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5.6  Comparative Usage of the Adjective

Section Vocabulary

Section Vocabulary

Note: The grammar for the preposition min (and the prefix forms of min) will be studied in more detail in Unit 7.


The Comparative Usage of the Adjective


Adjectives may be used to make comparative statements. In English, we do this by adding -er to the end of an adjective (round -> rounder). For example:

The dog is bigger than the cat.

In the sentence above, the dog is being compared to the cat in regard to “bigness” or size. The cat provides the standard of the comparison (the object of “than”), and it is predicated that the dog is “bigger than” the cat.

In Hebrew, comparisons are formed by adding the preposition (min) to the word that acts as the object of the comparison.

Example 1:

Comparative Adjective Example

Since the word house is definite (habayit) and the adjective big is indefinite (gadol), the adjective gadol is functioning predicatively, so we translate habayit gadol as “the house is big.” The next word is the preposition min, which means “from.” The object of the preposition is the definite noun haohel, the tent. Literally the sentence reads: “The house is big from the tent.” To use proper English, we would say “The house is bigger than the tent.” Notice that the adjective gadol changes in meaning from “big” to “bigger” by means of this construction.

Tip: When min is used this way, think of it as meaning “than” regarding the word that follows it. “The house is big(ger) than the tent.”



Example 2:

Comparative Adjective Example

Since the adjective tovah and the noun chakhmah are both indefinite, the adjective may be functioning attributively or predicatively. However, since the context here is one of comparison, we would initially translate predicatively” “wisdom is good.” Next, the noun zahav has the prefix “mi-” added, so we translate “from gold.” Literally the sentence reads “Wisdom is good from gold.” Using proper English would render this as “Wisdom is better than gold.” Again, notice that the adjective tov changes in meaning from “good” to “better” by means of this construction.

Tip: When min is used this way, think of it as  “than” regarding the word that follows it. “Wisdom is better than gold.”



Example 3:

Comparative Adjective Example

This sentence literally reads, “The sons are big from the fathers.” However, since we are dealing with a comparative adjective phrase, we would translate it as “The sons are bigger than the fathers.”



The Superlative Usage of the Adjective

Adjectives may be also be to make superlative statements. In English, we do this by adding -est to the end of an adjective (round -> roundest). For example:

The biggest dog...

In English we can also use the adverb “most” to form superlatives:

The most beautiful girl...
The most holy of holies...

In Hebrew, the superlative is often formed by simply using the definite article.

Example 1:

Superlative Adjective Example

The word above shows a definite adjective. In the proper context, this could be functioning substantively, attributively, or as a superlative. If the context indicates superlative usage, the word would be translated as “the most beautiful.”



Example 2:

Superlative Adjective Example

(Note the word ad means “to” or “as far as” here.) This sentence reads “From the small to the great” but is better translated as “from the smallest to the greatest.”



Example 3: Use of the adverb “meod”
The superlative can also be formed by placing the adverb meod (“very”) after an adjective:

Use of the Adverb Meod

Depending on the content, we could translate this phrase as “very good” or “the best.”



Example 4: Use of the Construct Relation

Construct Relation

Finally, note that the superlative can also be formed by a construct chain. In the example above, we would translate the words as “the most holy of holies” or “the holiest.”




Section Exercises

  1. Memorize the section vocabulary (top of the page).
  2. Summarize the usage of comparative adjectives on a small flashcard.
  3. Summarize the usage of superlative adjectives on a small flashcard.
  4. Write some simple examples to help you remember the rules.
  5. From the vocabulary you already know, create simple comparative adjective constructions.


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