Hebrew - Verb forms - introduction
The normal verb root has 3 consonants in its simplest root form (usually Qal perfect). The first syllable is open, with vowel â. The second syllable is closed with vowel a, unless it ends with ’ or h in which case it is open with â. Typical examples are ’âkhal (he ate), or hâyâh (he was).
- Stative verbs (describing a condition or state of being), in which the second vowel may be a, ê or ô, eg. zâqên (he was old), qâtôn (he was small),
- Some monosyllabic verbs which originally had y or v as the middle consonant, over time contracted to make a diphthong with the preceding vowel. These are called hollow verbs and are listed in a lexicon under the Qal infinitive construct rather than Qal perfect. Examples are bô’ (to go), mûth (to die). Some verbs ending in h or ch have kept the middle consonant and so have avoided becoming hollow (eg hâyâh).
Strong and weak verbs
Strong verbs show no irregular consonantal changes with tense etc. Weak verbs show a variety of changes. Classes of weak verbs are: hollow verbs, verbs with gutturals in one or more places, verbs with any of the letters r, y, v, or n in one or more places, or geminate verbs. Nomenclature has changed regarding these: traditionally the designation was pased on the verb pâ‘al (he did/made), and used the letters thereof, whereas the modern trend is to use the consonant place index to specify. Classes of weak verbs are:
|Pe guttural||I guttural|
|‘ayin guttural||II guttural|
|Lamed guttural||III guttural|
|Pe ’aleph||I aleph|
|Lamed ’aleph||III aleph|
|Pe nun||I nun|
|‘ayin vav/‘ayin yod||II vav/II yod/Hollow|
|Pe vav/Pe yod||I vav/I yod|
Some verbs exhibit doubly weak behaviour, with peculiarities from both sources, eg hâyâh.
Stages in identification of perfect forms
- Are there any prefixes other than ve or û?
- No - must be one of Qal, Pi‘êl or Pu‘al
- Yes - must be one of Niph‘al, Hithpa‘êl, Hiph‘îyl, Hoph‘al - use the prefix to identify which
- Is there doubling in the middle of the stem?
- Yes - must be one of Pi‘êl, Pu‘al or Hithpa‘êl
- Identify the suffix to specify person and number
- Reconstruct the verb root remaining.
With weak verbs this is usually a less straightforward process.