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Bible Lexicons

Gesenius Hebrew Grammer

Part 140

The Sentence in General.
§140. Noun-clauses, Verbal-clauses, and the Compound Sentence.

1. Every sentence, the subject and predicate of which are nouns or their equivalents (esp. participles), is called a noun-clause, e.g. יָהוָֹה מַלְכֵּנוּ‎ the Lord is our king, Isaiah 33:22; וְאַנְשֵׁי סְדֹם רָעִים וְחַטָּאִים‎ now the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners, Genesis 13:13; פֶּה לָהֶם‎ a mouth is theirs, Psalms 115:5; see further, § 141.

2. Every sentence, the subject of which is a noun (or pronoun included in a verbal-form) and its predicate a finite verb, is called a verbal-clause, e.g. וַיֹּא֫מֶר אֱלֹהִים‎ and God said, Genesis 1:3; וַיַּבְדֵּל‎ and he divided, 1:7; see further, § 142.

Rem. In the last example the pronominal subject is at least indicated by the preformative (י‎), and in almost all forms of the perfect by afformatives. The 3rd pers. sing. perf. however, which contains no indication of the subject, must also be regarded as a full verbal-clause.

3. Every sentence, the subject or predicate of which is itself a full clause, is called a compound sentence, e.g. Psalms 18:31 הָאֵל תָּמִים דַּרְכּוֹ‎ God—his way is perfect, equivalent to God’s way is perfect; Genesis 34:8 שְׁכֶם בְּנִי חָֽשְׁקָה נַפְשׁוֹ בְּבִתְּכֶם‎ my son Shechem—his soul longeth for your daughter; see further, § 143.

4. The above distinction between different kinds of sentences—especially between noun- and verbal-clauses—is indispensable to the more delicate appreciation of Hebrew syntax (and that of the Semitic languages generally), since it is by no means merely external or formal, but involves fundamental differences of meaning. Noun-clauses with a substantive as predicate, represent something fixed, a state or in short, a being so and so; verbal-clauses on the other hand, something moveable and in progress, an event or action. The latter description is indeed true in a certain sense also of noun-clauses with a participial predicate, except that in their case the event or action (as distinguished from that expressed by the verbal-clause) is of a fixed and abiding character.

Rem. By the Arab grammarians every clause beginning with an independent subject is regarded as a noun-clause, and every clause beginning with a finite verb as verbal. If a finite verb follows the noun-subject the two together (since the verb comprises its own subject and is thus a complete verbal-clause) form a compound noun-sentence, just as when the predicate consists of an independent noun-clause. Though this definition of the different kinds of sentence, which we formerly accepted (in §144a of the 22nd to the 24th German editions of this Grammar), is rejected above, a–d, we must, nevertheless, mention here the point in which this more complicated view of the Arab grammarians may be regarded as at least relatively correct, namely, in classifying verbal-clauses according as the subject precedes or follows the verb, a distinction which is often of great importance in Hebrew also; see further, in §142a.

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