There are seven basic verb stems (conjugations) or "Binyan" (Hebrew for "building") in Biblical Hebrew. While the Qal occurs most frequently, the six other stems must be known to facilitate reading Biblical Hebrew.
In the first part of this article we will explore the meaning or each stem and how to remember their function. In part 2, we will learn their identifying marks and how to remember their distinct markings.
First, let's list all seven stems and then look at them individually (Kelly, 108):
- Qal (Simple Active)
- Nif'al (Simple Passive or Reflexive)
- Pi'el (Intensive Active or Causative)
- Pu'al (Intensive Passive)
- Hitpa'el (Reflexive)
- Hif'il (Causative Active)
- Hof'al (Causative Pasive)
A challenge for nearly every Hebrew student is keeping the meaning of the verbal stems separate and distinct. In order to assist your memory in recalling the meaning of the stems use aural mnemonics and your imagination.
I will lead you through a few examples:
- Qal - sounds like "call." The basic active stem, generally translated in the past tense. If you need a memory device, picture yourself checking your answering machine (or voice mail these days) and hearing that you missed thousands of calls (sound-alike; past tense).
- Nif'al - sounds like "sniffle." Picture a sniffling nose hitting you with a baseball bat (you are passively being hit). Use any action association that reminds you of a sniffling nose where you are passive.
- Pi'el - sounds (and spelled) like "pie" and "L." Picture a giant "L" falling into a pie and making grow (intensification / causative).
- Keep going, making up aural mnemonics for the remaining verbal stems. A complete listing of mnemonics for each stem may be found in Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! The Triad System and also in Biblical Hebrew Made Easy! The Complete System. In addition, helpful hints are given to create your own stem mnemonics!
I hope this article on Hebrew Verb Stems (Binyan) 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!