The Alternative Hebrew Dictionary: ל־

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Entry definition

ל־ 〈l־〉 pronunciation
  • (IL) /lə/, /li/, /la/, /le/ (see usage notes)
particle: {{head}}
  1. To; the first part of a to-infinitive. סְגוֹר 〈sĕgwòr〉לסגור 〈lsgwr〉
  • In most verbs of the pa'ál construction, the vowel is khirík (as in לִסְגּוֹר lisĕġwòr〉), but in others it may be patákh (as in לַעֲזוֹב laʻàzwòb〉 or לַחְזוֹר laẖĕzwòr〉), segól (as in לֶאֱכוֹל leʼèkwòl〉), kamáts (as in לָקוּם qẇm〉 or לָרֶדֶת redeţ〉), or, very rarely, tseiréi (as in לֵאמוֹר ʼmwòr〉) or kholám malé (as in לוֹמַר lwòmar〉).
  • In verbs of the pi'él, hitpa'él, hitpu'al, and hif'íl constructions (including variations such as polél, hitpolél, and nitpa'él), the vowel is sh'vá ná.
  • Verbs of the pu'ál and huf'ál constructions do not have infinitives.
preposition: {{head}}
  1. To; indicating a destination or end-point.
    1. Indicating the destination of movement. בשבוע שעבר נסעתי לירושלים. 〈bşbwʻ şʻbr nsʻţy lyrwşlym.〉bashavúa she'avár nasá'ati lirushaláyim. — Last week I went to Jerusalem. באיזו שעה נגיע לעיר? 〈bʼyzw şʻh ngyʻ lʻyr?〉b'éizo sha'á nagía la'ír? — What time will we get to the city?
    2. Indicating the second end-point of a range or interval. יש כביש ישר מפה לשם. 〈yş kbyş yşr mph lşm.〉yesh k'vísh yashár mipó l'shám. — There's a straight road from here to there. לא יצלצלו בין שש לשמונה. 〈lʼ yẕlẕlw byn şş lşmwnh.〉lo y'tzaltz'lú béin shésh lish'móne. — They won't call between six and eight.
  2. To, for; corresponding to an English indirect object or a Latin dative.
    1. Indicating the recipient of a transfer. נתתי לה מתנה. 〈nţţy lh mţnh.〉natáti láh mataná. — I gave her a gift.
    2. Indicating the addressee of an utterance. אמרו לנו מה קרה. 〈ʼmrw lnw mh qrh.〉amrú lánu má kará. — They told us what happened.
    3. Indicating the beneficiary of an action. תפתח לי בבקשה את הדלת? 〈ţpţẖ ly bbqşh ʼţ hdlţ?〉tiftákh b'vakashá ét hadélet? — Could you open the door for me?
    4. Indicating the person or thing affected by an action. מה עושים לאוכל? 〈mh ʻwşym lʼwkl?〉má osím la'ókhel? — What are we/you/they doing to the food?
    5. Introducing an ethical dative, especially after a verb of motion. אנחנו הולכים לנו ברחוב. 〈ʼnẖnw hwlkym lnw brẖwb.〉anákhnu hol'khím lánu barakhóv. — We're walking down [literally walking us in] the street.
  3. Of; indicating a possessor.
    1. Used with a form of הָיָה 〈háyáh〉. היתה להם בעייה. 〈hyţh lhm bʻyyh.〉haytá lahém b'ayá.They had [literally To them was] a problem.
    2. Used with יֵשׁ 〈yéş̌〉 or (for non-possession) אֵין 〈ʼéyn〉. לרופאה יש עינים כחולות. lrwpʼh yş ʻynym kẖwlwţ.〉larof'á yésh eináyim k'khulót. — The doctor has [literally To the doctor there are] blue eyes. אין לך כסף? 〈ʼyn lk ksp?〉éin l'khá/lákh késef? — Don't you have [literally Isn't there to you] money?
    3. (now rare) Used as a bare predicate, with no copula.
      • 6:3: אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי הָרֹעֶה בַּשּׁוֹשַׁנִּים׃ 〈ʼàniy dwòdiy wĕdwòdiy liy háròʻeh bȧş̇̌wòşǎni̇ym׃〉aní l'dodí v'dodí haro'é bashoshaním. — I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.{{R:KJV}}
    4. Used with another verb, indicating the possessor of another object of the verb. הוא יושב לי על הכובע. 〈hwʼ ywşb ly ʻl hkwbʻ.〉hú yoshév ál hakóva. — He is sitting on my hat [literally to me on the hat]. היא נגעה לו במרפק. 〈hyʼ ngʻh lw bmrpq.〉hí nag'á bamarpék. — She touched him on the elbow.
  4. To, into; indicating a result. מה גרם לזה? 〈mh grm lzh?〉má garám l'zé? — What caused this? [literally What caused to this?]
    1. Indicating the result of a transformation. הספה הופכת למיטה. 〈hsph hwpkţ lmyth.〉hasapá hofékhet l'mitá. — The sofa turns into a bed.
  5. For, according to, in the opinion of; indicating the holder of a viewpoint, or the source of a claim. לדעתי, אין ברירה. ldʻţy, ʼyn bryrh.〉l'da'atí, éin b'rerá.In my opinion, there's no choice. לדבריו, האירוע נגמר בחצות. ldbryw, hʼyrwʻ ngmr bẖẕwţ.〉lid'varáv, ha'eirúa nigmár b'khatsót. — He said that [literally To his words] the event ended at midnight.
  6. Indicating the theme of an impersonal verb or other impersonal predicate. נראה לי שגבוה מדי. 〈nrʼh ly şgbwh mdy.〉nir'á shegavóah midai.I think [literally It seems to me] that it's too high. קר לכם? 〈qr lkm?〉kár lakhém? — Are you cold? [literally Cold to you?] לא מגיע להם. 〈lʼ mgyʻ lhm.〉ló magía lahém.They don't deserve it. [literally Not arrives to them.]
  7. Of; indicating the reference-point relative to which a direction may be specified. צפונה ל־ 〈ẕpwnh tzafóna l'- — north of מתחת ל־ 〈mţẖţ mitákhat l'- — under, underneath [literally from bottom to] חוץ לארץ 〈ẖwẕ lʼrẕ〉khúts la'áretz — abroad [literally outside to the land]
  8. Of, to, before: indicating the hour before which a number of minutes or fraction of an hour is specified. רבע ל־10 〈rbʻ l־10〉réva l'éser — a quarter to ten עשרה לחמש 〈ʻşrh lẖmş〉asará l'chamésh — ten to five
  9. (by extension, slang) Before: indicating the number of years before which a fraction of a year is specified. רבע ל־10 〈rbʻ l־10〉réva l'éser — a quarter [of a year] less than ten [years]
  • The above list of uses is not exhaustive; many verbs and compound prepositions use ל־ 〈l־〉 to construe their objects, and in general, this is an idiosyncratic property of the verb or preposition. Conversely, above-listed uses are not definitive; in many cases, there are other prepositions that may be used similarly (or even somewhat interchangeably). Finally, the above-listed uses are not mutually exclusive; a single instance of ל־ 〈l־〉 may serve more than one of them.
  • Like all one-letter words in Hebrew, ל־ 〈l־〉 functions as a clitic, attaching to the word that follows it. Since it is a preposition, this means it attaches to the first word of its object.
  • In traditional grammar, ל־ 〈l־〉 undergoes some vowel changes, depending on the word it attaches to:
    • The default form, used when none of the below rules applies, is . It is also the only form in ordinary use in colloquial Modern Hebrew, except in various fixed expressions that always use the traditional pronunciation.
    • When the first syllable of the word has a sh'vá ná, the form is used; hence, when ל־ 〈l־〉 is attached to the noun פְּעָמִים 〈pĕ̇ʻámiym〉, we obtain the adverb לִפְעָמִים 〈lipĕʻámiym〉. Further, when the word starts with the syllable , it loses its sh'va; hence, in traditional grammar, when ל־ 〈l־〉 is attached to יְרוּשָׁלַיִם 〈yĕrẇşá̌layim〉, we obtain .
    • When the first syllable of the word has a khataf vowel, ל־ 〈l־〉 takes the corresponding non-khataf vowel.
    • When it is combined with the clitic הַ־ 〈ha־〉, the two clitics fuse into one syllable, with the onset being ל 〈l〉 and the vowel being that of the ה־ 〈h־〉 (i.e., a pataḥ, a qamatz, or a segol, depending on the first syllable of the word); for example, when ל־ 〈l־〉 and ה־ 〈h־〉 are attached to יֶלֶד 〈yeled〉, we obtain (note the dagesh forte in the יּ 〈ẏ〉), and when they're attached to אִמָּא 〈ʼimá̇ʼ〉, we obtain .
    • The same modifications occur with כְּ־ 〈kĕ̇־〉 and בְּ־ 〈bĕ̇־〉.
  • Since the attachment of ל־ 〈l־〉 means that the following letter now follows an open syllable or sh'va, that letter loses any dagesh lene; hence the above example, where פְּעָמִים 〈pĕ̇ʻámiym〉 becomes לִפְעָמִים 〈lipĕʻámiym〉 rather than *.
  • (before the hour) As in English ("it's ten to"), the complement of this preposition is often omitted in informal registers.

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