When it comes to categorizing and labeling Hebrew verbs, we can do so in several ways. First, we can look at what general patterns (“stems” or בִּנְיָנִים) the verb appears. This is similar to Latin’s verb conjugations, by which nouns are categorized by the forms they take in the infinitive (whether -āre, -ēre, -ere, or -īre). In Hebrew, roots may appear generally in seven stems, though there are a few outliers here and there in peculiar stems as well, and we can label verbs as “qal” or “piel” or “hiphil” (or whatever stem they appear in by their nature).

Another common way to group Hebrew verbs is by the gutturals or vowel letters that they contain and the position in which they are found in the root.

The guttural letters are ʾalef (א), heh (ה), ḥet (ח), and ʿayin (ע). Resh (ר) is sometimes included in the list because it behaves similarly to them. The vowel letters (know in Latin as matres lectionis) are heh (ה), vav (ו), and yod (י). Notice that heh is both a guttural and a mater lectionis (sg. of matres lectionis). Since nun (נ) tends to assimilate into other letters, many roots with nun are also considered weak, depending on its position in the word. When these letters appear in a root, they mess up the normal pattern, and those mess-ups are predictable and regular.

Continue reading “Doubly Weak and Proud of It!”

Verbs are certainly one of the hardest parts of modern Hebrew. This article starts a series of articles on the פְּעָלִים that are the nightmare of any Hebrew learner, not only for beginners. This introductory post will discuss the basic characteristics of Hebrew verbs; while in the following articles, we will dig deeper into each one of the בִּנְיָינִים.

All verbs in Hebrew consist of two things:

  1. Pattern (בִּנְיָין): this is the “body” or the “structure” of the verb, what gives each פֹּ֫עַל (verb) its form. 
  2. Root (שׁ֫וֹרֶשׁ): this is the three- or four-letter system that gives meaning to each פֹּ֫עַל.

Continue reading “Verbs in Modern Hebrew (Introduction)”

In recent years, there has been lively discussions concerning word order in Biblical Hebrew.  For last century, and until  very recently, the consensus among most scholars has been that Hebrew exhibits VERB-SUBJECT word order.  For example:

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֲלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָעָרֶץ׃
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.¹

At the head of the clause, we have an infinitive followed by the perfect verb ברא, followed by the subject אֲלֹהִים. The verb is first, followed by the subject.  While this is the most common word order, I argue (following John A. Cook and Robert D. Holmstedt) that it is not the “default” word order. Instead, the default word order is SUBJECT-VERB, as in English.

Continue reading “Word Order in Biblical Hebrew, Pt. 1: An Overview”