Quartz Hill School of Theology

Lesson 7: Introduction to the Verb


Translation      Hebrew
to eat אָכַל
to learn לָמַד
to write כָּתַב
to say אָמַר
to give birthיָלַד
to sit, to dwell יָשַׁב
to finishגָּמַר
to give נָתַן
to guard, keep     שָׁמַר
to walk, go הָלַךְ
to shut, to close סָגַר
to stand עָמַד

What is a verb? A verb conveys the action or state of the sentence. The itallicized words in the following example sentences are all verbs:

The boy licks the dog.
The tree is ugly.
The man ran fast.

The Hebrew Verb

Hebrew, like other Semitic languages, has a triconsonant (triliteral) root system; that is, the root (or most basic) form of each Hebrew verb is most often composed of three consonants. Upon this foundation of three consonants, all other aspects of the verb will be constructed.

Hebrew is referred to as an inflected language, meaning that the verb forms themselves convey information that in English would be conveyed by additional words surrounding the verb. That is, one can tell, by the verb alone, what the number and gender of the subject might be.


The simple or base form of the Hebrew verb is referred to as Qal; in modern Hebrew, it is sometimes called the Pa'al form. In comparative Semitics (comparing Hebrew to other, related languages such as Akkadian), this base form is referred to as the G stem (from German Grund, meaning base). Hebrew has a total of seven forms or "stems" that the verb may appear in. You will eventually learn to conjugate all seven forms. For now, we will begin with the Qal.

Aspect vs. Tense

Biblical Hebrew does not have past, present and future tenses like English (modern Hebrew is another story altogether, however). Instead, action is regarded as either complete or incomplete. Complete action is referred to as perfect and incomplete action is referred to as imperfect. Generally speaking, the perfect aspect will be translated into English with the English past tense and the imperfect will be translated into English with the English future tense. However, this is only an approximation of the situation, and so there will be times when altogether different tenses will be better in certain circumstances. In Biblical Hebrew Step-by-Step, Mansoor will refer to the perfect as the past tense and the imperfect as the present tense (and the participle, which we will get to in a moment) as the present. I do not think this is really appropriate, and thus in these online notes I will consistently speak of the imperfect and perfect aspects. It is better, I think, to try to wrap your mind around the somewhat alien way of ancient Hebrew thinking, than to accept the imprecision of forcing the ancient forms into modern molds into which they simply do not fit.

Active Participles of the Qal

      Masculine     Feminine
     קוֹטֵל    קוֹטֶלֶת / קוֹטְלָה
Masculine     Feminine
קוֹטְלִים    קוֹטְלוֹת

Participles correspond to English words that end with -ing, such as running, sitting, sewing, and so forth.

The Hebrew masculine singular participle is formed by inserting the vowel וֹ‎ after the first letter of the root and putting the vowel sere under the second letter of the root. The accent is on the last syllable. It should be noted that the holem can be written with or without the vowel letter vav. Its presense or absence does not affect the meaning at all; it is mearly a varient spelling possibility.

The participles agree with the nouns and pronouns associated with them. They may precede or follow the subject of the sentence. Please memorize the paradigms (lists of the possible participle forms) above. NOTE: the participle is formed by taking any verb and inserting the appropriate vowels and endings as listed above. The verbal root קטל (to kill) is simply used as an example. Any verb would work equally well.

Notice, too, that there are two possible forms of the feminine singular participle. The form קוֹטֶלֶת is the more common form by far. The form קוֹטְלָה is actually rare.


Please read pages 69-72 in Biblical Hebrew Step-by-Step.


1. Memorize the vocabulary and paradigms.

2. Do the Exercises on pages 72-73.

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Website: www.theology.edu

Quartz Hill School of Theology
43543 51st Street West
Quartz Hill, CA 93536

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