Hebrew Verbs
By Jeff A. Benner

Hebrew verbs, like English verbs, describe action. Because the Hebrew language is an action oriented language rather than descriptive, it is prolific with verbs. When a Hebrew verb is conjugated in a sentence it identifies person, number, gender, tense, mood and voice. Understanding these different aspects of a verb is essential for proper interpretation of that verb.

Person

Each verb identifies the subject of the verb as first (I), second (you) or third (he) person.

Number

Each verb also indicates the subject of the verb as singular or plural (we, you or they).

Gender

Each verb also indicates the subject of the verb as masculine (he) or feminine (she).

Tense

There are four tenses in Hebrew verbs, perfect, imperfect, participle and imperative. In the English language the verb tenses are related to time; past, present and future, while the Hebrew verbs are all related to action. The perfect tense is a completed action and in most cases is related to the English past tense (he cut). The imperfect tense is an incomplete action and is closely related to the English present and future tenses (he cuts or he will cut). The participle can be a current action or one who performs the action (a cutting or cutter). The imperative identifies the action, similar to a command, with no reference to the subject (cut!). When the prefix (waw) meaning "and" is attached to the verb, the verb tense (perfect or imperfect) reverses. For this reason this letter, when used in this context, is called the reversing or consecutive waw.

Voice

Each verb also includes voice of which there are three; active, passive or reflexive. The active voice identifies the action of the verb as coming from the subject (he cut). The passive voice does not identify the origin of action placed on the subject of the verb (he was cut). The reflexive voice places the action of the verb onto the subject (he cut himself).

Mood

Each verb also includes mood of which there are three; simple, intensive or causative. The simple mood is simple action of the verb (he cut). The intensive mood implies force or emphasis on the verb (he slashed or hacked). The causative mood expresses causation to the verb (he casued a cut).

Conjugations

While all of this appears complex and confusing at first it should be noted that the majority of the Hebrew verbs in the Bible are written in the paal form. It should also be noted that of these verbs most of them are written in the perfect tense, third person, masculine, singular form. These common verb conjugations are easily learned and a many resources are available to help decipher the other less common verbs.