As the name suggests, the direct object marker indicates the direct object of some verb. It does this by directly preceding the noun or phrase that functions as the direct object of a verb (either finite or non-finite). The direct object marker does not occur before every direct object, but it usually appears in places where there might be confusion. Thus, the direct object marker is not strictly necessary in Biblical Hebrew. Many languages, including English, do not have any specific word or symbol that serves a similar function; instead, those languages use other means of indicating the direct object of a verb (such as word order). Therefore, in many translations this particle is never translated.
The standard form of the direct object marker is אֵת. It can take both the prefixed conjunction and/or a pronominal suffix.
The direct object marker is easily confused with the preposition אֵת (“with”) which has an identical standard form. When taking a pronominal suffix, however, the two words can be distinguished by the vowel they each select. The direct object marker takes a holem or holem-waw vowel with an attached suffix (אוֹתִי or אֹתִי), whereas the preposition takes a hireq vowel (אִתִּי) with an attached suffix.
Example: GEN 1:1 –– marking individual nouns as direct objects
|בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃ |
|ara ‘elohim ‘eth hashamayim we’eth ha’arets |
|he-created God [dir.obj] the-heavens and-[dir.obj] the-earth |
|God created the heavens and the earth |
Example: GEN 1:29 –– marking an entire phrase as the direct object
|נָתַ֨תִּי לָכֶ֜ם אֶת־כָּל־עֵ֣שֶׂב׀ זֹרֵ֣עַ זֶ֗רַע |
|nathatti lakhem ‘eth-kol-‘esev zorea’ zera’ |
|I-have-given to-you [dir.obj]_every_plant seeding seed |
|I have given you every plant yielding seed |
Example: GEN 2:10 –– marking the direct object of a non-finite verb
|וְנָהָרּ֙ יֹצֵ֣א מֵעֵ֔דֶן לְהַשְׁק֖וֹת אֶת־הַגָּ֑ן |
|wenahar yotse me’eden lehashqoth ‘eth-haggan |
- And-a-river going-out from-Eden to-irrigate
|A river went out of Eden to water the garden. |
Example: JDG 10:13 –– with 1st common singular pronominal suffix
|וְאַתֶּם֙ עֲזַבְתֶּ֣ם אֹותִ֔י |
|we’attem ‘azavtem ‘owthi |
|And-you have-left [dir.obj]-me |
|Yet you abandoned me |