The infinitive construct is a non-finite verbal form that usually functions as a verbal complement, providing extra information regarding the purpose, result, or temporal frame of the verbal action of the main verb. In rare cases, the infinitive construct functions independently as a noun.
The infinitive construct generally functions as a verbal complement to a finite verb, but in rare cases it also functions independently as a noun. The infinitive construct is described as being in the construct state because it can occur in various constructions with prepositions, suffixes, and other nouns in a construct chain. The infinitive construct generally has only one form in each stem formation (Qal, Niphal, Piel, etc.), and it does not conjugate according to person, gender, or number as do the finite verb forms.
|Hiphil||הַקְטִיל||haqtil||cause to kill|
The infinitive construct can carry the following range of meanings.
Expresses purpose, result, or complementary action of a main verb (with preposition לְ)¶
This is by far the most common use of the infinitive construct, as a standard grammatical infinitive.
The infinitive construct can also be used with other prepositions to complement the main verb (such as the preposition עַל in the example below).
In the following example, the infinitive construct is expressing purpose for the action of the main verb.
|וַיֵּ֣רֶד יְהוָ֔ה לִרְאֹ֥ת אֶת־הָעִ֖יר וְאֶת־הַמִּגְדָּ֑ל|
|wayyered yehwah lir’oth ‘eth-ha’ir we’eth-hammigdal|
|So Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower|
In the following example, the infinitive construct is expressing the result of the action of the main verb.
|וַיַּ֥רְא יְהוָ֖ה כִּ֣י סָ֣ר לִרְא֑וֹת|
|wayyar yehwah ki sar lir’oth|
|and-he-saw Yahweh that he-had-turned-aside to-see|
|When Yahweh saw that he had turned aside to look|
In the following example, the infinitive construct is expressing the complementary action of the main verb.
|וָאֵרֵ֞ד לְהַצִּיל֣וֹ׀ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֗יִם וּֽלְהַעֲלֹתוֹ֮ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַהִוא֒|
|wa’ered lehatsilo miyyad mitsrayim uleha’alotho min-ha’arets hahiw’|
|I have come down to free them from the Egyptians’ power and to bring them up from that land|
In the following example, the infinitive construct is expressing complementary action, but with a more nuanced meaning.
|הִנֵּ֥ה הָעָ֛ם חֹטִ֥אים לַֽיהוָ֖ה לֶאֱכֹ֣ל עַל־הַדָּ֑ם|
|hinneh ha’am hotiym layhwah le’ekhol ‘al-haddam|
|behold the-people are-sinning to-Yahweh to-eat on_the-blood|
In the following example, the infinitive construct with preposition עַל to express purpose for the action of the main verb.
|לֹ֣א אֲשִׁיבֶ֑נּוּ עַל־רָדְפ֨וֹ בַחֶ֤רֶב אָחִיו֙|
|lo ‘ashivennu ‘al-rodfo vaherev ‘ahiw|
Provides temporal reference for the action of the main verb (with various prepositions)¶
The infinitive construct can be used with other prepositions (besides those included below) to provide temporal reference. In those cases, the context and the meaning of the preposition generally make clear the specific temporal nuance being indicated.
Infinitive construct with preposition בְּ to express simultaneous action:
|הֲנִגְלֹ֤ה נִגְלֵ֙יתִי֙ אֶל־בֵּ֣ית אָבִ֔יךָ בִּֽהְיוֹתָ֥ם בְּמִצְרַ֖יִם|
|hanigloh niglethiy ‘el-beth ‘avikha biheyotham bemitsrayim|
Infinitive construct with preposition כְּ to express commencing action:
|וַיְהִ֕י כְּב֥וֹא אַבְרָ֖ם מִצְרָ֑יְמָה|
|wayhi kevo ‘avram mitsraymah|
|and-it-happened as-coming Abram to-Egypt|
|It came about that when Abram entered into Egypt|
- Infinitive construct with preposition עַד to express durative action (until a
- specified time of ending):
|וַיֹּאמַ֕ר אָנֹכִ֥י אֵשֵׁ֖ב עַ֥ד שׁוּבֶֽךָ|
|wayyomar ‘anokhi ‘eshev ‘ad shuvekha|
|and-he-said myself I-will-remain until you-return|
|Yahweh said, “I will wait until you return”|
The infinitive construct sometimes functions as an independent noun.
|שְׁמֹ֙עַ֙ מִזֶּ֣בַח ט֔וֹב|
|shemo’a mizzevah tov|
|obeying from-sacrifice good|
|Obedience is better than sacrifice|
The infinitive construct may also introduce an entire clause that functions as a noun.
|כִּ֗י בְּי֛וֹם אֲכָלְךָ֥ מִמֶּ֖נּוּ מ֥וֹת תָּמֽוּת|
|ki beyom ‘akholkha mimmennu moth tamuth|
|for in-day-of your-eating from-it dying you-will-die|
|for on the day that you eat from it, you will surely die|
Introduces direct speech (אמר + לְ)¶
The infinitive construct of אמר with preposition לְ is used to introduce direct speech.
|וַיְבָ֧רֶךְ אֹתָ֛ם אֱלֹהִ֖ים לֵאמֹ֑ר|
|wayvarekh ‘otham ‘elohim lemor|
|and-he-blessed [dir.obj]-them God to-say|
|God blessed them, saying|
Regarding use with a pronominal suffix¶
When the infinitive construct takes a pronominal suffix, that suffix can be either the subject or the object of the infinitive itself (not the main verb), as determined by the context.
The following example is an infinitive construct with suffix as subject of the action.
|הֲלוֹא־זֹ֖את תַּעֲשֶׂה־לָּ֑ךְ עָזְבֵךְ֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהַ֔יִךְ|
|halo-zoth ta’aseh-llakh ‘ozvekh ‘eth-yehwah ‘elohayikh|
The following example is an infinitive construct with suffix as object of the action.
|וַתֹּ֤אמֶר רוּת֙ אַל־תִּפְגְּעִי־בִ֔י לְעָזְבֵ֖ךְ|
|wattomer ruth ‘al-tifge’i-vi le’ozvekh|
|and-she-said Ruth not_you-press_on-me to-forsake-you|
|But Ruth said, “Do not make me go away from you|