Q: How to properly use the accusative articles in Greek? Is the final ν dropped just because the following word starts with a consonant?
A: τον/την can always be used and one can stick to them instead of trying to guess when to use το/τη until the distinction becomes natural.
It turns out there is an interesting discussion on Duolingo, which was helpfully started by the user under the nickname dieprinzessin at the time of initially publishing this text. Тhe quoted contents are slightly changed with more markup and minor omissions for better readability.
I'm just learning this myself, but from what I've learned it's a little more subtle than that. If the word starts with a vowel or a plosive consonant, it's τον (masculine) or την (feminine). Otherwise, it's το (masculine) or τη (feminine). The plosive consonants are the ones where you block a part of your mouth to completely stop airflow: B (μπ, not β), D (ντ, not δ; also τζ which is DZ), G (γκ, not γ), K (κ; also ξ which is KS), P (π; also ψ which is PS), and T (τ; also τσ which is TS).
So it's τον/την if the word starts with a plosive consonant (μπ, ντ, γκ, κ, ξ, π, ψ, τ) or any vowel (α, ε, ι, η, ο, ω, υ). Otherwise, it's το/τη. Examples:
- Βλέπω τον άντρα. (I see the man.) - masculine, starts with α, so it's τον
- Βλέπω το δρόμο. (I see the road.) - masculine, starts with δ, so it's το
- Βλέπω την κότα. (I see the hen.) - feminine, starts with κ, so it's την
- Βλέπω τη γυναίκα. (I see the woman.) - feminine, starts with γ, so it's τη
This also extends to στον/στο and στην/στη for indirect objects, since these words are just a contraction of σε and the appropriate accusative article. Note that the definite article is always το for neuter (because neuter articles and nouns never change forms in the accusative, only masculine and feminine ones do).
Just one remark: when (σ)το/(σ)τη is used (not vowel or plosive consonant), you may also add the ν. When (σ)τον/(σ)την is used (vowel or plosive consonant), you can't omit the ν. So:
- Βλέπω το δρόμο or τον δρόμο: both correct
- Βλέπω την κότα: correct, τη κότα: wrong