Hieroglyphs tutorial; Relative forms

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) on which a god lives”. “‘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

Weak verbs

mrr=(f)

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

Doubled verbs

mAA=(f)

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

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 verb

sDmn=(f)

sDmn=(f)
(someone or something) which he heard

Weak verbs

mr.n=(f)

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

Doubled verbs

mA.n=(f)

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

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

Weak verbs

mrt.n=(f)

mrt.n=(f)
that which he loved

Doubled verbs

mAt.n=(f)

mAt.n=(f)
that which he saw

Extra weak verbs

rdit.n=(f)

rdit.n=(f)
that which he gave

The endings of verbs are always;

  • “y” for the singular personal verbs (“I”)
  • “k” for second person singular male verbs (you)
  • “T” (tj) for second person singular male verbs (you)
  • “f” for third person singular masculine verbs (he)
  • “s” for third person singular verbs
  • “n” for first person plural verbs (we)
  • “Tn” (tjn) for second person plural verbs
  • “sn” for third person plural verbs

Hieroglyphs Resources

copyright J Hill 2010