(inspired by this question)

Does the nominal pronoun in a Hebrew sentence with a conjugated verb
i) add information or
ii) deserve to be translated?

Conversely, exactly how much
i) information does a stand-alone conjugated Hebrew verb contain and
ii) of a stand-alone conjugated Hebrew verb deserves to be translated?

E.g.: Does "אמרתי" properly mean "I said" or "said" and is it properly translated as "I said" or "said"?


Not 100% certain I understand the question. In Tanach, such verbs are often found without a separate pronoun (e.g., אמרתי, not אני אמרתי), and then they do need to be translated as, e.g., "I said" for the sentence to make any sense. The cases where we have pronoun + verb + suffix (אני אמרתי) are usually for emphasis: "I said."

Of course, for second- and third-person forms, when a noun is needed to identify the speaker, you'll have that (אנשי המקום אמרו), and then I suppose a hyper-literal translation might be "The men of the place, they said." I have never seen such a translation, though.

In modern Hebrew (colloquial, and sometimes formal too) you find the form אני אמרתי much more often, not necessarily with any intent at emphasis. My guess is that these are influenced by European languages, where the verb suffix (if any) doesn't encode pronominal information.

  • 1
    The question isn't phrased as well as it could be. Thanks for jumping in anyway! You are addressing the pragmatic needs of a translation - accuracy and expressiveness. But the other half of my question is exactly how much of the meaning "I said" is encoded in the word "אמרתי". Does the verb really include the pronoun "I" or does it only agree with it? – WAF Nov 25 '10 at 15:40
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    I see what you mean. Still, though, to judge by examples like אמרתי, I'd think that we necessarily have to say that the verb includes the pronoun, otherwise the sentence is missing a subject. – Alex Nov 25 '10 at 17:14

If you are asking for an educational-practical purpose then here is what I have concluded:

Based on exmples in Tanach of these verbs appearing as stand-alones I would tend to agree with Alex that the pronoun is included in the conjugated verb. However, as with all translation from language to language one must deal with the (pardon the term) idiosyncrasies of the language being translated from. In the case of Lashon HaKodesh we (us English speakers) perceive the redundancy of the pronoun as such.

Therefore, if your goal is for the students to first be aware of the individual words' translations have them translate the individual words as such, including the pronouns. Then have them descramble these single-word translations into their proper phrases, dropping the now redundant pronouns when necessary.

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