The root אשר seems to act weirdly in relation to number.

On the one hand, it takes on plural morphology in situations that are clearly singular, here in the form of a plural (const.) noun (functioning as an adj.) in reference to a sing. noun: אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַךְ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים (Ps. 1:1)

On the other hand, inversely, we sing as we return the sefer Torah to the ark, of a singular adj. qualifying a plural noun: עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה ותמכיה מְאֻשָּׁר(Prov. 3:18)

Finally, there are cases that appear altogether consistent, here plural with plural: אַשְׁרֵי אֲנָשֶׁיךָ אַשְׁרֵי עֲבָדֶיךָ (I Kings 10:8)

Is this just an anomaly of the root אשר, or is something else going on?

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    Is this a difference of the word meaning "praised (by many)" and so plural, vs fortunate (singular)? Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:08
  • Interesting potential differentiation, Benyomin. Food for thought.
    – Joshua
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 21:15
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    @al I'm not really sure how questions about biblical Hebrew (AKA lashon hakodesh), as used in Scripture, could be considered off topic on this site. (Even putting aside that no less a halachic authority than Maimonides considers knowing Hebrew to be a mitzva kala.) (The OP isn't asking how to conjugate לפסבק.)
    – Loewian
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 4:05
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    @Al Loewian is correct: Biblical Hebrew questions are on-topic.
    – DonielF
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 14:17
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    – magicker72
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 17:37

1 Answer 1


אַשְׁרֵי is grammatically, as you note, a plural construct noun. So it isn't obligated to agree with the word following it, as in יְדֵי הָאִישׁ "the man's (s) hands (pl)." If we translated word-by-word, אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ would mean "the man's happinesses." There is one more word that is used in a similar construction, אַחֲלֵי אֲדֹנִי (2 Kings 5:3; see also Psalms 119:5).

The lack of agreement in וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר is a different issue, and not related specifically to the root אשר. The singular adjective views תֹמְכֶיהָ as a unit "everyone who supports it" (on another verse Metsudat David explains "each and every one"). Gesenius' grammar cites some more examples of this, such as מְבָרְכֶ֣יךָ בָר֔וּךְ וְאֹרְרֶ֖יךָ אָרֽוּר. This is common cross-linguistically (synesis).

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    So, in short, we are relying on the "Collective singular" usage that we see frequently in Tanac"h?
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 13:56
  • @DanF It depends on what you mean by that, but if you're thinking of examples like ישראל or עם as singular and plural, that's a similar case
    – b a
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 17:48
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    @AlBerko 1. אשרי doesn't walk, it's איש that walks... ("אשרי of the איש who didn't walk..."). 2. Semantically yes, but morphologically it's סמיכות. It behaves just like any case of סמיכות, as in אשריו, אשריך... which decline for possessor (same as ידיו, ידיך... which derive from יְדֵי)
    – b a
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 11:43
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    1. Do you have a source or you're saying this by yourself? 2. Please translate the whole verse based on Smichus.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 13:01
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    @AlBerko 1. Try the Targum for one who translates it as a possessive טוּבֵיהּ דִגְבַר... 2.Translating the verse is irrelevant because it can't be expressed that way in English (see my answer for a literal translation of the form, which I obviously don't endorse as good English). In Aramaic it works the same way as Hebrew, and so the Targum does translate as possessive
    – b a
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 16:53

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