Learn Hieroglyphs

I. Verb classes and the infinitive

 How does this all work? The first and most basic point is that when translating ‘kissing’ in the example above as opposed to ‘kissed’ or ‘will kiss’?) two points should be borne in mind:

1) What help does the writing of the verb give us? (The question of form).
2) How does the verb fit in the context of the inscription? (The question of functions).
Since hieroglyphs only write consonants and not vowels, the hieroglyphic writing solely will not always direct us to the exact form. However, once we take into account how the verb seems to be being used in the inscription, then we can usually gain good sense out of it. The first ‘tool of the trade’ that we need to introduce you to is the topic of verb classes. All the verbs in ancient Egyptian can be comiled into a small number of groups, which, when considered as a whole (or paradigm),usually allow us to see each form somewhat more clearly. The following are the standard verb classes with a convenient example for each class:
Stem does not usually show any alteration.
To hear
Strong verbs
Stem ends in a double consonant.
To see
Doubling verbs
Stem ends with a ‘weak’ consonant, usually –i.
To love
Weak verbs
mainly verbs with two or three weak consonants.
To give
Extra weak verbs


1) With weak verbs, the final -i is usually omitted in writing and therefore in transliteration. For practical reasons, however, we will transliterate the extra weak verb ‘to give’ as rdi or di.
2) Extra weak verbs behave like ordinary weak verbs, but sometimes show additional features.
The stem of a strong verb is not usually that helpful since it rarely shows any differences. As you will observe below, the infinitive of strong verbs gives us little written due. Doubling verbs have a root which ends with the same consonant repeated twice. In writing, some forms of these verbs show only one of these consonants (such as mAA) and in other forms show two (mAA) and this can help in distinguishing certain forms. Weak and extra weak verbs, whose roots end in a ‘weak consonant’ (-i or -w) ,are the most interesting because they show a wider range of variation in different verb-forms, which can be most useful in spotting a particular form; so weak verb infinitives are rather more easy to spot than strong verb infinitives.
One important point to note about weak verbs is that the -i and -w with which their root or dictionary forms end do not usually appear in writing and so need not be transliterated. However, so that you can see readily whether a verb is a weak verb or not, the -i or -w of weak verbs will be added in brackets.