29A: Similes and Comparison

Welcome to the penultimate chapter! Look at the following examples and pay attention to the bolded text. What do all of these sentences have in common?

  • Παίζει μπάσκετ σαν τον Αντετοκούμπο. (“He plays basketball like Antetokounmpo.”)
  • Παίζει μπάσκετ όπως ο Αντετοκούμπο. (“He plays basketball like Antetokounmpo.”)
  • Ο Στέφανος παίζει καλύτερο μπάσκετ από τον Γιώργο. (“Stephanos plays basketball better than Giorgos.”)
  • Ο Στέφανος είναι καλύτερος του Γιώργου στο μπάσκετ. (“Stephanos is better than Giorgos at basketball.”)
  • Ο Στέφανος παίζει καλύτερο μπάσκετ παρά ο Γιώργος. (“Stephanos plays basketball better than Giorgos.”)

In each of these sentences, some kind of comparison is being made between two people, either talking about their similarities or differences, or comparing their characteristics, skills, etc. In this lesson, you will learn how to make comparisons like these, and how to form similes.


In English, similies are formed with the words “like” or “as.” In Modern Greek, the two most important and most common words for doing the same are σαν and όπως. The preposition σαν is accompanied by the accusative. Consider the following two examples:

  • Η Μαρία χορεύει σαν μπαλαρίνα. (“Maria dances like a ballerina.”)
  • Η Μαρία χορεύει σαν την Pavlova. (“Maria dances like Pavlova.”)

In the first example, Maria is said to dance like a ballerina. In the second example, Maria is described as dancing like a specific ballerina, Pavlova, so the article την is used. For όπως, however, it is possible to use the same case as in the first part of the comparison. Look at the two examples below: the first example preserves the nominative case, and the second example preserves the genitive case.

  • Η Μαρία χορεύει όπως η Pavlova. (“Maria dances like Pavlova.”)
  • Οι κινήσεις της Μαρίας είναι όπως της Pavlova. (“Maria’s moves are like those of Pavlova.”)
σαν + accusative; σαν + article + accusative
όπως + same case as the first part of the comparison

Caution! You might remember the particle ὡς from Ancient Greek, which was used for similes. In Modern Greek, however, it is not used for similes in the same way, but rather to indicate someone’s situation or status, e.g. “Έδωσε συνέντευξη ως πρόεδρος της Ένωσης,” (“She gave an interview as president of the union.”)

Consider, too, a simile borrowed from Homer, and translated from Ancient Greek to Modern Greek. In this scene, Hermes travels to Calypso’s island:

“Mε τούτο το ραβδί στα χέρια του, άρχισε να πετά ο [Ερμής],
κι ολοταχώς, απ’ τον αιθέρα του ουρανού, πάνω απ’ την Πιερία,
χύθηκε στο πέλαγος, το κύμα ακροπατώντας σαν τον γλάρο […]”

“With this staff in his hands, Hermes began to fly,
and swiftly, from the sky’s ether, above Pieria,
he plunged into the sea, skimming the wave like a seagull…”


Every comparison in Modern Greek consists of three parts: the first part of the comparison, the comparative word, and the second part of the comparison, the thing to which the first part is being compared. This second part of the comparison is what needs the most careful attention.

In Ancient Greek, the second part of this comparison could be expressed in a couple of different ways: the comparative genitive, , ἀντί/προ and the genitive case, and παρά/προς/κατά and the accusative case. The latter two are significantly less common than the first. Look at each of the sentences below in Ancient Greek for a refresher on how these are used:

  • Οὐδὲν πικρότερον τῆς ἀνάγκης. (“Nothing is more bitter than compulsion.”)
  • Ἡ σιγή ἐστιν αἱρετωτέρα ἢ λόγος. (“Silence is preferable to speech.”)
  • Αἱρετώτερός ἐστιν ὁ καλὸς θάνατος ἀντὶ τοῦ αἰσχροῦ βίου. (“A good death is preferable to a bad life.”)
  • Ἡλίου ἐκλείψεις πυκνότεραι παρὰ τὰ ἐκ τοῦ πρὶν χρόνου μνημονευόμενα ξυνέβησαν. (“Solar eclipses happened more frequently than those mentioned in previous times.”)

Comparisons can be made in similar ways, but there are still some important differences. In Modern Greek, you can make a comparison by using the comparative genitive, παρά and the same case as the first part of the comparison, or από and the accusative case. Consider the examples below, and pay attention to how each specific comparison is being made:

  • Ο Στέφανος είναι μεγαλύτερός μου. (“Stephanos is bigger than me.”)
  • Την ελευθερία προτιμούν οι άνθρωποι παρά τη σκλαβιά. (“Human beings prefer freedom to slavery.”)
  • Η Αθήνα είναι μικρότερη πόλη από το Λονδίνο. (“Athens is much smaller than London.”)