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Hebrew Verbs In introducing the Hebrew verb system, we discuss here the prefix and suffix conjugations, the seven patterns of the Hebrew verb, the imperative and infinitive, and the grouping of verbs according to their root consonants. Prefix and Suffix Conjugations The Hebrew verb system has two major conjugations: The prefix conjugation, representing the imperfective, and the suffix conjugation, representing the perfective. The term “prefix conjugation” is used in reference to a set of prefixes, and “suffix conjugation” in reference to a set of suffixes, figuring in the conjugation as identifiers of person, number, and gender. Examples of the full prefix and suffix conjugations of the verb “wear” (root: )ל.ב.שare listed below. Prefix Conjugation Suffix Conjugation Person
ֶּ לְ בַּ ש תלְ בַּ ש ִּ תלְ בְ שי ִּ ִּ יִּ לְ בַּ ש תלְ בַּ ש ִּ נלְ בַּ ש ִּ תלְ בְ שו ִּ תלְ בַּ שנָּה ְ ִּ יִּ לְ בְ שו תלְ בַּ שנָּה ְ ִּ
לָּבַּ שתי ִּ ְ לָּבַּ שת ָּ ְ לָּבַּ שת ְ ְ לָּבַּ ש לָּבְ שָּ ה לָּבַּ שנו ְ לְ בַּ שתם ֶּ ְ לְ בַּ שתן ֶּ ְ לָּבְ שו לָּבְ שו
1st person singular (I) 2nd person masculine singular (you) 2nd person feminine singular (you) 3rd person masculine singular (he) 3rd person feminine singular (she) 1st person plural (we) 2nd person masculine plural (you) 2nd person feminine plural (you) 3rd person masculine plural (they) (feminine as well in suffix conjugation) 3rd person feminine plural (they) (masculine as well in suffix conjugation)
© Esther Raizen, The University of Texas at Austin, 2007-2009
in that it involves neither prefixes nor suffixes. 2007-2009 . for example. we will get words like strike and splice. While in English “wear” and “dress up (someone else)” are two different verbs. The Pa’al or Qal pattern. with “C” standing for any consonant. among them the imperative (command). and the Hif’il pattern carries a causative meaning. indicates that the agent is causing an action or a situation to take place. The imperative forms for “wear” are listed below: לְ בַּ ש לִּ בְ שי ִּ לִּ בְ שו לְ בַּ שנָּה ְ 2nd masculine singular 2nd feminine singular 2nd masculine plural 2nd feminine plural The Hebrew Verb Patterns Hebrew verbs are conjugated in one or more of seven patterns.The 3rd person masculine singular (he) perfective form is considered the basic form of the verb. smite. and relics of other patterns are evident in the Biblical text. To illustrate the idea of a pattern with English words. The imperfective has a number of moods (variations indicating a perspective on the action). that is. we will get words like spike. The 2nd masculine singular (you) and the 3rd feminine singular (she) are identical. we could offer the following examples: if we plug consonants into the pattern CCiCe. A Hebrew verb pattern may have one or more intrinsic meanings. Some forms in the prefix conjugation have typical suffixes as well as prefixes. if our pattern is CCCiCe. in © Esther Raizen. A pattern is a set of vowels and affixes that interact with a root in a particular manner. usually conveys the basic or simple meaning of the root. and pride. The University of Texas at Austin. In modern Hebrew dictionaries. this is the form that is typically listed for a verb.
ֶּ ת-הָּ עָּ ם בְ בִּ גְ דיהֶּ ם ֵּ When they go out into the outer court. וְ ה ְרכִּ יבֺּהו עַּ ל-הַּ ןוס בִּ ְרחוֹּב הָּ עִּ יר וְ ק ְר ו לְ פָּ נָּיו ככָּה יֵּעָּ שֶּ ה ל ִּ יש ָּ ָּ ָּ ִּ ֹּ ָּ (Esther 6:9) . to the people. The University of Texas at Austin. as is the prefix . They will lead him on the horse. as each verb pattern has a particular set of vowels. are evident in both forms.שconjugated in the two patterns Pa’al and Hif’il. They will put on different garments so that they do not consecrate the people with their garments. וַּ תקח ִּרבְ קה ֶּ ת-בִּ גְ די עֵּ שָּ ו בְ נָּה הַּ גדֹּל הַּ חֲ מֺּ דֹּת ֲ שֶּ ר ִּ תה בַּ בָּ יִּ ת. they will take off their garments. 3rd person feminine singular). respectively. and proclaim before him: 'This is what is done for the man whom the king wishes to honor!' " In both examples.בְ נָּה הַּ קטָּ ן ָּ Rebecca took the festive clothes of Esau.תtypical of 3rd person feminine singular in the prefix conjugation.ב.Hebrew the root . in which they minister.ב.שis evident in both forms. ל. The root ל. וְ הַּ םֶּ לְֶּך יוֹּשֵּ ב עַּ ל-כִּ ןֵּ מַּ לְ כותו בְ בֵּ ית הַּ םַּ לְ כות נכַּח נֶּ תַּ ח הַּ בָּ יִּ ת ֹּ ֹּ On the third day. which she had kept in the house. and in both situations the agent is a woman (grammatically. Now the king was sitting on his throne at the palace. וְ נָּתוֹּן הַּ לְ בוש וְ הַּ ןוס עַּ ל-יַּד. Esther put on royal garments and stood in the inner court. and place them in the holy chambers. is used to convey both meanings: וַּיְ הי בַּ ּיוֹּם הַּ שלִּ ישי וַּ תלְ בַּ ש ֶּ סתר מַּ לְ כות וַּ תעמֹּד בַּ חֲ צַּ ר בֵּ ית-הַּ םֶּ לְֶּך הַּ נְ נִּימית נכַּח ֹּ ִּ ֲ ַּ ֵּ ְ ִּ ִּ ְ ִּ (Esther 5:1) . The root ל. ו typical of 3rd person plural in the suffix conjugation. Because they are © Esther Raizen. The difference between the two forms is in their vowels.ֲ שֶּ ר הַּ םֶּ לְֶּך חָּ פֵּ ץ בִּ יקרו ֹּ ָּ The garments and the horse should be given to one of the king's noble princes. through the city streets. who will dress up the man whom the king wishes to honor.שand the suffix .ב. the agent is a group of men (3rd masculine plural). her younger son. facing the king’s house. The verbs in both examples are in the prefix conjugation. and dressed up Jacob.ִּ יש משָּ רי הַּ םֶּ לְֶּך הַּ נַּ ְרתמים וְ הלְ בִּ ישו ֶּ ת-הָּ ִּ יש ֲ שֶּ ר ִּ ִּ ְ ֵּ ִּ הַּ םֶּ לְֶּך חָּ פֵּ ץ בִּ יקרו. וְ לָּבְ שו בְ גָּדים ֲ חֵּ ִּרים וְ ֹל -יְ קדשו ְ ַּ ִּ ֶּ ְ ִּ ִּ ְ (Ezekiel 44:19). A parallel difference can be observed in the suffix conjugation: -ובְ צֵּ תָּ ם ֶּ ל-הֶּ חָּ צֵּ ר הַּ חיצונה ֶּ ל-הֶּ חָּ צֵּ ר הַּ חיצונָּה ֶּ ל-הָּ עָּ ם יִּ פְ שטו ֶּ ת-בִּ גְ דיהֶּ ם ֲ שֶּ ר ֵּ ְ ֹּ ִּ ָּ ֹּ ִּ הֵּ םָּ ה משָּ ְרתם בָּ ם וְ המִּיחו וֹּתָּ ם בְ לִּ שכֹּת הַּ קֹּדש. 2007-2009 . her older son. facing the door.בֵּ ית הַּ םֶּ לְֶּך. וַּ תלְ בֵּ ש ֶּ ת-יעקֹּב ֲ ַּ ַּ ָּ ָּ ֵּ ָּ ַּ ִּ (Genesis 27:15) .
a behavior not observed in the strong verb © Esther Raizen.יsee and ש. ayin for the second.ל eat are from the pe-alef group (that is. With pe standing for the first consonant. will often have the vowel “i” before the suffix in the suffix conjugation.ע.ת. all other consonants (highlighted in red) are typical of the respective patterns in which the verb is conjugated. Pattern Pa’al Nif’al Pi’el Pu’al Hif’il Huf’al Hitpa’el Syffix Conjugation Prefix Conjugation קטַּ ל ָּ נקטַּ ל ְ ִּ קטֵּ ל ִּ קֺּ טַּ ל הקטיל ִּ ְ ִּ הֺּ קטַּ ל ְ התקטֵּ ל ַּ ְ ִּ יִּ קטֹּל ְ יִּ קטֵּ ל ָּ יְ קטֵּ ל ַּ יְ קֺּ טַּ ל יַּקטיל ִּ ְ יֺּקטַּ ל ְ יִּ תקטֵּ ל ַּ ְ Note that the pattern names are identical to the 3rd masculine forms in the respective patterns and in the root פ. and the prefix יin the prefix conjugation.ט. These additional consonants are evident in the pattern names. act”. roots like . and. Verbs from the lamd-yod group.ל is also used for the purpose of grouping those roots that have one or more weak consonants (those that tend to drop or change into vowels). the group of roots in which the first root consonant is an alef).יdrink are from the lamed-yod group (that is. .ע.ק. the forms differ not only in their vowels but also in the prefix ה ִּ which is typical of the Hif’il pattern in the prefix conjugation. etc.כ.conjugated in two different patterns. The University of Texas at Austin. as a result. produce forms that are different in a very typical way from those produced by roots in which all consonants are “strong”. 3rd masculine singular forms in the suffix and prefix conjugations in all seven verb patterns are given below for the root .לwhich carries the meaning “do. and lamed for the third. for example. roots like ר.לwhich is traditionally used to represent the Hebrew verb. 2007-2009 . the group of roots in which the last root consonant is a yod). Other than the root consonants. The root פ.רsay and .מ.
in the pa’al ְ ִּ ִּ ְ ִּ ִּ ִּ ָּ and pi’el patterns. no brush of the field was yet on the eart. the infinitives are often augmented with the preposition “to”. They have a number of functions. וַּ יְהי-כֵּ ן ִּ ֶּ ַּ ָּ ִּ ִּ ֹּ ְ They should serve as lights in the vault of the heavens. שתיתי/נִּ ןינוfrom lamed-yod roots. The University of Texas at Austin. Some examples are: Pa’al Masculine singular Feminine singular Masculine plural Feminine plural Nif’al Hif’il Hitpa’el לוֹּבֵּ ש לוֹּבֶּ שֶּ ת לוֹּבְ שים ִּ לוֹּבְ שוֹּת נִּלְ חָּ ם נִּלְ חֶּ מֶּ ת נִּלְ חָּ מים ִּ נִּלְ חָּ מוֹּת מַּ לְ בִּ יש מַּ לְ בִּ ישָּ ה מַּ לְ בִּ ישים ִּ מַּ לְ בִּ ישוֹּת מתנַּ לֵּל ְ ִּ מתנַּ ללֶּת ֶּ ְ ִּ מתנַּ לְ לִּ ים ְ ִּ מתנַּ לְ לוֹּת ְ ִּ Infinitives are verbal forms that convey the abstract idea of the verb without reference to the agent.g. we typically find four forms: masculine singular and plural. כִּ י ֹל ְ ֶּ ֶּ ָּ ֶּ ֶּ ְ ֶּ ֶּ ֶּ ָּ ִּ (Genesis 2:5) ..h and the greenery of the field did not yet sprout. 2007-2009 . to separate between the day and the night… (Genesis 1:15) . to shine light upon the earth.המטיר יְ הוָּה ֱ ֹלהים עַּ ל-הָּ ָארץ וְ ָאדם ַאיִּ ן לעבֹּד ֶּ ת-הָּ ֲ דמָּ ה ָּ ֲ ַּ ָּ ֶּ ִּ ִּ ְ ִּ Now. In the participle. Some examples are: וַּ ּי מר ֱ ֹלהים יְהי מ ֹּ רֹּת ב ְרקיעַּ הַּ שמיִּ ם לְ הַּ בְ ִּדיל בֵּ ין הַּ ּיוֹּם ובֵּ ין הַּ לָּיְ לָּה ַּ ָּ ִּ ִּ ְ ִּ ִּ ֶּ ֹּ (Genesis 1:14) *…+ God said: Let there be lights in the vault of the heavens. Accordingly. and there was no man to till the soil. The feminine singular form ends either with –ah or with –et. וְ כֹּל שיחַּ הַּ שדה טרם יִּהיֶּה בָּ ָארץ וְ כָּ ל-עֵּ שב הַּ שדה טֶּ רם יִּ צמָּ ח. the forms לָּבַּ שתי/דבַּ רנוfrom strong roots vs.וְ הָּ יו לִּ מ ורֹּת ב ְרקיעַּ הַּ שמיִּ ם לְ הָּ ִּ יר עַּ ל-הָּ ָארץ.(e. © Esther Raizen. And it was so. and feminine singular and plural. for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth. like the infinitives in English (as in the creation of the great lights to separate between the day and the night). among them indicating purpose or intent. respectively).
The infinitives in the first two examples are from the verb pattern Hif’il. The University of Texas at Austin. and the third is from the pattern Pa’al. 2007-2009 . Exercise: Prefix and Suffix Conjugations © Esther Raizen.
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