Hebrew Verbal System

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by Blaez, Jun 21, 2013.

  1. Blaez New Member

    Okay, I have reading through a lot of information online trying to understand this system and I think that maybe, just maybe, I could have it down now. Firstly, I have seen two layouts for verb paradigms that seem to contradict each other, the one being that Hebrew has no tenses, just a perfect and imperfect, and that of the typical past, present and future. I have no idea how to resolve this. More frustratingly the better tables and charts all only have imperfect and perfect minus past, present and future. But onto the system...

    So it all starts with the roots. You have strong, I-III Guttural and Doubly Weak root types. I understand this much. So before conjugating, you need to know what root qualities you are working with. After this you have the seven constructs or templates, the Binyanim, which drape over the roots to give them their nuance of meaning. I understand all of this so far and the idea of roots seems like a very rewarding system for building vocabulary unlike the evil and slow drudgery of Kanji.

    But what of the verb forms? Each binyan will have a perfect/imperfect, preterite, cohortative, active/passive participle, infinitive construct, infinitive absolute?? Where can I find a definite chart for verb paradigms that has everything. The best one I found I can't post the link or attach the file (no permission), but it's a pdf that's entitled "full verb paradigm" by animatedhebrew.com.
  2. arielipi Senior Member

    A hint: copy the link and break it down so we can piece it together and see it.
    You got everything right, i dont really see the question, as with any language hebrew has many exceptions, so you wont find a definite one chart for all verbs. you can theoretically find a chart for the non-exceptions verbs and a chart for each exception verbs.

    FYI: i dont really remember the formal names of stuff even in hebrew, so each time you curse perfect/imperfect, preterite, cohortative, active/passive participle, infinitive construct, infinitive absolute ill need to look it up. if you could provide example for each of those i wont need to.
  3. Blaez New Member

    Basically, I am confused about the forms the verbs come in. Right now I am reading something from Wiki that basically lists these verb forms:

    - Past
    - Present
    - Future
    - Imperative: Requests/commands
    - Participle: "-ing" forms in English
    - Infinitives: "To write" etc
    - Gerunds: Verbal noun
    - Conditional: Past habitual mood

    I know that not all of these will be covered in various binyan, but if I knew exactly what ALL the forms Hebrew had, that would be very helpful in 'putting it altogether' in my head.
  4. arielipi Senior Member

    well then you have (ignoring exceptions now) 7 binyanim, and 3 time perspectives, plus one time perspective[=command], also each has a male/female construct and single/plural.
    7*4*2*2 = 112.

    Thats for the verbs - if a verb is such that it can be formed in all possible forms itll have 112 constructs.
    Once you get the hang of it its easy because hebrew is repetitive in constructions.
  5. ystab Senior Member

    I must say that the full verb paradigm table is quite confusing and overwhelming. I think it is better for you to go stepwise. The list you've brought from wiki is better, though I do have my reservations.

    Anyway, there are basically five verb forms (forms, not meanings or ways of expression): past, present, future, imperative and infinitive. Six if you add gerunds to the list (they are considered nouns).
    The past and future forms conjugate according to person (1st, 2nd, 3rd), gender (masculine/feminine) and number (singular/plural).
    The present tense, which acts also as a participle, conjugates according to gender and number (like a noun).
    The imperative, which does not exist in the passive Binyanim of פֻּעַל and הֻפְעַל, conjugates only in the 2nd person according to gender and number. A 1st person (both singular and plural) cohort variant exists, but leave it to more advanced stages in your studying process.
    The infinitives, which also do not exist in the passive Binyanim of פֻּעַל and הֻפְעַל are the base form. You can add some prepositions to them.
    Regarding gerunds, there are some forms that are typical for each Binyan.

    Now, Waw consecutive (which reverses the meaning from past to future and vice versa) can alter the form of the verb. I can't think now of any other additions that alter the verb form.

    I suggest you start practicing the regular root type (they call it "strong" in the paradigm). In Hebrew it is called גזרת השלמים (Gizrat HaShlemim) - the complete type.
  6. Blaez New Member

    Okay, I think I found the answer to one of my queries. Bibliical Hebrew doesn't have tenses, am I right? I think this is what has been tripping me up, Biblical Hebrew has all those nice charts and tables, but without always clearly stating that it's Ancient Hebrew. Ystab, I'll heed that advice and work on those strong Qal verbs. I have many more questions, but I'll take the plunge and work on those. Thanks for all the replies. I'll be back :)
  7. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    Personally, I started out by trying to memorise the charts for the binyanim but I gave up fairly soon. It doesn't seem to be effective, at least for me. I just started using the verbs and learnt the patterns naturally, very easily and quickly, obviously picking up on irregularities along the way. Perhaps learn pi'el and pa'al(kal) to start with as these seem the most common and will set you up to learn the rest fairly easily.
  8. ystab Senior Member

    I'm not sure about your conclusion regarding the tenses, but we'll leave it to the linguists.

    As airelibre mentioned, pa'al (Qal) and pi'el verbs are the simplest and most common.

    I don't know where you are going to learn from and how you are going to do that, but here are some tips relevant to all verbs:
    1. The 3rd person singular masculine is the base form of the past tense. To that you add the suffixes, each is typical to its own declension. For example םםםְתִּי (-ti) is typical to 1st person singular.
    2. The singular masculine is the base form of the present tense.
    3. In the future tense there are typical prefixes and suffixes.
    4. The imperative form is derived from the future form, omitting the prefixes.
    5. You will notice that when the stress moves forward, some vowels are shrinked to Schwa.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2013
  9. Blaez New Member

    Thanks for the advice Airelibre. Hebrew doesn't seem suited to that structured approach. It's a bit of a jolt to the system, and for the first time in a long time I feel lost, lol. But I'm determined to stick with this. At least it's a pattern based language. I'd certainly not want to be a nativ Hebrew speaker learning English!
  10. origumi Senior Member

    Not exactly. Biblical Hebrew is similar to modern Hebrew in this regard. The difference is in the way the language is described. There are two confusing factors: (1) the present tense behaves like participle, and (2) in the Bible the tenses/aspects can be swapped from past to future and vice versa, or in other words from perfect to imperfect and vice versa, by adding a prefix called waw consecutive. To cope with this, especially with (1), western scholars tend to describe Hebrew as having aspects rather than tenses. Modern native Hebrew speakers prefer to call it tenses, also when reading the Bible. This is more a nomenclature matter than real difference between language phases (well, I suspect western Bible scholars may disagree with this claim).
  11. bazq Senior Member

    Well, I do remember reading there's an opinion explaining wayiqtol and waqatal are simply special cases or literary cases. Though I don't fully understand this since even in Mishnaic Hebrew the suffix verbal forms weren't used for the future tense, only the present and the past were used as we use them today. What further perplexes the issue is Arabic using the suffix verbal forms to represent the present, not the future.
  12. Blaez New Member

    Hi, I'm having much greater success working with verbs. I do have a query about the meaning of conjugated forms as I have read that the binyanim do not have fixed meanings in every instance. Would this be an issue to be resolved by a dictionary? I am looking at an Oxford dictionary. Also, how transferable would modern Hebrew verbs be inito Biblical Hebrew? I ordered the 501 Hebrew Verbs book for modern Hebrew, I do plan on venturing into Biblical Hebrew, but there are no such resources for pre-conjugated verbs. Would this book still be useful for that to any meaningful degree?
  13. ystab Senior Member

    Good to hear that. I'm afraid I don't quite understand your queries. Perhaps you can give some examples?
  14. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Ad (1): I would describe it the other way round: in Modern Hebrew the active participle is used like a tense. This is not only etymologically more correct but also more logical in terms of grammatical systematics and make, at least for me, understanding easier: the "present tense" is declined and not conjugated, i.e. the verb form still behaves like an adjective (which is the fundamental nature of a participle) and not like a finite verb. You can analyse the "present tense" as a nominal (i.e. verb-free) sentence with implied copula; compare ani godel=I [am] growing and ani gadol=I [am] big.

    Ad (2): I would also here prefer a different description: The two tenses/aspects obviously developed out of an original stative-eventive distinction, i.e. one describing a state and the other an action. This made the verb forms early on hybrids between tenses and aspects. While in Biblical Hebrew the aspect interpretation was more prominent the tense interpretation dominates use in Modern Hebrew.
  15. origumi Senior Member

    Modern Hebrew speakers, when reading the Bible, take the present/participle exactly as in the Modern language, and what they read makes full sense. I understand that there's historical development in which two kinds of conjugation + one participle became three tenses, yet I am not sure that this development wasn't completed or at least in a very advanced phase during early Biblical times to a level that the participle was already used as present tense in most or all circumstances, at least in a way that both interpretations, present vs. participle, are possible.


    And an off-topic comment: the example of ani godel makes you a Modern Hebrew speaker, almost a tzabbar. The traditional way is ani gadel. Not a matter of pronunciation, it goes back to three different Semitic forms of binyan qal. But then... this confusion is thousands years old.

    Last edited: Jul 7, 2013
  16. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Yes, it is modern. My purpose was to show that from a point of view of inflectional systematic, godel is best regarded as an adjective even in modern Hebrew, just like in the English I am growing where growing is syntactically an adjective although the entire construct is understood as a conjugated verb form.

    My point was to show that when you distinguish between pure syntax, which has remained very stable compared to the changes e.g. in IE languages, and the differing uses of these construct in different development stages of the Hebrew language, much of the confusion the OP expressed can be avoided.

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