The contruct state is a modified form of a word (noun, adjective, participle, or infinitive) in contrast to the standard form called the absolute state. The construct state is used when a word takes a suffix or is connected to another term in a construct chain.
Nouns, adjectives, participles and infinitives can appear in either the absolute state or the construct state. The construct state ending is shorter than the absolute state ending and can take an attached suffix. Nouns, adjectives and participles can appear in either the absolute state or the construct state for both masculine and feminine terms in both singular and plural forms. Because infinitives do not change form for either gender or number, there is usually only one infinitive construct form and one infinitive absolute form of a verb in Biblical Hebrew.
Many masculine singular nouns appear exactly alike in both the absolute state and the construct state.
The construct state serves a unique function in Biblical Hebrew to grammatically link a word to the following word(s),making a single grammatical unit called a construct chain. Words in a construct chain are often translated into English with the word “of” between them. Construct chains can consist of two words (for example, “the king of Israel”) or more than two words (for example, “the son of the king of Israel”).
For most nouns, the masculine singular form is identical to the absolute state. The masculine plural construct ending drops the final ם and changes the final hireq to a segol (i-sound to e-sound).
Usually, the feminine singular construct ending changes from a final ה to a final ת. The feminine plural construct ending is identical to the absolute state.
Appearing with a suffix¶
|וַיָּ֜קָם וַיֵּ֤לֶךְ אֶל־בֵּיתוֹ֙ אֶל־עִיר֔וֹ|
|wayyaqom wayyelekh ‘el-betho ‘el-‘iro|
|And-he-stood-up and-went to_his-house to_his-city|
|He went home to his own city|
Forming a construct chain¶
Two or more terms that are gramatically linked together to form a construct chain can express a wide range of meanings. The initial term(s) in a construct chain always appears in the construct state and is called the “construct noun(s).” The final term in a construct chain always appears in the absolute state and is called the “absolute noun”. The absolute noun always determines whether a construct chain is definite or indefinite.
A construct noun can indicate a person/thing possessed by the absolute noun.
|the king’s palace|
A construct noun can indicate a kind of personal relationship with reference to the absolute noun.
An absolute noun can indicate the substance or material of the construct noun.
|vessels of silver|
An absolute noun can describe the construct noun, similar to an attributive adjective.
|a holy seed|
An absolute noun can indicate the specific item described by the construct noun.
|the land of Egypt|
An absolute noun can indicate an intended purpose/result for the construct noun.
|as sheep for the slaughter|
An absolute noun can indicate the person/thing by which the construct noun is performed.
|struck by God|