Chapter

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INTRODUCTION
How to study the Hebrew verbs

1.1 The Chirp Hopefully the beginner student who has no previous contact with the Hebrew language, or anyone who wished to have a quick revision or overview of the Hebrew verbal system, would find it useful what would be suggested here. Those who find it committing the intricacies of Hebrew verb to rote is out of the task will find the approach presented here helpful, too. 1.2 Only the main, principal shaft of the Hebrew verb is introduced and discussed. Once the student has learned up the primary pattern of the verb would he be happy to appreciate the language and further generate interest wish to learn more. 1.3 First, a quick overview covering the entire spectrum of the Hebrew verbal system is presented. In this way the student will have a snapshot of the overall picture. Fasten such an overview in the mind, it enables the student to anticipate what lies ahead and would know what to look out

‫ברוך השם‬ Steffen Han January 2011 revised.

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CHAPTER ONE: A Quick Guide

for during the journey into the study of Hebrew verb. Some details with glimpses into the intricacies of the Hebrew verb would be revealed at the next leg. The reader should not be disappointed if he does not find what he wanted: full treatment will be ladled out in the main course. The enterprise of the study of the Hebrew verb is going to be like a box inside a box inside a box. 1.4 Step 1: The Overture Hebrew is very vocalic. What is meant by this is that each form of the verb, namely, the Infinitive, the Imperative, the Participle, the Perfect or the Imperfect, etc., in whatever derived stem of the verb (‫ )בִּנְיָן‬it may be, came with a fixed vowel pattern. In short, each of the verbal form is identified by the vowel pattern, the default vowels, usually came in a pair of two, for each form of the verb, fixed, immutable but could be shortened or lengthened. 1.5 The nature of the default vowels determines the form of the verb, that is, the form of the verb is more or less controlled by the types of default vowels. By knowing the given vowel pattern, you could identify each form of the verb, or by draping the default vowels under the triconsonantal root, the ׁ‫ ,שׁוׂרֵש‬you could turn it into the verbal form that you want it to work for you. Look out for the default vowels in each form of the verb and in each derived stem. This is going to be the chief end of your treasure hunt journey. It is really simple: the shewa (‫,)שְׁוָא‬ the dagesh (ׁ‫ )דָּגֵש‬and stem vowels are the only three areas that would likely to present some obstacles to the learning of Hebrew verbs. 1.6 To use and maneuver a Hebrew verb, what a student has to do is: (i) to master up the default vowel scheme: there are five pairs of these vowels in the Qal stem, (one or two in each of the other verbal stems); (ii) the rules that govern the dagesh (ׁ‫( :)דָּגֵש‬a) compensatory lengthening of the vowel beneath the preceding consonant or syllable, usually of the stem or theme vowel, due to the presence of a guttural consonant which

‫ברוך השם‬ Steffen Han January 2011 revised.

CHAPTER ONE: A Quick Guide

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could not take dagesh ‫ דגש‬for doubling, or (b) virtual doubling which relinquishes the ‫ דגש‬without lengthening the vowel of the preceding syllable; (iii) the rules that govern (a) contiguous ‫( ;שוואים‬b) how ‫( שווא נָע‬vocal shewa) is changed to ‫( חֲטָף שְׁוָא‬composite shewa) in response to the presence of a guttural or weak consonant whenever one such alphabet shows up in the root in a position where normally ‫שווא נע‬ sits, usually the head consonant; (iv) the breaking up of and recast the pillion syllable to form a new hind syllable when adding pronominal suffixes to the verb. These are the four main areas that a student needs to learn about. 1.7 The shift of accent, sometimes known as the stress or the tone, adds changes to the default vowels, chiefly in matters pertaining to the lengthening or shortening the propretonic vowel, and or closing the pillion syllable by shortening the stem, theme vowel while adding affixes of personal pronouns to the verb. 1.8 The patterns that dictate where and which default vowel would be placed in a root are called binyanim (‫( ,)בִּנְיָנִים‬singular—binyan ‫ ,)בִּנְיָן‬which means building, or the derived stems of the verb. There are seven of them for each verbal form: the Paal or Qal (‫ פָּעַל‬or ‫ ,)קַל‬the Niph’al (‫ ,)נִפְעַל‬the Pi’el (‫ ,)פִּעֵל‬the Pu’al (‫ ,)פֻּעַל‬the Hithpa’el (‫ ,)הִתְפַעֵל‬the Hiphil (‫ ,)הִפְעִיל‬the Hophal (‫ )הָפְעַל‬and the Huphal; (‫ .)הֻפְעַל‬The last two are actually counted as one.
‫ברוך השם‬ Steffen Han January 2011 revised.

1.9 For convenient and practical purpose, ‫ פָּעַל‬has been known all along as ‫ ,קַל‬which means “light” or “simple”, and the other ‫ בניינים‬are known as ‫ ,כְּבֵדִים‬which means “grave” or “heavy”. These terms are meant to help the student to manage, use and have a sense of control over the Hebrew verbal system.

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CHAPTER ONE: A Quick Guide

1.10 Step 2: Ground Zero In the Hebrew verbal system, there are five primary forms of the verb for each binyan: two Infinitives (the Infinitive Absolute and the Infinitive Construct), two Participles (the Active Participle and the Passive Participle), and one Perfect Tense. Each of these forms requires a definite pair of default vowels (two vowels must be taken together) to converse the root into each of these verbal forms. 1.11 Other verbal forms: the Imperative, the Cohortative, the Jussive, and the Imperfect are really derivatives from the Infinitive Construct (Infinitive derivatives). These later forms, which enjoy a fairly consistent pattern of vowel structure, could be termed the secondary forms. 1.12 Of the seven derived stems of the verb, learn up first the default vowels of the Infinitive Construct for all the binyanim, which is actually the vowels already used in the name of each binyan. Learning other forms of the verb will rely upon how well have you mastered up the default vowels in the Infinitives, especially the Infinitive Construct, which is really the natural base form of the verb. This is going to help you to manage the whole verbal system later. Difficulties arise only when one or more weak consonants appear in the root. 1.13 The Hebrew verb is very fundamental: it came in a cluster of three consonants known as the root (‫ )שׁוׂרֵש‬without vowels—some words in Modern Hebrew would have up to four or five consonants—for you to install the verb. Onto the consonantal root vowels are added to configure it into each form of the verb: the Infinitive, the Participle, the Perfect Tense in the case of the primary forms. Two other are hidden in these three. The five of them are known as the primary forms. Out of the Infinitive Construct further four forms are to be educed: the Imperative, the Jussive, the Cohortative and the Imperfect Tense. Or, you may want

‫ברוך השם‬ Steffen Han January 2011 revised.

CHAPTER ONE: A Quick Guide

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Sample

The scheme

1

‫קָטוֹל‬

[ֹ‫]○ָ+ו‬

Default vowel scheme to be used in Hebrew verbs in the Qal Stem. ← read this direction To be used in the Qal Infinitive Absolute, as the vowels in the ‫קָּמֶץ+חוֹלֶם‬ sample word: ‫מָקוֹר‬ Hebrew names To be used in the Qal Perfect Tense, as the vowels in the sample word: ‫עָבַר‬

2

‫קָטַל‬

[ַ○+ָ○]

‫קָּמֶץ+פָּ֫תַח‬

3

‫קָטוּל‬

[ּ‫]○ָ+ו‬

To be used in the Qal Passive Participle, as the vowels in the ‫ קָּמֶץ+שׁוּרֶך‬the sample word: ‫פָּעוּל‬ To be used in the Qal Active Participle, as the vowels in the ‫חוֹלֶם+צֵרֶי‬ sample word: ‫פֹּעֵל‬

4

‫קֹטֵל‬

[ֵ○+ֹֹ○]

5

‫קְטֹל‬

[ֹֹ○+ְ○]

‫ברוך השם‬ Steffen Han January 2011 revised.

To be used in the Qal Infinitive Construct and other educed forms of the verb, i.e. the Qal ‫ שְׁוָא+חוֹלֶם‬Imperative, the Qal Jussive, the Qal Cohortative and the Imperfect, as the vowels in the sample word: ‫.בְּנוֹת‬

to reverse the order for secondary forms: the Imperfect, the Imperative, the Jussive and the Cohortative. The latter sequence is used in most grammar textbooks. 1.14 The vowels to be added to the root came in a pair of two: there are five

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CHAPTER ONE: A Quick Guide

pairs of the distinctive, default vowels for the primary forms, as could be seen in the Qal binyan. In Hebrew Verbal System it must be remembered that originally the language was used more for listening, aural effect, than written, visual format. 1.15 The pattern of vowellization operative in the Qal binyan would be applicable to other binyanim. The same procedure could, like wise, be used on the study of Biblical Aramaic, a lauguage closely akin to Hebrew.

1.16 Step 3: Where to begin To learn the Hebrew verbal system is really an easy job. All that you need to do is to begin with the Infinitive. The Infinitive is the base form of the verb: other secondary forms of the verb are really derived from the Infinitive. What you need to learn up at this stage would be the vowels for the Infinitive of each derived stem of the verb (binyan). Two Infinitives are in use in Hebrew: The Infinitive Absolute and the Infinitive Construct for each binyan, as there are two Infinitives in the English language: the full infinitive “to go” and the bare Infinitive “go”. A separate section that discusses the Infinitives in some details is given Hophal ‫הָפְעַל‬ Hiphil Hitpa’el Pu’al Piel Niph’al ‫נִפְעַל‬ Qal ‫פָּעַל‬
‫ברוך השם‬ Steffen Han January 2011 revised.

‫פֻּעַל הִתְפַּעֵל הִפְעִיל‬ ‫פִּעֵל‬ ← read from right to left

in the main course. 1.17 Take note of the name of the vowels in each stem, which actually is the Infinitive Construct of each respective binyan: how each one is written in Hebrew and its English transliteration. The cues would be found in the default vowel pattern in the name of each ‫.בניין‬

CHAPTER ONE: A Quick Guide

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1.18 It is interesting to note that the vowels given in Pi’el the dyad of [ֵ○+ִ○] (‫ )הִירִיק+צרי‬where the ‫ דגש‬is omitted—due to the presence of guttural that induced virtual lengthening to have occured—is in fact the default vowels assigned to the Pi’el Perfect Tense, third person masculine singular; not the Pi’el Infinitive per se. The actual default vowels for the Hebrew Pi’el Infinitive is given a pair of [ֵּ○+ַ○] (‫)פתח+דגש+צרי‬ as shown by the vowels in the sample word: ‫ ,קַטֵּל‬thus the Pi’el infinitive in Hebrew would be sounded as Pa’el. Coincidentally, the same pair of vowel combination, namely, [ֵּ○+ַ○] (‫ ,)פתח+דגש+צרי‬is used to install the Aramaic intensive binyan, the D stem, in Biblical Active Simple Qal G Stem Passive Niph’al N Stem Reflective Side Note
Actually, the Hithpa’el should belong to the Reflexive stem; for reason it is a lot similar to the vowel pattern used in Pi’el, a member of the Intensive stem, thus for practical purpose, Hithpa’el is placed together with the Intensive group,

Intensive

Pi’el D Stem

Pu’al Dp Stem

Hitpa’el HtD Stem

Causative

Hiphil H Stem

Hophal Hp Stem

‫ברוך השם‬ Steffen Han January 2011 revised.

Aramaic, and named as Pa’el, Perfect Tense third person masculine singular. The vowels in D stem of Aramaic is equivalent to the Hebrew Pi’el stem, thus rendered the Hebrew Pi’el Infinitive should be aligned more akin to Pa’el, and should be read as such in the Infinitive of the Hebrew Intensive binyan. Together with this, the same approach of looking at the vowel structure in the Hebrew verbs in terms of schematic pairing of default vowels could be made applicable to the study of Aramaic verbs.

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CHAPTER ONE: A Quick Guide

1.19 You may want, for functional purpose, to re-group the stems (‫)בניינים‬ into three or four groupings: the Simple Stems (two members: the Qal and Niph’al), the Intensive Stems (three members: the Pi’el and Pual, and the Hithpa’el) and the Causative stems (two members: namely, the Hiphil and the Hophals). In some textbooks, Hophal is also sounded as Huphal or have the two placed together. 1.20 With fewer groups to handle, it makes your leaning task less complicated. To be sure, there are other minor groups, but those less frequently used stem groups of the verb should not be a bother to you at the beginning stage of your learning. 1.21 Step 4: The Flow From the Infinitive, you may go directly to figure out the Imperative. Learning the Imperative is even more so an easy job for the Imperative is really the Infinitive, as the case with the English language: the word “go” is both the Imperative as well as the bare Infinitive for the word “to go”. In Hebrew, the Infinitive Construct is used as the Imperative, even in the derived stems of the verb. Learn up the vowel patterns for all the seven Imperatives of the strong verb; later, the weak verbs will not sham a problem. During your learning session, compare the vowel pattern in the Imperative of each of the derived stem (‫ )בניין‬with that of the respective Infinitive Construct: take note of the similarity and, of course, the differences as well. In the case of a weak verb in Qal binyan, look out for the ‫ שווא נע‬under the first syllable, and for that matter, all occurrence of ‫ שווא נע‬with a weak consonant. The principles operative in the case for vowel changes in the Imperative, both the strong and the weak verbs, shall apply to all other forms of the derived stems. The default vowel scheme for the Imperative in each derived stem is fairly stable. Make it a point to distinguish dynamic verbs from the stative verb. At the level of the Imperative, dynamic verb and stative verb would assume different vowel with the stem or theme vowel, as some textbooks called it by this name. A section discussing the stative verbs

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CHAPTER ONE: A Quick Guide

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could be found in the main course. 1.22 A Choice is available After having learned well these two: the Infinitives and the Imperative, you may make a choice: either you go over to learn the Participles or you may begin to learn the Perfect Tense. Why must you learn the Participle first is for a simple reason: The Active Participle in Hebrew is used as the Present Tense, as there is no separate form for the Present Tense in the Hebrew verb. Some other forms of the verb could be used to express the present aspect of the verb, for sure. With the Present Tense learned, you may begin to make sentences on you own. You may be able to speak and write Hebrew now. The default vowels for the Participles, Active as well as Passive Participle, are quite consistent in all stems of the verb. Do some experiments with Hebrew sentences. 1.23 Step 5: Or… You may shun from the Infinitive Construct directly into the Perfect Tense. The pairing of default vowels for the Perfect Tense is fairly consistent in all binyanim. In the case of Qal binyan, the pair of [ַ○+ָ○] (‫ )קָמֶץ-פַּ֫תַּח‬combination is used to configure the regular verbs, while ‫( ל”א‬lamed-aleph) verbs and ‫( ל”ה‬lamed-heh) verbs, the other duce [ָ○+ָ○] (‫ )קָמֶץ-קָמֶץ‬is used. Details would be given under separate headings in the main course. The Perfect Tense is the form of the verb that is used the most frequently in the Tanakh ‫ ,תנ”ך‬that is, the Old Testament. Naturally it must be so as the ‫ תנ”ך‬is mostly about history. If you have learned the Infinitive Construct and the Participles, learning the Perfect Tense and the Imperfect Tense, etc., will pose no problem. 1.24 Step 6: The Last but not the least… The Imperfect may come last, as it involves quite a bit of maneuver of changes to ‫ שווא נע‬appearing under a weak consonant in the root, head position or otherwise. Already hidden inside the vowel scheme of the Infinitive Construct of each binyan, or the Infinitive Absolute in

‫ברוך השם‬ Steffen Han January 2011 revised.

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Hebrew Verbal System

the case of single syllable verbs, would be the default vowels for the Imperfect Tense of each binyan. It will not be a problem when you have sufficient experience working with the rules of vowel changes with weak consonants during the course while learning other forms of the derived stem of the verb. 1.25 In short, not unlike the English language, there are some five main forms and three sub-forms in each of the seven stems of the verb need to be learned. The pattern for each form is rather consistent, following a set of fixed pattern and rules. 1.26 It is not necessary to rote up all paradigms: the most important matter is to master up the default vowel scheme for each ‫ ,בניין‬which is already found in the name of each stem of the verb. The next step would be learning the rules for ‫ ,שׁווא‬and the mechanics of its changes when a ‫ שווא‬occurs presumably under a weak consonant. After that, learn up the rules for ‫ דגש‬and compensatory lengthening. 1.27 Steps and procedures for conjugation would be related to the breaking up of the pillion syllable and reuse the hind consonant of the root to form a new syllable tailing behind the former pillion syllable, chiefly involving vocalic sufformative conjugation. It would involve shifting of accent and shortening of the stem vowel or closing the pillion syllable with a ‫.שווא‬ 1.28 By the time a student has gone thus far and be able to yield an understanding of the intricacies of Hebrew verbal system, he should proceed to read the ‫.תנ”ך‬ Bon Voyage!
‫ברוך השם‬ Steffen Han January 2011 revised.

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