Hebrew/Intro to Verbs

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Hebrew is a root based language. Every verb is based on a 3 or 4 consonant root (שורש, shoresh). These letters form a skeleton around which vowels are placed to form a complete word.


The patterns that dictate which vowels are placed and where are called binyanim (בנין), or constructions. There are 7 binyanim:

  1. Pa'al פעל. Active, Mild
    • Example: he ate
  2. Pi'el פיעל. Active, Intense
    • Example: he consumed
  3. Hif'il הפעיל. Active, Causative
    • Example: he fed (to cause to eat)
  4. Hitpa'el התפעל. Reflexive (subject acts on itself)
    • Example: he fed himself
  5. Nif'al נפעל. Passive, Mild (sometimes reflexive)
    • Example: he was eaten
  6. Pu'al פועל. Passive, Intense
    • Example: he was consumed
  7. Huf'al הפעל. Passive, Causative
    • Example: he was fed

Not all roots are meaningful in all 7 binyanim. In addition, some do not have the expected meaning. Therefore, it is advisable to learn each root-binyan combination as its own verb.

Root type[edit]

The roots themselves are divided into 3 types: Strong, Weak and Hollow.

Strong roots have roots in which all letters appear in all conjugations.

Weak roots have letters that disappear in some conjugations. These letters are called weak letters. The weak letters are: א alef, ע ayin, ה heh, ח chet, י yod, ו vav, and נ nun.

Hollow verbs are verbs in which the 2nd root letter is a ו vav or a י yod. These disappear in conjugation.

Weak and hollow root types can be abbreviated using a 2 letter abbreviation. To denote the position of the weak letter, פ (first letter), ע (second letter), or ל (third letter) is written in the first position. Then the weak letter is written in the 2nd position. For example, roots with a ה in the third position are abbreviated ל"ה, while hollow roots are abbreviated ע"ו or ע"י.


In addition to the lessons that are organized by topic, some vocabulary is organized by roots.