Why in the morning do we say מודה אני and not אני מודה?

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    Not sure if this is just a cute saying or an actual answer but I heard that we don’t want to start off a “prayer” about being modeh to Hashem with the word “I” – mroll Oct 7 at 0:40
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    Welcome Ben to Mi Yodeya! Please take a moment to look at our tour where you’ll find some useful information about our site. Thank you for this excellent question, and I hope to see you around. – DonielF Oct 7 at 0:46
  • מודה אני לפניך יקוק אלקי ואלקי אבתי רבון כל המעשים אדון כל הנשמות... – Double AA Oct 7 at 2:18
  • עולת ראי"ה ד"ה אני - daat.ac.il/daat/vl/olat/olat01.pdf – Lee Oct 9 at 15:23

In Biblical Hebrew the verb is often placed before the subject. (See, for example, almost all uses of vayomer and vaydaber in Torah.) This is different from Modern Hebrew, where the subject is often placed before the verb. (In fact, I've gotten funny looks when attempting to use the Biblical style in conversations.)

מודה אני isn't unusual in this regard. We also say מודים אנחנו לך, for example, and ברוך אתה in lots of places. The prayers are, by and large, written in the style of Biblical (and rabbinic) Hebrew and preserved in that form.

DonielF added the following in a comment:

The idiom אני מודה, according to Sefaria’s search engine, appears 4 times across Gemara and Midrash (only one of them is in the Gemara), while מודה אני appears 30 times across the same sources, including a broader range of Midrashim, plus Tosefta and Avos d’Rebbi Nassan. So on the one hand, it’s not unheard of to use אני מודה, but on the other hand, it’s also significantly more common to use מודה אני.

  • In Biblical Hebrew the verb is often first, true, but it often isn't, especially in the present-tense forms like "מודה". See e.g. "וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן נוּן מָלֵא רוּחַ" and "אָנֹכִי נִצָּב עַל עֵין הַמָּיִם" and "אָנֹכִי הֹלֵךְ בְּדֶרֶךְ כָּל הָאָרֶץ" and "דּוֹר הֹלֵךְ וְדוֹר בָּא וְהָאָרֶץ לְעוֹלָם עֹמָדֶת" and "וְכָל הָעָם רֹאִים אֶת הַקּוֹלֹת" and "אֵין שַׂר בֵּית הַסֹּהַר רֹאֶה אֶת" and "וְלוֹט יֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר סְדֹם". This answer offers an answer to "how could we possibly say 'מודה אני'? it's wrong!" but not an answer to "why do we say 'מודה אני'?", which is what was asked. – msh210 Oct 7 at 8:22
  • I’m not as familiar with these kinds of rules of Hebrew grammar, but based on the examples provided by @msh210, could you argue that Biblically speaking, future-tense verbs (like ויאמר) go before the noun, while present-tense verbs (like msh’s) go after? If that is correct, then מודה אני would be in violation of Biblical grammar, rather than in support of it. (Many commentators say that ברוך in ברוך אתה is an adjective - “You are the source of blessing” - rather than a verb - “You are blessed” - so I’m not as bothered with that one.) – DonielF Oct 7 at 17:07
  • The idiom אני מודה, according to Sefaria’s search engine, appears 4 times across Gemara and Midrash (only one of them is in the Gemara), while מודה אני appears 30 times across the same sources, including a broader range of Midrashim, plus Tosefta and Avos d’Rebbi Nassan. So on the one hand, it’s not unheard of to use אני מודה, but on the other hand, it’s also significantly more common to use מודה אני. – DonielF Oct 7 at 17:26
  • @msh210 I don't see that nuance in this answer that you're seeing. I think it's that tefillah language tends to be "poetic", frequently, and follows Biblical and rabbinic style. Incidentally, I think that the frequent use of vav hahipuch may actually require that the verb precede the noun. I can't think of any case where the noun precedes the verb when vav hahipuch is used. – DanF Oct 8 at 2:26

I remember reading an article(maybe Aish.com?) that explained the reason for starting our day with the word "modeh" and not "ani": so that we don't start our day with "ani"/me but, rather, "modeh"/I am thankful.

The reason is very deep that I think can sum up our destiny, based on how we approach life. If you start your day with "ani"/me, then your life depends on you(which could be a curse). But if you start your day with modeh, then you start it with gratitude(and humility).

Too many times can we feel frustrated if things don't go our way. But why? Because we think it depends on "ani"/me. Emunah teaches us the opposite. Since HaShem is active in our lives and everything He does is for our best, then I am "modeh"/I am thankful.

To further elaborate, a person who takes the approach of "modeh"/ I am thankful, has the path set towards olam haba because they submit to God's control and nullify themselves to the will of God. This is unlike the one who takes the approach of "ani"/me.

Monica's answer (and the supporting comments) is probably the correct one. I would just add that, otherwise, "fronting" a constituent is a means of emphasis.

Biblical Hebrew is usually VSO (which means Verb Subject Object), so the verb should lead, and bringing the subject or object to the beginning is a way of emphasizing it. However, if the typical order for the present tense were to be to put the subject (ani) first, then the purpose would be to emphasize the gratitude.

See here, in Modality and the Biblical Hebrew Infinitive Absolute.

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