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Appendix:Hebrew verb forms

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It is worse than a crime: it is a mistake.
Joseph Fouche
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Derived stems

Hebrew verbs are noted for an unusual system of derivation. From any particular root, up to seven different verb stems may be formed, each with its own template (no one verb has all of the stems). In the study of Hebrew, these stems are referred to as “pa'al” or “kal”, “nif'al”, “pi'el”, “pu'al”, “hif'il”, “huf'al”, and “hitpa'el”. These forms and their associated participles and verbal nouns are the primary means of forming vocabulary in Hebrew. All of the examples shown here are the citation forms, which in Hebrew means the 3rd-person masculine singular perfect (e.g., “he did”, “he wrote”).

pa'al or kal

Binyan pa'al, also called binyan קל [kal] (light), is the most common binyan. Pa'al verbs are in the active voice, and can be either transitive or intransitive. This means that they may or may not take direct objects. Pa'al verbs are never formed from four-letter roots.

nif'al

Verbs in binyan nif'al are always intransitive, but beyond that there is little restriction on their range of meanings. The nif'al is the passive-voice counterpart of pa'al. In principle, any transitive pa'al verb can be rendered passive by taking its root and casting it into nif'al. Nonetheless, this is not nif'al's main use, as the passive voice is fairly rare in ordinary Modern Hebrew.

pi'el

Binyan pi'el, like binyan pa'al, consists of transitive and intransitive verbs in the active voice, though there is perhaps a greater tendency for pi'el verbs to be transitive.

pu'al

Binyan pu'al is the passive-voice counterpart of binyan pi'el. Unlike binyan nif'al, it is used only for the passive voice. It is therefore not very commonly used in ordinary speech, except that the present participles of a number of pu'al verbs are used as ordinary adjectives.

hif'il

Binyan hif'il is another active binyan. Hif'il verbs are often causative counterparts of verbs in other binyanim.

huf'al

Binyan huf'al is much like binyan pu'al, except that it corresponds to hif'il instead of to pi'el. Like pu'al, it is not commonly used in ordinary speech, except in present participles that have become adjectives.

hitpa'el

Binyan hitpa'el is rather like binyan nif'al, in that all hitpa'el verbs are intransitive, and most have a reflexive sense. Indeed, many hitpa'el verbs are reflexive counterparts to other verbs with the same root.

See also