The verb is the part of a sentence that expresses the action or state of being. Some verbs require an object to complete the sentence where others do not due to their inherent meaning. Transitive or intransitive is a characteristic of the verb, not expressed or modified by the voice. Transitive verbs take a direct object. Intransitive verbs do not need a direct object to complete their meaning.

Five Identifying Features of the Greek Verb

The Greek verb has five identifying features: Mode (Mood), Tense, Voice, Person, Number.

Mode (Mood)

Represents the way in which the action is perceived. Two viewpoints are expressed: that which is actual and that which is possible.


Identifies type and time of action. The kind of action is the principle idea involved with the Greek tense, whereas the time of action is secondary. Kinds of actions are continuous, occurring, and completed.



Indicates how the subject relates to the action or state of the verb.


The subject is producing the action or state expressed by the verb.


The subject participates in or directly benefits from the result of the action or state expressed in the verb.


The subject receives the action or state of the verb.


Person and Number

Person and number determine the relation of the subject to the action of the verb. The verb will always agree with its subject in person and number.

Deponent or Defective Verbs

Deponent means “to lay aside” and defective is used to imply that a word has no active voice. However, both terms are inadequate to describe the use of a middle or passive in place of the active voice. The active form did exist; however, through use dropped off because the middle or passive voice by the nature of the word and its use became predominate. However, to say it has “laid aside” its active voice is incorrect and contrary to the history of the verb.


Deponent is not a voice; although some grammarians use the concept of a deponent verb to label verbs they perceive to be active, but do not use the active voice in form. Through the natural development of the language certain middle or passive forms that were better suited to convey what the Greek mind was thinking became predominate to the point that the active voice is no longer seen in use; however, there is a difference between the lack of a voice in use and the use of one voice for another, so to label this as a deponent verb is inappropriate.


Careful consideration needs to be given to all words perceived as “active” by the English mind that are in the middle or passive form in Greek. Upon close examination of these words there is often no justifiable reason to modify the meaning of the Greek voice of the verb to force them into the concept of English grammar. All “so called” deponent verbs actually are verbs emphasizing a middle or passive voice, not an active voice, and therefore should be translated appropriately to the Greek grammar. Unfortunately, due to the limits of the English language it can be difficult to fully express the Greek meaning. An example can be found in John 1:9 where a passive form of “ἔρχομαι” is used for men entering the world. There is no doubt that this does not have an active meaning because entry into the world is not based upon the action of the man who enters it; however, translating this in a passive is impossible in the English due to its limitation with expressing a middle and passive form, therefore it is translated as an active; although still understood as a passive.