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Number Singular - Grammar of Biblical Hebrew

Summary

The singular form of a term refers to a single item, or a collection of items all of the same kind.

Article

In Biblical Hebrew, a word in its singular form usually refers to a single item, or to a collection of items all of the same kind. For nouns and adjectives, the singular form is the standard form found in a dictionary or lexicon.

Form

Nouns and adjectives

Masculine singular nouns have no special endings.

Feminine singular nouns usually end in either ־ָה or ־ֶת.

Singular Noun Paradigm
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
masculine singular absolute סוּס sus stallion
masculine singular construct סוּס sus stallion of
feminine singular absolute סוּסָה susah mare
feminine singular construct סוּסַת susat mare of
Singular Adjective Paradigm
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
masculine singular absolute טוֹב tov good
masculine singular construct טוֹב tov good
feminine singular absolute טוֹבָה tovah good
feminine singular construct טוֹבַת tovath good

Other terms

Besides nouns, a singular term can be recognized by a variety of changes to the form. These changes differ greatly from each other and are hard to sum up in a simple, helpful way. This paradigm shows a sample of the kinds of changes that signal a singular form for verbs, independent personal pronouns, and pronominal suffixes.

Qal Suffix Conjugation Singular Forms
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
common singular first person קָטַלְתִּי qatalti I killed
second person masculine singular קָטַלְתָּ qatalta you killed
second person feminine singular קָטַלְתְּ qatalt you killed
third person masculine singular קָטַל qatal he killed
third person feminine singular קָטְלָה qatlah she killed
common singular first person אֶקְטֹל ‘eqtol I will kill
second person masculine singular תִּקְטֹל tiqtol you will kill
second person feminine singular תִּקְטְלִי tiqteli you will kill
third person masculine singular יִקְטֹל yiqtol he will kill
third person feminine singular תִּקְטֹל tiqtol she will kill
Independent Personal Pronoun Singular Forms
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
second person masculine singular אַתָּה ‘attah you
second person feminine singular אַתְּ ‘at you
third person masculine singular הוּא hu he / it
third person feminine singular הִיא / הִוא hi / hiw she / it
Direct Object Marker with Pronominal Suffix Singular Forms
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
second person masculine singular אֹתְךָ ‘othekha you
second person feminine singular אֹתָךְ ‘othakh you
third person masculine singular אֹתוֹ ‘otho him / it
third person feminine singular אֹתָהּ ‘othah her / it
Pronominal Suffix Singular Forms
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
second person masculine singular לְךָ / - ְךָ lekha / -ekha (to) you
second person feminine singular לָךְ / - ָךְ lakh / -akh (to) you
third person masculine singular לוֹ / -וֹ lo / -o (to) him
third person feminine singular לָהּ / - ָהּ lah / -ah (to) her

Examples

Nouns marked as singular

Common Singular
Example: ISA 1:3
יָדַ֥ע שֹׁור֙ קֹנֵ֔הוּ וַחֲמֹ֖ור אֵב֣וּס בְּעָלָ֑יו
yada’ showr qonehu wahamowr ‘evus be’alayw
He-knows ox his-owner and-the-donkey manger-of his-master
The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master’s feeding trough

Proper names are always singular, but can be either common singular or collective singular.

Example: OBA 1:1 –– proper name with common singular
חֲזֹ֖ון עֹֽבַדְיָ֑ה
hazown ‘ovadyah
Vision-of Obadiah
The vision of Obadiah
Example: 1SA 29:1 –– proper names with collective singular and common singular
וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל חֹנִ֔ים בַּעַ֖יִן אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּיִזְרְעֶֽאל׃
weyisra’el honim ba’ayin ‘asher beyizre’el
and-Israel camped at-the-spring which-is in-Jezreel.
the Israelites camped by the spring that is in Jezreel.
Collective Singular

Sometimes a singular noun can refer to an entire kind of item rather than an individual entity. For example, the noun עַם “(people”) is singular and refers to an entire group of people as a single unit.

Example: EXO 6:7 –– collective singular of עַם
וְלָקַחְתִּ֨י אֶתְכֶ֥ם לִי֙ לְעָ֔ם
insert transliteration
And-I-take [dir.obj]-you to-me for-people
I will take you to myself as my people

With some nouns, the singular form can be used as either a common singular or a collective singular. For example, the noun עוֹף֙ can mean “bird” or “birds”.

Example: GEN 1:21 –– common singular of עוֹף
וְאֵ֨ת כָּל־ע֤וֹף כָּנָף֙ לְמִינֵ֔הוּ
we’eth kol-‘of kanaf leminehu
and-[dir.obj] every_winged bird after-its-kind.
every kind of bird that has wings
Example: GEN 40:17 –– collective singular of עוֹף
וְהָע֗וֹף אֹכֵ֥ל אֹתָ֛ם מִן־הַסַּ֖ל מֵעַ֥ל רֹאשִֽׁי
weha’of ‘okhel ‘otham min-hassal me’al roshi
and-the-birds ate them out-of_the-basket from-on my-head.
but birds were eating them from the top basket that was on my
head

Adjectives marked as singular

An adjective (also active and passive adjectival participles) in singular form describes a singular noun (either common or collective).

Example: 2KI 20:19 –– predicate adjective with common singular
טֹ֥וב דְּבַר־יְהוָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבַּ֑רְתָּ
towv devar-yehwah ‘asher dibbarta
Good word-of_Yahweh that you-spoke.
The word of Yahweh that you have spoken is good.
Example: PRO 28:15 –– adjectival participle with common singular
אֲרִי־נֹ֭הֵם וְדֹ֣ב שׁוֹקֵ֑ק
insert transliteration
lion_roaring and-bear charging
Like a roaring lion or a charging bear

Verbs marked as singular

A finite verb (and/or verbal participle) in singular form indicates that the subject of the verb is singular (either common or collective).

Example: GEN 1:20 –– finite verb with collective singular
וְעוֹף֙ יְעוֹפֵ֣ף עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ
insert tranliteration
and-birds let-them-fly on_[def.art]-earth
and let birds fly above the earth
Example: GEN 1:11 –– verbal participle with collective singular
עֵ֚שֶׂב מַזְרִ֣יעַ זֶ֔רַע
insert transliteration
herbs producing seed
plants yielding seed

Participles marked as singular

Generally, all nominal and adjectival participles in plural form use the common singular. A verbal participle in plural form indicates that the subject of the participle is plural.

Example: PSA 104:3 –– nominal participle with common singular
הַֽ֝מְהַלֵּ֗ךְ עַל־כַּנְפֵי־רֽוּחַ
insert transliteration [NOMINAL PARTICIPLE]
[def.art]-walker on_wings-of_wind
you walk on the wings of the wind
Example: PRO 28:15 –– adjectival participle with common singular
אֲרִי־נֹ֭הֵם וְדֹ֣ב שׁוֹקֵ֑ק
insert transliteration
lion_roaring and-bear charging
Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
Example: GEN 1:11 –– verbal participle with collective singular
עֵ֚שֶׂב מַזְרִ֣יעַ זֶ֔רַע
insert transliteration
herbs producing seed
plants yielding seed

Personal pronouns and pronominal suffixes marked as singular

Example: JER 37:2 –– independent personal pronoun with common singular
וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֛ע ה֥וּא וַעֲבָדָ֖יו וְעַ֣ם הָאָ֑רֶץ
welo shama’ hu wa’avadayw we’am ha’arets
and-not he-listened he and-his-servants and-people-of the-land
but he, his servants, and the people of the land did not listen
Example: 2SA 19:4 (2SA 19:1 in Hebrew) –– pronominal suffix with common singular
בְּנִ֤י אַבְשָׁלֹום֙ בְּנִ֣י בְנִ֣י
beni ‘avshalowm beni veni
My-son Absalom my-son my-son
My son Absalom, my son, my son!

Grammar of Biblical Hebrew