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חיים plural

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by airelibre, Jan 28, 2013.

  1. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    Since life in Hebrew is already plural (חיים) how do you express the idea of lives? For example, "3 lives remaining". While you could avoid using חיים, by saying נותרות 3 נשמות, can you also use חיים in plural?

    In English, we have "mathematics", "measles" and so on which are in plural form but are used as singular, so when used in plural we have to resort to constructions like "5 cases of (the) measles". You can say "this is hard maths/mathematics" but you can't say "these are hard mathematics". So this suggest that chaim cannot be further pluralised.

    However, you have חיים טובים, which suggests that chaim is not seen as singular. How do you view the word חיים as a native Hebrew speaker? Do you see it as singular or plural? I can't understand, as a native English speaker, how 'life' can be plural, since we only have one (unless you are Buddhist!).
  2. Tararam Senior Member

    We see it as plural.
    It's similar to "jeans" and "scissors" which don't have a singular form in English.
  3. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    I would say that jeans and scissors are seen as singular, since you can't say "five jeans/five scissors". You have to say X pairs of scissors/jeans.
  4. amikama

    amikama sordomodo

    Although חיים is plural, it's not a countable noun, just like מים and שמיים. You don't say שלושה מים, and you don't say שלושה חיים.

    Do not think of חיים in terms of singular/plural. Try to think of it as "numberless" abstract concept that just happens to be an plural noun.
  5. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    Ok, that makes sense, thank you. Just to confirm, to say "lives", you would generally use נשמות?
  6. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    נשמות means "souls." There are a few contexts in which this could be translated into English as "lives," but they generally don't mean the same. What context did you have in mind? Can you give a complete sentence?

    By the way, while חיים doesn't have a plural that means "lives," its combining form חיי can be used in the plural to mean "lives of," as in "the lives of the prophets." In חיי הנביאים the plural נביאים is enough to pluralize חיי also. It's not as if several prophets could share one life.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2013
  7. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    Well I've seen "יש לחתולים 9 נשמות" so I guessed that in games you might also see "נותרות 3 נשמות". I think generally it is possible to use different wording in order to avoid having to use חיים as a plural, but in the previous two examples, I thought it would be better to have an equivalent of "lives".
  8. Tararam Senior Member

    In games we use "פסילות".
    Phrases like "I have 3 lives left" will be "נותרו לי 3 פסילות" = "I have 3 disqualifications left".
  9. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    Cool, thanks!

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