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 verbssDm=(f)sDm=(f)
(someone or something) which he hearsDoubled verbsmAA=(f)mAA=(f)
(someone or something) which he seesWeak verbsmrr=(f)mrr=(f)
(someone or something) which he lovesExtra weak verbsdd=(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 verbssDm.n=(f)sDmn=(f)
(someone or something) which he heardDoubled verbsmAt.n=(f)mA.n=(f)
(someone or something) which he sawWeak verbsmr.n=(f)mr.n=(f)
(someone or something) which he lovedExtra weak verbsrdi.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 verbssDmt.n=(f)sDmt.n=(f)
that which he heardDoubled verbsmAt.n=(f)mAt.n=(f)
that which he sawWeak verbsmrt.n=(f)mrt.n=(f)
that which he lovedExtra weak verbsrdit.n=(f)rdit.n=(f)
that which he gave

As before, (refer to Verbs; part two) 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