    In my opinion, you could say (in incremental order):

    έμαθα κάτι ελληνικά ( or έμαθα κάτι ψιλά ελληνικά)

    έμαθα λίγα ελληνικά

    έμαθα αρκετά ελληνικά

    έμαθα πολλά ελληνικά


    In all the above phrases the verb έμαθα could be exchanged with the verb "ξέρω"

    Once you are interested in sounding more like a Greek, I would say that from the above only the first two sound completely natural, though all are correct. In case that someone is confident enough with his/her greek knowledge, I think that he/she would prefer to say

    "Ξέρω καλά ελληνικά" / "Μιλάω καλά ελληνικά" / "Έχω μάθει καλά ελληνικά"

    The phrases "έμαθα αρκετά ελληνικά" and "έμαθα πολλά ελληνικά" somehow to me match better with indirect reference to the past. For example, if someone wanted to say

    "έμαθα αρκετά/πολλά ελληνικά στις περσινές μου διακοπές στην Ελλάδα"

    "έμαθα αρκετά ελληνικά επειδή φοίτησα σε ελληνικό σχολείο"

    'εμαθα αρκετά ελληνικά από τη γιαγιά μου"
     

    Apollodorus

    Member
    English UK
    Now it's really "all Greek to me"! Just joking. No, that's quite helpful actually especially the incremental use from "κάτι" to "πολλά".

    Regarding my original construct Έμαθα/έκανα αρχαία ελληνικά στο σχολείο και μετά έμαθα λύγα νέοελληνικά (with reference to the past), how wrong/correct would that be?

    Many thanks.
     

    dirida

    Member
    Greek
    Ha! And also, no pun intended, right?

    Glad to hear that! Your sentence sounds absolutely natural, plus it suggests that you are more familiar with ancient greek than modern.

    Έκανα αρχαία ελληνικά στο σχολείο και μετά έμαθα λίγα νέοελληνικά "---> Gives the impression that you were taught ancient greek at school, and later you learned a little modern greek by yourself

    Έκανα αρχαία ελληνικά στο σχολείο και μετά έκανα λίγα νέοελληνικά "---> Gives the impression that you were taught ancient greek at school, and later on you were taught a little modern greek at school also


    Keep in mind that this separation goes maybe kinda too far with the exact meaning of the words.. I only mentioned it just in case you are super keen on the details. If not, simply omit it, it's fine! You could use the two verbs interchangeably, passing the same message to the listener, as your point (that you were first taught ancient greek at school and then learned some modern greek -well, somehow-) remains the same essentially
     
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