Hebrew/Basic/3

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Basic Lesson 3 — דִּקְדּוּק בְּסִיסִי
The beach resort town of Eilat, the southernmost point in Israel.

Before moving on, we must be introduced to some basic structures at the heart of Hebrew grammar, without which we cannot proceed. This lesson is quite theoretic, so pay attention.

Roots[edit]

All nouns and verbs in Hebrew stem from sequences of consonants or radicals, known as roots. Adding letters before, after and between the consonants form the words. The roots would almost always have 3 consonants, although roots of 4 and 2 exist as well.

All the letters of the Hebrew alphabet can be radicals, even the vowels letters א ,ו and י.

Hebrew has set “moulds” in which the roots may be inserted. One noun we learned, מספר, is stemmed from the root ס-פ-ר and is in the miqttal mould. The word מִגְדָּל, while also formed in the miqttal mould, is stemmed from the root ג-ד-ל.

The more ancient and traditional nouns do not follow any structured mould. For instance, the word סֵפֶר, while also formed from the root ס-פ-ר, has no noun mould it fits.

Roots have general meaning related to the words they form. For instance, the root כ-ת-ב has the general meaning of “writing”, so כְּתַב means “handwriting”, כַּתָּבָה means “[news] article” and מִכְתָּב means “[postal] letter”. Some roots have more than one meaning; the root ס-פ-ר could mean “count”, “tell” and “haircut”.

It is also important to maintain the correct sequence of the consonants, as these change the meaning altogether. The root ג-ד-ל means “grow”, ד-ל-ג means “skip”, ג-ל-ד means “heal [wounds]” and ד-ג-ל means “supporting [an idea]/raising a banner”.

Prefixes[edit]

In the previous lesson we learned the definite article, הַ, and that it is attached directly to a word. In modern Hebrew there are 8 prefixes, of which only 6 are used. We have learned one already, the definite article. For all of them there are grammatical rules as to which vowel following the prefix should be used, but they are ignored by Israelis.

The sixth prefix, שֶׁ, will be discussed in future lessons.

Conjunctions[edit]

Vav[edit]

The conjunction “and” appears in Hebrew as Vav with shva na‘ וְ.

Examples

  • A number
מספר
  • Peace (shalom) and a number
שלום וְמספר

Prepositions[edit]

Bet[edit]

The preposition “in” appears in Hebrew as Bet with shva na‘ בְּ.

Examples

  • A number
מספר
  • In a number
בְּמספר

Lamed[edit]

The preposition “to” is denoted as Lamed with shva na‘ לְ, just as “in”.

Examples

  • A number
מספר
  • To a number
לְמספר

Mem[edit]

The preposition “from” is formed by the prefix Mem with tsere or ħiriq מֵ/מִ.

Examples

  • A number
מספר
  • From a number
מִמספר

Prefixes + Definite Article[edit]

The prefixes בְּ and לְ are contracted with the definite article to form בַּ and לַ, respectively. The other prefixes are added normally.

Examples

  • In a number
בְּמספר
  • In the number
בַּמספר
  • And the number
וְהַמספר

Introduction to Plurals[edit]

You've already learned Hebrew has two genders: masculine and feminine. But so far you have only learned singular nouns.

Generally, the plurals are formed by adding -ִים to masculine nouns, and -וֹת to feminine nouns.

Examples

  • A number
מספר m
  • Numbers
מספרִים

There are some irregulars, however:

Hebrew Vocabulary • דִּקְדּוּק בְּסִיסִי
Pluralization Flag of Israel.svg רִבּוּי

English עִבְרִית sg. עִבְרִית pl.
Day יוֹם יָמִים
Girl בַּת בָּנוֹת
Woman אִשָּׁה נָשִׁים

We will learn how to make complex pluralizations in future lessons, and the irregular nouns.

Summary[edit]

In this lesson, you have learned:

  • Roots.
  • Prefixes in Hebrew (בְּ).
  • Basic pluralization.

Practice what you've learned in the exercises.


Next lesson: Basic 4 >>>