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Hebrew Lesson Number 46:

Let's Practice What We Know #6

Seven building blocks . . . lots and lots of Hebrew verbs!  There’s no time like the present to review the past (tense, that is) with Learn Hebrew Pod!

Introduction to Lesson 46: 

Let's Practice What We Know #6

Learn Hebrew Pod - Lesson No. 46

“You have to know the past to understand the present.”

Was well-known American astronomer, writer, and scientist Dr. Carl Sagan correct from a philosophical point of view?  That might be an interesting topic for a long, late-night discussion!

In terms of Hebrew grammar, though, we probably don’t need to know the past to understand the present.  But we do need to know some suffixes to understand the past.


In Learn Hebrew Pod shiur mispar arba-im ve-shesh, we will have the opportunity to review all those suffixes . . . along with everything else we need to be experts in the Hebrew past tense.  We’ll look at the seven Hebrew building blocks in a whole new way . . . and we’ll see that it’s really not so hard!

זמן עבר

So don’t be weighed down by the past . . . embrace it!!  And bring all its lessons with you into your Hebrew-speaking present and future!!  

!בואו נתחיל

Some Grammar from This Lesson I:

The System, Importance and Meaning of The Hebrew Building Blocks

Jonathan: Thank you guys, at this point, I would suggest that we briefly remind our students about the system, the importance, the method and the meaning of the Hebrew building blocks… ma atem omrim chevre - what do you say guys?

Eran: kamuvanWe would love to participate in this discussion - nismach le-hishtatef ba-di-yun haze!

Liat: me-ule Yonatan. Okay, let’s start!

Jonathan: The different building blocks are the grammatical forms or models used for conjugating verbs in Hebrew. 

Eran: It is the system and pattern, by which one conjugates the roots in different tenses and pronouns.

Liat: This system mostly incorporates prefixes, suffixes and infixes added onto the basic stem of the Hebrew verb, that is to the root of the verb.


Jonathan:  Starting with the Learn Hebrew Pod Beginner’s Level, and continuing more intensely through our Intermediate Level, we became acquainted with the different prefixes, suffixes and infixes used by the various building blocks. By doing that, we have mastered the technique by which the roots became full and meaningful verbs, associated with a specific pronouns and a specific tense.

Eran: Remember, the names of the different building blocks are all derived from the letters 'P''A' and 'L' - 'pey''ayin' and 'lamed,' which together comprise the root meaning to workto operate or to do.

Jonathan: At the same time, the root letters 'P''A' and 'L' - 'pey''ayin' and 'lamed' act, respectively, as the variables for ANY root letter:

Liat: The 'pey' is always the variable for the first root letter.

Eran: The 'ayin' is always the variable for the second root letter.

Liat: The 'lamed' is always the variable for the third root letter.

Jonathan: The name of each of the building blocks tells us the way to conjugate these letters in the masculine, third person, singular in the past tense . . .

Liat: Which is also quite handy for our studies because when we conjugate a verb in the masculine, third person, singular in the past tense, we actually use no suffixes.

Jonathan: nachon! Which is exactly what makes this the perfect conjugation for studying the unique prefixes and infixes each of the building blocks employs!

Some Grammar from This Lesson II: 

Dagesh KalDagesh Chazak in Hebrew



For three letters in the modern Hebrew alphabet (and for six letters in the ancient Hebrew alphabet), this distinction between closed and open syllables is very important.

Eran: The three letters are: betkaf and pey, and they can appear and sound differently in different words, usually according to their placement in the word.  These letters, when they appear at the beginning of a word or after a closed syllable, will be written with a dot and are usually pronounced differently than when they appear after an open syllable or as the second half of a syllable.

Liat: The term used in Hebrew for this hard pronunciation of one of these letters is 'dagesh kal'. Let's listen to how they sound in their 'hard pronunciation' versus their 'light/ soft pronunciation':


bet - with the dot    vet - without the dot 

kaf with the dot    chaf - without the dot

pey with the dot    fey - without the dot

Jonathan: As was just mentioned, when we READ or WRITE Hebrew with nikud, we will see the ‘dagesh kal’ appearing in six letters. These are known as beged-kefet letters and are the letters: betgimeldaledkafpey and taf. In ancient Hebrew, all of these were probably pronounced differently, depending on whether they came with or without the dot. These days, when we HEAR or TALK in Hebrew, only three of these sound different when they appear with the dot: the bet, the kaf and the pey. The gimel, the daled and the taf sound the same with or without the ‘dagesh kal’. Let’s move to the second kind of ‘dagesh’ the ‘dagesh chazak’.

Liat: The 'dagesh chazak' is actually a kind of emphasis implemented on the consonant. There are basically two types of ‘dagesh chazak’: the ‘dagesh chazak’ that serves as a ‘consonant compensation’ (which will be mostly explained in our advanced program),

Jonathan: and the ‘dagesh chazak’ that is a part of the form for three of the Hebrew building blocks. In these three building blocks--Pi-elPu-al, and Hitpa-el,--the ‘dagesh chazak’ always appears in the second root letter (no matter what the letter is) unless it is one of the guttural letters--meaning the ‘alef’ the ‘hey’ the ‘chet’ the ‘ayin’ and the ‘resh’.


Eran: But don’t worry!  Just as with the ‘dagesh kal’, in today’s Hebrew pronunciation, the ‘dagesh chazak’ will only be audible in three letters: the ‘bet’ the ‘kaf’ and the ‘pey’.

Liat: For these letters, the ‘dagesh chazak’ simply means that they will always be pronounced in their hard pronunciation in the building blocks Pi-elPu-al, and Hitpa-el:

savta sipra li sipur

סבתא סיפרה לי סיפור

In Pi-el:

We won't say 'sifer' but 'siper'

We won't say 'shivezz' but 'shibezz'

And we won't say 'liched' but 'liked'.


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