formal 2nd person pronoun (Spanish)

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Spanish uses a formal vs. informal second-person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Spanish Bibles all use only the informal second-person pronoun (), with the exception of Dios Habla Hoy (third edition: 1996) which also uses the formal pronoun (usted). In the referenced verses, the formal form is used.

Sources and for more information: P. Ellingworth in The Bible Translator 2002, p. 143ff. and R. Ross in The Bible Translator 1993, p. 217ff.

See also the use of the formal vs. the informal pronoun in the Gospels in Tuvan.

complete verse (Genesis 24:17)

Following are a number of back-translations as well as a sample translation for translators of Genesis 24:17:

  • Kankanaey: “Abraham’s slave hurried to go meet (her) and said, ‘I will please drink from-there (near hearer).'” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Newari: “He ran quickly and said to her — ‘Please give me a little water to drink.'” (Source: Newari Back Translation)
  • Hiligaynon: “The servant hurried to-meet her and said, ‘Please let- me -drink from your jar even only a little.'” (Source: Hiligaynon Back Translation)
  • English: “Abraham’s servant immediately ran to meet her, and said, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar.'” (Source: Translation for Translators)

Translation commentary on Genesis 24:17

The servant ran to meet her: ran translates the same verb used to describe Abraham’s action in 18.7 when he prepared a meal for the three guests. The idea is also conveyed by Revised English Bible “hurried.”

And said may need to be translated here “and asked her,” that is, “requested.”

Pray give me a little water to drink: the word used here for drink is not the same as in verse 14. In verse 17 the idea expressed is “give me a few sips.” The expression tends toward understatement in order to express politeness and social distance between the servant and the girl. An equivalent expression should reflect the same degree of courtesy and social distance in the translation.

From your jar: in this request we do not know how the servant will drink. If it is necessary to state this, see the comments on the next verse.

Quoted with permission from Reyburn, William D. and Fry, Euan McG. A Handbook on Genesis. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 1997. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .

imperatives (kudasai / Japanese honorifics)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One way Japanese show different degree of politeness is through the choice of an imperative construction as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

In these verses, the honorific form kudasai (ください) reflects that the action is called for as a favor for the sake of the beneficiary. This polite kudasai imperative form is often translated as “please” in English. While English employs pure imperatives in most imperative constructions (“Do this!”), Japanese chooses the polite kudasai (“Do this, please.”).

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )