Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/45. The Infinitive

This page was corrected according to Additions and Corrections that appear in the 1910 edition.

§45. The Infinitive.

F. Prätorius, ‘Ueber den sog. Inf. absol. des Hebr., ’in ZDMG. 1902, p. 546 ff.

a 1. The Infinitive is represented in Hebrew by two forms, a shorter and a longer; both are, however, strictly speaking, independent nouns (verbal substantives). The shorter form, the Infinitive construct (in Qal קְטֹל,[1] sometimes incorrectly קְטוֹל), is used in very various ways, sometimes in connexion with pronominal suffixes, or governing a substantive in the genitive, or with an accusative of the object (§ 115), sometimes in connexion with prepositions (לִקְטֹל to kill, § 114 f), and sometimes in dependence upon substantives as genitive, or upon verbs as accusative of the object. On the other hand, the use of the longer form, the Infinitive absolute (in Qal קָטוֹל, sometimes also קָטֹל, obscured from original qăṭâl), is restricted to those cases in which it emphasizes the abstract verbal idea, without regard to the subject or object of the action. It stands most frequently as an adverbial accusative with a finite verb of the same stem (§ 113 h–s).[2]

b The flexibility and versatility of the Infin. constr. and the rigidity and inflexibility of the Infin. absol. are reflected in their vocalization. The latter has unchangeable vowels, while the ō of the Infin. constr. may be lost. For קְטֹל, according to § 84a e, goes back to the ground-form qŭṭŭl.

c Other forms of the Infin. constr. Qal of the strong verb are—

(a) קְטַל, e.g. שְׁכַב to lie, Gn 347; שְׁפַל to sink, Ec 124; especially with verbs which have ă in the second syllable of the Imperf.: hence sometimes also with those, whose second or third radical is a guttural (frequently besides the ordinary form). All the examples (except שְׁכַב, see above) occur in the closest connexion with the following word, or with suffixes (see § 61 c). In Ez 2133 the Masora seems to treat לְטֶ֫בַה (verse 20, in pause לְטָבַח) as an Infinitive=לִטְבֹּחַ; probably לַטֶ֫בַח should be read.

d (b) קַטְלָה and, attenuated from it, קִטְלָה; קָטְלָה and קֻטְלָה (which are feminine forms[3] of קְטַל and קְטֹל, mostly from intransitive verbs, and sometimes found along with forms having no feminine ending in use), e.g. לְאַשְׁמָה to be guilty, Lv 526, אַֽהֲבָה to love, שִׂנְאָה to hate; לְיִרְאָה, often in Dt., to fear; זִקְנָה to be old; קִרְאָה to meet (in לִקְרַאת § 19 k); לְרִבְעָה to lie down, Lv 2016; לְמָשְׁחָה to anoint, Ex 2929; לְרָחְצָה to wash, Ex 3018, &c.; לְטָמְאָה (also a subst.= uncleanness, like טֻמְאָה) to be unclean, Lv 1532; לְקָרְבָה to approach, Ex 362, &c.; cf. Lv 124.5, Dt 1122, Is 3019, Ez 2116, Hag 16; also רָֽהֳקָה to be far off, Ez 86; חֻמְלָה to pity, Ez 165; cf. Ho 74. On the other hand in חֶמְלָה Gn 1916, the original ă has been modified to ĕ; cf. חֶזְקָה Is 811, &c.

e (c) In the Aramaic manner (מִקְטַל but cf. also Arab. maqtal) there occur as Infin. Qal: מִשְׁלוֹחַ to send, Est 919; מִקְרָא to call and מַסַּע to depart, Nu 102 (Dt 1011); מִקַּח to take, 2 Ch 197, &c.; מַשָּׂא to carry, Nu 424, &c. (cf. even לְמַשְׂאוֹת Ez 179); also with a feminine ending מַֽעֲלָה to go up, Ezr 79, &c.; cf. for these forms (almost all very late) Ryssel, De Elohistae Pentateuchici sermone, p. 50, and Strack on Nu 424. Cf. also מַהְפֵּכָה followed by את, Is 1319, Am 411 (§ 115 d).

(d) קְטֹ֫לֶת in יְב֫שֶׁת Gn 87; יְכֹ֫לֶת Nu 1416; probably also חֲר֫שֶׁת Ex 315, 3533.

f 2. A kind of Gerund is formed by the Infin. constr. with the preposition לְ; as לִקְטֹל ad interficiendum, לִנְפֹּל ad cadendum (see § 28 a). g The blending of the לְ with the Infin. constr. into a single grammatical form seems to be indicated by the firmly closed syllable, cf. לִשְׁכַּב Gn 347; לִנְפֹּל ψ 11813, with Dageš lene in the פ=lin-pōl; hence, also liq-ṭōl, &c.; but בִּנְפֹל binephōl, Jb 413; כִּנְפֹל 2 S 334. Exceptions לִצְבֹא Nu 423, 824; לִנְתוֹשׁ וְלִנְתוֹץ Jer 110, 187, 3128; לִשְׁדוֹד Jer 474; לִטְבוֹחַ Jer 1119, &c., ψ 3714; לִבְדוֹק 2 Ch 3410; according to some also לִסְבֹב Nu 214 and לִכְבשׁ 2 Ch 2810 (Baer לִכְבּשׁ); on the other hand בִּשְׁכֹּן Gn 3522; כִּזְכֹּר Jer 172. For the meaningless לְדַרְיוֹשׁ Ezr 1016 read לִדְרשׁ.

  1. Cf. the analogous forms of the noun, § 93 t.
  2. The terms absolute and construct are of course not to be understood as implying that the Infin. constr. קְטֹל forms the construct state (see § 89) of the Infin. absol. (קָטוֹל ground-form qăṭâl). In the Paradigms the Inf. constr., as the principal form, is placed before the other, under the name of Infinitive simply.
  3. According to the remark of Elias Levita on Qimḥi’s Mikhlol, ed. Rittenb., 14 a, these feminine forms occur almost exclusively in connexion with the preposition לְ.