Hebrew Dictionary (Lexicon-Concordance)

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  #8811 Imperfect

 The imperfect expresses an action, process or condition which is
 incomplete, and it has a wide range of meaning:

 1a) It is used to describe a single (as opposed to a repeated) action
     in the past; it differs from the perfect in being more vivid and
     pictorial. The perfect expresses the "fact", the imperfect adds
     colour and movement by suggesting the "process" preliminary to its

      he put forth his hand to the door
      it came to a halt
      I began to hear

 1b) A phrase such as "What seekest thou?", refers not only to the
     present, but assumes that the search has continued for some time.

      Why do you weep?
      Why refuse to eat?
      Why are you distressed?

    These relate not so much as to one occasion, as to a
    continued condition.

 2) The kind of progression or imperfection and unfinished condition
    of the action may consist it its frequent repetition.

     2a) In the present:

         it is "said" today
         a wise son "maketh glad" his father

     2b) In the past:

         "and so he did"        -  regularly, year by year
         a mist "used to go up"
         the fish which "we used to eat"
         the manna "came down"  - regularly
         he "spoke"             - repeatedly

 3) The imperfect is used to express the "future", referring not only
    to an action which is about to be accomplished but one which has
    not yet begun:

     3a) This may be a future from the point of view of the real
         present; as:

           Now "shalt thou see what I will do"
           "We will burn" thy house

     3b) It may be a future from any other point of view assumed; as:

           he took his son the "was to reign"
           she stayed to see what "should be done"

 4) The usage of 3b may be taken as the transitive to a common use of
    the imperfect in which it serves for an expression of those shades
    of relation among acts and thoughts for which English prefers the
    conditional moods. Such actions are strictly "future" in reference
    to the assumed point of relation, and the simple imperfect
    sufficiently expresses them; e.g.

        of every tree thou "mayest eat"
        "could we know"
        he "would" say

 5a) The imperfect follows particles expressing "transition",
     "purpose", "result" and so forth as, "in order that", "lest"; e.g.

        say thou art my sister, "that it may be well with thee"
        let us deal wisely with the nation, "lest it multiples"

 5b) When however there is a strong feeling of "purpose", or when it
     is meant to be strongly marked, then of course the moods are
     employed; e.g.

        raise me up "that I may requite them"
        who will entice Ahab "that he may go up"
        what shall we do "that the see may be calm"

     The moods are also employed to express that class of
     future actions which we express in the "optative"

        "may I die"
        "may" the LORD "establish" his word
        "may" the child "live"

—Hebrew Word Study (Grammatical Reference)

Bible Dictionary Strong's Concordance H8810 Top of Online Lexicons and Bible Dictionaries with Brown-Driver-Briggs/Thayer's Strong's Numbers & Exhaustive Concordance to the Scriptures Bible Dictionary Strong's Concordance H8812

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