Hebrew verbs – how easy are they?

As with anyone who has been to primary school, I learnt what verbs are. To put it simply, verbs are “doing” words, or, as the dictionary states, action words. This is the same in any language. Interestingly enough, I have been thinking about Hebrew verbs recently. I have come to conclusion they are my favourite part about Hebrew.

Hebrew verbs have patterns

When I started learning Hebrew verbs as a child, then through my adult life, I realised that Hebrew verbs have patterns. What makes Hebrew verbs unique to English, is that they can be categorised into masculine and feminine verbs. Furthermore, every verb has a present tense, future tense and past tense pattern.

In a sense, that makes it tricky, but also interesting. When faced with a whole lot of letters in the Hebrew verb, the student needs to be able to identify the root word, whether it is masculine or feminine or what tense it is presented in. Verb conjugation resources are available, so once the pattern can be identified, it can be quite fun to work things out.  

What are the “root letters”?

I mentioned in the previous paragraph that every Hebrew verb has root letters. There are either 2, 3 or 4 root letters in Hebrew verbs. For example, the word for “eat” has 3 root letters: aleph, khaf and lamed. Once these letters have been identified, it is then possible to identify the gender, the tense of the verb, and if it is singular or plural.

Let us look at a further example: “We will eat”. For the purpose of this blog, I need to write it in transliteration, nookhal (with a nun), however “I will eat” has a different prefix, it is ekhal (with an aleph). By simply changing the prefix, it changes the verb from plural to singular.

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