Construction and dissection of complex sentences

Construction and dissection of complex sentences

Constructing and Dissecting Complex Sentences in Biblical Hebrew

Sentence Types

  • Familiarise yourself with the four basic types of sentences in Biblical Hebrew: verbless, nominal, verbal, and participial. Each type has unique aspects, utilising different sentence constituents to express the thought.

Understanding Syntax

  • In Biblical Hebrew, syntax is highly dependent on context, making it vital to understand the nuances of each word, phrase, and clause within the larger narrative or discourse.

  • The word order, although typically VSO (verb-subject-object), can be changed for emphasis, making understanding of syntax flexibility crucial.

Subject-Predicate Sentences

  • In subject-predicate sentences, the predicate typically comes first, followed by the subject. However, if the speaker or author wishes to emphasise the subject, the subject may precede the predicate.

Clausal Constructs

  • Biblical Hebrew literature often uses lengthy clauses to convey complex meanings. Understand the function of relative clauses, circumstantial clauses, temporal clauses, and causal clauses in relation to their place in the sentence.

  • The clause relations in a sentence follow a conjunction-disjunction-distinctiveness pattern, which describes the nature of the relationship between two clauses: whether they are coordinating (conjunction), in disjunction (disjunction), or are entirely separate thoughts (distinctiveness).

Conjunctive Waw

  • The conjunctive waw often functions as a simple clause conjunction. However, it may also have other uses that can affect a sentence’s overall structure and meaning, including serving as a sequence marker, expressing contrast, or implying causality.

Cohesion and Coherence

  • A coherent sentence has both syntactical correctness and semantic appropriateness. Review how conjunctions, relative particles, and other linguistics tools are used to achieve coherence.

  • Cohesion lies in how well the sentence components are connected and relate to the surrounding context. It is achieved by maintaining a steady flow of information, managing reference and linkage, and creating parallel or contrasting structures.

Aspect and Modality

  • A sentence’s aspect and modality (or mode) convey the sentence’s tense and mood respectively. Understanding these concepts helps to properly interpret the timing and intent behind actions or states portrayed in the sentence.


  • Become familiar with the various Biblical Hebrew negatives like ‘lo’, ‘al’, and ‘bal’. Keep in mind that their placement and use can significantly alter a sentence’s meaning.

Accents and Cantillation Marks

  • Accents and other cantillation marks can greatly assist in understanding the syntactic structure of the sentence. They often indicate the primary division within a verse and can help identify subordinate and superordinate units.

These points should give you a comprehensive understanding of constructing and dissecting complex Biblical Hebrew sentences.