Preposition Definite Article


A preposition introduces a phrase that describes another word/concept within a sentence, usually a noun or a verb. However, like adverbs and particles, sometimes a prepositional phrase can describe the sentence as a whole. In Biblical Hebrew, prepositions can also be used with an infinitive construct verb to show its relationship to the main verb of a sentence.


When a word contains both a prefixed preposition and a definite article, the ה consonant of the definite article disappears and the shewa under the preposition lengthens, usually either to a pathah vowel or a qamets vowel.


Biblical Hebrew has four main prepositions: the prefix בְּ (in, at, by); the prefix לְ (to, for); the prefix כְּ (as, like); and the prefix מִ (which is a shortened form of the independent preposition מִן, meaning “from”). However, there is also a family of other prepositions in Biblical Hebrew. It is common in Biblical Hebrew for prepositions to be combined together or with a noun to form new words that have their own range of meanings (similar to compound conjunctions) that may or may not overlap with the meaning of the individual component terms.

In Biblical Hebrew, prepositions also have a specialized function of describing the relationship between a verbal complement (infinitive construct or participles) and the main verb of a sentence. In some of these instances, the preposition introduces a dependent verbal clauses and thus changes its typical meaning. These specialized uses of prepositions are listed in the article on infinitive construct verbs.


Of all the different kinds of words, prepositions are perhaps the most flexible in their meaning and are often translated in a variety of ways, or sometimes even left untranslated. For this reason, prepositions must always be translated with great sensitivity to the context of each use. A dictionary or lexicon will describe the various possible meanings of each preposition, but generally will not include a complete list of individual usages.

In Biblical Hebrew, there are 11 general types of prepositions: indirect object; spatial; locative; temporal; instrumental; correlative; comparative; directional; causal; explanatory; and direct object. However, this are also other types of prepositions in Biblical Hebrew. The specific meanings of individual prepositions can be found in a dictionary or lexicon.


Prefix Preposition (with and without the definite article)
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
normal noun נָהָר nahar river
noun + preposition only בְּנָהָר benahar in a river
noun + definite article only הַנָּהָר hannahar the river
noun + preposition + definite article בַּנָּהָר bannahar in the river

Preposition before a noun starting with a normal shewa

Word Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
normal noun מְרַגֵּל meraggel spy
noun + preposition only כִּמְרַגֵּל kimraggel like a spy
noun + definite article only הַמְּרַגֵּל hammeraggel the spy
noun + preposition + definite article כַּמְּרַגֵּל kammeraggel like the spy

Preposition before a noun with a guttural first consonant

Word Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
normal noun אִישׁ ‘ish man
noun + preposition only לְאִישׁ le’ish to a man
noun + definite article only הָאִישׁ ha’ish the man
noun + preposition + definite article לָאִישׁ la’ish to the man

Preposition before a noun starting with a composite shewa

Word Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
normal noun אֳנִיָה ‘oniyah ship
noun + preposition only כָּאֳנִיָה ko’oniyah like a ship
noun + definite article only הָאֳנִיָה ha’oniyah the ship
noun + preposition + definite article כָּאֳנִיָה ka’oniyah like the ship


GEN 1:1 –– בְּ preposition without definite article.
בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים
bereshith bara ‘elohim
In-beginning he-created God
In the beginning, God created
ISA 5:11 –– בְּ preposition with definite article (shewa lengthens to pathah vowel).
הֹ֛וי מַשְׁכִּימֵ֥י בַבֹּ֖קֶר
howy mashkime vabboqer
Woe those-rising-early in-the-morning
Woe to those who rise up early in the morning
GEN 1:5 –– לְ preposition with definite article (shewa lengthens to qamets vowel).
וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים׀ לָאֹור֙ יֹ֔ום
wayyiqra ‘elohim la’owr yowm
And-he-called to-the-light day
God called the light “day”
GEN 1:18 –– לְ preposition with infinitive construct verb.
וְלִמְשֹׁל֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם וּבַלַּ֔יְלָה
welimshol bayyom uvallaylah
and to rule in the day and-in-the-night
to rule over the day and over the night