construct chain

In English, we use the preposition of to show a modifying
relationship between two nouns. For example, when we say “the
son of the man,” we modify the noun son with the noun man.
In Hebrew, the same meaning is created by placing two nouns next
to each other. When two nouns are placed together, they create a
construct chain.
The pattern of a construct chain will always be “a (noun) of a (noun)”
if the absolute noun is not definite.
A construct chain has two types of nouns. The final noun in the chain
is the absolute noun. Nouns preceding the absolute or final noun are
construct nouns. For example:
‫ בֵּ ית ִאיׁש‬a house (construct) of a man (absolute)
While there can be multiple construct nouns, there is only one
absolute noun (always the final noun) in a construct chain.
Note the following:
Only the absolute or final noun in a construct chain can have the definite
article. If the absolute noun has the definite article, all preceding nouns
in the chain are also made definite even though they do not have the
definite article.
The pattern of a construct chain will always be “the (noun) of the
(noun)” if the absolute noun is definite.
Construct chains will never combine definite and indefinite nouns,
such as “a (noun) of the (noun)” or “the (noun) of a (noun).” In
these cases, the preposition ‫ ל‬is used sometimes with ‫אֲ ֶׁׁשר‬, and all
nouns have the absolute noun form. For example:
‫הַ ּקוֹל (אֲ ׁשר) לְ נָבִ יא‬
‫מֶׁ לְֶׁך הָ עַ ם‬
‫קול מ ֶׁשה‬
‫בֶׁ ן־הָ ִאיׁש‬
(the voice of a prophet).
the king (construct) of the people (absolute)
the voice (construct) of Moses (absolute)
the son (construct) of the man (absolute)
Note the following:
Construct nouns may have a different form from absolute
nouns. The change that occurs is primarily due to a
reduction or loss of stress in a noun when placed in a
construct chain.
Sometimes a maqqēp is used between a construct noun and
an absolute noun. The appearance of a maqqēp indicates a
complete loss of stress in the construct noun.
Note the following:
Adjectives that modify either the absolute noun or one of the
construct nouns will always follow the construct chain. For example:
‫בֵּ ית נ ִָׁשים י ִָפים‬
‫בֵּ ית נ ִָׁשים יָפֶׁ ה‬
a house of beautiful women
a beautiful house of women
Because the adjective is not adjacent to the noun it modifies, some
ambiguity can arise in translation.
‫ֲׁשה הַ מֶׁ לְֶׁך הָ ַרע‬
ֵּ ‫מַ ע‬
the deed of the evil king (or)
the evil deed of the king
An adjective will always match the noun it modifies in both number and
gender. Sometimes this guideline helps resolve which noun should
receive the adjective.
Sometimes you must rely on context when deciding which noun should
receive the adjective.
Either noun in a construct chain can be plural.
Generally, two adjectives will not modify separate nouns; however,
two adjectives can modify the same noun. For example:
‫ְדבַ ר הַ נָבִ יא הַ ּטוב הַ צַ ִדיק‬
the word of the good and righteous prophet
the good and righteous word of the prophet
Construct chains can have a series of nouns; however, construct
chains exceeding four nouns are rare. For example:
‫בֵּ ית בֶׁ ן־הַ נָבִ יא‬
ָ ִ‫ָש ֵּרי י ְִׁש ָראֵּ ל ו‬
‫אֵּ ֶׁׁשת ּובֶׁ ן־הַ מֶׁ לְֶׁך‬
the house of the son of the prophet
the rulers of Israel and Judah
the wife and son of the king
The translation of a construct chain can vary from a simple of
meaning, such as “the daughter of a king,” to “the king’s daughter.”
Some instances are better translated as prepositional or adjectival
Avoid strict adherence to one translation pattern. For example:
‫בֶׁ ן־ּכהֵּ ן‬
‫אֵּ ֶׁׁשת הַ מֶׁ לְֶׁך‬
a son of a priest (or)
a priest’s son
the wife of the king (or)
the king’s wife
Adjectives (as adjectival nouns) and participles (as verbal
nouns) can appear in a construct chain. For example:
‫ֹבנֵּי הָ הֵּ יכָ ל‬
the builders (verbal noun) of the temple
‫יְפֵּ ה מַ ְראֶׁ ה‬
beautiful (adjectival noun) of appearance
beautiful in appearance
Singular Nouns in a
Construct Chain
The spelling of singular nouns in the construct chain will generally vary
from the lexical form. Of the two states, absolute and construct, the
absolute does not change and the construct does change. The
changes that occur in construct nouns are due to the change in
primary stress as the nouns are chained together.
A few rules apply to the changes of nouns as they take the construct form.
In construct nouns, a tsere or qamets in an unaccented or open
syllable will change to a shewa. For example:
‫מָ קוֹם‬
place of
‫נָבִ יא‬
‫נְבִ יא‬
prophet of
names of
‫לֵּבָ ב‬
‫לְ בַ ב‬
heart of
In construct nouns, a qamets in a final closed syllable will change to a
patakh. For example:
Absolute Construct
hand of
‫גַ נָב‬
‫גַ נַב‬
thief of
‫הֵּ יכָ ל‬
‫הֵּ יכַ ל‬
palace of
In construct nouns, a tsere in a final closed syllable generally
remains, but sometimes can be replaced by a patakh. For example:
Absolute Construct
ַ‫ִמזְבַ ח ִמזְבֵּ ח‬
alter of
Further examples of the above rules can be found on page 70 of your textbook.
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