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5.8  Adjectives and Word Pairs

Adjectives and Word Pairs

As you learned in Unit 4.8, when two (or more) nouns appear together (either by juxtaposition or by means of a maqqef), they are said to be in a "contruct relation" to one another. Nouns in a construct relationship are never separated but always stand as a distinct grammatical unit. Therefore, if either of the nouns is modified by an adjective, the adjective is placed after the pair in order to keep the nouns together.


Construct Relationship

This is a simple word pair meaning "the house of Israel" (the pair is definite, of course, because the noun Yisrael is a proper noun). So far so good.

Note: if this is unclear to you, please review section 4.8.



Adjective and Word Pair

In this example, the adjective haggadol is masculine, singular, and definite, and therefore (since adjectives must agree with their nouns) modifies the word bet. We translate this as "the great house of Israel."



Adjective and Word Pair

In this example, note that the adjective hagedolah is feminine singular definite, and therefore modifies the word Yisrael. We would translate this phrase as "the house of great Israel."

Here are some more examples:

Construct Relationship

In the example above, we have a simple construct relationship between the masculine plural noun malkhei (kings of) and the feminine singular definite noun ha'ir (the city). We would translate the Hebrew as "the kings of the city."

Adjective and Word Pair

Notice that the adjective here (hara'ah) is feminine singular definite, and therefore modifies the noun ha'ir. We translate: the kings of the evil city.

Adjective and Word Pair

Notice in this example that the adjective hara'im now agrees with the masculine plural noun malkhei, and we translate "the evil kings of the city."

Ambiguous Cases

In both sets of examples given above, it is easy to see which noun in the word pair is modified by the adjective, since the adjective matches the noun in gender, number, and definiteness. However, there are cases where it is not so clear. For example, consider the following:

An ambiguous case

In cases such as this, it is not clear which noun is being modified by the adjective, since both nouns share the same gender and number. This phrase could therefore be translated either as "The good sons of the people," or "The sons of the good people."

In such cases, you will need to rely on context and logic to make a sound exegetical decision.

More Examples
Here are some examples taken from the Tanakh:

Examples from Tanakh

Section Exercises

  1. Summarize the usage of adjectives in relation to a word pair on a small flashcard.
  2. Write some simple examples to help you remember the rules.


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