Egyptian Hieroglyphs – Lesson 8 – Adverbial Sentences and Adverb Clauses

Adverbial Sentences

The Basics

Adverbial sentences consist of a subject + adverbial predicate. Adverbs are words that indicate time, location, manner, or intensity, and answer questions like when, where, why, or how. Prepositional phrases answer similar questions and can act as adverbs. In fact, this use is quite common in Egyptian hieroglyphs.

In the English sentence, “Akhenaten is in Akhetaten,” the adverbial predicate (bolded) is a prepositional phrase. The predicate is answering the question of “where is the subject?”Another example that does not use a prepositional phrase could be “Tutankhamun lived here.” The adverbial predicate in this sentence is the adverb, here, which again answers the “where” question.


Adverbial Sentences

Adverbial sentences are commonly introduced by particles. The most common particles introducing adverbial sentences are iw Particle iw, m.k Particle mk, or nn Particle nn. We will start with nn, since it will allow you to be introduced to negation for the first time. Particle nn nn is a particle meaning “not,” and is used to negate adverbial sentences. Lets look at how this works.


Hieroglyphs for man, house, he

nn s m pr.f

“The man is not in the house.”

As you can see, the nn is placed at the front of the sentence. It must be at the head of the adverbial sentence it negates. In this example, the subject is s, while m pr.f, a prepositional phrase, acts as the adverbial predicate. If we were to remove the nn the sentence would be read as “the man is in the house.”


Hieroglyphs for iw, with, and you

iw nʿ.k

 “It is together with you.”

This example uses the particle iw. The subject in this sentence is unexpressed–without a noun, noun phrase, or pronoun where we would expect a subject. In cases like this, we provide the subject “it.” From this context, we do not know to what “it” refers, whether it be an animal, object, or person. The remaining words, nʿ.k “together with you,” acts as the adverbial predicate.


Hieroglyphs for behold, horus, and sky

m.k r m pt

“Behold (you), Horus is in the sky.”

The particle m.k, “behold,” introduces this example. It acts as an interjection of sorts. The subject of the sentence is r while the adverbial predicate is m pt. The subject need not only be nouns, pronouns are also acceptable. However, when the subject is a pronoun, it must be a dependent pronoun.

The 2nd person, masculine suffix pronoun is used, which means the sentence is directed towards a singular, masculine audience. The suffix that is used is determined by this audience. Refer to the following chat for the different possibilities.

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 Particle mk m.k

 Particle mT m.


 Particle mTn m.n




Adverb Clauses

Adverb clauses are subordinate clauses that answer the same questions as adverbs–when, where, why, or how–but with regard to the main clause to which they are subordinate. Some Egyptologists refer to these clauses as circumstantial clauses, because the describe the circumstances surrounding the main clause.

They can be marked or unmarked. When a clause is considered “marked,” there is a specific word at its head that identifies the clause as subordinate. When this word is not present, the clause is considered “unmarked.” Unmarked clauses will be difficult to identify at first, but with practice, and a watchful eye, they will become manageable.

We will begin with marked clauses, covering some of the more common markers for adverb clauses, is particle is and isṯ particle isT.



Hieroglyphs of an adverb clause with isT

isṯ t3 pn ḥr st ḥr.f

“…while this land was under his charge”

Hieroglyphs to sun, in, and sky

isṯ rʿ m pt

“…while the sun is in the sky.”

In the above examples, isṯ particle isT stands at the front of the adverb clause, marking them as subordinate. These clauses are subordinate because they do not create a complete thought on their own.

The translations for these two examples are variable, as they depend on the content of the main clause. We could have replaced “while” with other words, such as “after,” “when,” etc. Without context, we are left with our interpretations, which may or may not be correct.

Unmarked adverb clauses requires the context be understood to identify the clause as adverbial (circumstantial).


Unmarked adverb clause

iw 3w ib nb.f m pr

“The dog is happy when his owner is in the home.”

Shipwrecked sailor adverb clause

ʿ pr.(w) iw.n m w3 wr

“A storm came up while we were in the great green.”

Markers are absent in both examples. The literal translation of the first example reads, “the dog, happy, his owner in the home.” The first clause, the main clause, is nominal “the dog is happy.” The subordinate clause is an adverb or circumstantial clause because it explains the circumstances under which the dog is happy–“when his owner is in the house.” The phrase 3w ib, “happy” or “joyous”, is a common phrase which literally means “long of heart.”

We find the second example in The Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor. Luckily, this example includes the marker, iw, which allows us to identify the subordinate clause. The first clause, the main clause is verbal. ʿ is a noun while pr.(w) is a verb form, most likely a stative but possibly a passive sḏm.f, both of which will be discussed in later lessons. The second clause, marked by iw, relates the circumstances under which the storm came up–“while we were in the great green.” As such, we can identify it as subordinate and a circumstantial or adverb clause.


Lesson 8 Vocabulary and Exercises


Vocabulary List

inw - Produce inw “Produce”

wi - Mummy Case wi “Mummy case”

wa - One, sole, unique wʿ “One, unique, sole”

mnx - Effective mn “Effective”

mr - Canal mr “Canal”

nbw - Gold nbw “Gold”

nHbt - neck nbt “neck”

HA - If only 3 “If only, I wish,  would that”

xsbd - Lapis Lazuli sbd “Lapis lazuli”

Xt - Belly t “Belly”

Xrt - Possessions rwt “Possessions”

Xrdw - Child rdw “Child”

Ssp - Image šsp “Image”

stt - boil stt “boil”


ni - biliteral ni

nm - biliteral nm

Hp - biliteral p

Hm - biliteral m

Hn - biliteral n

xA - biliteral 3

xw - biliteral w

Xn - biliteral n

Xr - biliteral r


bAs - Triliteral b3s

pAq - Triliteral p3q

msn - Triliteral msn

mDH - Triliteral m

nni - Triliteral nni

nxb - Triliteral nb

rwD - Triliteral rw

Htm - Triliteral tm

xnt - Triliteral nt


Exercises: transliterate and translate

1. Lesson 8 Exercise - 1

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rwt.k m ʿ.i “Your possessions are in my hand.”

2.Lesson8 Exercise - 2

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3 n.i šsp nb mn “If only I had any effective image of a god.”

3.Lesson 8 Exercise - 3

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mw m mr “Water is in the canal.”

4.Lesson 8 Exercise - 4

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wi m nbw tp m sbd “The coffin is of gold and the head is of lapis lazuli.”

4. Lesson 9 -Exercise 4

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s stwt m nḥbt.f  “a man (with) boils on his neck.”


Return to IndexContinue to Lesson 9