Particle Interrogative


Interrogative particles indicate that a sentence is a question. The standard interrogative prefix -הֲ (he with hateph pathah vowel) should not be confused with the definite article -הַ (he with pathah vowel). The interrogative particles מִי and מָה can also function as interrogative pronouns (“who?” and “what?”) or indefinite pronouns (“whoever” and “whatever”).


The interrogative prefix -הֲ is the standard interrogative particle in Biblie Hebrew and can be differentiated from the definite article by the context and the lack of a daghesh in the consonant immediately following the prefix. The interrogative prefix, as well as interrogative particles in general, nearly always appear at the beginning of a clause to indicate that the clause is a question and not a statement. However, as in many languages, in Biblical Hebrew a question can be asked rhetorically as a way of making a strong statement. As an example, a person might ask “How can that be?” as a way of expressing a strong sense of disbelief in something that has just been said.



Interrogative Particle With a standard noun
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
noun סוּס sus horse
noun + definite article הַסּוּס hassus the horse
noun + interrogative particle הֲסוּס hasus a horse?
Interrogative Particle With a shewa under the first letter
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
noun מְרַגֵּל meraggel spy
noun + definite article הַמְּרַגֵּל hammeraggel the spy
noun + interrogative particle הַמְרַגֵּל hamraggel a spy?
Interrogative Particle With a first guttural
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
noun אִישׁ ‘ish man
noun + definite article הָאִישׁ ha’ish the man
noun + interrogative particle הַאִישׁ ha’ish a man?
Interrogative Particle With a first guttural that has a qamets
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
noun אָב ‘av father
noun + definite article הָאָב ha’av the father
noun + interrogative particle הֶאָב he’av a father?


Example: GEN 43:7
הֲיֵ֣שׁ לָכֶ֣ם אָ֔ח
hayesh lakhem ‘ah
[quest.]-is-there to-you brother
Do you have a brother?
Example: 2SA 20:17
הַאַתָּ֥ה יוֹאָ֖ב
ha’attah yo’av
[quest.]-are-you Joab
Are you Joab?


This is the standard personal interrogative particle and can be translated as “who?”. This particle can also function either as an interrogative pronoun when used at the beginning of a verbal clause, or as an indefinite pronoun (“whoever”) when used in the middle of a clause or sentence.

Example: GEN 24:65
מִֽי־הָאִ֤ישׁ הַלָּזֶה֙
mi-ha’ish hallazeh
Who_the-man the-that
Who is that man?
Example: EXO 15:11
מִֽי־כָמֹ֤כָה בָּֽאֵלִם֙ יְהוָ֔ה
mi-khamokhah ba’elim yehwah
Who_like-you among-the-gods Yahweh
Who is like you, Yahweh, among the gods?
Example: GEN 32:18
To whom do you belong?
Example: 2SA 15:4
מִי־יְשִׂמֵ֥נִי שֹׁפֵ֖ט בָּאָ֑רֶץ
mi-yesimeni shofet ba’arets
Who_will-put-me judge in-the-land
I wish that I were made judge in the land!
Example: 2SA 23:15
מִ֚י יַשְׁקֵ֣נִי מַ֔יִם
mi yashqeni mayim
Who will-give-me water
If only someone would give me water!
Example: AMO 7:2
מִ֥י יָק֖וּם יַֽעֲקֹ֑ב
mi yaqum ya’aqov
Who he-will-raise Jacob
How will Jacob survive?


This is the standard impersonal interrogative particle and can be translated as “what?”. This particle can also function as either an interrogative pronoun when used at the beginning of a verbal clause, or an indefinite pronoun (“whatever”) when used in the middle of a clause or sentence.

Example: 1SA 20:1
What is my iniquity?
Example: JDG 18:18
מָ֥ה אַתֶּ֖ם עֹשִֽׂים
mah ‘attem ‘osim
What you are-doing
What are you doing?
Example: GEN 15:8 –– with preposition בְּ
בַּמָּ֥ה אֵדַ֖ע
bammah ‘eda’
By-the-what will-I-know
How will I know?
Example: GEN 47:8 –– with preposition כְּ
כַּמָּ֕ה יְמֵ֖י שְׁנֵ֥י חַיֶּֽיךָ
kammah yeme shene hayyeykha
Like-what days-of years-of your-life
How long have you lived?
Example: PSA 79:5 —— with preposition עַד
עַד־מָ֣ה יְ֭הוָה תֶּאֱנַ֣ף לָנֶ֑צַח
‘ad-mah yehwah te’enaf lanetsah
Until_what Yahweh will-you-be-angry forever
How long, Yahweh? Will you stay angry forever?
Example: NUM 22:32 –– with preposition עַל
עַל־מָ֗ה הִכִּ֙יתָ֙ אֶת־אֲתֹ֣נְךָ֔
‘al-mah hikkitha ‘eth-‘athonekha
On_what did-you-strike [dir.obj]_your-donkey
Why have you struck your donkey?
Example: GEN 44:16 –– with the prefixed conjunction
and-what we-will-justify-ourselves
or how can we justify ourselves?
Example: EXO 14:15 –– with causal meaning
מַה־תִּצְעַ֖ק אֵלָ֑י
mah-tits’aq ‘ela
what_you-cry-out to-me
why are you continuing to call out to me?

איך and איכה

These are particles of manner and can be translated as “how?”, “why?”, or even “how!”.

Example: PSA 137:4
אֵ֗יךְ נָשִׁ֥יר
‘ekh nashir
How can-we-sing
How could we sing?
Example: 1KI 12:6
אֵ֚יךְ אַתֶּ֣ם נֽוֹעָצִ֔ים
‘ekh ‘attem no’atsim
How you advise
How do you advise me

אי and איה

These are particles of place and can be translated as “where?” or “where is?”.

Example: GEN 4:9
אֵ֖י הֶ֣בֶל
‘e hevel
Where Abel
Where is Abel?
Example: GEN 18:9
אַיֵּ֖ה שָׂרָ֣ה אִשְׁתֶּ֑ךָ
‘ayyeh sarah ‘ishtekha
Where Sarah your-wife
Where is Sarah your wife?
Example: GEN 19:5
אַיֵּ֧ה הָאֲנָשִׁ֛ים אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֥אוּ אֵלֶ֖יךָ
‘ayyeh ha’anashim ‘asher-ba’u ‘eleykha
Where the-men that_came-in to-you
Where are the men that came in to you?


This is a particle of time and can be translated as “when?”. It is often used with the preposition עַד in the compound particle עַד־מָתַי which literally means “until when?” but is usually translated “how long?”.

Example: JOB 7:4
מָתַ֣י אָ֭קוּם
mathay ‘aqum
When will-I-get-up
How long will it be until I get up?
Example: PSA 74:10
עַד־מָתַ֣י אֱ֭לֹהִים יְחָ֣רֶף צָ֑ר
‘ad-mathay ‘elohim yeharef tsar
How_long God will-throw-insults enemy
God, how long will our enemies make fun of you?

לָמָ֪ה and לָֽמָּה

These are particles of cause and literally mean “for what?”, but they are usually translated as “why?”.

Example: GEN 4:6
לָ֚מָּה חָ֣רָה לָ֔ךְ וְלָ֖מָּה נָפְל֥וּ פָנֶֽיךָ
lommah harah lakh welammah noflu faneykha
For-what you-angry to-you and-for-what has-fallen your-face
Why are you angry and why are you scowling?
Example: PSA 42:9 (PSA 42:10 in Hebrew)
לָמָ֪ה שְׁכַ֫חְתָּ֥נִי לָֽמָּה־קֹדֵ֥ר אֵלֵ֗ךְ בְּלַ֣חַץ
lamah shekhahtani lammah-qoder ‘elekh belahats ‘oyev
Why have-you-forgotten-me why mourning I-will-go
because-of-oppression-of enemy
Why have you forgotten me? You know the hardships that my enemies
bring on me.

Other interrogative particles

מַדּ֖וּעַ (why?)

Example: 2KI 8:12
מַדּ֖וּעַ אֲדֹנִ֣י בֹכֶ֑ה
maddua’ ‘adoni vokheh
Why my-master is-weeping
Sir, why are you crying?

עַד־אָן (how long?)

Example: JOB 8:2
עַד־אָ֥ן תְּמַלֶּל־אֵ֑לֶּה
‘ad-‘an temallel-‘elleh
How_long will-you-say_these-things
How much longer will you talk like this?

אֵ֥י מִזֶּ֖ה (from where?)

Example: 1SA 25:11
לַֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים אֲשֶׁר֙ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי אֵ֥י מִזֶּ֖ה הֵֽמָּה׃
la’anashim ‘asher lo yada’ti ‘e mizzeh hemmah
to-men who not I-know where from this they.
to men who come from I do not know where?