Many, many times in Tanach, including Chumash, a verb has its infinitive nearby. Examples include B'reshis 2:16 מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן אָכֹל תֹּאכֵל (I think that's the first example in Chumash) and Bamidbar 16:13 כִּי תִשְׂתָּרֵר עָלֵינוּ גַּם הִשְׂתָּרֵר. This is generally translated as providing emphasis; thus, for example, R' Kaplan's chumash translates B'reshis 2:16 as "You may definitely eat", and the JPS chumash translates Bamidbar 16:13 as "but thou must needs make thyself also a prince over us". (FWIW Christian translators, l'havdil, usually translate it similarly.) IIRC when I learned Chumash in grade school, the repetition was translated with an added "surely".

My question is, does anyone have a written (Jewish) source for such interpretation of the repetition (or for any other interpretation of it), especially among the rishonim?

Note that my question is about the p'shat of such p'sukim, not about d'rashos on them.

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    Is תֹּאכֵל the infinitive of אָכֹל ? I thought it would be l'echol. nonetheless, the doubling question still stands
    – Jeremy
    Commented Jul 27, 2010 at 21:35
  • as a corollary, why does this construct occur so many times in parshat mishpatim? (mot yumat; shalem yeshalem; etc.) Perhaps something profound about the importance and emphasis on mitzvot bein adam l'chavero...
    – Jeremy
    Commented Jul 27, 2010 at 21:37
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    No, אָכֹל is the infinitive, Jeremy. See what Gesenius says (linked to below by Dave).
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 14:44
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/70483
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 3:44

3 Answers 3


Another example is the Mishnah in Chullin chapter 12, which states that one who performs Shiluach HaKan must send away the mother bird even multiple times due to the verse's command שלח תשלח. Rambam, in his Perush HaMishnah there, explains that the derivation is from the inclusion of the additional term שלח ("sending"), which because it is the infinitive absolute (מקור) form of the word, implies an open-ended number of sendings. I imagine a similar logic could be used in other cases, e.g., אָכֹל would mean to make sure that an "eating" has been done.

I don't have any other Jewish sources at the moment, but you might find interesting what Gesenius has to say.

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    There are various such drashos throught shas, especially in Bava Metzia (31b). The implication is that the double language expands the halacha to include something else. The other shittah holds that a double verb is a normal manner of speech and does not necessarily imply extending the halacha (though see Tos.) There are non-halachic drashos, too (Darosh Darash by Seir haChatas) msh's question, however would apply to translating a pasuk simply: How do we know it means "surely", as opposed to being a normal narrative?
    – YDK
    Commented Jul 27, 2010 at 18:24
  • Right, YDK, thanks for clarifying what I should have: that my question applies on the p'shat level only. Thanks for the link to Gesenius, Dave: it does answer my question, except that I'm still seeking a Jewish source, especially among the rishonim.
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 27, 2010 at 18:58
  • @msh210 Other examples of inferring the need to do the act repeatedly include giving gifts to the poor (D'varim 15:8) and appointing a king (D'varim 17:15). However, the latter seems to me less like "keep appointing until the job is done" (What job?), and more like "keep appointing sons [from the same family]".
    – WAF
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 10:21

Radak writes in his Sefer Michlol (a treatise on grammar):

וברוב יבא המקור קודם הפועל... ויבא עם הפעל לחזק הדבר. ופעמים יבא באחרונה ... ועם הצווי הוא באחרונה ברוב ... ובא המקור אחרון לחזק הדבר יותר

Usually, the infinitive absolute comes before the finite verb ... and it comes with the finite verb to strengthen the matter. And sometimes it comes afterward ... and with imperatives, it is usually afterward ... and the infinitive absolute comes afterward to strengthen the matter even more [than if it were before the verb]

For a great example of the former case, see Isaiah 24:19 and Radak ad loc. He says that "the repetition [of the verb] is to reinforce the great troubles that will come in that time against the whole land (וכל הכפל לחזק הצרות הגדולות שתהיינה בעת ההיא על כל הארץ)".

For an example of the latter case, see Jeremiah 23:17 and Radak ad loc. s.v. אומרים אמור (the Daat Mikra commentary explains this strengthening as "they dare to say"). Oddly, it seems from his comment there (ie. at Jer 23:17) that the infinitive absolute only strengthens when appearing after the finite verb, but this reading should be taken in light of what he says in Sefer Michlol and elsewhere.

Additionally, the Gemara in Sanhedrin 40b seems to equate (at least on a p'shat level) the adverb היטב with your construction (חקור תחקור or דרוש תדרוש).

  • Great source - thank you! What does he mean by "strengthen"? In the Yirmiyahu example - is it the manner of saying that is stronger than it could have been or stronger than the m'na'atzim, or is it the certitude of the description of the act, or something more subtle semantically?
    – WAF
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 11:36
  • It's not clear from Radak what semantic strengthening he had in mind, in Jeremiah or in general. He interprets the infinitive absolute as connoting the thought that leads to the action, but that doesn't help us much. The Daat Mikra commentary on Jer 23:17 suggests: they dare to say.
    – magicker72
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 17:20
  • @WAF See my comment above, and see the edit for an example where Radak is explicit in what the strengthening means.
    – magicker72
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 18:06
  • Thanks for the additional research! Could he be commenting merely on the repetition of the root as opposed to classifying it by this pattern? Is רֹ֥עָה an infinitive?
    – WAF
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 18:22
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    @WAF Yes, רעה is an infinitive (with an additional ה: see דעת מקרא's suggestions for why). Radak thinks generally that repetition (whether using the same root or using different words) is "לחזק", whatever that means (and its meaning is likely context-dependent). I guess that the infinitive absolute is just a way that the repetition is achieved for verbs. See also Radak on 1 Sam 1:11 s.v. אם ראה תראה, where he says that this repetition is a natural feature of the language, that comes לחזק הדבר.
    – magicker72
    Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 18:41

I subsequently asked this question in another forum, and will relay an answer I received (though I'm unsatisfied with it, as I'll note). The respondent pointed me to Rashi, B'reshis 27:30. When I replied "Sifse Chachamim there (and Mat'nos K'huna on Midrash Raba) indicate that that's a d'rasha rather than a translation", he said "Maybe, but in any case, it's a clear indication that the rishonim assumed that a verb plus its infinitive indicates some sort of emphasis".

  • Which other forum? Commented Aug 10, 2010 at 15:42
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    That also seems like a special case, in that it's possible to assign the two verbs to two different actors, which is unlikely to be an available interpretation everywhere you see this form.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Aug 10, 2010 at 16:06
  • @YS: The "mesorah" listserv at aishdas.org. But the reply I got was off-list (i.e., to me only).
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 10, 2010 at 16:41

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