Nouns in Hebrew: Gender

All Hebrew nouns are either feminine or neuter. Hebrew does not carry a "neuter" gender, as Biblical Greek does. 

While there are some predictable patterns in determining a noun's gender,the only absolute way to determine a noun's gender is to look it up in a Hebrew lexicon or dictionary.

Feminine Nouns — Singular
Here are some quick "identifiers" for the feminine noun:
  • Females and animals = feminine in Hebrew
  • Nouns ending in qames-he (שָׁנָה) are normally feminine (there are always exceptions)
  • Some masculine nouns are made feminine by adding the qames-he! For example king, מלך becomes queen: מלכה
  • Nouns ending in tav (אחות) will usually be feminine
  • Body parts (in pairs) are generally feminie (e.g. hand, יד)

Masculine nouns, in the singular, are unpredictable! Use a Hebrew lexicon if you need to be certain of the gender of a noun.

Hebrew Plural Nouns

Feminine Plural Nouns
Most feminine plural nouns end in holem-vav-tav (e.g. horses, סוסות). BUT there are a few that end in hireq-yod-mem (which you will see is usually reserved for masculine plurals) 

Masculine Plural Nouns
Happily, unlike singular nouns, the masculine plural is identified by the hireq-yod-mem suffix (e.g. men, אנשׁים).

BUT, there are some masculine plurals that take the usual feminine plural ending of the holem-vav-tav! For example, father is masculine, but fathers (plural) in Hebrew takes the "normal" feminine ending, אבות.

"Dual" Nouns
As the name implies, "dual" nouns name things that occur in pairs, especially body parts such as ears, hands, etc. Although some nouns take the dual ending that do not occur in pairs, such as water (מים).  The dual ending is normally accented patah-yod-hireq-mem. For example hands, ידים.

Mnemonics to Remember Noun Endings
Generally, mnemonics aren't needed to remember the endings, as they are pretty simple. But here are some helpful tips if you need a little memory "nudge!"
  • The feminine singular he suffix sounds like "Hey!" Imagine some guys "cat calling" girls saying, "Hey baby!"
  • The feminine singular tav can be remembered by a visual mnemonic: the tav is in the shape of a woman bent over on her hands cleaning or scrubbing. If you see the vav behind her, you know it is plural.
  • The masculine plural hireq-yod-mem suffix is easily rememberable as masculine by using the phonetic letter values of the Hebrew vowels/consonant and turning them into English: Hireq-Yod-Mem = "Hym" which reminds you of "Him," which is masculine. Easy!
  • If you know the masculine plural, you know the Dual.

More Biblical Hebrew Memory Helps!
I hope this article on learning the gender and number of nouns in Hebrew has helped you! For more powerful memory helps in learning Biblical Hebrew grammar, vocabulary and Hebrew paradigms be sure to visit Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! Or visit my author homepage, Boost Your Memory! While you're there, be sure to sign up for our newsletter that has exclusive discounters for our members!

 The Hebrew Conjunction

In English the conjunction "and" is always written separately; in Hebrew the conjunction "and" (vav) is prefixed to the following word.

As we learned in other lessons, words in Hebrew will undergo vocal changes when prefixes are attached. The same happens with the "vav conjunction" as well. Lets take a look at the rules governing the vav conjunction:

Rule #1

Most often the vav conjunction appears as vav plus sheva. This vav-sheva combination will occur before consonants pointed with a full vowel. 

Rule #2
Before "labials" (bet, mem and pe — those consonants formed by the lips) the vav conjunction is written as a sureq.

Rule #3
Before yod and sheva a contraction happens and we are left with vav-hireq-yod.

Rule #4
Before a compound sheva the vav conjunction takes the corresponding short vowel of the compound.

Rule #5
Before monosyllabic words or words with accents on the first syllable, the vav conjunction is usually written as vav-qames.

Mnemonics to Remember the Rules for the Vav Conjunction

Rule#1: The Vav Conjunction Sheva and Shakes!
Simply memorize that the basic pointing of the vav conjunction is a sheva

Rule #2: Labials "sure wreck" (sureq) the Vav Conjunction!
You know that the basic rule for the vav conjunction is to point them with a simple sheva. When you come across a "labial" (bet, mem or pe) just remember that the labials sure wreck (sureq instead of vav-sheva) the vav conjunction!

Rule #3: Yo! Slide on over!
This is another easy to remember rule. Simply visualize that when you encounter a yod-sheva that the yod "slides" next to the vav and knocks out one of the "dots" of the sheva to form the vav-hireq-yod.

Rule #4: Compound sheva sheva on the wall, who's the prettiest of them all? 
When you encounter a compound sheva, simply remember that the sheva (which looks similar to a wall mirror) reflects back the half-vowel under the vav conjunction.

Rule #5: Single Syllable's are Tillable with Qames!
When you find a single syllable word (monosyllabic) or words that carry the accent on first syllable, just remember "single syllables are tillable." The qames looks like a shovel — a tool you use to "till" the ground under the vav forming a vav-qames conjunction.

More Biblical Hebrew Memory Helps!
I hope this article on learning the rules for the Vav Conjunction in Hebrew has helped you! For more powerful memory helps in learning Biblical Hebrew grammar, vocabulary and Hebrew paradigms be sure to visit Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! Or visit my author homepage, Boost Your Memory! While you are there, make sure to sign up for our newsletter for special discounts and announcements!

Rules for Inseparable Prepositions & Vowel Pointing
In part one, you learned the three inseparable prepositions in Hebrew and their various basic meanings. In this article we will deal with the rules that govern how the inseparable prepositions are attached to nouns.

Rule #1
Inseparable prepositions are attached with a sheva before consonants with a full vowel.

Rule #2
If the first consonant of the noun has a simple sheva, the preposition is pointed with a hireq.

Rule #3
If the first consonant of the noun has a compound sheva, the preposition will take the same short vowel as the compound.

Rule #4

When the inseparable preposition is attached to a noun with the definite article, the definite article (he) drops and is replaced with the full vowel according to the rules of vowel pointing for the definite article.

Rule #5
When the inseparable preposition is attached to the accented syllable of a noun, it is usually pointed with a qames.

Mnemonics to Remember the Rules for the Inseparable Prepositions

Rule#1: Shevas Slip Under Inseparables!

Simply memorize that the basic pointing of an inseparable preposition is a sheva

Rule #2: Sheva Minus One Dot
You know that the basic rule for inseparable prepositions is to point them with a sheva. When you come across a noun that already has a sheva under its first consonant, simply imagine that the bottom "dot" of the sheva falls away when connected to another sheva.

Rule #3: Compound? Come On Over!

This is another easy to remember rule. Simply visualize that when you encounter a compound sheva, the sheva morphs into the corresponding vowel of the compound.

Rule #4: Definitely Use the Rule for the Definite Article!
If you know your rules for the definite article, this is easy too. Just remember the rules for the definite article vowel pointing.

Rule #5: Munahs Must Flip!
When you encounter the munah in the text (which looks like half of an inverted qames), simply flip the munah (in your imagination) and put it under the preposition - it will remind you of the qames.

More Biblical Hebrew Memory Helps!
I hope this article on learning the rules for the inseparable preposition in Hebrew has helped you! For more powerful memory helps in learning Biblical Hebrew grammar and Hebrew paradigms be sure to visit Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! Or visit my author homepage, Boost Your Memory!

What are Prepositions?
Let's go back to basic grammar and "parts of speech." If your grammar is rusty, don't sweat it. Prepositions are simple. The preposition is used to show direction, location, time, or to introduce an object. For example, "I put my wallet ON the table." Another example, "I went TO the store." So, now that we've refreshed our memories as to what prepositions are, let's talk about the Hebrew preposition.

Hebrew Prepositions
The good new first: there are only three Hebrew inseparable prepositions! The bad news? As you would expect, the vowel pointing of the inseparable preposition does funky things when it meets shevas and definite articles. We'll tackle the rules of attachment next week. First, let's learn the inseparable prepositions and their meanings. 

The Inseparable Prepositions
The three inseparable preposition in Hebrew are:
  • בּ   in, by, with (and others)
  • כּ   as, like, according to (and others)
  • ל   to, for, at (and others)

How to Remember the Three Inseparable Hebrew Prepositions
I use this simple acrostic mnemonic to recall the three prepositions: "Be Kool Lee!"  As you can see, each English letter corresponds to the phonetic value of the Hebrew. Make up your own acrostic / acronym to remember the three.

To recall the basic meanings of each of the prepositions, I work with my acronym:
  • "Be" is transformed to its "sound-alike," "Bee." I visualize an "Inn" for "bees." Then I "link," by association, "in" to "by." I picture an "Inn" waving "bye." Finally I link "Bye" (by) to "with." I picture a hand waving "bye" that is a mile in width (with).
  • "Kool" is linked with "ass" (as in "donkey" folks). I picture an "ass" licking the condensation of the Kool Aid character ("like" sound-alike); then I associate "like" (lick) to "according to," for which I use "accordion." I visualize myself "licking" (like) an accordion (according to) to make it play.
  • "Lee" is linked with "to." I picture Bruce Lee wearing a tutu (to). Next link "to" to "for." For myself, I link "tutu" (to) with a golf club (fore! i.e. for); so I see a golf club wearing a tutu. Finally I associate "for" (golf club) to "at." I visualize a Star Wars "At-At"(at) that has golf clubs (for) for legs.

And there you have it! As usual, the description of how to memorize takes much longer than the actual practice. Try it, you'll be amazed at how quickly you will learn these prepositions!

Next week, we will examine the rules for attaching the inseparable prepositions to nouns.

More Biblical Hebrew Memory Helps!
I hope this article on learning the inseparable preposition in Hebrew has helped you! For more powerful memory helps in learning Biblical Hebrew grammar and Hebrew paradigms be sure to visit Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! Or visit my author homepage, Boost Your Memory!

Basic Hebrew Stuff on The Definite Article

Let's get the basics out of the way first. There are only three basic rules you need to remember about the Hebrew definite article:
  • Hebrew has no indefinite article - so if you don’t see the definite article, it's indefinite (e.g. a boy ran...).
  • The definite article is prefixed, and does not stand alone, to the noun it modifies. In other words, the definite article is not like English where it stands separate (e.g. the boy; הַיּלד in Hebrew).
  • Before non-gutturals (א,ה,ח,ע) simply remember it is written ּהַ (he-patah, daghesh forte in first consonant).

So, there you have the basic rules. This will cover many, many encounters you have with the definite article in Hebrew. Just remember if you see the he-patahdaghesh forte combination, you're dealing with the definite article — attach "the" in your English translation.

The Definite Article in front of Gutturals

In a previous post I talked about why it is important to know by heart the Hebrew gutturals. Here is a shinning example. The definite article changes its vowel pointing before a guttural.

You will have to know four basic variations to accommodate the gutturals. I will give you memory helps (mnemonics) on how to remember these variations.

These mnemonics are based on visualization, not rote. If you want to learn them via rote, well, you know the drill. If you want to learn mnemonics that will help you learn them faster and encode them deeper in your memory, read on!
  1. Before he and het (ה, ח) the article is written he-patah (הַ); How to remember this rule? I visualize the dagesh being eaten by the he and het when the definite article is placed next to these gutturals.
  2. Before alef, ayin and res (א,ע,ר) the article is usually written he-qames (הָ). How to remember this rule? In my imagination I can visualize inserting a qames in these gutturals. I can see fitting a qames diagonally in the alef; I fit a patah, inverted in bottom of the ayin; I see a qames in the top of the res
  3. Before het-qames (חָ) and unaccented he-qames (הָ) or unaccented ayin qames (עָ), the definite article is written he-segol (ה) [my computer will not allow me to produce the segol in Hebrew]. How to remember this rule? I visualize the qames under the het, he and ayin shattering when placed before the definite article into a segol.
  4. Before yod-sheva, the article will normally be written he-patah (הַ). How to remember this rule? When I see the yod-sheva combination, I imagine the normal definite article (he-patah-dagesh) losing the dagesh by floating under the yod and splitting into two forming a sheva.

More Biblical Hebrew Memory Helps!
I hope this brief article on learning the definite article in Hebrew has helped you! For more powerful memory helps in learning Biblical Hebrew grammar and Hebrew paradigms be sure to visit Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! Or visit my author homepage, Boost Your Memory!

What are the Gutturals?
Gutturals are so called because of where they are articulated, in the back of the throat.

English speakers don't use "gutturals," so the concept of these letters is unusual, particularly to Hebrew students who are learning and working with a language that relies heavily upon the gutturals.

The gutturals are the aleph, he, het, ayin and res (א, ה, ח,ע,ר).

Why are the Gutturals Important to Know?
At first it may seem that learning the gutturals is a piece of trivia for linguists. But in Hebrew, you must know the gutturals.

So, why exactly do you need to learn the gutturals in Hebrew?
  • To understand the distinction between "Strong" and "Weak" verbs. Weak verbs contain gutturals.
  • To understand the "morphology" (how words change) of Hebrew verbs that contain gutturals.
  • To have the ability to predict changes in Hebrew morphology for verbs containing gutturals in order to find their lexical (dictionary) location.

Characteristics of Gutturals
Gutturals take on distinct characteristics that will help you "parse" weak verbs (remember that weak verbs are those verbs which contain a guttural).

Here are the main features of the Hebrew guttural:
  • Gutturals tend to take "a" class vowels
  • Gutturals cannot be doubled
  • Gutturals prefer compound shevas rather than simple shevas 

It's not important to explain what all that means right now, you will learn its importance as you progress in your Hebrew grammar. For now, just realize that you need to memorize the gutturals to help you down the road in your studies.

How to Easily Remember the Gutturals
As we stated in the beginning, the gutturals are the aleph, he, het, ayin and res (א, ה, ח,ע,ר)

A simple method of learning the gutturals is to "link" them. Use a "header" as a sort of "file folder" in your memory to keep this information stored and easily retrievable.

While there are only five letters to memorize, which can be done with rote, using the "link" forces your attention and will help you retain the information for longer.

Here's how to link them (the explanation takes much longer than actually doing it):
  1. Create a "header" or subject file for this piece of memory information. You will use this "header" as the first "link" to the first guttural.
  2. Find a "sound-alike" word for each of these Hebrew letters. For example, alef sounds to me like "a leaf" in English.
  3. In your imagination, "link" the "header" to the first guttural, alef. For myself, I link a "gutter" (guttural) to "a leaf." In my imagination I picture a narrow gutter overflowing with millions of leafs.
  4. Next "link," in  your imagination, the alef to the next guttural, the he. He sounds like "hay" in English to me. So, I link "a leaf" to "hay."  In my imagination I see a huge stack of "hay" made out of "leafs."
  5. Continue your "link" with the next guttural. Work in pairs - do not form a running story for all the letters. One letter will lead to the next. Het sound like "hate" in English to me, so I link "hay" to "hate." I see a stack of "hay" raging against me with "hate."
  6. Continue to work in pairs. Associate (link) the ayin (sound like "eye" to me) to het. I picture "hating" my eye and poking it out!
  7. Associate your final guttural, res, to your previous guttural, ayin. I link "eye" (ayin) to "rake" (res). I see a huge eyeball using a rake to rake up a yard.
  8. Your done! If you've taken the time to do this exercise you will now know the gutturals forwards and backwards -- literally! Try it! 

More Biblical Hebrew Memory Helps!
I hope this brief article on the gutturals has helped you! For more powerful memory helps in learning Hebrew grammar and paradigms be sure to visit Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! Or visit my author homepage, Boost Your Memory!

Where the Dotty Dagesh Appears
The "dagesh" is the dot sometimes found in Hebrew letters. This "dot" may be either a dagesh lene or dagesh forte. The dagesh lene may appear in six of the Hebrew consonants (if you need help learning the Hebrew alphabet, watch this video): bet, gimel, dalet, kaf, pe or tav (ת, פ, כ, ד, ב).

An easy and common way to remember these consonsonants is the acronym "BeGaD KeFaT," functioning similarly to the mnemonic device of "Roy G. Biv" to remember the colors of the rainbow.

The dagesh lene serves as a pronunciation cue — with the dagesh lene the pronunciation of the Hebrew consonant is "hard."

The dagesh forte doubles the consonant and may be placed in ANY consonant except the gutturals (alef, he, het, ayin or res). When the forte stands in a "BeGaD KeFaT" letter, it also "hardens" the pronunciation of that consonant.

Rules for the Dagesh - Simplified!
A "dot" in the middle of any letter OTHER than a "BeGaD KeFaT" letter MUST be a dagesh forte.  Things don't get complicated till we deal with the "forte." As stated above, a dagesh forte may stand in ANY consonant INCLUDING the "BeGaD KeFaT" letters (with the exception of the gutturals).

Instead of memorizing confusing rules about the dagesh lene and forte, REMEMBER THIS: a dagesh lene NEVER stands after a vowel! If there is a "dot" in a letter after a vowel it MUST be dagesh forte! 

Keeping the Lene and Forte Distinct in Your Memory
Keeping this ONE rule in mind will greatly reduce your confusion when you encounter the dagesh. But quite often students don't remember which dagesh is which dagesh. In other words, does the "forte" harden pronunciation or does the "lene" double the consonant's value or vice versa?

Here is an easy way to keep the dagesh lene and forte distinct in your mind and memory: associate and visualize the dagesh "lene" as being "lean" as in lean (sound-alike), hard muscle. This will "cue" your memory to harden the consonants in which the lene appears.

Associate and visualize the dagesh "forte" as being dual towered fort (sound-alike). A fort must have a door, I visualize the Hebrew "qames" (ָ) vowel as the door of the fort. This helps me to always remember that after a vowel, the dagesh MUST be a forte! Simple!

More Biblical Hebrew Memory Helps!
I hope this brief article on the dagesh forte and lene has helped you! For more powerful memory helps in learning Hebrew grammar and paradigms be sure to visit Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! Or visit my author homepage, Boost Your Memory!

Hebrew Words — Why Vocabulary is Important
When it comes to learning a language, mastery of vocabulary, obviously, is necessary. The joy of reading a language is killed when you have to look up every word in the text.  I believe this is why so many students simply give up or grind through Hebrew just to pass so they never have to look at the language again.

When I interviewed Rev. Dr. Walter Maier III, Professor of Hebrew at Concordia Theological Seminary,  he stated that vocabulary is essential for learning Hebrew.  It is the foundational building block of learning Hebrew. Of course I agree. Interestingly he also stated that Hebrew grammar will fall into place once a certain level of mastery is gained over the vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew. What was not discussed in our interview was how many vocabulary words in Hebrew should the student have mastery over.

The Law of Diminishing Returns and 8,679 Words
The law of Diminishing Return states, "The tendency for a continuing application of effort or skill toward a particular project or goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved." and this is true for learning Biblical Hebrew vocabulary as well.

There are 419, 687 words in the Hebrew Old Testament text. Of those 419,687 words 8,679 are unique that compose the total usage of 419,687 words total. So the question is: How many of the 8,679 words do I need to have absolute mastery over to have competency in Biblical Hebrew? 

Of course "competency" is subjective, but if you wanted to recognize nearly 90% of all word occurrences in the Hebrew text the answer would be: 22% of the 8,679 words — that means you would need to know a mere 1,903 Hebrew vocabulary words. That is not an unrealistic amount of vocabulary to master in a year or less with dedication. But for some, this will seem daunting or not worth the investment of time and effort. If this is you, keep reading for the good news...

80% Recognition — Less is More
Keep the "Law of Diminishing Returns" in mind. The more Hebrew vocabulary you learn, the better. But at some point the returns diminish after a certain number of vocabulary words are memorized.

In my opinion, that magic number is: 641.

That is FAR less than 1,903, isn't it? In fact, that number seems entirely possible ot memorize. And guess what? With mastery of a mere 641 Hebrew words you will have OVER 80% recognition of Hebrew vocabulary in the Old Testament text! After learning 641 of the highest frequency the "law of diminishing" returns kicks in. That is good news for Hebrew students.

Start Learning Hebrew Vocabulary FAST
With Biblical Hebrew: The Complete System you will quickly learn over 500 high frequency words. In addition you will learn how to conquer the Hebrew paradigms using ancient memory techniques modified for today's student.

Visit us at Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! to learn more, or visit Blair Kasfeldt's webpage Boost Your Memory.

Blessings to you as you learn Biblical Hebrew!

Learn Your A-B-C's
The first step in learning any language is to have mastery of the language's alphabet. The same hold true for Hebrew.

A simple and effective way to quickly memorize the Hebrew "alef-bet" is to put the alphabet to song.

Singing the alphabet is likely the way you first learned your English alphabet as a child. Putting the alphabet to melody is a simple "mnemonic" (memory help) to learn the alphabet by heart. The fact that you can likely still sing the alphabet song attests to the strength of this mnemonic. 

Visual / Audio Help in Learning the Hebrew Alphabet
Below you will find a video that will help you learn the Hebrew alphabet by putting the consonants of the Hebrew alphabet to song.  Simply listen to the song a few times and start singing along!

This will help you learn the sequential order of the Hebrew alphabet. Pay attention to the Hebrew characters as you watch and listen to the song.

Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary Helps
To learn Hebrew vocabulary and grammar quickly and easily, visit us on the web at Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! To see more works by author Blair Kasfeldt, visit his website, Boost Your Memory!
What's Your Name?
After asking a student from Korea who is studying here in America what his name is, he not only told me his name, but also told me what his name meant.

It reminded me of a fact lost in America — names carry meaning or "weight."  This is particularly true in the Old Testament Scriptures.   
"Name" in Hebrew
In Hebrew, name is שׁם (pronounced shame). While the etymology of this word is uncertain, some have sought to connect this word to the Hebrew word shema as a shortened form. But more likely is from an Arabic root meaning "'to mark or brand,' hence an external mark to distinguish one thing or person from another." (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, s.v. shem)

A person's given name was not merely an identifying mark or call sign (similar to how Americans understand a name), but a name gave meaning (with hoped expectation to fulfill the meaning) to the thing or person to which the name is ascribed.

The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament notes:
"Thus [shame] constitutes a reality that guarantees the bearer an existence  however hard to define, that endures beyond death. A related theme is defense against the ultimate annihilation of the [shame]."

We rejoice that our names are not forgotten by God. Jesus speaks to His disciples after granting them power to cast out demons and says, "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this...but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10.20 cf. Rev.17.8)

Tetragrammaton — YHWH
The "shame Yhwh" (name of YHWH) identifies the LORD God and His being. Where His name is placed, there God is present.  

Harris notes in his commentary:

"...it functions almost like an appearance of Yahweh (Ex.23.20; Isa 30.27). Cf. the tabernacling of the Name at various spots almost like a Christophany (Ex 20.24; Deut 12.5; II Sam 7.13).  The name of God also signifies the whole self-disclosure of God in his holiness and truth (Ps.22.22)...it is our Lord's preparation for the full disclosure of the Trinity as well as the Incarnation of his Son to come." (Ibid.)

Baptized into God's Name
Christians are baptized into the name of God: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God places His name upon us in baptism.

In Revelation, we see the whole body of believers symbolized in the 144,000. St. John writes, "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads." (Rev. 14.1).

Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary Helps
To learn Hebrew vocabulary and grammar quickly and easily, visit us on the web at Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! To see more works by author Blair Kasfeldt, visit his website, Boost Your Memory!