[b-hebrew] infinitive absolute

Yonah Mishael yonahmishael at gmail.com
Thu Nov 2 23:22:49 EST 2006

On 11/1/06, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman <joel at exc.com> wrote:
> >Probably "emphatic" is the wrong word here, as this refers not to
> >emphasis in the normal English meaning, rather towards assuredness, as
> >the sentence is surely to be carried out.
> It seems unlikely to me, because inf. absolute is also used in
> conditional clauses, e.g., V'HAYA IM SHAMO'A TISHMU... ("If you
> listen.")
> But more generally, there are lots of possitibilites, all consistent
> with the text, but none, as nearly as I can tell, considerably more
> likely than the others.
> For example, inf. absolute could be dialectal (similar to "If I had
> been there..." vs. "If I would have been there...").  Inf. absolute
> could be telic.  Etc.
> -Joel

Even this verse and the many like it seem to have an emphasized verb:
"And it will come to pass if you will *truly* listen/hear/obey,
that...." In your cited example, I do not see a contradiction to the
normal way of reading this construction.

It seems to be that this construction (inf. abs. + finite verb) has
been well understood by Hebrew grammarians up to this point. What is
to be gained by doubting it, and can it be doubted for good reason?
Again, there has to be a reason that the form is used. If it didn't
have a purpose, it surely would have fallen into disuse.

As for the distinction between "If I had been there" and "If I would
have been there," I think this arose from the disappearance of the
subjunctive mood from common English usage in situations where these
are used synonymously. In other situations, it has to do with time
constraints on the main verb. Additionally, I think that "If I would
have been there" is bad English grammar and not a representation of
how most English speakers would express this thought in words. ;)


Yonah Mishael ben Avraham
Joplin, MO
yonahmishael at gmail.com

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