Welcome to the second basic lesson of Hebrew! In this lesson we're going to learn age-related basic phrases, the definite article and important vocabulary — the numbers and the personal pronouns.
The next day David and Sarah meet again in the same café. This time they talk about each other's ages. Words that aren't dotted with vowels are vocabulary you are supposed to know, read and translate once you see it even without vowels. If you don't, go to the previous lesson and study the “vocabulary” section.
דוד: שלום, שרה! בַּת כַּמָּה אַתְּ?
שרה: היי, דוד! אֲנִי בַּת עֶשְׂרִים וְשָׁלוֹשׁ.
דוד: בְּאֱמֶת? אֲנִי בֵּן תְּשַׁע־עֶשְׂרֵה.
שרה: טוב, להתראות!
The first thing we are going to learn is the numbers in Hebrew. Numbers in Hebrew is a complicated subject and therefore this is only an introduction.
When on their own, the numbers are in the feminine form. Examples of isolated numbers in English are “sample no. 3”, “5:00 p.m.”, “10 Downing St”.
- In 25 there is an additional Vav ו. You will learn about that in the coming lessons.
- The numbers 20, 30, 40... as well as hundreds 100, 200, 300... do not declend in gender.
Asking for Age
בֵּן כַּמָּה אַתָּה? and בַּת כַּמָּה אַתְּ? both mean “how old are you?” (lit. “son/daughter-of how-much are-you?”). Again, this changes with the addressee's sex, being male or female.
You may answer by saying אֲנִי בֵּן/בַּת... (lit. “I-am son/daughter-of...”), but in this case, it also changes with the gender of the speaker: אֲנִי בֵּן (I'm son of...) is used by males, whereas אֲנִי בַּת (I'm daughter of...) is used by females.
- Someone (to Boy): בֵּן כַּמָּה אַתָּה?
- Someone (to Girl): בַּת כַּמָּה אַתְּ?
- Boy: אֲנִי בֵּן...
- Girl: אֲנִי בַּת...
This is followed by your age in the feminine form אֲנִי בֵּן אַרְבַּעִים. You can also replace the אֲנִי, אַתָּה or אַתְּ with names or other personal pronouns which you will learn next.
Hebrew lacks the personal pronoun “it” and has no masculine/feminine counterparts for the 1st person.
- The Aleph is silent (pronounced hu and hi, respectively).
- The plural feminine pronouns (אַתֶּן and הֵן) are quickly falling out of use, particularly by young people, replaced by the masculine pronouns. When talking to/about a mixed group of people from both genders use אַתֶּם and הֵם.
Grammar: Definite Article
Hebrew lacks the indefinite articles “a” and “an”, so if a word doesn't have a definite article it simply means it's indefinite. The definite article, on the other hand, does exist in Hebrew, and it is a one-letter prefix, that can be added to the beginning of any noun or adjective and represents definiteness.
The definite article is He with pataħ הַ.
- A number
- The number
Under some circumstances, the vowel immediately following the He changes. However, Israelis ignore these rules and always pronounce the He with pataħ, and you are expected to do the same.
When you see the definite He with a different vowel, such as הֶ, pronounce it always as if it were a הַ.
Transliterate and translate the following Hebrew expressions to English.
Translate the dialogue from the beginning of this lesson.
In this lesson, you have learned:
- The standalone numbers 1-100.
- How to say and ask for age (אֲנִי בֵּן...).
- The personal pronouns.
- The Definite article (הַ).
Practice what you've learned in the exercises.