Prepositions are words that relate other elements of a sentence together through either time or space. For example, look at the english sentence “the cat is under the table.” The preposition (in bold) relates the nominal (noun) subject “cat” with the object of the preposition “table.” The preposition under could be replaced by any number of other prepositions that express the relationship between the cat and the table (beside, on top, near, etc.). We could also replace the the noun, “table,” with a pronoun, “it,” so the sentence would read “the cat is under it.”
Prepositions that express temporal relationships work exactly the same. For example, look at the English sentence “the cat slept until morning.” The preposition until expresses a temporal relationship-–once the cat fell asleep, it did not wake until morning. Preposition in Egyptian hieroglyphs work similarly. Below is a list of prepositions, and some of the more common are noted with an asterisk (*).
imytw “between, among”
* m “in”
* mi “like, according to”
* n “to, for”
* r “to, toward”
* ḥnʿ “together with”
* or ḥr “upon, on”
ḫft “opposite, while”
ḫnt “in front of, at the head of”
ḫr “with, under, before”
ḫt “through, afterwards”
tp “on top”
Of these, m , “in,” is one of the more most common as well as versatile. Not only does m mean “in,” it may also mean “for, during, from, with, and through,” depending on the context.
A common construction that uses is what Egyptologists term the m of predication. This construction consists by the subject + m + a word or phrase that describes the subject as possessing a certain quality or serving in a certain capacity. For example, look the sentence iw s m ḥm, “the man is as a servant” or “the man is in (the capacity of) a servant.” So, in this example, the m of predication is used to describe the capacity in which the subject is acting–as a servant.
r is another preposition that functions in a number of different ways. Depending on the context, more meaningful translations may include “against, concerning, and in order to.” Frequently, r is used to express purpose. Lets look at an example:
r pḥ niwt.f “in order to reach his city”
In this example, r is placed at the head of a dependent clause. We know it is a dependent clause because it is not a complete thought–it depends on other grammatical elements to complete itself. The clause expresses the purpose of an unidentified subject, “to reach his city.” A more complete thought could be “(The man sailed downstream) in order to reach his city.
also may express a sense of futurity; however, this will be touched upon in a later lesson.
Compound prepositions are a combination of a preposition + noun. “In front of,” for example, is a compound preposition. Below is a list of common compound prepositions.
m-ʿ “in the hand of”
m-b3ḥ “in the presence of”
m-ḥ3t “in front of”
m-s3 “in the back of, after”
Example from The Shipwrecked Sailor
iw.i ḥr ẖt.i m-b3ḥ.f “(…while) I was on my belly before him.”
Lesson 4 Vocabulary and Exercises
mšʿ “Army, troops”
ḫ3st “Foreign land”
t3 “Land, ground, earth”
ṯ3w “Wind, breath”
Exercises: transliterate and translate
ntf m-ḥ3t ḥm.f “He (is) in front of his majesty.”
mšʿ n ḫ3st tn r gs mẖr “The army of this foreign land (is) beside the storehouse.”
t3 dpt ḫnt nb. s “The boat (is) in front of its owner.”
mi bdt m-ẖnw mẖr ḥm.f “Like the emmer inside the storehouse of his majesty.”