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             the Hebrew VERB
              by: Dodi Richter ביד- דודי  ריכטר  

The normal Hebrew verb has a 3-consonant Shoresh שרש, or "root", which has a vague meaning. Between and around the shoresh are added vowels and other consonants in certain patterns to create new verbs, nouns, and adjectives related to the root in a way determined by the pattern. For example, the root כתב, meaning to write, is added to the pattern פּוֹעֵל, meaning one who does an action, to get כּוֹתֵב, a writer, or one who writes. The root פעל p-'-l "to create, do" is used to indicate the pattern, and the first "פ", second "ע", and third "ל" letters of this root are used to symbolize respectively the first, second, and third letters of roots in general.

From the shoresh there can be formed 7 patterns of verb forms, called Binyanim בִּנְיָנִים (Singular: Binyan בִּנְיָן), literally meaning constructions. There are other, rare forms not used in Modern Hebrew.

  1. Pa'al פָּעַל. This Binyan is the simplest, and is most often called the Kal קל which means "easy" or "light".
    • Example: "broke" in the sentence: "I broke the window." "שָׁבַרְתִּי אֵת הַחַלּוֹן"
  2. Nifal נִפְעַל. This is the passive form of the Pa'al.
    • Example: "is broken" in the sentence "The window is broken." "הַחַלּוֹן נִשְׁבַּר"
  3. Pi'el פִּעֵל. This is the more intense form of the verb, indicated by the dagesh in the second letter of the root which shows that it should be pronounced twice as long, "פִע-עֵל", though this is usually ignored in Modern Hebrew. Sometimes the Pi'el shows a causative.
    • Example: "shattered" in the sentence: "I shattered the window" "שִׁבַּרְתִּי אֶת הַחַלּוֹן"
    • Example of causative: "He learnt" "לָמַד" (Qal) vs. "he taught" "לִמֵּד".
  4. Pu'al פֻּעַל. This is the passive form of the Pi'el, also with a dagesh in the second letter of the root.
    • Example: "was shattered" in the sentence: "The window was shattered." "הַחַלּוֹן שֻׁבַּר"
    • Example of causative: "He was taught" "לֻמַּד".
  5. Hif'il הִפְעִיל. This is the causative form of the verb.
    • Example: "reminded" in the sentence: "I reminded him (I caused him to remember)." "הִזְכַּרְתִּי אוֹתוֹ" (The Pa'al of the verb, "זָכוֹר", means "to remember" or "זָכַר" "he remembered.")
  6. Hof'al הָפְעַל or Huf'al הֻפְעַל. This is the passive of the Hif'il.
    • Example: "was reminded" in the sentence: "He was reminded." "הֻזְכַּר"
  7. Hitpa'el הִתְפַעֵל. This is the reflexive form of the verb, in which the subject acts on itself.
    • Example: "strolled" in the sentence: "He strolled." (The Pa'al of the verb, "הָלוֹך", means "to walk", "הָלַך" "he walked"; therefore the Hitpa'el has the sense of "he walked himself", or "he strolled".)

The consonants of the Shoresh determines the "type" of verb it is, of which there are three principal ones in Hebrew: Strong, Weak and Hollow.

Usually, a verb should be of the Strong type and conform to the general rules of adding and changing vowels and consonants according to Binyan, tense, person, number, and gender. However, some letters can cause a verb not to be Strong, because these rules cannot be applied to these letters, or because these letters can sometimes be dropped.

Weak verbs have such letters as the first or third letter of the Shoresh. There are seven letters that make a verb Weak. These are as follows: א 'alef, ע 'ayin, ה heh, ח chet, י yod, ו vav and נ nun.

Hollow verbs are verbs in which the SECOND root letter is a ו vav or a י yod. These disappear in conjugation. The Shoresh for "to habitate" (temporarily) is גור, and when conjugated becomes (in the Pa'al Binyan, present tense, גר (masculine singular), גרה (feminine sing.), גרים (masc. plural), גרות (fem. plur.). The ו is dropped.

The Hebrew verb also has a Gizarh, or Sound Class.