The Infinitive Absolute is a unique feature of Semitic languages, including Hebrew. It’s a non-finite form of the verb, and though its name contains the term “infinitive,” it doesn’t function like the infinitive in English. Instead, it’s used to intensify or emphasize the action of the verb. It can stand alone or work alongside a finite verb form.
A. Forming the Infinitive Absolute
The Infinitive Absolute is derived from the verb root, and its formation varies according to the verb’s Binyan (verb pattern).
For example, in the Qal Binyan, the Infinitive Absolute is typically formed by adding a Mem (מ) prefix and a final He (ה) to the verb root. So, the Infinitive Absolute for the verb “כתב” (katab, he wrote) is “מַכְתֵּב” (makhtev).
In other Binyanim, forming the Infinitive Absolute can be more complex and requires more than a simple addition of prefixes or suffixes. We will provide detailed charts and rules to follow when forming the Infinitive Absolute across different Binyanim.
B. Uses of the Infinitive Absolute
The Infinitive Absolute can be used in several ways:
- Emphasize or Intensify the Verb: The Infinitive Absolute is used with a verb in the same stem and root to intensify or emphasize the action. This can translate to English in various ways.
For instance, דַּבֵּר דִבֵּר (daber diber) could be translated as “he spoke insistently” or “he surely spoke.” The Infinitive Absolute (daber) emphasizes or intensifies the finite verb (diber).
- Function as a Noun: In some cases, the Infinitive Absolute can function as a noun. For example, “מַכְתֵּב” (makhtev) can also mean “a letter” or “something written.”
- Function as an Adverb: Occasionally, the Infinitive Absolute can act as an adverb. For example, in the sentence “ברוך הוא השם מַכְתֵּב” (Baruch hu HaShem makhtev), the Infinitive Absolute (makhtev) is translated as “always,” making the sentence “Blessed is the Lord, who is always writing.”
Through guided examples and exercises, we will explore these uses and more, helping you become proficient in recognizing and using the Infinitive Absolute in various contexts.