I am attempting to teach myself Biblical Hebrew, and I have lately been memorizing the verb conjugations for strong verbs. I have found this chart extremely helpful in my endeavor. enter image description here

Through the help of the chart, I have first memorized the paradigm for perfect/imperfect Qal strong verbs, and am now trying to do the same for Niphal, and I'm planning on going through all 7 stems this way.

But, is this is the wrong approach? Would it be easier to focus on the Qal stem for all types of verbs instead of merely strong verbs? If so, can someone provide me with a simple chart like the one I'm using?


It's easier to memorize a pattern than a paradigm. Instead of memorizing the conjugation, you could memorize a rule to identify it. This is more useful when you're trying to understand a text, rather than to be able to express yourself in a language, but ability to express yourself is also better after a lot of exposure to the language, which would make memorization easier.

There are tricks for every conjugation. Niph'al always starts with ni (perfect), or geminates the first letter of the root (imperfect). Pi'el always geminates the second root letter after an i (perfect) or a (imperfect). Pu'al always geminates the second root letter after u. Hiph'il always starts with hi (perfect) or a consonant + a (imperfect). Hoph'al always starts with ho (perfect) or consonant + o (imperfect). Hitpa'el always starts with hit (perfect) or consonant + it/et (imperfect).

If you can remember the previous paragraph, and already know the qal conjugation, you can identify anything on the perfect/imperfect part of the chart. It might not be enough to express yourself perfectly, but is it good enough for reading?

Irregular verbs are also best remembered through patterns. It's probably not a good idea to ignore them in favor of regular tables, since you can't parse Biblical Hebrew well without having at least some knowledge of them. The first two verses of Genesis already have the forms בָּרָא (not *בָּרַא) and הָיְתָה (not *הָיְהָה) and מְרַחֶפֶת (not *מְרַחֶּפֶת). Your chart is also missing the so-called ו-consecutive conjugation (quite similar to the imperfect, but also different enough to pose a problem already at Genesis 1:3).

Recognizing a few things might make this easier:

  • The names of the conjugations (with the exception of qal) are the same as the 3rd-person masculine perfect conjugation of the root פעל. If you know the names of the conjugations, you already know a whole row from the chart (complicated only slightly since the letter ע can never take a dagesh as it should in the pi'el, pu'al, and hitpa'el conjugations).

  • The prefixes and suffixes are the same across every conjugation. Since you already know the qal conjugation, you can likely already identify the tense and person of any verb, even if you don't know which conjugation it is in.

If you're looking for irregular verb conjugation, there is a collection of charts here that could be of use.

  • Those charts look like exactly what I was looking for, thanks! For the strong verbs, my chart is nice in that its colored in such a way as to make the patterns easy to recognize. – Pascal's Wager Jun 25 '18 at 20:15

You should memorize two things:

  1. The prefixes and suffixes that apply to ALL the binyanim. Here is an example of what I'm talking about.
  2. A full conjugation example for each of the seven binyanim. Don't waste your time memorizing the conjugation of every single verb.

This knowledge will give you 95% (I'm making up this number, but you get the idea) of what you need to know in terms of verb conjugation grammar. The rest are just irregularities that you'll learn as you come across them. In the end, you need to do extensive reading and speaking to get used to the language.

  • 1
    Not that the lesson you are linking to is for Modern Hebrew. It's great for ordering a taxi in Tel Aviv, not so much for studying the Bible. – Robert Columbia Jun 23 '18 at 1:55
  • 1
    It's the same learning principle for Modern or Biblical verbs. – AML Jun 23 '18 at 11:21

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