Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar/137. The Interrogative Pronouns

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§137. The Interrogative Pronouns.

137a The interrogative pronoun מִי who may refer either to a masculine or feminine person (Ct 36), or even to a plural, e.g. מִי אַתֶּם who are ye? Jos 98; מִי־אֵ֫לֶּה Gn 335, Nu 229 (more minutely, מִי וָמִי Ex 108, i.e. who exactly, who in particular?). It is used of the neuter only when the idea of a person is implied, e.g. מִֽי־שְׁכֶם who are the Shechemites? Ju 928, 1317, Gn 338, Mi 15; even more boldly, with the repetition of a מִי used personally, in 1 S 1818, 2 S 718.—Another interrogative is אֵי־זֶה which, what?; of persons only in Est 75.

137b Moreover, מִי may also be used in the sense of a genitive, e.g. בַּת־מִי אַתְּ whose daughter art thou? Gn 2423, 1 S 1755, 56, 58; דְּבַר מִי whose word? Jer 4428, 1 S 123; in the accusative, אֶת־מִי quemnam? 1 S 2811, Is 68; with prepositions, e.g. בְּמִי 1 K 2014 (in an abrupt question by whom?); לְמִי Gn 3218; אַֽחֲרֵי מִי 1 S 2415.—Similarly מָה, מַה־, מֶה what? is used for the nominative, or accusative, or genitive (Jer 89), or with prepositions, e.g. עַל־מָה whereupon? Is 15, Jb 386; why? Nu 2232, &c.; עַד־מָה quousque? ψ 749.[1]

137c Rem. Both מִי and מָה are used also in indirect questions (on the merely relative distinction between direct and indirect questions in Hebrew, see the Interrogative Sentences), e.g. Gn 398 (but read מְא֫וּמָה with Samar. and LXX), 43:22, Ex 321.—On the meaning of מִי and מָה as interrogatives is based also their use as indefinite pronouns (equivalent to quisquis, quodcunque or quicquam), e.g. Ex 3226, Ju 73, 1 S 204, Is 5010 (read יִשְׁמַע in the apodosis), 54:15, Pr 94, 16, 2 Ch 3623; even שִׁמְרוּ־מִי have a care, whosoever ye be, 2 S 1812 (unless לִי is to be read, with the LXX, for מִי); so also מָה (whatever it be) Jb 1313, 1 S 193, 2 S 1822, 23; cf. Nu 233 וּדְבַר מַה־יַּרְאֵ֫נִי and whatsoever he showeth me. Cf. also מִי אֲשֶׁר whosoever Ex 3233, 2 S 2011, and מִֽי־הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר any man who Dt 205 ff., Ju 1018. A still further weakening of the indefinite use of מָה is the combination מַה־שֶּׁ· that which, Ec 19, 315 (just like the Syriac מָא דְ); cf. Est 81, and בַּל... מָה Pr 913, לֹא... מָה Neh 212, nothing whatever.—On מְא֫וּמָה quicquam, anything at all (usually with a negative), and as an adverb in any way, 1 S 213, see the Lexicon.

  1. A quite different use of מָה was pointed out (privately) by P. Haupt in Ct 58 will ye not tell him? i.e. I charge you that ye tell him, and 7:1 = look now at the Shulamite, corresponding to the late Arabic mâ tarâ, just see! mâ taqûlu, say now! It has long been recognized that מָה is used as a negative in Ct 84.