Use of 'Shalt', 'Hath', etc. in Modern Translations.

Like most of you, I sometimes look up stuff that peaks my interest. One thing, I have to confess, I often do, is look up translations.

Usually, an ordinary dictionary will do, for the small stuff. They have a lot of little Latin phrases, translated. And French, and maybe a few other languages (depending on how well-known the saying is [they can’t include EVERYTHING;)]).

Anyways, the translations sometimes include archaic English words, like thou and thee. And hath, shalt, and so forth. (These words aren’t called “Old English” or even Middle English, you know. Because we do still use them, if only in religious and poetic contexts.)

Anyways, I have one minor mystery at least, resolved. It involves the use of the words thou and thee. Thou and thee are always singular. So when they use them, they are drawing your attention to the fact it is only translatable as singular. For example, Tu quoque translates as “thou also”. Because, you are referring only to one person. (Also, it is worth pointing out the singular form of you is typically more familiar, and sometimes less respectful too, in Latin and the Romance languages.) And then there is the Latin phrase In hoc signo vinces. It translates as “in this sign [i.e., ☧] thou shalt conquer”. Again, you are addressing only one person (in this case, Constantine, in an alleged dream he had). And the “shalt” seems appropriate too, for this word.

But sometimes this is not the case (thou or thee). And it really confuses me, why they use it. For example, the Hebrew name Raphael is translated in my dictionary as “God hath healed”.

Why the “hath” in this case? There is no “thou” or “thee”. And I don’t think you would be referring to God in the familiar. So why “shalt” at all then?

I’ll bet I am not the first person to wonder this, too. But I am the first to have the courage to ask, I think. So please tell me.


I don’t know, but the word you were looking for here:

is “piques.”

Middle English Conjugations:

(1st sing)I think
(2nd sing)thou thinkest
(3rd sing)He/She/It thinketh
(1st pl)We think
(2nd pl)You think
(3rd pl)They think

“Hath” is a third person singular version of “have”. Being third person, it wouldn’t be used with “thou” or “thee” ever.

Emphasis added. Contrary to intuition, that is incorrect.

Are you sure you mean Middle English?

Early Modern then.

You’ve probably heard this from Psalm 23:

The Psalm is addressing God in the familiar “thou” rather than the formal “You”. And this is done all through the King James translation.

*Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed by thy name. *
Both familiar forms.

Simple. It’s not a modern translation.

One possibility is that it’s a traditional translation, which the dictionary editors believed was well known enough that readers wouldn’t be served be needlessly updating it Many foreign and classical idioms, biblical sayings, state and national mottos and similar things have English versions that have themselves become traditional formulae or cliches that may not reflect the best possible translation. “Manly deeds, womanly words” may not be the best translation of Marylands’s motto Fatti maschii, parole femine (nor is “Strong deeds, gentle words,” the modern official version, any better - in fact, it’s worse) but it is what you’ll find in a dictionary because it is what most people intend to convey when they quote the Italian original.

Another possibility (more likely in this case) is that the dictionary editor simply cut and pasted a list of translations from an older source without much (or any) effort at modernizing them.

I had always assumed that they were following latin grammatical rules. Am I wrong?

The examples in the OP have absolutely nothing to do with Latin.

Latin has a different way to indicate the function of each word in the sentence - changing its form - than English does. The order of words generally doesn’t matter. While some English words do change with function, for the most part function is indicated by word order.

As mentioned, “hath” is the third person singular conjugation of “to have” in early Modern English. It’s I have, thou hast, he/she/it hath. So nothing to do with “thou” in this case.

And, no, not Latin grammatical rules. In Old English (pre-1066) the verbs were this for “to have”

ic hæbbe
þū hafast / hæfst
hē hafaþ / hæfþ
wē habbaþ
gē habbaþ
hīo habbaþ

If you use your imagination a little bit and understand that b-f-v sounds are related and
that “þ” is a “th” sound, you can see the relationship between “I have” and “ic hæbbe”, “thou hast” and “þū hafast / hæfst”, and “he hath” and "hē hafaþ/hæfþ."The “hast” and “hath” forms directly derive from Old English/Germanic, pre-battle of Hastings and direct Latin influence in our language.

It’s not a completely archaic form. In 1950s English private school my father was taught the french conjugation of verbs using that version of ‘you’ for the informal you. E.g.:
Tu vas = Thou goest
Ils vont = You go

(He also attempted to teach me the same version when helping my revise my French GCSEs).

Hallowed be thy name.

It’s a subjunctive, not a preposition.

God is in fact referred to in the familiar in Christian contexts (and in some non-Christian religions as well).

Ils vont is “they go.” You mean “vous allez.”

Right. The Thou/Thee form remains useful in making a technical distinction in grammar in areas where a high or pedantic level of grammatical specificity is required. Formal, written Modern English glosses over two distinctions that are found in many languages - the distinction between singular you and plural you, and the distinction between familiar you and formal you. Of course, the Thou form generally takes (by tradition) its own verb conjugations such as art or hast.

European Spanish distinguishes four different forms of you:

Tú vas = Thou (familiar) goest
Usted va = You (formal) go
Vosotros vais = Y’all (familiar) go
Ustedes van = Y’all (formal) go

N.B. The Vosotros form (familiar y’all) is generally used only in Spain. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Ustedes form is used for both familiar and formal y’all, but the singular forms remain distinct.

What confuses modern people is the thys and thous sound stilted and formal, and so we think they’re some sort of formal way of addressing someone. But it’s the exact opposite. “You” is the formal pronoun, and we always use it, and so it’s not formal anymore, and the archaic form of the familiar pronoun sounds formal to our ears.

And, ironically, they sound stilted and formal because most people only ever encounter them in the Bible, and they assume that if it’s referring to God, it must be formal.