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The Hebrew Verbs System - Why So Complex?

Few days into learning Hebrew you probably noticed that the same verb you know appears in different forms but means and translates the same in English, that's because the Hebrew verb system is far more complex than English, and every verb has many different forms based on what we talk about when it happened, and how many recipients we are talking about.

In this blog post we want to break down and explain every aspect of the verbs system, and if you want to learn more and completely master the subject - we recommend you to check out our "Hebrew Grammar - Verbs Master Course".

What's a verb's "Root"?

Every verb has a Root, this root represents the 3 letters that will appear in every different form that verb has.

For example "to eat - לאכול" verb's root is א.כ.ל, let's continue with this example and see how it works.

* Roots have exceptions, and for some verbs, the root is made of 4 letters.

How many forms a verb has?

First, we need to understand what affects the verb's form:

  • Gender (Male / Female)

  • Amount (Singular / Plural)

  • Tense (Past / Present / Future)

  • Person (First / Second / Third)

Every combination here will affect the verb in a different way.

Here are some examples for the verb "eat":

  • Male + Singular + Past + First Person => "I ate - אָכַלְתִּי"

  • Female + Plural + Present + Second Person => "You are eating - אַתֶּן אוֹכְלוֹת"

  • Male + Plural + Past + Third Person => "They ate - הֵם אָכְלוּ"

With a short mathematical calculation we see that the maximum is:

2 x 2 x 3 x 3 = 36 different forms.

In most verbs, some of the forms are identical hence 36 is not a given value and just the maximum.

Have you noticed? in all of these forms, the letters א.כ.ל appear, this is the root of this verb.

It's not as chaotic as you might think

At first, students are overwhelmed and feel like every verb and its forms are unique, causing a lot of frustration, and sometimes people even give up when they begin learning about the Hebrew verbs system, but in fact, it's simpler than you think:

  • There are only 7 verbs templates (also referred to as Binyanim בִּנְיָנִים).

  • Every template has its presets and rules for every different tense as explained before.

  • The templates all appear in פ.ע.ל root, and you just need to fill it with the root of the verb you want.

These are the 7 templates:

The template's name is always the verb in Past + Third Person + Masculine + Singular form.

You are probably confused, and that's ok, let's take a look at an example:

The verb "To eat" we used before, belongs to the template "Pa'al", so it's Past + Third Person + Masculine + Singular form will be - "אָכַל". We just changed פ.ע.ל with א.כ.ל.

Every verb belongs to a template, there are no "Rogue" verbs, there are no exceptions about that.

So actually - in order to master the Hebrew verb system, all you need to do is mastering these 7 templates and all their different forms, once you are able to do that - you will identify in which template a verb you encounter belongs, and immediately be able to fit it to any other form.

We hope that this blog post helped you understand the Hebrew verbs system and how it works in general, if you want to cover each template thoroughly and become an advanced Hebrew speaker - feel free to check out our "Hebrew Grammar - Verbs Master Course", this course has a 30 days refund policy (no questions asked) if you aren't happy with it. Yes, we are that confident you will love it :)

Thank you for learning Hebrew!

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