Verbal Nouns


What we call the infinitive in Egyptian is sometimes best translated by the English infinitive (e.g. “to walk”, “to hear”) but often is better translated by an English gerund (“the walking”, “the hearing”).

The form of the infinitive is always either the base stem, or the base stem plus t. The following categories have base stem plus t:

  • caus 2-lits; e.g. smn “establish” → smnt.
  • Verbs with weak final radicals except 4ae-inf verbs that can have a geminated stem, which just use the base stem. Examples:
    • jrj “do” → jrt
    • ḫwzj “build, pound”→ ḫwzt
      (This is a 4ae-inf that does not geminate.)

All other regular verbs have their base stem for their infinitive:

  • ḫsfj “sail upstream” ḫsf (a 4ae-inf that geminates)
  • ḏd “say” = ḏd

There are a few odd special cases:

  • 2ae-gem. verbs have the geminated radical in the infinitive (šbb “to polish”) but if the infinitive has a suffix pronoun, only one instance appears: šb.f “his polishing”.
  • The verb mꜣꜣ “see” is worse than other 2ae-gem. verbs: it sometimes (not always) uses the base stem as an infinitive even without the suffix pronoun (mꜣ), and when it does have the suffix pronoun, it can take the base stem form or it can have an n appended to it: mꜣ.s, mꜣn.s “her seeing”. The n variation is seen in some other words with , so it suggests that whatever the sound was, it was pronounced like n in some situations.

Subject and Object of Infinitives

The subject can be shown with jn “by”, or with a genitive (usually direct), or a suffix pronoun, which lead to forms much like in English. All three of these could mean “the man’s act of emerging”:

  • prt jn zj “the emergence by the man”
  • prt zj “the emergence of the man” (that is, the emerging that the man “owns” because he made it)
  • prt.f “his emergence”

The versions without jn are more common with intransitive verbs, because in a transitive verb, these genitive/possessive constructions can be used for the object instead of the subject. But they are sometimes used for transitive verbs anyway.

The object can be shown by a genitive/possession, without a subject, or with a subject with jn:

  • ḏd mdw “the speaking of words”
  • gmt.f jn Swtẖ “the finding of him by Set”

Or the infinitive can be followed by the subject and then an object, in which case the object, if a pronoun, is the dependent pronoun:

  • rdjt.f wj m ḥꜣt ẖrdw.f
    “his act of putting me in front of his children”


The infinitive can be the subject in a non-verbal sentence: nfr sḏmto listen is good”.

It can be used as a catenative verb, in a “chain” with other verbs, like in English: mr.j mꜣꜣ sw “I want to see him,” rḫ.s jrt mr “she knows how to make a pyramid”.

If the infinitive is the object of a preposition, a few prepositions have special meanings:

  • ḥr “upon”: This can mean “because of”, in a sentence like ḏd.n.j ḥr mꜣ.f wj “I spoke upon his seeing me” = “I spoke because he saw me”. It can also mean “at the moment of” or “in the act of”: gm.n.j sw ḥr mr sj “I found him upon loving her” = “I found him loving her”. (Note that English uses “upon” as well with gerunds: “Upon entering the room, I saw …”)
  • m “in”: This can be used for “in the act of” as ḥr can be, but it is less common than ḥr for that purpose. It can also be used more like an adverb: ḏd.f m wḥm “he speaks in repeating” = “he speaks again”.
  • r “to”, “in order to”: This expresses a purpose: r gmt sj “they have come in order to find her” (lit. “they have come towards the finding of her”).

These three prepositions, with infinitives as their objects, will be seen in another construction called the pseudo-verbal construction.

Complementary Infinitives

The complementary infinitive is a reiteration of a verb as an adverb of itself. It is rare and really only in older religious texts:

  • wbn.k wbnt “You rise, rising” or “Rising, you rise”.

The ending in final-weak verbs was originally wt, which became yt, but the w/y often disappear in writing. In most other verbs it’s simply t. Either ending attaches to the base stem in most verbs, or the root in 2ae-gem. verbs.

  • ḏd “say” ḏdt (2-lit)
  • wnn “exist” wnnt (2ae-gem)
  • msj “give birth” mst, msyt (3ae-inf)

Negatival Complements

The negatival complement is used with the infinitive tm (the verb “to complete, to finish”) to form the negative of an infinitive.

  • r n tm mwt m wḥm
    chapter of tm die in repetition
    “Chapter of not dying again” (BD spell 175)