[b-hebrew] past-tense verbs in Modern Hebrew

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman joel at exc.com
Tue Jul 26 17:34:14 EDT 2005


>>In Modern Hebrew, past-tense motion verbs (but not other
>>verbs) are used for future-tense suggestions (e.g., "HALAXNU?,"
>>literally "did we go?"  meaning "shall we go?") [This example is
>>doubly interesting because "SHARNU," "did we sing?" cannot mean "shall
>>we sing?"  It basically only works with motion verbs.]
>
>It's "halachnu?" - and it's an idiom, idioms are in a class by themselves.

Not just HALAXNU? (lit., "we went," meaning "shall we go") but also
ZAZNU? ("we moved," meaning, "let's go") and others.  It's not an
idiom.  (Idioms are fixed sets of words, like "kick the bucket.")

It's one of these bizarre cases where semantic constraints (verb of
leaving, in this case) affects something it ought not (verb tense).
Another example is the English null plural, which generally applies to
animals you hunt: 1 deer/4 deer; 1 moose/4 moose; 1 fish/4 fish.  But
the only way you can get "4 cow" is if "I went out and shot me 4 cow
yesterday."

And now back to our regularly scheduled program....

-Joel



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