Hebrew Tidbit #6

Hebrew is not a tense-based language.

This can be a difficult component for not only English native speakers to grasp but for most who learned a western language first.

Hebrew is a language of aspect and in order to translate into English which has tenses you have to consider which aspect you are translating from and the context.

So let’s unpack that a little bit.

  1. Hebrew is an aspect language.
  2. You have to consider the aspect when translating meaning there are multiple types of aspects in Hebrew. These aspects are focused on the verbs in the language.
  3. With the above in mind, a single aspect may have more than 1 English translation. In order to know which translation is the correct to use, you must consider the context of the surrounding text you are translating.

The point is that not every language has a 1 to 1 easy translation and that is particularly the case when you compare an aspect language like Hebrew to a tense language like English.

As a side note, Biblical Greek (Koine Greek) is also considered to be aspect driven but it is odd in that it actually does have some tense characteristics like that of English (in other words, it is sort of between Hebrew and English on this topic).

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