אל and לא

JAN SHAR

Senior Member
pashto
Hi,

Does it make a difference whether you make a negative command using אל or לא?

אל תבנה
לא תבנה

They both mean do not build (when speaking to one man), right?
 
  • Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    In terms of meaning? It seems לא is more general, like a law. אל is more immediate, relevant to the present or other specific moment or instance.

    They're also different morphologically. If I'm not mistaken, אל is used with the jussive form, while לא is used with the ordinary prefix-conjugation form.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Yes, אל is used with the short form of the prefix-conjugation, also known as the jussive form, while לא is used with the long form of the prefix-conjugation.
     

    JAN SHAR

    Senior Member
    pashto
    Thank you, but I just checked, and it turns out that the use of the jussive with אל is optional. You can use the indicative as well. For example, Lambdin gives the sentence אל־תשתה את־המים. You can see that he used the indicative, not the jussive, even though it means Don't drink the water!
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Lambdin should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, he gives the following sentence in one of the exercises:

    ונשב ונאכל ונשתה
    "And (then) we sat down and (then) we ate and (then) we drank."

    The last verb should have been ונשת because after the waw-retentive you always use the short form of the verb (if one exists).

    Similarly, after a negative command with אל you have to use the short form if it exists. So, Lambdin is wrong; it should have been אל־תשת את־המים, not אל־תשתה את־המים.
     

    JAN SHAR

    Senior Member
    pashto
    No, sometimes we find in the Bible the long form where we would expect the short form. I distinctly remember coming across the long form of לשתות to drink where the short form was expected because it was after a vav-conversive. I can't remember where I saw it though.

    So, don't be surprised if you see a long form after אל.
     
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