Consider Genesis 1:2 (NKJV):

The earth w̲a̲s̲ without form, and void; and darkness w̲a̲s̲ upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God w̲a̲s̲ hovering over the face of the waters.

  • The second "was" is in italics, because it is is a "supply" word, added by the translators for clarity.
  • The first "was" is not in italics, because it is a translation of the Hebrew word הָיְתָ֥ה (hayah).

Why is the third "was" not in italics, since there is no corresponding word in the Hebrew text.


  • 1:2 "was hovering"
  • 1:7 "it was so" ("it was good" is italicized in 1:10 and others.)
  • 2:1 "were finished"
  • 2:4 "This is the"
  • 2:5 "was in the earth"

all have non-italicized forms of "to be", even though there is no corresponding Hebrew verb.

  • 1:7 is in hebrew ויהי כן and thus does have a hebrew verb for to be. 2:5 in hebrew is יהיה בארץ and thus does have a hebrew verb for to be. The other ones don't. Since often English requires a "to be" verb, in spots Hebrew doesn't, I am guessing that the translators decided to only insert the italics for phrases where the English doesn't require it, but it is easier to read with the "to be" verb.
    – aefrrs
    Dec 31, 2020 at 0:04
  • @aefrrs, thanks. I think my brain must have been out of gear with this. When I look now, I do see the "hayah" in placed I didn't see it before. And I've no idea how I couldn't see something as simple as "was hovering" as an auxiliary verb. Dec 31, 2020 at 15:17
  • Since it has an answer, I won't delete this question, but if "the powers that be" want to, I won't object. Dec 31, 2020 at 15:18

2 Answers 2


There are two cases to distinguish here

  • Where the entire verb is supplied as in V10, etc. In these cases the italicized word is provided.
  • Where one word of the Hebrew must be translated by more than one word to convey the sense such as (Gen 1:2) מְרַחֶ֖פֶת must be translated by a past imperfect tense, "was hovering". In this case, "was" is not added but is part of the original verb.

There are many cases of this where a single verb in the original must be translated by a compound verb in English. Here is a more complex example from Matt 16:19 where just two words ἔσται δεδεμένον must be correctly translated by (see NASB) four words, "shall have been bound".


I would like to recommend you, the new book published by Chick Publication. It's name is: New King James - The Bridge Bible. It has a lot of facts that can clear all the controversies about the original translation of the bible. The book can be found in Amazon,(is not expensive) about 10 dollars.

God bless you.

  • Welcome to BHSE! Please make sure you take our tour. Re: Questions and answers, we'd like to see Biblical text to analyze. Thanks. Dec 31, 2020 at 18:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.