Learning to Read Biblical Hebrew: An Introductory Grammar

By Robert Ray Ellis | Go to book overview

Lesson 18
INFINITIVE, PARTICIPLE

18A INFINITIVE

1. Introduction
a. As stated previously, perfect, imperfect, and imperative verbs are finite. Their action is limited by inflection (through prefixes and suffixes) to particular persons, genders, and numbers. Hebrew has two additional conjugations that are not finite: the infinitive and the participle. These two conjugations are non-finite in that they lack the typical inflectional limitations of finite verbs. This section will consider the infinitive, and the next the participle.
b. The infinitive is a verbal noun, which means that it shares some characteristics of verbs and some of nouns. In form it is like a verb in that it is built on a verb root and appears in the verb stems. However, the infinitive is unlike a verb in that it has no person, gender, or number. One way the infinitive is like the noun is that it sometimes takes prefixed prepositions; other similarities to nouns will be discussed later.
c. Hebrew infinitives appear in two states: construct and absolute. While these two terms are also used of nouns, they have different meanings when applied to infinitives. The infinitive construct, which is much more common, is discussed first.

2. Infinitive construct
a. The following chart presents the conjugation of the infinitive construct in the major stems where it occurs, using the strong verb root as a model. Since infinitives have no person, gender, or number, each stem has only one form. The infinitive construct is used in ways similar to the English infinitive (“to rule”) and gerund (“ruling”). These two notions are suggested by the translations; other connotations are also possible.

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