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Grammar in the Real World

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh

File under the category of “English in the Real World”: I got an email on Saturday from a friend who was at work. Is “fisher” a noun or verb? she wondered.

It makes a difference to me, she said.

She is a pastor and was writing her Sunday sermon. Words matter for pastors, don’t they?

Pastor Pal was asking about two different translations of Matthew 4:19, which was rendered:

  1. “Follow me and I will make you fish for people” AND
  2. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
  3. She also had the original Greek to consider.

What’s the difference here? As Pastor Pal correctly noted, #2 above with the noun “fishers” has Jesus promising that he will change his followers from one thing (fishers of fish) into another (fishers of people). The Greek concurred.

In #1, Jesus says he will change his followers’ activity–from literal fishing to fishing for people.

Grammar IS meaning here. We have to choose between Jesus changing what we DO or what we ARE.

My favorite kind of question to get from a friend! I’m happy to reply any time!

To learn about the infinitive phrase that appears in #1,” see Grammar Monster. This website looks like a great free resource for exactly this type of question.

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