Does the subjunctive exist in Hebrew?

Polyglot37

New Member
American English
I have been studying Hebrew for about a year now and am loving it! Having studied French, Spanish and Italian has made me me wonder if the subjunctive exists in Hebrew as well. If so, how is it formed? When is it used? Has it's usage declined in modern day speech?
Toda raba :)
 
  • kilma7ilwa

    New Member
    Hebrew
    In Hebrew there is no special verb form for the subjunctive... In terms of conjugations Hebrew basically has only past, present and future. Historically the picture is more complex, though.

    Does this help?
     

    ks20495

    Senior Member
    Hebrew and English
    There is no subjunctive case in Hebrew.

    Most actions that would be marked as subjunctive in Romance languages (actions that are desired, requested, etc...) are expressed using "שֶֹׁ + עתיד" (she [that] + future).

    For example:
    (Spanish) Quiero que ella vaya = אני רוצה שהיא תבוא
    Quería que ella fuera = רציתי שהיא תבוא
     

    Mahts

    New Member
    Israel - Hebrew & Russian
    In order to express a wish (/conditional sentences) in Hebrew, a conjucated "להיות" in past tense + conjucgated verb in present tense is used almost always.

    For exampe:
    אם הייתי מגיע בזמן, לא הייתי מפספס את האוטובוס. (If I were to come in time, I wouln't have missed the bus.)
    הוא היה רוצה לאכול סלט. (He would like to eat a salad.)
     

    aavichai

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    אם הייתי מגיע בזמן, לא הייתי מפספס את האוטובוס

    just about this sentece it is better (or should be)
    the word לו
    לו הייתי מגיע בזמן

    becasue this is a thing that past and didn't happen

    לו הייתי רוטשילד
    if i was rotschild (or a rich man)

    but not אם הייתי רוטשילד
     

    amikama

    a mi modo
    עברית
    Yes, but only in formal/literary Hebrew. In everyday (colloquial) Hebrew אם is almost always used instead of לו.
    לו הייתי רוטשילד is a set expression, therefore it still sounds "better" with לו, not אם.

    We discussed אם vs. לו in this thread.
     
    Last edited:

    Jewpsy

    New Member
    Russian
    לו הייתי רוטשילד
    if i was rotschild (or a rich man)

    You are right, but as an example of subjunctive mood the same should be in English - " If I were a rich man", using 'was' in this mood is not grammatically correct.

    But again, the confusion is understandable, because there is a difference between a spoken language and a formal correct form in almost any language. English and Hebrew are great example since almost nobody is using " לו הייתי" or "If I were".
     

    utopia

    Senior Member
    Israel, Hebrew
    just about this sentece it is better (or should be)
    the word לו
    לו הייתי מגיע בזמן

    becasue this is a thing that past and didn't happen

    לו הייתי רוטשילד
    if i was rotschild (or a rich man)

    but not אם הייתי רוטשילד

    Actually, the correct form is:

    לו הגעתי בזמן

    After לו there is usually a verb in the past form.
     

    aavichai

    Senior Member
    Hebrew - Israel
    Even though the form of הגעתי is nicer

    there is no really wrong with the form of היייתי מגיע

    the היייתי is the past form - after the לו

    and the מגיע is a praticicple - and not the verb linked to the לו

    (and Berdyczewski (the writer) used that form also)
     

    mansfieldpacific

    New Member
    English - USA
    לו הייתי רוטשילד exists because a song writer for Fiddler on the Roof has Tevye sing this, and in English came out as "If I were a rich man ..." לו is not really a subjunctive indicator as in biblical Hebrew, a subjunctive doesn't exist. The reason? Biblical Hebrew is a modal language, meaning that it is not a temporal language. A modal language expresses action and states of being (verbs) in either perfect, or imperfect ... meaning either 'done' (perfect) or 'not done' (imperfect). Since conceptually, a subjunctive is the way to express 'non-actual' action or states of being. (eg. "if I were a rich man ..." is not actual), this easily fits into the imperfect, and that is what you will find in the Tenach (OT). לו really means "O, I wish that ... !" Thus, in biblical Hebrew, is the closest thing to a subjunctive.

    Modern Hebrew, however, has been so influenced by European (and other) languages, that it has become a temporal language, meaning that it has verb tenses (past, present, and future). The perfect has become the past tense. The participle (which is really a verbal noun, eg. 'cooking is a good thing") has become the present tense, and the imperfect has become the future. In Tenach (OT), it is not necessarily so.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I'm sorry, but much of what you say is not quite accurate. Hebrew, like most languages, is neither a "temporal language" nor a "modal language" (nor is it an "aspectual language"). Rather, different forms of the verb express a set of various combinations of tense, aspect, and mood. The same is true of English even, though the particular sets of tense, aspect, and mood are entirely different (in other words, if you think that English is a "temporal language", you are terribly mistaken). Please see this recent comment, where I've listed out the various tense-aspect-mood (TAM) combinations of Biblical Hebrew, at least according to Joüon and Muraoka.

    Furthermore, blaming Modern Hebrew's TAM system on European languages is also incorrect. If you take a look at the tense system of Mishnaic Hebrew, for example, you'll see that the roots of the Modern Hebrew TAM system are from long before Jews were Europeanized.
     

    mansfieldpacific

    New Member
    English - USA
    Au contraire, dear Drink. If you say "Hebrew" without qualifying which version you are referring to, then your statement can be considered as correct. But ... biblical Hebrew was indeed a purely modal language. That is in little doubt. (Check with the work of Dr. John Clear (Univ. of Washington-Seattle) and Rabbi Dr. Allen Podet SUNY-Buffalo). When I refer to biblical Hebrew, I refer to the period prior to around 331 BCE when Alexander the Great marched into Jerusalem. The cultural impact of that, and especially Koine Greek was so great that the Septuagint (LXX) became an imperative by the mid-3rd century BCE. Greek at that time was indeed as you describe "Hebrew" ... that being both temporal and modal. Hebrew from that time forward starts to show that influence. But not previously. By the time of Ben-Yehuda and him recognizing the need to have modern Hebrew, temporal forms of thinking dictated that he formed Hebrew more on a temporal language basis (eg. having all the three time tenses).

    There is in Biblical Hebrew, no real present tense. Ben-Yehuda, in forming the present tense in modern Hebrew has taken pariticiples from the biblical Hebrew and that has become the modern present tense. But ... that is not how the original Hebrew viewed participles. Dr. Allen Podet explained this one day in my Hebrew class. He had prepared a student to ask a question of him.

    He starting writing on a legal pad and the student asked, "What is going on?"
    Dr. Podet answered, "I am a writer!" Then after stopping his doodles he added, "Now I am not a writer!"
    He then continued, "What? You think I am an author? You think I'm doing a paper or a new report?"
    "Did you see me? Was I not a writer? Was that not who I was 1 minute ago?"
    "That is what a participle in biblical Hebrew is. It is the closest thing to present tense, but you must not think that way. This important to understand Tenach (OT)."

    He then went on to explain, "You will see many perfects in Tenach, and you will say, 'This is obviously talking about the future.' And so it is, but God said it, therefore, in the Jewish mind ... It is done, as surely as if it already happened. That's why its in the perfect, even though it is obviously in the future."

    He then went on to explain the imperfect in the same way but in reverse.

    Biblical Hebrew is a modal language.
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    I am speaking about Biblical Hebrew. If you read my comment carefully, that would have been clear.

    And I am sorry, but you are mistaken. Your claims are based on outdated research that modeled Hebrew grammar after Arabic grammar and/or Greek grammar.

    You failed to respond to any of my points.

    I highly recommend you read the paper "Do the Finite Verbal Forms in Biblical Hebrew Express Aspect?" by Jan Joosten (2002).

    And PS, I would claim that English also has no real present tense.
     
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