But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house around, both old and young, all the people from every quarter. (Genesis 19: 4)

What does "even" mean here? Is it adverb or adjective?

  • How can it be an adjective in this sentence? Any clue>
    – Maulik V
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 8:19
  • It's an adverb functioning as an 'additive focusing modifier'. It adds an extra component of meaning to the phrase, i.e. that the proposition expressed is being compared with the core proposition and is judged to be stronger or more surprising.
    – BillJ
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 8:21

3 Answers 3


The OED (under "even" adv 8a) says:

Prefixed to a subject, object, or predicate, or to the expression of a qualifying circumstance, to emphasize its identity. Obs. exc. arch. Also in 16–17th c. (hence still arch. after Bible use) serving to introduce an epexegesis; = ‘namely’, ‘that is to say’.

Thus, it is not surprising that this usage of the word "even" doesn't immediately make complete sense to us, since it's an archaic usage.

I am no Hebrew scholar, but it looks as though the Hebrew has in apposition "the men of the city, the men of Sodom", and the KJV has introduced the word "even" into the sentence. Not all translations reproduce this apposition, and most modern translations don't have the word "even" here.


Yep, as has been pointed out in one of the answers above, 'even' is a focusing adverb. It is placed before the 'concept' within an ordinary sentence you wish to draw attention to / to focus on / to highlight.


(1) Even I knew he was lying. (focus/emphasis on I)

(2) I even knew he was lying. (focus on knew)

(3) I knew even he was lying. (focus on he)

(4) I knew he was even lying. (focus on lying. Note here, that 'even' doesn't occur before 'was', this is an English rule (or pattern, as I prefer to call rules) where focusing adverbs sound weird when placed before 'to be' verbs).

(5) I knew he was lying, even. (here it's placed after the whole sentence as an 'afterthought' by the speaker serving to modify the whole sentence. It might also mean the same as (4), depending on context).


As to whether it is an adverb or an adjective, I'll say this. And probably you already know this, that words will have different functions, or traditionally, different 'parts of speech' or speech class, depending on their meaning (semantics) or simply where they are placed in a sentence structure (syntactic distribution).

"...the men of the city, even the men of Sodom..."

Notice how 'even' occurs in association with noun phrases here. Even ( :) ) so, it's still referred to as an adverb for convenience (for tradition's sake). But its function is quite well understood and established in syntax and semantics, hence the full name 'additive focusing functional adverb'. One may be tempted to call it a 'conjunctive' adverb in the example above, but that's not its function here. It simply adds more information to the previously mentioned idea (here, "...men of the city...").

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