meanings of the binyanim

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by Requiescat, Aug 30, 2012.

  1. Requiescat New Member

    I am just starting out learning Hebrew and, as I always do, I have headed straight for the verbs. I am finding this verbal system quite unusual and difficult to grasp. The basic premise is that there are mostly three letter roots, shoresh, which is then applied to a pattern which is the binyan. That much I understand, but the rest is a mystery. There are seven binyanim; pa'al, pi'el, hif'il, hitpa'el, huf'al, pu'al, nif'al. Each binyanim has it's own distinct pattern which is placed onto the shoresh. But what exactly do these binyanim mean? What of tenses, moods, voices and aspects that I find in other languages? It just doesn't make any sense to me. Could someone please flesh out what I already know and clear this up for me? Thanks for your time.

  2. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    I think the root פעל is generally not the best to describe roots for Hebrew lerners, as it contains ע which isn't a consonant in most languages. I'd rather use קטל (ktl).

    Now, the structures don't exactly carry a meaning, in most cases. Simply each verb fits one root or the other. One thing that is constant is that niktal is the passive form of katal, kutal is the passive form of kitel and huktal is the passive form of hiktil. Hitkatel has no passive form and thus most verbs which fit it are verbs with no passive form and in most cases describe action that a person does on himself (such as taking a shower).
  3. arielipi Senior Member

  4. Requiescat New Member

    Okay, so each Binyan is a type of mood? With a present, past, future etc tense? So if I was to make a table of this it would be:


    - Present Tense
    - Past Tense
    - Future Tense

    - Imperative
    - Participle
    - Infinitive
    - Gerunds
    - Conditional

    So that's the full verb paradigm? Though not every verb has every Binyan?
  5. arielipi Senior Member

    correct. what do you mean by mood?
  6. Requiescat New Member

    I mean that they are used to convey an attitude towards the action. You know, you have tenses as in time, voices as in if you are doing the action or receiving the action, etc etc. But thanks for clearing that up for me, I think I get this now.
  7. origumi Senior Member

    This sort of basic question that cover such wide issue - it's better to read the introductory chapter in a Biblical or Modern Hebrew text book. You can also find numerous internet resource, for example:'_Hebrew_Grammar/38
  8. Requiescat New Member

    Hi Origumi,
    Just a quick question; isn't Modern Hebrew quite different from Biblical Hebrew?
  9. arielipi Senior Member

    yes it is. but not too much on the structure, only on use of words.
  10. origumi Senior Member

    It's the same language. Modern Hebrew has many additions after 2000 years of history, for example Aramaic influence in ancient post-biblical times and international words (scientific and alike) in modern times. Yet it's the same language. Nothing like the difference between old English and modern (or Shakespearean, or Chaucerian) English. Learn one and you know 95% of the other in regard to grammar, with vocabulary that needs adjustments.
  11. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    Sorry, I meant each verb fits into one structure (binyan) or another, not root. My mistake.
  12. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    With regards to moods, there isn't a lot in Hebrew, certainly not a subjunctive conjugation or other conjugations that you should learn.
    There is different language used for requests (ie. אל תעשה rather than לא תעשה) and I have heard of a cohortative mood. I'm sure there are others but it won't limit your understanding of the language early on.
  13. arielipi Senior Member

    The tone defines the mood.
  14. arbelyoni Senior Member

    No, grammatical moods are inflected within the verb.

    Modern Hebrew uses only one distinct verbal inflection for moods – the imperative.
    Biblical Hebrew also had the cohortative mood (called עתיד מוארך in Hebrew: הבה נגילה ונשמחה) and the jussive mood (called עתיד מקוצר in Hebrew: יהי אור).
  15. arielipi Senior Member

    No, the tone defines it, if one is being sarcastic its only noticeable by his tone, not one binyan can assure it - only the tone.
  16. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London

    Arielipi, all languages use tone to convey different meanings, and between languages the variation is very small regarding which tone variation signals which nuance in meaning. Eg. Sarcasm is the same in every language that uses it (some African languages don't have sarcasm but that is more a cultural than linguistic thing).
    Mood in this sense means different verbal conjugations to express different relationships to the verb used.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2012
  17. arielipi Senior Member

    i see, so hebrew does have that a bit.
  18. Requiescat New Member

    I think I'm starting to understand this a bit better. It certainly is the strangest verbal system that I have come across. Latin may be more fiddly, but it made so much more sense to me lol.

    Okay, I think the best way to take this forward is to try and work through an actual verb to see were I am right now. I'll use the verb "to speak, talk (to)". Here is my little table I put together to show my "conjugation" of the root.

    So, to translate them into English, they would be:

    Present Tense
    Medaber: Speak(s) (masculine singular)
    Medaberet: Speak(s) (feminine singular)
    Medaberaym: Speak(s) (masculine plural)
    Medaberot: Speak(s) (feminine plural)

    Past Tense
    Daybaretay: I spoke
    Daybareta: You spoke (masculine)
    Daybarete: You spoke (feminine)
    Dayber: He spoke
    Dayberah: She spoke
    Daybarenu: We spoke
    Daybaretem/n: You spoke (masculine/feminine)
    Daybaru: They spoke

    Future Tense
    Adaber: I will/shall speak
    Tedaber: You will/shall speak (masculine)
    Tedabry: You will/shall speak (feminine)
    Yedaber: He will/shall speak
    Tedaber: She will/shall speak
    Nedaber: We will/shall speak
    Tedaberu: You shall speak
    Yedaberu: They will/shall speak

    Daber - You speak! (masculine)
    Dabery - You speak! (feminine)
    Dabery - You speak! (plural)

    Present Participle
    Medaber: Listening

    Ledaber: Speak

    Infinitive Absolute
    Daber: ?

    Verbal N (Gerund)
    Daybnar: Speech

    Is that fully conjugated? Of course I left out the infinitive absolute translation as I'm not sure how that would be translated or used. Anything amiss, or that I should know about? Again, I greatly appreciate everyone's patience in going through this, I know it's a big ask.
  19. arielipi Senior Member

    Verbal N (Gerund)
    dibur = speech.

    also you have many unnecessary e Dabery should be dabri, Tedaberu should be tedabru adn such as this. try to correct it ok?

    note - not every yod is making a ay sound, it can also act as read matre(much like in latin). replace every ay sound with simple i sound like in the word dish.

    note that there can be many infinitives for each binyan - lehidaber, ledaber

    as for infinitive absolute - theres not much use of it in hebrew nowadays, not one that you can ask the common person about it. i cant tell what it would be - thats a know or go thing.
  20. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    A very good site for you to see as a beginner is . There you will find the correct conjugation for ledaber and also will be able to get an idea of how other basic verbs conjugate.
  21. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I'd say they express a combination of aspects* and voices, not moods. E.g.
    Pi´el - aspect=intensive, voice=active
    Pu´al - aspect=intensive, voice=passive
    Edit: *aspect is not the right word either. The term is already in use. I was looking for an common term for intensive and causative.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  22. arielipi Senior Member

    in a way, they do express mood, because you can use different binyanim to express the same event; they will differ in what the aspect of the binyan is and in return the mood of the sentence will be altered.
  23. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    No, a grammatical mood is something else. It is a feature of a verb, not of a sentence and it expresses modality (including null-modality, i.e. indicative). Modality means that the verb expresses not an action itself but says something about an proposition containing the action: I go is a simple proposition; I must go, I should go, I can go; those sentences modal propositions about the simple proposition. Modern Hebrew has indicative and imperative moods. Classical Hebrew also had cohortative and jussive. But those things are not expressed by Binyanim.

    BTW: Don't confuse mode in grammar or music with mood in common meaning. Those are not the same words. Mood as we use it here is a 16th century alteration (or you could call it "spelling mistake") of mode, from Latin modus.
  24. arielipi Senior Member

    from wiki: grammatical mood is a grammatical (and specifically, morphological) feature of verbs, used to signal modality.[1][2]:p.181; [3] That is, it is the use of verbal inflections that allow speakers to express their attitude toward what they are saying

    so in a way, binyanim do show a form of mood - because i can describe with passive/active binyan the same thing, the tone at which it is pronounced, the speed - all determine the "express their attitude toward what they are saying​"
  25. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    No, you can not describe the difference between I go, I must go and I can go using speed or intonation.
  26. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    I understand what you mean arielipi, and you have a point, yet the definition used by most people of a grammatical mood refers to things such as indicative and subjunctive mood. In English, passive and active constructions are not classed as separate moods (even though they can sometimes express different attitudes of the speaker) so neither are the different binyanim classed as separate moods.
    As has been said, they can on a very general basis be classed into aspects and voices such as intensive, causative etc. which could also be said to express different attitudes, but that does not mean that they are classed as moods.
  27. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    In a modal sentence, the attitude itself is object of the sentence and not the action itself. He give him the book and the book is given to himare true under the same condition whilst I give him the book and I can give him the book are true under different condition, i.e. I can give him the book can be true and I give him the book can be false at the same time.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  28. arielipi Senior Member

    but that is just it - english is not hebrew.
  29. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    And? They give me an example where modality is expressed by a binyan.
  30. arielipi Senior Member

    i did not understand what you just said.
  31. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    The Semitic system of stem formation (as Semitists usually call it) has nothing to do with tense or with mood. Semitic has a different mechanism for expressing these. In some, but by no means all, instances it has to do with voice (active, passive, reflexive). In essence it is a system of forming different verbal stems from the same (usually trilitteral) root. The meanings of the various stems of any given root are only partially predictable; for the most part they are lexicalised. Typologically it is the same thing which happens in Indo-European languages when different verbs are derived from the same root, e.g. in English “sit” versus “set”, “lie” versus “lay”, and the like.
  32. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    Due to the different binyanim for intensive and simple, they could be seen as showing a small degree of modality, in some cases. Eg. Yatzar and yitzer are both from the same root יצר and if someone uses them they show different attitudes - yitzer shows that the person is thinking about the action of manufacturing something rather than just the A to B of it. Maybe a weak argument but I'm just trying to see it from what might be Arielipi's point of view.
    Overall, I must say I agree with the other posts - the moods in Hebrew are strictly Imperative and Indicative.
  33. arielipi Senior Member

    as a native, i think i have a better view of the things than you.
    i say - so what if mood is defined like x in language y; the thing itself - i.e. that different use of words represent partially the speaker's pov - is the important thing, and in hebrew binyanim can also show the speakers pov.
    there are binynanim that show the actioner's willingness to perform the action
    and thus i see that binyanim (to me) can also have the mood system.
  34. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    Do you have the examples to prove this?
  35. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    You said, binyanim can express modality and you just re-iterated that claim:
    Like airelibre, I suggest you provide a concrete example to demonstrate point. Then we can hopefully decide whether we have missed something, as you think, or whether you failed to comprehend the concept of modality, as I think.:)

    Notwithstanding different meanings in special cases, I hope we can agree that the seven binyanim have the following abstract meaning:
    Qal: active,
    Nif`al: passive,
    Pi`el: intensive, active,
    Pu`al: intensive, passive,
    Hif`il: causative, active,
    Huf`al: causative, passive,
    Hitpa`el: reflexive.
    None of these meanings are related to modality.
  36. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    I would certainly agree with this, though instead of "special cases" I prefer to speak about "lexicalisation" (see no. 31).
  37. arielipi Senior Member

    i do not agree on that entirely - i understood is what you meant from the beginning.
    though in general use they are exactly as you said - in special cases they can be used to express the speakers pov. that is - using a binyan which tends to show a slower performance of the action, or a passive to show that the person is being thrown from wall to wall.

    perhaps if you explain more about the mood system ill understand better - correct me if im wrong; isnt it "different use of words represent partially the speaker's pov" in an implicit way?

    the easiest binyanim to shwo is ofc hitpael and piel - one is reflexive and the other is intensive active
    when you think about it - they act exactly the same for the action itself - so why do we have them both? the answer is that there is a difference; hebrew is very dense as you know, and if theres a copy- it means theres a difference; so the difference is that hitpael shows that both sides want the action, while piel is the more agressive - one side is willing more for the action.

    as for the speed of pronouncing - if you speak at a ratio x and at the *verb* you suddenly change the ratio or the tone, that means theres something
    here different than just saying the verb.
    qal for example, can be pronounced with a going-up-going-down tone with each syllable and with a bit of keeping the word for some more time followed by greater ratio than before the verb to show the disrespect for the claimed action.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  38. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    What you mean is that the intensive form implies a value judgement, but it does not alter the fact that the action has actually taken place (or hasn't i, if the sentence was negative). Modality means the instead of saying the action takes place you talk about someone's attitude.

    He reads the book --- The reading actually takes place.
    He can read the book --- The sentence is not saying anything about whether or not he does read the book, it only talks about his ability.
    He must read the book --- The sentence is not saying anything about whether or not he does read the book, it only talks about obligation.
    Read the book! --- The sentence is not saying anything about whether or not he does read the book, it only talks about you wanting him to do so.

    Now a mood is a verb form that changes modality. The only verb form in modern Hebrew that can do this is the imperative:
    .תקרא את הספר -- Indicative, future: You will actually read the book.
    !קרא את הספר -- Imperative: This sentence only says that I want you to read the book; it does not say that you will do so.
  39. utopia Senior Member

    Israel, Hebrew
    Both nif'al and hitpa'el have sometimes an inchoative or ingressive sense. Like נעמד - NE'EMAD, or התיישב HITYASHEV.
  40. arielipi Senior Member

    ok ill reform how i said it, we call a verb in english a verb - why? in hebrew we have the shoresh+binyanim and thus we know that it is verb. but take in english the out-of-time action - you wouldnt be able to tell if a new word is a verb or something else.

    so - with different systems, why cant the same meaning take other forms?

    so basically even if 1 fails, i can say according to your explanation that.. using sentences like
    אתה חייב לקרוא את הספר
    אתה צריך לקרוא את הספר
    are of modality? because it shows my wanting for you to do so, but it doesnt say if you will actually do so
  41. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Yes, in English as in Hebrew modality can either be expressed by an auxiliary verb, called modal verb, or by a mood. In you example it is expressed by a modal verb. The same is possible in English: You must read the book.

    Biblical Hebrew had besides the imperative two additional moods: jussive and cohortative. English does not have special moods for this but the present subjunctive mood can express the jussive:
    יהיה אור = There will be light (future indicative in both, Hebrew and English)
    יהי אור = There be light (jussive in Hebrew and present subjunctive in English).
    Those things are not expressed by binyanim but by conjugations within a binyan (in this case qal).
  42. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I guess this applies only to intransitive verbs where a passive meaning is not defined. Right?
  43. arielipi Senior Member

    youll have to explain all of these unfamilliar words if you want ym answer on this - inchoative or ingressive intransitive verbs
  44. airelibre

    airelibre Senior Member

    English - London
    An intransitive verb is one which requires no object: I sleep, I go etc.
    inchoative verbs or aspects deal with the starting of an action. Eg. In some languages, 'to love' and 'to fall in love' (to start to love) are formed from the same verb, with only slight differences in conjugation.
    I haven't heard of ingressive but I would guess it involves going into something. To ingress means to enter.
  45. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    And of course there are such things as dictionaries....
  46. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I'd say, the concrete meanings of all verbs (combination of shoresh and binyan) are lexicalized.
  47. arielipi Senior Member

    hebrew doesnt have any of those, only intransitive verbs, except for hitpael.

    i still think binyanim can affect the continuinity of the conversation because they affect how the action is perceived. therefor resulting in them having a bit of mood.

    EDIT: perhaps i havent clarified it enough, im taking mood at its abstract meaning, not with the definitions, therefore i see mood in binyanim.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012

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