unfoldingWord® Hebrew Grammar https://uhg.readthedocs.io/en/latest/
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:github_url: https://git.door43.org/unfoldingWord/en_uhg/src/branch/master/content/definiteness.rst
.. _definiteness:
The concept of definiteness in Biblical Hebrew is a way of referring to a person(s) or thing(s).
Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and participles can be either definite or indefinite, depending on several factors.
In Biblical Hebrew, :ref:`nouns<noun>` and :ref:`pronouns<pronoun>` either can be definite on the basis of their own intrinsic nature
or can be made definite by some linguistic marking or grammatical construction.
Generally speaking, :ref:`adjectives<adjective>` and participles (both :ref:`active<participle_active>`
and :ref:`passive<participle_passive>`) are always intrinsically indefinite, but they can be made definite by an attached
:ref:`definite article<particle_definite_article>` or :ref:`pronominal suffix<suffix_pronominal>`,
or by being connected to a definite noun in a construct relationship.
As a general summary, definiteness in Biblical Hebrew functions in the following ways:
1) to designate a specific person/thing, or a class of person(s)/thing(s) that are intrinsically definite;
2) to match a noun to its accompanying descriptor (often with adjectives or participles);
3) to introduce a relative clause (often with participles); and/or
4) to indicate a :ref:`superlative<adjective-superlative>` or :ref:`demonstrative<pronoun_demonstrative>` (especially in regard to time) referent.
However, these are only general designations and do not represent a comprehesive list.
.. note:: The concept of definiteness works differently in various languages; therefore, definite/indefinite terms should always be translated from Biblical Hebrew into other languages with great sensitivity to the context of each individual use and according to the conventions of definiteness in the target language.
Intrinsically definite terms
There are three types of terms that are intrinsically definite:
:ref:`proper nouns<noun_proper_name>`,
:ref:`personal pronouns<pronoun_personal>`,
and :ref:`demonstrative pronouns<pronoun_demonstrative>`.
:ref:`Proper<noun_proper_name>` nouns
.. csv-table:: Example: 1SA 9:17
וּשְׁמוּאֵ֖ל רָאָ֣ה אֶת־\ **שָׁא֑וּל וַיהוָ֣ה** עָנָ֔הוּ
**ushemu'el** ra'ah 'eth-**sha'ul wayhwah** 'anahu
**And-Samuel** saw [dir.obj]\_\ **Saul and-Yahweh** answered-him
"**When Samuel** saw **Saul**, **Yahweh** told him"
.. csv-table:: Example: 1CH 21:4
ַיֵּצֵ֣א **יֹואָ֗ב** וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ֙ בְּכָל־\ **יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל**
וַיָּבֹ֖א **יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם**\ ׃"
"wayyetse **yow'av** wayyithhallekh bekhol-\ **yisra'el** wayyavo
"And-he-went-out **Joab** and-he-walked in-all\_\ **Israel**
and-he-came-in **Jerusalem**."
"So **Joab** left and went throughout all **Israel**. Then he came
back to **Jerusalem**."
:ref:`Personal<pronoun_personal>` pronouns
.. csv-table:: Example: JER 12:1
צַדִּ֤יק אַתָּה֙
tsaddiq **'attah**
righteous **you**
**you** are righteous
.. csv-table:: Example: GEN 27:34
בָּרֲכֵ֥נִי גַם־\ **אָ֖נִי** אָבִֽי
barakheni gam-\ **'ani** 'avi
Bless-me also\_\ **me** my-father
"Bless me, **me** also, my father"
:ref:`Demonstrative<pronoun_demonstrative>` pronouns
.. csv-table:: Example: JDG 7:4
ְהָיָ֡ה אֲשֶׁר֩ אֹמַ֨ר אֵלֶ֜יךָ \ **זֶ֣ה** ׀ יֵלֵ֣ךְ
אִתָּ֗ךְ ה֚וּא יֵלֵ֣ךְ אִתָּ֔ךְ"
"wehayah 'asher 'omar 'eleykha **zeh** yelekh 'ittakh hu yelekh
"And-it-is that I-will-say to-you **This** he-will-go-with-you he
he-will-go with-you"
"If I say to you, ""**This** one will go with you,"" he will go with you"
.. csv-table:: Example: ISA 6:3
וְקָרָ֨א \ **זֶ֤ה** אֶל־זֶה֙
weqara **zeh** 'el-**zeh**
And-he-called **this** to\_\ **this**
And **each one** called to **another**
Terms made definite by linguistic marking or grammatical construction
Biblical Hebrew has three ways to make a term definite: by adding the :ref:`definite article<particle_definite_article>`,
by adding a :ref:`pronominal suffix<suffix_pronominal>`,
or by connecting it to a definite term in a construct relationship.
:ref:`Definite article<particle_definite_article>` prefix
.. csv-table:: Example: DEU 1:23
וַיִּיטַ֥ב בְּעֵינַ֖י הַדָּבָ֑ר
wayyitav be'enay **haddavar**
And-it-seemed-good in-my-eyes **the-thing**
**The advice** pleased me well
.. csv-table:: Example: ISA 5:11
הֹ֛וי מַשְׁכִּימֵ֥י בַבֹּ֖קֶר
howy mashkime **vabboqer**
Woe who-rise-up **in-the-morning**
Woe to those who rise up early **in the morning**
.. _state_determined-pronominal-suffix:
:ref:`Pronominal<suffix_pronominal>` suffix
.. csv-table:: Example: 2SA 17:23
וַיָּ֜קָם וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ אֶל־\ **בֵּיתוֹ֙** אֶל־עִיר֔וֹ
wayyaqom wayyelekh 'el-**betho** 'el-**'iro**
And-he-stood-up and-he-went to\_\ **his-house** to\_\ **his-city**
He went **home** to **his own city**
.. csv-table:: Example: EZR 9:12
וְ֠עַתָּה **בְּֽנֹותֵיכֶ֞ם** אַל־תִּתְּנ֣וּ **לִבְנֵיהֶ֗ם וּבְנֹֽתֵיהֶם֙** אַל־תִּשְׂא֣וּ לִבְנֵיכֶ֔ם
"we'attah **benowthekhem** 'al-tittenu **livnehem uvenothehem**
'al-tis'u **livnekhem**"
"And-now **your-daughters** not\_give **to-their-sons and-their-daughters**
not\_take **for-your-sons**"
"So now, do not give **your daughters to their sons**; do not take
**their daughters** for **your sons**"
Construction with a definite :ref:`noun<noun>`
In the example below, "the heavens and the earth" are made definite by
the definite article, and "account" or "events" is therefore also definite.
.. csv-table:: Example: GEN 2:4
אֵ֣לֶּה **תֹולְדֹ֧ות** הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם
'elleh **thowldowth** hashamayim weha'arets behibbare'am
This **account-of** the-heavens and-the-earth when-they-were-created
"These were **the events** concerning the heavens and the earth, when
they were created"
In the example below, "Egypt" is an intrinsically definite word and
"land" is therefore also definite.
.. csv-table:: Example: DEU 10:19
כִּֽי־גֵרִ֥ים הֱיִיתֶ֖ם **בְּאֶ֥רֶץ** מִצְרָֽיִם׃
ki-gerim heyithem **be'erets** mitsrayim
for\_foreigners you-were **in-land-of** Egypt.
for you were foreigners **in the land** of Egypt.
Function of definiteness
Refers to a specific person, thing, or idea
.. _definiteness-demonstrative:
Sometimes the definite article can indicate a :ref:`demonstrative<pronoun_demonstrative>` unit of time.
.. csv-table:: Example: GEN 19:14 -– "the night" = "this" night = tonight
אַיֵּ֧ה הָאֲנָשִׁ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֥אוּ אֵלֶ֖יךָ הַלָּ֑יְלָה
'ayyeh ha'anashim 'asher-ba'u 'eleykha **hallaylah**
Where the-men who\_came-in to-you **the-night**
Where are the men that came in to you **tonight**?
.. csv-table:: Example: 1SA 18:21 -– "the day" = "this" day = today
תִּתְחַתֵּ֥ן בִּ֖י **הַיֹּֽום**\ ׃
tithhatten bi **hayyowm**
You-will-become-son-in-law to-me **the day**.
**Today** you will be my son-in-law.
.. _definiteness-superlative:
Sometimes a definite adjective can indicate a :ref:`superlative<adjective-superlative>` member of a group.
.. csv-table:: Example: 1SA 16:11
עֹ֚וד שָׁאַ֣ר **הַקָּטָ֔ן** וְהִנֵּ֥ה רֹעֶ֖ה בַּצֹּ֑אן
'owd sha'ar **haqqatan** wehinneh ro'eh batson
Still remains **the-youngest** and-see tending to-the-sheep.
"There remains yet **the youngest**, but he is tending the sheep."
.. csv-table:: Example: SNG 1:8
הַיָּפָ֖ה בַּנָּשִׁ֑ים
**hayyafah** bannashim
**the-fair** among-the-women
**the fairest** among women
Sometimes a definite term refers to an item that has been mentioned previously in some way, either directly or indirectly.
.. csv-table:: Example: 1KI 3:24
וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ קְח֣וּ לִי־חָ֑רֶב וַיָּבִ֥אוּ \ **הַחֶ֖רֶב** לִפְנֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ
"wayyomer hammelekh qehu li-harev wayyavi'u **haherev** lifne
"And-he-said the-king take to-me\_sword and-they-brought **the-sword**
before the-king."
"The king said, ""Bring me a sword."" So they brought **a sword** before
the king."
.. csv-table:: Example: ZEC 3:5
וָאֹמַ֕ר יָשִׂ֛ימוּ צָנִ֥יף טָהֹ֖ור עַל־רֹאשֹׁ֑ו וַיָּשִׂימוּ֩ **הַצָּנִ֨יף הַטָּהֹ֜ור** עַל־רֹאשֹׁ֗ו
"wa'omar yasimu tsanif tahowr 'al-roshow wayyasimu
**hatsanif hattahowr** 'al-roshow"
"And-I-said put turban clean on\_his-head and-they-put
**the-turban the-clean** on\_his-head"
"I said, ""Let them put a clean turban on his head!"" So they set
**a clean turban** on his head"
.. csv-table:: Example: JDG 4:15
וַיָּ֣הָם יְ֠הוָה אֶת־סִֽיסְרָ֨א וְאֶת־כָּל־הָרֶ֧כֶב וְאֶת־כָּל־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֛ה
"wayyahom yehwah 'eth-sisera we'eth-kol-harekhev
we'eth-kol-\ **hammahaneh**"
"And-he-confused Yahweh [dir.obj]\_Sisera
and-[dir.obj]\_all\_the-chariots and-[dir.obj]\_all\_\ **the-army**."
"Yahweh made Sisera's army confused, all his chariots, and all
**his army**."
.. csv-table:: Example: 1SA 16:23
וְלָקַ֥ח דָּוִ֛ד אֶת־הַכִּנּ֖וֹר
welaqah dawid 'eth-**hakkinnor**
and-he-took David [dir.obj]\_\ **the-harp**
David took **his harp**
Sometimes a definite term refers to an unidentified item with the assumption that the reader already understands the referent,
either from the context of the narrative or from simple knowledge of the world.
.. csv-table:: Example: GEN 8:7
וַיְשַׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָֽעֹרֵ֑ב
wayshallah 'eth-**ha'orev**
He-sent [dir.obj]\_\ **the-raven**
He sent out **a raven**
.. csv-table:: Example: GEN 22:6
וַיִּקַּ֨ח אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֶת־עֲצֵ֣י הָעֹלָ֗ה ... וַיִּקַּ֣ח בְּיָד֔וֹ אֶת־\ **הָאֵ֖שׁ** וְאֶת־הַֽמַּאֲכֶ֑לֶת
"wayyiqqah 'avraham 'eth-'atse ha'olah ... wayyiqqah beyado
'eth-**ha'esh** we'eth-\ **hamma'akheleth**"
"And-he-took Abraham [dir.obj]\_wood-for the-burnt-offering ...
and-he-took in-his-hand [dir.obj]\_\ **the-fire**
and-[dir.obj]\_\ **the-knife**"
"Then Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering ... he took in his
own hand **the fire** and **the knife**"
.. csv-table:: Example: 2KI 3:22
וְהַשֶּׁ֖מֶשׁ זָרְחָ֣ה עַל־הַמָּ֑יִם
**wehashemesh** zorhah 'al-**hammayim**
**and-the-sun** shone on\_\ **the-water**.
**and the sun** reflected on **the water**.
.. csv-table:: Example: NEH 9:6
ָשִׂ֡יתָ אֶֽת־\ **הַשָּׁמַיִם֩** שְׁמֵ֨י **הַשָּׁמַ֜יִם**
וְכָל־צְבָאָ֗ם **הָאָ֜רֶץ** וְכָל־אֲשֶׁ֤ר עָלֶ֨יהָ֙"
"'asitha 'eth-**hashamayim** sheme **hashamayim** wekhol-tseva'am
**ha'arets** wekhol-'asher 'aleyha"
"You-have-made [dir.obj]\_\ **the-heavens** heaven-of **the-heavens**
en-all\_their-host **the-earth** en-all\_that-is on-it"
"You have made **heaven**, **the** highest **heavens**, with all their
host, and **the earth** and everything on it"
.. csv-table:: Example: 1KI 18:39
יְהוָ֖ה ה֥וּא **הָאֱלֹהִֽים**\ ׃
yhwh hu **ha'elohim**
Yahweh he **the-God**.
"Yahweh, he is **God**!"
Refers to a general class/category of items
Sometimes a definite term refers to a general class or category instead to referring to a specific item.
This can be a general category of people, a general class of objects, a generic type of material, etc.
Usually the meaning is clear from the context.
In the example below, the definite article is incorporated in the prepositions כַ and כָּ (like).
.. csv-table:: Example: GEN 18:25
וְהָיָ֥ה כַצַּדִּ֖יק כָּרָשָׁ֑ע
wehayah **khatsaddiq karasha'**
and-they-are **like-the-righteous like-the-wicked**
"so that **the righteous** should be treated **the same as the wicked**"
Sometimes the definite article is used in this way when a person directly addresses another person.
.. csv-table:: Example: 1SA 17:58
בֶּן־מִ֥י אַתָּ֖ה הַנָּ֑עַר
ben-mi 'attah **hanna'ar**
Son-of\_whom you **the-young-man**
"Whose son are you, **young man**?"
.. csv-table:: Example: 2KI 6:26
הוֹשִׁ֖יעָה אֲדֹנִ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ
hoshi'ah 'adoni **hammelekh**
Help my-lord **the-king**
"Help, my master, **king**"
.. csv-table:: Example: 1KI 15:18
וַיִּקַּ֣ח אָ֠סָא אֶת־כָּל־הַכֶּ֨סֶף וְהַזָּהָ֜ב
wayyiqqah 'asa 'eth-kol-**hakkesef wehazzahav**
And-he-took Asa [dir.obj]\_all\_\ **the-silver and-the-gold**
Then Asa took all **the silver and gold**
.. csv-table:: Example: 1CH 29:2
ֲכִינֹ֣ותִי לְבֵית־אֱלֹהַ֗י הַזָּהָ֣ב׀ לַ֠זָּהָב וְהַכֶּ֨סֶף
לַכֶּ֜סֶף וְהַנְּחֹ֣שֶׁת לַנְּחֹ֗שֶׁת הַבַּרְזֶל֙ לַבַּרְזֶ֔ל
וְהָעֵצִ֖ים לָעֵצִ֑ים"
"hakhinowthi leveth-'elohay **hazzahav lazzahov wehakkesef lakkesef wehannehosheth lannehosheth habbarzel labbarzel weha'etsim la'etsim**"
"I-have-provided for-house-of\_my-God **the-gold for-the-gold and-the-silver for-the-silver and-the-bronze for-the-bronze the-iron for-the-iron and-the-wood for-the-wood**."
"I have provided for the temple of my God: **gold for the things to be made of gold, silver for the things to be made of silver, bronze for the things to be made of bronze, iron for the things to be made of iron, and wood for the things to be made of wood**."
Matches an :ref:`adjective<adjective>` to a :ref:`noun<noun>`
In Biblical Hebrew, when a definite :ref:`common noun<noun_common>` is followed by a definite
:ref:`attributive adjective<adjective-attributive>`, an :ref:`adjectival participle<participle_active-adjectival>`,
or a noun in apposition, the definite article on both terms shows that they belong together. In other words,
that particular adjective is describing that particular noun.
.. csv-table:: Example: JOS 21:45
מִכֹּל֙ הַדָּבָ֣ר הַטֹּ֔וב
mikkol **haddavar hattowv**
of-all **the-word the-good**
among all **the good promises**
.. csv-table:: Example: DEU 7:19
הַמַּסֹּ֨ת הַגְּדֹלֹ֜ת אֲשֶׁר־רָא֣וּ עֵינֶ֗יךָ
**hammassoth haggedoloth** 'asher-ra'u 'eneykha
**the-sufferings the-great** which\_saw your-eyes
**the great sufferings** that your eyes saw
Introduces a verbal relative clause
When the definite article is used in front of a :ref:`verb<verb>`,
it refers to the person(s) doing the action described by the verb and is translated very much like a :ref:`particle_relative`.
The definite article is used in this way usually with infinitives (:ref:`construct<infinitive_construct>`
or :ref:`absolute<infinitive_absolute>`) or participles (:ref:`active<participle_active-nominal>`
or :ref:`passive<participle_passive-nominal>`), and only rarely with finite verbal forms.
with a :ref:`non-finite<verb-non-finite>` verb
.. csv-table:: Example: JOS 8:19
וְהָאֹורֵ֡ב קָם֩ מְהֵרָ֨ה מִמְּקֹומֹ֤ו
**weha'owrev** qam meherah mimmeqowmow
**And-the-people-laying-in-ambush** stood quickly from-their-place
**The soldiers hiding in ambush** quickly rushed out of their place
.. csv-table:: Example: GEN 12:7
לַיהוָ֖ה \ **הַנִּרְאֶ֥ה** אֵלָֽיו
layhwah **hannir'eh** 'elayw
to-Yahweh **the-appeared** to-him
"to Yahweh, **who had appeared** to him"
with a :ref:`finite<verb-finite>` verb
.. csv-table:: Example: JOS 10:24
הֶהָלְכ֣וּא אִתּ֔וֹ
**heholkhu** 'itto
**the-walked** with-him
**who had gone** with him
Definiteness in poetry
The :ref:`definite article<particle_definite_article>` is used very rarely in Hebrew poetry.
In poetry, therefore, definite terms and indefinite terms often look exactly alike
and must be recognized based on other indicators or discerned simply from the context.
.. csv-table:: Example: PSA 2:2
יִ֥תְיַצְּב֨וּ׀ מַלְכֵי־אֶ֗רֶץ
yithyatsevu malkhe-\ **'erets**
They-take-their-stand kings-of\_\ **earth**
The kings of **the earth** take their stand
In "normal" narrative texts the Hebrew would probably read
יִ֥תְיַצְּב֨וּ׀ מַלְכֵי הָאָ֖רֶץ