Discovering Writing: Learning Egyptian Hieroglyphs - Lesson 3 (Part II)

Learning Egyptian Hieroglyphs - Lesson 3 (Part II)

by Caroline Seawright

The Suffixes as Subject of yw yw

yw yw 'is, are' may have, like other verbs, a suffix for its nominative. Remember, though, that the sentence with yw, though classed as non-verbal, is verbal in actual form.

Eg. ywn three stroke determinativempr stroke determinativef yw*n m pr*f 'We are in his house'. If the subject of a sentence with adverbial predicate is a noun, putting yw gives it, basically, the importance of an independent assertion. This rule, though, does not always hold when the subject is a suffix pronoun - the suffixes must be joined to a receding word, and yw is the word commonly used as support.

This means that ywn three stroke determinativempr stroke determinativef yw*n m pr*f could have two meanings:

a main clause as an assertion - 'we are in his house'

a subordinate clause of some kind - rshnose determinativeman eating determinativescribe determinativeman determinativeywn three stroke determinativepr stroke determinativef rsh ssh, yw*n m pr*f 'the scribe rejoices (when) we are in his house'.

Sentences with the m m of Predication

In Egyptian, 'thou art a scribe' can not be written. It was written as 'though art (as) a scribe': ywkmscribe determinativeman determinative yw*k m ssh m m 'though art as a scribe'

The preposition m m can mean 'in the position of' and 'as'... and so it is called m of the predication. By its use, the pattern of the sentence with adverbial predicate may express English sentences that require nominal predicate.

For example: ywndjssparrow determinativeman determinativepnmscribe determinativeman determinative yw ndjs pn m ssh 'this commoner is (as) a scribe'.

The ear determinativemf sdjm*f Form of the Verb

A form or tense of a verb with the subject (sometimes a noun or a suffix) is added directly to the sounds expressing the verbal notion:

ear determinativemf sdjm*f 'he hears'

ear determinativemscribe determinativeman determinative sdjm ssh 'the scribe hears'

In describing the various parts of the Egyptian verb, it is usual to take the verb ear determinativem sdjm 'hear' as the model... and since precedence over the first person singular is given to the third

person singular, the verb form to which the reference has just been made is known as the sdjm*f form.

Later, you'll see that the sdjm*f form appears to have originated as a passive participant followed by a genitival suffix-pronoun... the original 'heard of him' came to mean 'he hears' or 'he heard'.

To create the passive form of sdjm*f, an element tw *tw (sometimes t *t) is inserted immediately after the verb stem, as in:

ear determinativemtwr stroke determinativepn sdjm*tw r pn 'this utterance is heard'.

The element *tw is an indefinite pronoun like the English 'one', and is sometimes used independently - djdtw djd*tw 'one says', 'it is said'. From this use, sdjm*tw*f 'he is heard' was probably derived from the analogy of the active sdjm*f

The full form of twrkhbook determinativetwf rkh*tw*f 'he is known'. The shorter writing, t, may either precede or follow the determinative... but rkhtbook determinative f is more correct than rkhbook determinative tf. The passive ending *tw is inseparable from the verb stem.

The full paradigm of the sdjm*f form is:



1st singular

ear determinativemman determinative


I hear

ear determinativemtwman determinative


I am heard

2nd singular masc.

ear determinativemk


Thou hearest

ear determinativemtwk


Thou art heard

2nd singular fem.

ear determinativemtsh


Thou hearest

ear determinativemtwtsh


Thou art heard

3rd singular masc.

ear determinativemf


he (it) hears

ear determinativemtwf


he (it) is heard

3rd singular fem.

ear determinativems


she (it) hears

ear determinativemtws


she (it) is heard

1st plural

ear determinativemn three stroke determinative


we hear

ear determinativemtwn three stroke determinative


we are heard

2nd plural

ear determinativemtshn three stroke determinative


you hear

ear determinativemtwtshn three stroke determinative


you are heard

3rd singular

ear determinativemsn three stroke determinative


they hear

ear determinativemtwsn three stroke determinative


they are heard

Before nouns

ear determinativem


hear, hears

ear determinativemtw or ear determinativemt


is, are heard


ear determinativemtw


one hears

The duals are not used, since they are usually replaced by plurals.

When the subject of the sdjm*f form is a suffix, this is inseparable from the verb-stem.

In the passive, it is inseparable from the verb-stem accompanied by *tw; *tw itself is inseparable from the verb-stem. When the subject is a noun, though, this may be separated from the verb. Eg:


djd*s n*f 'she says to him'

djdnfscribe determinativeman determinative djd n*f ssh 'the scribe says to him'

When the agent has to be expressed after the passive of sdjm*f (or any other passive form of the verb), we introduce it using yn yn 'by'. Eg:

djdtwr stroke determinativepnyns man determinative stroke determinative djd*tw r pn yn s 'this utterance is (to be) said by a man'.

The preposition khr khr 'with' or 'near' is sometimes used for the same purpose, though this is rarely used.

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