Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/32. The Personal Pronoun. The Separate Pronoun

Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar  (1909) 
Wilhelm Gesenius
edited and enlarged by Emil Kautzsch
, translated by Arthur Ernest Cowley
The Personal Pronoun. The Separate Pronoun



Brockelmann, Semit. Sprachwiss., p. 98 ff.; Grundriss, i. 296 ff. L. Reinisch, ‘Das persönl. Fürwort u. die Verbalflexion in den chamito-semit. Sprachen’ (Wiener Akad. der Wiss., 1909).

§32. The Personal Pronoun. The Separate Pronoun.

a 1. The personal pronoun (as well as the pronoun generally) belongs to the oldest and simplest elements of the language (§30s). It must be discussed before the verb, since it plays an important part in verbal inflexion (§§ 44, 47).

b 2. The independent principal forms of the personal pronoun serve (like the Gk. ἐγώ, σύ, Lat. ego, tu, and their plurals) almost exclusively to emphasize the nominative-subject (see, however, §135d). They are as follows:

Singular. Plural.
1st Com. I. אָֽנֹכִ֫י in pause אָנֹ֫כִי; we. אֲנַ֫חְנוּ in pause אֲנָ֫חְנוּ
אֲנִי, in pause אָ֫נִי (נַ֫חְנוּ, in pause נָ֫חְנוּ), (אנו)
2nd m thou. (אַתָּ) אַתָּ֫ה, in pause ye. m. אַתֶּם
אָ֫תָּה or אַ֫תָּה
2nd f thou אַתְּ (אַתְּי properly אַתִּי), (אַתֵּ֫נָּה) אַתֵּ֫נָה; (אַתֶּן) אַתֵּן
in pause אָתְּ
3rd m he (it) הוּא they. הֵם (הֶם־), הֵ֫מָּה
3rd f she (it) הִיא הֵ֫נָּה after prefixes הֵן, הֶן

The forms enclosed in parentheses are the less common. A table of these pronouns with their shortened forms (pronominal suffixes) is given in Paradigm A at the end of this Grammar.


First Person.

c 1. The form אָֽנֹכִי is less frequent than אֲנִי.[1] The former occurs in Phoenician, Moabite, and Assyrian, but in no other of the kindred dialects;[2] from the latter the suffixes are derived (§ 33). The ô most probably results from an obscuring of an original â (cf. Aram. אֲנָא, Arab. ’ána). The pausal form אָ֫נִי occurs not only with small disjunctive accents, but even with conjunctives; so always in חַי אָ֫נִי as I live! also Is 4918 with Munaḥ, ψ 119125 with Merkha (which, however, has been altered from Deḥî), and twice in Mal 16. In all these cases there is manifestly a disagreement between the vocalization already established and the special laws regulating the system of accentuation.

d 2. The formation of the plural, in this and the other persons, exhibits a certain analogy with that of the noun, while at the same time (like the pronouns of other languages) it is characterized by many differences and peculiarities. The short form (אָנוּ) אנו from which the suffix is derived occurs only in Jer 426 Kethîbh. The form נַ֫חְנוּ (cf. §19h) only in Ex 167.8, Nu 3232, La 342; נָחְ֑נוּ in pause, Gn 4211; in Arabic năḥnu is the regular form. In the Mišna (אָנוּ) אנו has altogether supplanted the longer forms.

e 3. The pronoun of the 1st person only is, as a rule in languages, of the common gender, because the person who is present and speaking needs no further indication of gender, as does the 2nd person, who is addressed (in Greek, Latin, English, &c., this distinction is also lacking), and still more the 3rd person who is absent.

II. Second Person.

f 4. The forms of the 2nd person אַתָּה, אַתְּ, אַתֶּם, אַתֵּ֫נָה, &c., are contracted from ’antā, &c. The kindred languages have retained the n before the ת, e.g. Arab. ’ántā, fem. ’ánti, thou; pl. ’ántum, fem. ’antúnna, ye. In Syriac אַנת, fem. אַנתי are written, but both are pronounced ’at. In Western Aramaic אַנְתְּ is usual for both genders.

g אַתָּ (without ה) occurs five times, e.g. ψ 64, always as Kethîbh, with אַתָּה as Qe. In three places אַתְּ appears as a masculine, Nu 1115, Dt 524, Ez 2814.

h The feminine form was originally אַתִּי as in Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic. This form is found seven times as Kethîbh (Ju 172, 1 K 142, 2 K 416.23, 81, Jer 430, Ez 3613) and appears also in the corresponding personal ending of verbs (see §44f), especially, and necessarily, before suffixes, as קְטַלְתִּ֫ינִי, §59a [c]; cf. also î as the ending of the 2nd fem. sing. of the imperative and imperfect. The final î was, however, gradually dropped in pronunciation, just as in Syriac (see above, f) it was eventually only written, not pronounced. The י therefore finally disappeared (cf. §10k), and hence the Masoretes, even in these seven passages, have pointed the word in the text as אַתְּי to indicate the Qe אַתְּ (see § 17). The same final ־ִי appears in the rare (Aramaic) forms of the suffix ־ֵ֫ כִי, ־ַ֫ יְכִי (§§ 58, 91).

i 5. The plurals אַתֶּם (with the second vowel assimilated to the fem. form) and (אַתֶּן) אַתֵּן, with the tone on the ultima, only partially correspond to the assumed ground-forms ʾantumū, fem. ʾantinnā, Arab. ʾắntŭm (Aram. אַתּוּן, אַנְתּוּן) and ʾăntú̆nna (Aram. אַתֵּין, אַנְתֵּין). The form אַתֵּן is found only in Ez 3431 (so Qimḥi expressly, others אַתֶּן); אַתֵּ֫נָה (for which some MSS. have אַתֵּ֫נָּה) only four times, viz. Gn 316, Ez 1311.20, 3417; in 1320 אַתֶּם (before a מ‍) is even used as feminine.

III. Third Person.

k 6. (a) In הוּא and הִיא ( and ) the א (corresponding to the ʾElif of prolongation in Arabic, cf. §23i) might be regarded only as an orthographic addition closing the final long vowel, as in לוּא, נָקִיא, &c. The א is, however, always written in the case of the separate pronouns,[3] and only as a toneless suffix (§33a) does הוּא appear as הוּ, while הִיא becomes הָ. In Arabic (as in Syriac) they are written הו and הי but pronounced húwă and hı́yă, and in Vulgar Arabic even húwwa and hı́yya. This Arabic pronunciation alone would not indeed be decisive, since the vowel complement might have arisen from the more consonantal pronunciation of the ו and י; but the Ethiopic weʾe (=huʾa-tû) for הוּא, yeʾe (=hiʾa-tî) for הִיא (cf. also the Assyrian ya-u-a for יֵהוּא) show that the א was original and indicated an original vocalic termination of the two words. According to Philippi (ZDMG. xxviii. 175 and xxix. 371 ff.) הוּא arose from a primitive Semitic ha-va, הִיא from ha-ya.

l (b) The form הוּא also stands in the consonantal text (Kethîbh) of the Pentateuch[4] (with the exception of eleven places) for the fem. הִיא. In all such cases the Masora, by the punctuation הִוא, has indicated the Qe הִיא (Qe perpetuum, see § 17). The old explanation regarded this phenomenon as an archaism which was incorrectly removed by the Masoretes. This assumption is, however, clearly untenable, if we consider (1) that no other Semitic language is without the quite indispensable distinction of gender in the separate pronoun of the 3rd pers.; (2) that this distinction does occur eleven times in the Pentateuch, and that in Gn 205, 3825, Nu 513.14 הִוא and הִיא are found close to one another; (3) that outside the Pentateuch the distinction is found in the oldest documents, so that the הִיא cannot be regarded as having been subsequently adopted from the Aramaic; (4) that those parts of the book of Joshua which certainly formed a constituent part of the original sources of the Pentateuch, know nothing of this epicene use of הוּא. Consequently there only remains the hypothesis, that the writing of הוא for היא rests on an orthographical peculiarity which in some recension of the Pentateuch-text was almost consistently followed, but was afterwards very properly rejected by the Masoretes. The orthography was, however, peculiar to the Pentateuch-text alone, since it is unnecessary to follow the Masora in writing חִיא for הוּא in 1 K 1715, Is 3033, Jb 3111, or הוּא for הִיא in ψ 7316, Ec 58, 1 Ch 2916. The Samaritan recension of the Pentateuch has the correct form in the Kethîbh throughout. Levy’s explanation of this strange practice of the Masoretes is evidently right, viz. that originally הא was written for both forms (see k, note), and was almost everywhere, irrespective of gender, expanded into הוא. On the whole question see Driver, Leviticus (in Haupt’s Bible), p. 25 f. In the text Driver always reads הא.

m 7. The plural forms (הֵ֫מָּה) הֵם and הֵ֫נָּה (after prefixes הֵן, הֶן) are of doubtful origin, but הֵם, הֵמָּה have probably been assimilated to הֵ֫נָּה which goes back to a form hı́nnā. In Western Aram. הִמּוֹן, הִמּוֹ (הִנּוּן, אִנּוּן), Syr. henûn (ʾenûn), Arab. húmû (archaic form of hum), and Ethiop. hômû, an ô or ô is appended, which in Hebrew seems to reappear in the poetical suffixes ־מוֹ, ־ָ֫ מוֹ, ־ֵ֫ מוֹ (§91l, 3).

n In some passages הֵ֫מָּה stands for the feminine (Zc 510, Ct 68, Ru 122; cf. the use of the suffix of the 3rd masc. for the 3rd fem., §135o and §145t). For the quite anomalous עַד־הֵם 2 K 918 read עָֽדֵיהֶם (Jb 3212).

o 8. The pronouns of the 3rd person may refer to things as well as persons. On their meaning as demonstratives see §136.

  1. On the prevalence of אָנֹכִי in the earlier Books compare the statistics collected by Giesebrecht in ZAW. 1881, p. 251 ff., partly contested by Driver in the Journal of Philology, 1882, vol. xi. p. 222 ff. (but cf. his Introduction, ed. 6, p. 135, line 1 f.), but thoroughly established by König in Theol. Stud. u. Krit., 1893, pp. 464 ff. and 478, and in his Einleitung in das A.T., p. 168, &c. In some of the latest books אנכי is not found at all, and hardly at all in the Talmud. [For details see the Lexicon, s. v. אֲנֹי and אָנֹכִי.]
  2. In Phoenician and Moabite (inscription of Mêšaʿ, line 1) it is written אנך, without the final ־ִי. In Punic it was pronounced anec (Plaut. Poen. 5, 1, 8) or anech (5, 2, 35). Cf. Schröder, Phöniz. Sprache, p. 143. In Assyrian the corresponding form is anaku, in old Egyptian anek, Coptic anok, nok.
  3. In the inscription of King Mêšaʿ (see §2d), lines 6 and 27, we find הא for הוּא, and in the inscription of ʾEšmunʿazar, line 22, for הִיא, but in the Zenjirli inscriptions (see §1m) both הא and הו occur (Hadad i, l. 29).
  4. Also in twelve places in the Babylonian Codex (Prophets) of 916 A.D.; cf. Baer, Ezechiel, p. 108 f.; Buhl, Canon and Text of the O.T. (Edinb. 1892), p. 240.