Little Words - Greek prepositions

This topic cover a lot of the joining words and prepositions in Greek. These words are possibly the easiest group of words in Greek, as for once the endings don't change regardless of gender or number. However, things can't be completely simple so you must bear in mind that sometimes the Greeks say things in a different way to the English. For example whereas we would say "I want a ticket to London by train" the direct translation of the words a Greek would use is "I want a ticket for London with train". So you may often see the word για/ΓΙΑ translated as "to" whereas it is more correct to say that it means "for" even though it can be use in the same way that we would use the word "to". Similarly με/ΜΕ gets translated as "by" when in fact in the example above it really does still mean "with". In the table below refer to the notes for some examples of other possible confusing translations.
English Lower Upper
and καί ΚΑΙ
or ή Η
but αλλά ΑΛΛΑ
with (together) [1] μαζί ΜΑΖΙ
with [1] μέ ΜΕ
without χωρίς ΧΩΡΙΣ
to, at, in, on [2] σε ΣΕ
from από ΑΠΟ
for [3] για ΓΙΑ
until μέχρι ΜΕΧΡΙ
like [4] σαν ΣΑΝ
between/among [5] μεταξύ ΜΕΤΑΞΥ
in front of [6] μπροστά από ΜΠΡΟΣΤΑ ΑΠΟ
behind [6] πίσω από ΠΙΣΩ ΑΠΟ
inside of [6] μέσα σε ΜΕΣΑ ΣΕ
outside of [6] έξω από ΕΞΩ ΑΠΟ
on/upon [6] πάνω σε ΠΑΝΩ ΣΕ
beneath/below [6] κάτω από ΚΑΤΩ ΑΠΟ
near to [6] κοντά σε ΚΟΝΤΑ ΣΕ
far from [6] μακριά από ΜΑΚΡΙΑ ΑΠΟ
opposite (from) [6] απέναντι από ΑΠΕΝΑΝΤΙ ΑΠΟ
next to [6] δίπλα από ΔΙΠΛΑ ΑΠΟ



[1] μαζί/ΜΑΖΙ is used to mean with in the context of, for example, a husband being "with" his wife to indicate they are a couple, as opposed to just at the same table or on the same bus. So to say "we are together [with each other]" you would say, "είμαστε μαζί/ΕΙΜΑΣΤΕ ΜΑΖΙ". It expresses an integral link between the items described, whereas με/ΜΕ is used to just happen to be together, like coffee with milk or, as above, travelling with the bus

[2] σε/ΣΕ is probably the most confusing of the prepositions as it invariably gets merged with the following article, which unfortunately does have to agree with the gender and number of the associated noun. To add to the "interest" factor the article it merges with is going to be part of the accusative noun so you need to remember the accusative forms of the articles. This is all too much like grammar, so as you will very rarely see the word on it's own, it's probably easiest to just learn the forms as shown in the table below the same way you originally learnt the articles in the first place...with practice!

Gender Singular Plural
Masculine στον ΣΤΟΝ στους ΣΤΟΥΣ
Feminine στην ΣΤΗΝ στις ΣΤΙΣ
Neuter στο ΣΤΟ στα ΣΤΑ


The meanings for σε/ΣΕ also cover several different prepositions in English, the most common being "to", but other meanings are more often used when in combination with other prepositions as seen in the lower part of the main table. So πάνω σε/ΠΑΝΩ ΣΕ for instance means "on top of " and μέσα σε/ΜΕΣΑ ΣΕ means "inside of". Another usage (uncommon, hence not shown in the table) would be μακριά σε/ΜΑΚΡΙΑ ΣΕ which would mean "far away at". See note 6 for more explanation.

[3] As previously stated για/ΓΙΑ can replace "to" when talking about getting a ticket for London rather than a ticket to London, but it can also be use to mean about. Where in English we would say a book is about a topic, the Greeks would say it is a book for the topic.

[4] The word σαν/ΣΑΝ for like is only used to compare things in terms of them being similar. It is entirely different from the verb "to like".

[5] In English we make a distinction when talking about something being between two things or among many things. In Greek it's irrelevant whether it's two or more objects that something is between or among.

[6] When σε/ΣΕ or από/ΑΠΟ is used in combination with other prepositions, a possible way to understand which is used is to think of the viewpoint of what is being talked about and decide whether the viewpoint is towards or away from an object. This is easiest to explain by example; if the bank is opposite the chemist, then the view point is away from the chemist, as you look at the chemist and then look away from the chemist to the opposite side of the street to find the bank. Hence the construction "opposite from":

η τράπεζα είναι απέναντι από το φαρμακείο/Η ΤΡΑΠΕΖΑ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΑΠΕΝΑΝΤΙ ΑΠΟ ΤΟ ΦΑΡΜΑΚΕΙΟ.

However when the viewpoint is towards the object σε/ΣΕ is used, so if the wine is inside the bottle, then you are looking in to the bottle to find the wine, hence:

το κρασί είναι μέσα στο μπουκάλι/ΤΟ ΚΡΑΣΙ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΜΕΣΑ ΣΤΟ ΜΠΟΥΚΑΛΙ.

Consequently, most of the combination prepositions in the table can be used with either σε/ΣΕ or από/ΑΠΟ to differ the shade of meaning. If something is on top of an object, as in right on top, then it will be πάνω σε/ΠΑΝΩ ΣΕ, but if it is above then πάνω από/ΠΑΝΩ ΑΠΟ is used. In this way you can distinguish, for example, between a helicopter upon a field and hovering above a field. Similarly the example in note 2 using μακριά/ΜΑΚΡΙΑ can mean far away from when combined with από/ΑΠΟ and far away at when combined with σε/ΣΕ.