Hieroglyphs tutorial; Relative forms

In Ancient Egypt, relative forms are used to describe an action that someone or something else performs. Relative forms are similar to participles in that they have common traits to verbs and adjectives. They are based on the stem of the verb and like an adjective they agree in number and gender with the noun or noun phrase that preceeds them. Unlike participles they are more closely connected to verbs and have a subject of their own. Because the tense already tells us that the action is linked to the person, the Egyptians did not need to insert a word to represent "that", "what" or "which". This is a fairly tricky concept as this particular construction is not found in English.

Present Relative Tense

The present relative tense decribes an action as "(one) which a person does". For example "(the cat) that she loves" or "(the coat) that he wears". A common example of this form can be found in the offering formula in the phrase "ht nbt nfrt 'nHt nTr im" - "all good things which a god lives on". "'nHt" ends with a "t" because it reflects the feminine gender of the noun "ht" ("things")


Strong verbs
sDm=(f)
sDm=(f)
(someone or something) which he hears

Doubled verbs
mAA=(f)
mAA=(f)
(someone or something) which he sees

Weak verbs
mrr=(f)
mrr=(f)
(someone or something) which he loves

Extra weak verbs
dd=(f)
dd=(f)
(someone or something) which he gives

Past Relative Tense

The past relative tense decribes an action as "(one) which a person did". For example "(the cake) that he ate" or "(the sound) that she heard".


Strong verbs
sDm.n=(f)
sDm.n=(f)
(someone or something) which he heard

Doubled verbs
mAt.n=(f)
mA.n=(f)
(someone or something) which he saw

Weak verbs
mr.n=(f)
mr.n=(f)
(someone or something) which he loved

Extra weak verbs
rdi.n=(f)
rdi.n=(f)
(someone or something) which he gave


If the relative form stands on its own rather than relating back to a previous noun or phrase it usually has the ending "t" inserted between the stem and the verb ending to show that it has an abstract subject. The table below depicts the past relative tense with an abstract subject but this can equally apply to the present relative tense.


Strong verbs
sDmt.n=(f)
sDmt.n=(f)
that which he heard

Doubled verbs
mAt.n=(f)
mAt.n=(f)
that which he saw

Weak verbs
mrt.n=(f)
mrt.n=(f)
that which he loved

Extra weak verbs
rdit.n=(f)
rdit.n=(f)
that which he gave


As with verbs, (refer to Verbs; part two) if there is no noun with the relative form it takes the suffix pronoun endings as follows;

For example...

miu mrr-st
miu mrr st
the cat the woman loves
miu mrr=s
miu mrr=s
the cat she loves


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copyright J Hill 2010
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