Is the Hebrew for "you" in Genesis 3:11 singular or Plural?

I am asking this because in English "you" can be used for both singular and plural. In my native language Malayalam bible the word used is singular.

This portion from Genesis is used to teach that God considered that only Adam sinned. Because God does not ask about Eve disobeying His commandment.

  • Both Ha-Adam (הָֽאָדָ֑ם) and Ha-Ishah (הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה) were disobedient to Elohim. Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 21:21

6 Answers 6


If you don't want to work with the original Hebrew, the King James Version is a very literal translation, and was written at a time when common English did distinguish between plural and singular second person. That translation makes a good reference for this kind of question:

And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? — Genesis 3 (KJV)

"Thee" and "Thou" are second person singular objective and subjective pronouns.

Hebrew has the advantage of also having masculine and feminine, so if you actually do want to see the Hebrew, click on "Tools→Interlinear" in the above link.

  • Thank you @RayButterworth :-) Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 2:23

The word צִוִּיתִ֛יךָ has two parts, the first is צִוִּיתִ֛י which means "I commanded" the second is ךָ which means you singular.

The issue is that sometimes Hebrew uses the singular you when addressing a plural group. An example of this is when Moses says "וְהָיָה֙ כִּֽי־תָבֹ֣וא אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ נַחֲלָ֑ה וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֖הּ וְיָשַׁ֥בְתָּ בָּֽהּ׃" "And when you (singular) go to the land which G-d your (singular) G-d has given you as a heritage and you (singular) posses it and dwell in it" (Deuteronomy 26:1). We understand that in this passage Moses is talking to the entire nation of Israel, rather than one specific person. This grammatical feature means that Moses is talking as if to each person individually. For example if there were two people listening, lets just use the names Jacob and Levi. It would be as if Moses was saying to Jacob, when you (Jacob) take over the land, and to Levi, when you (Levi) take over the land. Even though this singular you is in the masculine state, masculine is considered more general in Hebrew, so even if a woman was listening, it would still be spoken in the masculine. It is similar to "each and every one of you" in English. Thus you (plural) in Hebrew really means you (collective).

Now back to the case of Genesis 3:11, this verse exclusively uses the singular masculine you. It reads as "וַיֹּ֕אמֶר מִ֚י הִגִּ֣יד לְךָ֔ כִּ֥י עֵירֹ֖ם אָ֑תָּה הֲמִן־הָעֵ֗ץ אֲשֶׁ֧ר צִוִּיתִ֛יךָ לְבִלְתִּ֥י אֲכָל־מִמֶּ֖נּוּ אָכָֽלְתָּ׃" "He said 'Who told you (singular) that you (singular) are naked? Did you eat from the tree which I commanded you (singular) not to eat from it?" (Genesis 3:11). There are two possible cases, either He is speaking specifically to one person being Adam or He is speaking to both people individually. In this case, because Adam responds instead of Eve, He is most likely speaking to Adam individually. Furthermore, the sin of Adam and Eve was more collective, so if He was speaking to both of them, He would more likely use the plural you rather than the singular you.

This does not mean that Eve did not sin too, it just means that in this section G-d is talking to Adam for sinning. In fact, when Adam responds that the woman caused him to sin, G-d says that the woman sinned. Both sinned, but Adam being older is the one who is seen as the leader of the group and is thus questioned by G-d for the sin of the whole group. It is also important to note that the command to not eat from the tree was given to Adam before Eve was created, Eve was told by Adam that she was not allowed to eat from the tree. Thus the verb צִוִּיתִ֛יךָ (I commanded you (singular)) makes sense here too instead of צִוִּיתִ֛יכֶם (I commanded you (plural)).


Anyone who uses this to say only Adam sinned is taking the verse out of context. God first addresses Adam: "Then the LORD God called to the man..." vv.9-11 "Then the LORD God said to the woman..." v.13 the "you" in v.13 should also be singular, and feminine because the LORD is now speaking to the woman. Finally, "Then the LORD God said to the serpent..." v.14, and the "you" here should also be singular, since He is addressing the serpent. From v.14-19, GOD deals out their individual punishments, for they ALL sinned. Regarding one person's reference to 1 Timothy 2:14, I would like to clarify, that Eve's deception lead to her sin, but Genesis 3 makes clear that Adam sinned as well, the difference is that he was not deceived, but chose to listen to his wife over the voice of GOD, v.17 (Another passage that indicates Adam sinned is Roman's 5:12-14, which tells us that we all sin) Continue reading the passage in your native language Malayalam bible, is not "you" in v.13 also singular? And in v.14? God speaks to the three sinners here one at a time through v.19. All "you"'s should be singular, referring to one of three individuals depending on who God is speaking to.

  • I agree that all three sinned. On this site, it is very important to answer the exact question asked. Please consider more clearly identifying that yes, the word you in v 13 is singular. It is appropriate to also mention that doesn't mean only Adam sinned. Thank you for participating.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 3:13

Here is Genesis 3:11 with the hebrew and the parsings in english. Biblehub, in general is a useful site for such questions. All of the conjugations and pronouns in that verse are singular masculine. When you look at the little notes below each hebrew word, you can see the parsings. For this word, they are: "V‑Piel‑Perf‑1cs | 2ms"... This means that the verb is conjugated "first person, common, singular" (1cs) and that the object attached to the end of it is "2ms" which is second person (e.g. "you") and masculine and singular.

An interesting parallel note, in Genesis 3:3, as the woman relates what God has said, she quotes God using 2nd person masculine plural commands. That would indicate both the woman and Adam in the plurality. She also adds the "nor shall you touch it" bit which is also 2nd masculine plural.


The Hebrew:

ויאמר מי הגיד לך כי עירם אתה המן העץ אשר צויתיך לבלתי אכל ממנו אכלת

The English:

And he [God] said, Who told you that you are naked? or have you eaten of the tree whereof I told you not to eat?

(Hebrew is written right-to-left.)

The verbs are all masculine second person singular (he is addressing mankind/Adam as the corporate head/source thereof)

This is to be expected, given the prior verses:

ויקרא יהוה אלהים אל־האדם ויאמר לו איכה ויאמר את־קלך שמעתי בגן ואירא כי־עירם אנכי ואחבא

And the Lord called out to the man, and said to him, Where are you? And he said, I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid: for I was naked, and hid myself.

God is speaking to Adam. Remember that a few verses prior, woman was taken from him as his helpmate. Mankind (Ha Adam) is based on the man, Adam (Adam). The sin is attributed to Adam because he is head over the woman.

The book of Sirach says (25:24/33 Vulgate):

מאשה תחלת עון ובגללה גוענו יחד

From a woman iniquity took its beginning, and through her we all perish together.

And St. Paul writes (Romans 5:12):

Δια τουτο ωσπερ δι’ ενος ανθρωπου η αμαρτια εις τον κοσμον εισηλθεν, και δια της αμαρτιας ο θανατος, και ουτως εις παντας ανθρωπους ο θανατος διηλθεν, εφ’ ω παντες ημαρτον

Therefore, just as through one man sin came into the world, and through sin, death, thus also death passed to all: and so all have sinned.

There is a clear sense in which Eve brought mankind into sin, and a clear sense in which man — Adam — as the head of mankind, brought mankind into sin. These are different but important senses, and equally true. Just as Mary's 'yes' corresponds to Eve's disobedience, and Christ's 'yes' corresponds to Adam's 'no;' (1 Cor. 15:45) even though Eve is not strictly the cause of the Fall, and Mary is not strictly the cause of the Redemption.


Although we read in Bereishit / Genesis 3:11, that God refers to The-Man (Ha-Adam, הָֽאָדָ֑ם), stating : "Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (וַיֹּ֕אמֶר מִ֚י הִגִּ֣יד לְךָ֔ כִּ֥י עֵירֹ֖ם אָ֑תָּה הֲמִן־הָעֵ֗ץ אֲשֶׁ֧ר צִוִּיתִ֛יךָ לְבִלְתִּ֥י אֲכָל־מִמֶּ֖נּוּ אָכָֽלְתָּ ), Ha-Adam is not the only being who disobeyed Elohim.

We are told after God scolds The-Man, He turns to question Woman (Ishah, אִשָּׁ֖ה) in Genesis 3:13 : "And YHVH God said to-Woman, "What is this that you have done?" And the-Woman said, "The serpent enticed me, and I ate." ( וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהֹוָ֧ה אֱלֹהִ֛ים לָֽאִשָּׁ֖ה מַה־זֹּ֣את עָשִׂ֑ית וַתֹּ֨אמֶר֙ הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה הַנָּחָ֥שׁ הִשִּׁיאַ֖נִי וָֽאֹכֵֽל )

Both Ha-Adam (הָֽאָדָ֑ם) and Ha-Ishah (הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה) were disobedient to Elohim.

Regarding the conjugation of Tsivitikha (צִוִּיתִ֛יךָ) in Genesis 3:11, an Action verb in first-person singular belonging to God ends with the suffix -yod (י) showing His personal possession of the Action. If the verb was directed at a person (You), a final kaf (ךָ) gets appended. - Finally the Past tense of a verb has a Tav (ת) at the end, illustrating an Action occurred leaving behind a sign.

I commanded - You (צִוִּיתִ֛-י-ךָ) / Tsivitikha

  • I tried to edit your message to correct your transliteration, but it did not go through. צִוִּיתִ֛יךָ is not pronounced tsuytiykha by anyone. The dot on the וּ is a dagesh hazaq, not a shuruq. Look at the vowel bellow the צ and look at the vowel below the ו.
    – aefrrs
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 21:40
  • @aefrrs - Thank you sharing. Please help teach the proper transliteration of "צִוִּיתִ֛יךָ" by both Ashkenazim and Sephardim. תודה Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 21:51
  • 1
    In Modern Hebrew it is tsivitikha. In Ashkenazi Hebrew it is tsivisikhuh. In Sephardi Hebrew it is sivitikha. And in Mizrahi Hebrew it is ṣiwithikha. Most likely, the original pronunciation was ṣiwwi:thi:kha: where I use colons to specify longer vowels.
    – aefrrs
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 21:56

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