Modern Hebrew verb conjugation

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Main article: Modern Hebrew grammar

In Hebrew, verbs, which take the form of derived stems, are conjugated to reflect their tense and mood, as well as to agree with their subjects in gender, number, and person. Each verb has an inherent voice, though a verb in one voice typically has counterparts in other voices. This article deals mostly with Modern Hebrew, but to some extent, the information shown here applies to Biblical Hebrew as well.

Classification of roots[edit]

A root that contains at least one of the weak letters, א alef, ה hey, ח het, י yod, נ nun, and ע 'ayin, is called a weak root. Each pairing of a weak letter with a position results in a slightly different conjugation pattern. The largest group of these are the ones that end with ה hey. Examples of weak roots: שתה /ʃaˈta/ (drank), עלה /ʕaˈla/ (went up), ירד /jaˈrad/ (went down), נפל /naˈfal/ (fell).

A root that contains a ו waw or a י yod as the second letter is called a hollow root. The ו waw and the י yod are written as part of the root, even though they are absent from many of the conjugated forms. Examples of hollow roots are the following: שר /ˈʃar/ (sang), גר /ˈɡar/ (lived), דן /ˈdan/ (discussed), דג /ˈdaɡ/ (fish).

Roots without weak letters are called strong or complete roots.

Binyanim or derived stems[edit]

Hebrew verbs are conjugated according to specific patterns, derived stems, called בִּנְיָנִים (/binjanim/ - "constructions") where vowels and affixes are slotted into the (mostly) three-letter שרשים (/ʃoraˈʃim/ - roots) from which the majority of Hebrew words are built.

There are seven basic binyanim. The traditional demonstration root is פ.ע.ל which has the basic meaning of "action" or "doing":

root :               פעל
active reflexive passive

This simplified chart's menorah-like shape is sometimes invoked in teaching the binyanim to help students remember the main ideas about the binyanim: (1) which binyanim are active voice (left side) vs. passive voice (right side), and (2) which binyanim are simple (outer-most menorah branches), intensive (second-outer-most), causative (third-outer-most), and reflexive (center). Note that some binyanim have more than one meaning.


  • In Hebrew (and in Arabic), many words that have a meaning related to writing contain the root K-T-B. (In Hebrew, due to a process called bekadgefat, when the letter B does not come at the beginning of a word, it may sound like a V. The same thing happens with K and X.) Thus:
    • "he wrote" (simple active voice) is "hu kaˈtav", while "it was written" (simple passive voice) is "ze nixˈtav"
    • "he dictated" (causative active v.) is "hu hixˈtiv", while "it was dictated" (causative passive v.) is "ze huxˈtav"
    • "hu kiˈtːev" and "ze/hu kuˈtːav" have a few meanings, none of which is commonly used, while "he corresponded" (intensive-reflexive) is "hu hitkaˈtːev"
    • "he rewrote" is "hu ʃixˈtev", while "it was rewritten" is "ze ʃuxˈtav" (though these two rare binyanim are used only with a few roots and thus are omitted from most of the discussion within this article).
  • In Hebrew, many words that have a meaning related to clothing contain the root L-B-SH (in Arabic, L-B-S). When this root is put through the seven common binyanim, it changes its meaning similarly to the way the root K-T-B does, but with a small difference. Here, the intensive reflexive form, "hu hitlaˈbesh", does not connote reciprocity as with "he corresponded", so the meaning is "he dressed himself", not "he dressed the person who dressed him".
  • The root G-D-L is common to words related to growth. Thus:
    • "he grew up" (simple act, either active or passive) is "hu gaˈdal"; the nifˈʕal binyan is not used with this root
    • "he enlarged" is "hu higˈdil", while "it was enlarged" is "ze hugˈdal"
    • "he grow apples" (intensive, active) is "hu giˈdːel tapuchim", while "the apples were grown" (intensive, passive) is "hatːapuˈħim gudːəˈlu", and the intensive-reflexive form of this root is used almost exclusively in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic prayers.

As mentioned, some binyanim have more than one meaning. For example, hifˈʕil's second most common meaning is "become". Verbs like "became fat" ("hiʃˈmin") and "turned pale" ("hixˈvir") are in this binyan. This meaning of Hif'il is similar to that of the Arabic ninth derived stem, ifʕalla, while hifˈʕil's main meaning is shared with its Arabic historical equivalent, the fourth derived stem, afʕala.

Present Tense (Participle)[edit]

A verb in the present tense (הוֹוֶה, hoˈve) agrees with its subject in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural), so each verb has four present-tense forms:

Form Root Singular Plural Translation
paˈʕal שׁמר שׁוֹמֵר שׁוֹמֶ֫רֶת שׁוֹמְרִים שׁוֹמְרוֹת Guards
sh-m-r ʃoˈmer ʃoˈmeret ʃoməˈrim ʃoməˈrot
piˈʕel גדל מְגַדֵּל מְגַדֶּלֶת מְגַדְּלִים מְגַדְּלוֹת Raises, grows (something)
g-d-l məɡaˈdːel məɡaˈdːelet məɡadːˈlim məɡadːəˈlot
hifˈʕil קטנ מַקְטִין מַקְטִינָה מַקְטִינִים מַקְטִינוֹת Shrinks (something)
q-t'-n maqˈtin maqtiˈna maqtiˈnim maqtiˈnot
hitpaˈʕel בטל מִתְבַּטֵּל מִתְבַּטֶּלֶת מִתְבַּטְּלִים מִתְבַּטְּלוֹת Belittles oneself, loafs
b-t'-l mitbaˈtːel mitbaˈtːelet mitbatːəˈlim mitbatːəˈlot
hufˈʕal קטנ מֻקְטָן מֻקְטֶנֶת מֻקְטָנִים מֻקְטָנוֹת Is shrunken by
q-t'-n muqˈtan muqˈtenet muqtaˈnim muqtaˈnot
puˈʕal גדל מְגֻדָּל מְגֻדֶּלֶת מְגֻדָּלִים מְגֻדָּלוֹת Is raised
g-d-l məɡuˈdːal məɡuˈdːelet məɡudːaˈlim məɡudːaˈlot
nifˈʕal שׁמר נִשְׁמָר נִשְׁמֶרֶת נִשְׁמָרִים נִשְמָרוֹת Is guarded
sh-m-r niʃˈmar niʃˈmeret niʃmaˈrim niʃmaˈrot
Example conjugations in the present tense.

The present tense does not inflect by first, second, or third person because its use as a present tense is a relatively recent trend, as this form was originally used only as the participle. The modern present tense verb is still used as the present participle; see below.

The ancient language did not have strictly defined past, present, or future tenses, but merely perfective and imperfective aspects, with past, present, or future connotation depending on context. Later the perfective and imperfective aspects were explicitly refashioned as the past and future tenses respectively, with the participle standing in as the present tense. (This also happened to the Aramaic language around the same time, but did not happen in Arabic, where the present and future tenses still share the same morphology, the one equivalent to the Hebrew future tense. The future tense is distinguished from the present tense by the use of prefixes.)

Past Tense (Past/ Perfect)[edit]

A verb in the past tense (עָבַר ʕaˈvar) agrees with its subject in person (first, second, or third) and number, and in the second-person singular and plural and third-person singular, gender.

Note that the past/perfect and the present/participle inflections of the third-person singular nif'al were historically pronounced with different vowels in the final syllable—the past/perfect with a paˈtaħַ  = /ɐː/), and the present/participle with a qaˈmats ɡaˈdolָ  = /ɔː/). In Modern Hebrew, both of these vowels have merged to /a/, and the two verb forms now are pronounced the same. For example, the past tense נִשְׁמַר niʃˈmaʀ means "he was guarded" (or in old-fashioned perfective "he is/was guarded"), whereas the present tense נִשְׁמָר niʃˈmar means "he is being guarded".

Form Root Singular Plural
He She Thou (You) I They Ye (You) We
paˈʕal שׁמר שָׁמַר שָֽמְרָה שָׁמַרְתָּ שָׁמַרְתְּ שָׁמַרְתִּי שָֽמְרוּ שְׁמַרְתֶּם שְׁמַרְתֶּן שָׁמַרְנוּ
sh-m-r ʃaˈmar ʃaməˈra ʃaˈmarta ʃaˈmart ʃaˈmarti ʃaməˈru ʃəmarˈtem ʃəmarˈten ʃaˈmarnu
piˈʕel גדל גִּדֵּל גִּדְּלָה גִּדַּלְתָּ גִּדַּלְתְּ גִּדַּלְתִּי גִּדְּלוּ גִּדַּלְתֶּם גִּדַּלְתֶּן גִּדַּלְנוּ
g-d-l ɡiˈdːel ɡidːəˈla ɡiˈdːalta ɡiˈdːalt ɡiˈdːalti ɡidːəˈlu ɡidːalˈtem ɡidːalˈten ɡiˈdːalnu
hifˈʕil קטנ הִקְטִין הִקְטִינָה הִקְטַנְתָּ הִקְטַנְתְּ הִקְטַנְתִּי הִקְטִינוּ הִקְטַנְתֶּם הִקְטַנְתֶּן הִקְטַנּוּ
q-t'-n hiqˈtin hiqtiˈna hiqˈtanta hiqˈtant hiqˈtanti hiqˈtinu hiqtanˈtem hiqtanˈten hiqˈtanu
hitpaˈʕel בטל הִתְבַּטֵּל הִתְבַּטְּלָה הִתְבַּטַּלְתָּ הִתְבַּטַּלְתְּ הִתְבַּטַּלְתִּי הִתְבַּטְּלוּ הִתְבַּטַּלְתֶּם הִתְבַּטַּלְתֶּן הִתְבַּטַּלְנוּ
b-t'-l hitbaˈtːel hitbatːəˈla hitbaˈtːalta hitbaˈtːalt hitbaˈtːalti hitbatːəˈlu hitbatːalˈtem hitbatːalˈten hitbaˈtːalnu
hufˈʕal קטנ הֻקְטַן הֻקְטְנָה הֻקְטַנְתָּ הֻקְטַנְתְּ הֻקְטַנְתִּי הֻקְטְנוּ הֻקְטַנְתֶּם הֻקְטַנְתֶּן הֻקְטַנּוּ
q-t'-n huqˈtan huqteˈna huqˈtanta huqˈtant huqˈtanti huqteˈnu huqtanˈtem huqtanˈten huqˈtanu
puˈʕal גדל גֻּדַּל גֻּדְּלָה גֻּדַּלְתָּ גֻּדַּלְתְּ גֻּדַּלְתִּי גֻּדְּלוּ גֻּדַּלְתֶּם גֻּדַּלְתֶּן גֻּדַּלְנוּ
g-d-l ɡuˈdːal ɡudːəˈla ɡuˈdːalta ɡuˈdːalt ɡuˈdːalti ɡudːəˈlu ɡudːalˈtem ɡudːalˈten ɡuˈdːalnu
nifˈʕal שׁמר נִשְׁמַר נִשְׁמְרָה נִשְׁמַרְתָּ נִשְׁמַרְתְּ נִשְׁמַרְתִּי נִשְׁמְרוּ נִשְׁמַרְתֶּם נִשְׁמַרְתֶּן נִשְׁמַרְנוּ
sh-m-r niʃˈmar niʃməˈra niʃˈmarta niʃˈmart niʃˈmarti niʃməˈru niʃmarˈtem niʃmarˈten niʃˈmarnu
Example conjugations in the past tense.

Future Tense (Unpast/ Imperfect)[edit]

A verb in the future tense (עָתִיד ʕaˈtid) agrees with its subject in person and number, and in the second- and third-person singular, gender. The second-person singular masculine and third-person singular feminine forms are identical for all verbs in the future tense. Historically, there have been separate feminine forms for the second- and third-person plural (shown in parentheses on the table). These are still occasionally used today (most often in formal settings), and could be seen as the 'correct' forms. However, in everyday speech, most Israelis use the historically male form for both genders.

Form Root Singular Plural
He She Thou (You) I They Ye (You) We
M F M (F) M (F)
paˈʕal שׁמר יִשְׁמֹר תִּשְׁמֹר תִּשְׁמֹר תִּשְׁמְרִי אֶשְׁמֹר יִשְׁמְרוּ תִּשְׁמֹרנָה תִּשְׁמְרוּ תִּשְׁמֹרנָה נִשְׁמֹר
sh-m-r jiʃˈmor tiʃˈmor tiʃˈmor tiʃməˈri ʔeʃˈmor jiʃməˈru tiʃˈmorna tiʃməˈru tiʃˈmorna niʃˈmor
piˈʕel גדל יְגַדֵּל תְּגַדֵּל תְּגַדֵּל תְּגַדְּלִי אֲגַדֵּל יְגַדְּלוּ תְּגַדֵּלְנָה תְּגַדְּלוּ תְּגַדֵּלְנָה נְגַדֵּל
g-d-l jəɡaˈdːel təɡaˈdːel təɡaˈdːel təɡadːəˈli ʔaɡaˈdːel jəɡadːəˈlu təɡaˈdːelna təɡadːəˈlu təɡaˈdːelna nəɡaˈdːel
hifˈʕil קטנ יַקְטִין תַּקְטִין תַּקְטִין תַּקְטִ֫ינִי אַקְטִין יַקְטִינוּ תַּקְטֵנָּה תַּקְטִינוּ תַּקְטֵנָּה נַקְטִין
q-t-n jaqˈtin taqˈtin taqˈtin taqˈtini ʔaqˈtin jaqˈtinu taqˈtenːa taqˈtinu taqˈtenːa naqˈtin
hitpaˈʕel בטל יִתְבַּטֵּל תִּתְבַּטֵּל תִּתְבַּטֵּל תִּתְבַּטְּלִי אֶתְבַּטֵּל יִתְבַּטְּלוּ תִּתְבַּטֵּלְנָה תִּתְבַּטְּלוּ תִּתְבַּטֵּלְנָה נִתְבַּטֵּל
b-t-l jitbaˈtːel titbaˈtːel titbaˈtːel titbatːəˈli ʔetbaˈtːel jitbatːəˈlu titbaˈtːelna titbatːəˈlu titbaˈtːelna nitbaˈtːel
hufˈʕal קטנ יֻקְטַן תֻּקְטַן תֻּקְטַן תֻּקְטְנִי אֻקְטַן יֻקְטְנּוּ תֻּקְטַנָּה תֻּקְטְנּוּ תֻּקְטַנָּה נֻקְטַן
q-t-n juqˈtan tuqˈtan tuqˈtan tuqtəˈni ʔuqˈtan juqtəˈnu tuqˈtanːa tuqtəˈnu tuqˈtanːa nuqˈtan
puˈʕal גדל יְגֻדַּל תְּגֻדַּל תְּגֻדַּל תְּגֻדְּלִי אֲגֻדַּל יְגֻדְּלוּ תְּגֻדַּלְנָה תְּגֻדְּלוּ תְּגֻדַּלְנָה נְגֻדַּל
g-d-l jəɡuˈdːal təɡuˈdːal təɡuˈdːal teɡudːəˈli ʔaɡuˈdːal jəɡudːəˈlu təɡuˈdːalna təɡudːəˈlu təɡuˈdːalna nəɡuˈdːal
nifˈʕal שׁמר יִשָּׁמֵר תִּשָּׁמֵר תִּשָּׁמֵר תִּשָּׁמְרִי אֶשָּׁמֵר יִשָּׁמְרוּ תִּשָּׁמֵרְנָה תִּשָּׁמְרוּ תִּשָּׁמֵרְנָה נִשָּׁמֵר
sh-m-r jiʃːaˈmer tiʃːaˈmer tiʃːaˈmer tiʃːamˈri ʔeʃːaˈmer jiʃːaməˈru tiʃːaˈmerna tiʃːaməˈru tiʃːaˈmerna niʃːaˈmer
Example conjugations in the future tense.

As in the past tense, personal pronouns are not strictly necessary in the future tense, as the verb forms are sufficient to identify the subject, but they are frequently used.


Form Root Singular Plural Translation
paˈʕal שׁמר שְׁמֹר שִׁמְרִי שִׁמְרוּ שְׁמֹרְנָה Guard
sh-m-r ʃəmor ʃimˈri ʃimˈru ˈʃəmorna
piˈʕel גדל גַּדֵּל גַּדְּלִי גַּדְּלוּ גַּדֵּלְנָה Raise, grow (it)
g-d-l ɡaˈdːel ɡadːəˈli gadːəˈlu ɡaˈdːelna
hifˈʕil קטנ הַקְטֵן הַקְטִינִי הַקְטִינוּ הַקְטֵנָּה Shrink (it)
q-t'-n haqˈten haqˈtini haqˈtinu haqˈtenːa
hitpaˈʕel בטל הִתְבַּטֵּל הִתְבַּטְּלִי הִתְבַּטְּלוּ הִתְבַּטֵּלְנָה Belittle yourself, loaf
b-t'-l hitbaˈtːel hitbatːəˈli hitbatːəˈlu hitbaˈtːelna
nifˈʕal שׁמר הִשָּׁמֵר הִשָּׁמְרִי הִשָּׁמְרוּ הִשָּׁמֵרנָה Be guarded
sh-m-r hiʃːaˈmer hiʃːaməˈri hiʃːaməˈru hiʃːaˈmerna
Example conjugations in the imperative.

Except for the strictly passive binyaním (puˈʕal and hufˈʕal), each binyan has distinct imperative forms in the second person. This imperative form is only used for affirmative commands. The pa'al, nif'al, pi'el and hif'il form their imperatives by dropping the initial ת taw of the future-tense form (e.g., תפתח /tifˈtaħ/ (singular, masc.) → פתח /ˈpətaħ/ "open!", תשמרי /tiʃməˈri/ (singular, fem.) → שמרי /ʃimˈri/ "guard!"); the fifth, hitpa'el, forms its imperative by replacing this initial ת with ה (/titbaˈtːel//hitbaˈtːel/ "do nothing!"). (Note that the dropping of the initial ת often results in a change in vocalization, as can be seen in the instance of /tiʃməˈri/ vs. imˈri/).

Negative commands use the particle אל /ˈal/ followed by the future-tense form. For example, אל תדאג /ˈal tidˈaɡ/ means "don't worry" (masculine, singular).

In informal speech, the future tense is commonly used for affirmative commands when making requests. Thus for example, תפתח /tifˈtaħ/ can mean either "you will open" or "would you open" (masculine, singular). (Similarly in English one might say "would you open" or "could you open" in lieu of simply "open".) In Hebrew, as in English, the more formal way to avoid the implication of commanding is to use the word "please" (בבקשה /bə-vaqaʃa/) with the imperative.

The infinitive can be used as a "general imperative" when addressing nobody in particular (e.g., on signs, or when giving general instructions to children or large groups), so that for example, נא לא לפתוח /ˈna ˈlo lifˈtoaħ/ means "please do not open". This might be more literally rendered as "it is requested that [this] not be opened", avoiding the question of address by using a passive voice.


Present participles are identical to present tense forms (the modern present tense actually having been derived from the ancient present participle): נרות בוערים /neˈrot boʕaˈrim/ (burning candles), ילדה מקסימה /jalˈda maqsiˈma/ (charming girl).

Only the pa'al binyan has a true past participle: from כתב k-t-b we have כתוב /kaˈtuv/, (writ, written). For verbs that have a pa'al form and a nif'al form serving as its passive, this provides a means to distinguish between a completed and a continuing action. The pa'al past participle indicates completion:

  • הספרים כתובים /hasːəfaˈrim kətuˈvim/ (the books have been written)

while the present tense of nif'al indicates that the action continues:

  • הספרים נכתבים /hasːəfaˈrim nixtaˈvim/ (the books are being written)

The passive participle is commonly used as an adjective, as in הפקודה הכתובה /hapːəquˈda hakːətuˈva/ (the written order).

The present tense of the pu'al and huf'al are used as passive participles for the pi'el and hif'il respectively. For example, from hif'il האיר /heˈʔir/ (lit) we get חדר מואר /ˈħeder muˈʔar/ (lit room).

Infinitives (Prospectives)[edit]

Infinitives (ʃəˈmot hapːoˈʕal) in Hebrew are primarily formed by adding the letter lamed (ל) to the front of the base form (tsuˈrat hamːaˈqor). The vowels change systematically according to the binyan.

  • כָּתַב /kaˈtav/ (wrote, paˈʕal) → לִכְתֹּב /lixˈtov/ (to write)
  • מְדַבֵּר /medaˈber/ (speak, piˈʕel) → לְדַבֵּר /ledaˈber/ (to speak)
  • הִתְחִיל /hitˈħil/ (started, hifˈʕil) → לְהַתְחִיל /lehatˈħil/ (to start)
  • הִתְפַּלֵּל /hitpaˈlel/ (prayed, hitpaˈʕel) → לְהִתְפַּלֵּל /lehitpaˈlel/ (to pray)
  • נִפְגַשׁ /nifˈɡaʃ/ (met with, nifˈʕal) → לְהִפָּגֵשׁ /lehipaˈɡeʃ/ (to meet with)

Note that puˈʕal and hufˈʕal verbs do not have infinitives.


Gerunds (ʃəˈmot pəʕuˈla) are nouns expressing an action. Gerunds are created in Hebrew by putting the root of a verb into a miʃˈkal, a noun pattern (see Modern Hebrew grammar#Noun derivation). Five of the binyanim have gerunds: paˈʕal, piˈʕel, hifˈʕil, hitpaˈʕel, and nifˈʕal. For example:

  • שָׁמַר /ʃaˈmar/ (guarded — paˈʕal) → שְׁמִירָה /ʃəmiˈra/ (guarding)
    • שָׁב /ˈʃav/ (returned — hollow paˈʕal) → שִׁיבָה /ʃiˈva/ (returning, a return)
    • שָׁתָה /ʃaˈta/ (drank — weak paˈʕal) → שְׁתִיָּה /ʃətiˈjːa/ (drinking, a drink)
  • נִכְנַס /nixˈnas/ (enter — nifˈʕal) → הִכָּנְסוּת /hikanˈsut/ (entering)
  • בִּקֵּר /biˈqːeʁ/ (visited — piˈʕel) → בִּקּוּר /biˈqːur/ (visiting, a visit)
  • הִפְתִּיעַ /hifˈtiaʕ/ (surprised — hifˈʕil) → הַפְתָעָה /hafteˈʕa/ (surprising, a surprise)
  • הִתְחַמֵּם /hitħaˈmːem/ (warmed — hitpaˈʕel) → הִתְחַמְּמוּת /hitħamːəˈmut/ (warming)

Note that unlike in English (where gerunds and present participles share the same form but different etymology), Hebrew gerunds cannot be used as adjectives.


Modern Hebrew has an analytic conditional~past-habitual mood expressed with the auxiliary /haˈja/:

"לו היה לי זמן, הייתי הולך."

lu haˈja ˈli ˈzəman, haˈjiti hoˈlex.
if was to-me time, I-was go.
If I had the time, I would go.

"לו מישהו היה טורח לספר לי, הייתי יודע."

lu ˈmiʃehu haˈja toˈreaħ lesaˈper ˈli, haˈjiti joˈdeaʕ.
if someone was bother to-tell me, I-was know.
If someone had bothered to tell me, I'd have known.

"פעם הייתי הולך המון לקולנוע."

ˈpaʕam haˈjiti hoˈlex haˈmon laqːolˈnoaʕ.
once I-was go a-lot to-the-cinema.
I used to go a lot to the cinema.

See also[edit]


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