Hebrew Time #21 - Binyanim Part II
Welcome to Hebrew Time #21! For those of us who are joining now – Hebrew Time is a series of weekly posts about the Hebrew language, Israel, and the Jewish people.
You can see the previous post here. If you haven’t read it, you should probably do so now because today’s post is Part II to last week’s Part I. If you have read it, you should probably go back and read it again to refresh your memory!
Last week we introduced the concept of Binyanim - constructions - which is a formulaic way of creating lots and lots of verbs in Hebrew. Today we are going to look slightly closer at what each binyan actually means. I know this topic is in danger of being heavy-going and a bit dry, but trust me that it’s worth it in the end. Pretty much every verb in Hebrew follows these patterns and it will hopefully all make sense in the end!
As a reminder, here are the seven binyanim again:
Pa’al construction (פָּעַל) - Active.
Pi’el construction (פִּעֵל) - Active.
Hif’il construction (הִפְעִיל) - Active.
Hitpa’el construction (הִתְפַּעֵל) - Reflexive .
Nif’al construction (נִפְעַל) - Passive of Pa’al.
Pu’al construction (פֻּעַל) - Passive of Pi’el.
Huf’al construction (הֻפְעַל) - Passive of Hif’il.
Each one makes a verb have a slightly different meaning, but remember that not every verb has a form in every binyan. Now, last week we learned how to insert a root of a verb into any of these binyanim, but what does each one actually mean?
Disclaimer: The following are rough or general descriptions of how a verb’s meaning changes with each binyan, the exact meaning is verb-specific and not always predictable (even though the pattern it follows is).
Well, פָּעַל and נִפְעַל (numbers 1 and 5) are simple verbs. They produce verbs that describe the most basic actions, like “It walked”, “It swam”, “It ate”, “It slept” (for no. 1 which is active) and “It was eaten”, “It was caught”, “It was written” (for no. 5 which is passive).
For example: Using the root גדל, which is to do with things being big (גדול is “big”) you can make גָדַל (gadal) - grew/got bigger (as in “he grew up” or “it got bigger”). The root גדל doesn’t have a simple passive נִפְעַל form (you can’t have “he got grown”), but the root תפס (“caught” words) does - simple active is תָפַס (tafas) (“caught” as in “he caught a fish”) and simple passive is נִתְפַס (neetfas) (“was caught/got stuck” as in “the fish was caught” or “the door got stuck”.).
The passive binyan נִפְעַל also has a reflexive meaning in some cases (i.e. simultaneously active and passive).
פִּעֵל and פֻּעַל (numbers 2 and 6) are intensive verbs. These make verbs that take a more direct action, that are more involved than their simple forms. Carrying on with our previous example, you can make גִדֵל (gidel) - grew (as in “he grew a tree”). Notice that the action is more direct and involves more effort. The passive פֻּעַל version is גֻדַל (gudal) - “was grown” e.g. “A tree was grown by the gardener”.
The binyanim הִפְעִיל and הֻפְעַל (no.s 3 and 7) are causative - they cause things to happen. Using גדל you can make הִגְדִיל (heegdeel) - “enlarged” as in “he enlarged the on-screen window” - i.e. he caused something to get bigger, and the passive הֻפְעַל makes הֻגְדַל (hugdal) - “was enlarged” as in “the window was enlarged” - something caused the window to get bigger.
The last binyan, הִתְפַּעֵל, is the form that reflexive verbs take. Reflexive verbs are ones which you do to yourself, like “I dressed myself”. The stem for this particular example is לבש which is to do with “wearing” (e.g. לָבַש (lavash) is “wore” as in “he wore a shirt”) and in this binyan it makes הִתְלַבֵּש (heetlabesh)- “dressed oneself”.
To give a full example of a verb that uses all seven binyanim (there aren’t many!), we will use גלה, which is to do with to uncover or discover (and also to do with going into exile):
Pa’al construction (גָלַה) (galah) - He uncovered, he went into exile
Pi’el construction (גִלֵה) (geeleh) - He discovered, he disclosed.
Hif’il construction (הִגְלַה) (heeglah) - He exiled.
Hitpa’el construction (הִתְגַלֵה) (heetgaleh) - revealed oneself .
Nif’al construction (נִגְלַה) (neeglah) - It was uncovered, it was exposed
Pu’al construction (גֻלַה) - (gulah) It was discovered, it was disclosed, it was undisguised
Huf’al construction (הֻגְלַה) (huglah) - It was exiled, it was deported.
As well as each binyan giving the verb stem in question a meaning or flavour of what it refers to, each verb can be conjugated according to tense - past, present and future. A full and extensive table of all these conjugation can be found on this here handy Wikipedia page (ignore all the guff and just go for the table!). They’re worth learning, honest! They follow similar patterns, and once you learn them, all Hebrew verbs just fall into place.
Whew! Well done for reaching the end! Hopefully next week we’ll have something more light-hearted...
We can't finish without telling you:
See you later!
That was Hebrew Time #21, thanks for joining us! Hooray!
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Until next week!
the word is תודה, not חודה. you put the letter ח when you needed to put ת. don't worry, i just want to help u and i am sure that u will learn from it
Haha. Typo on my part. Clearly I was still half asleep when typing my reply earlier and pressed the wrong key! Thanks for pointing it out though :) תודה!
about the verb ג.ל.ה- it doesn't exist in all the buildings- pa'al and pu'al- there is no גָלַה and גֻלַה. second, the real order is one active and one passive- pa'al, nifal, pi'el, pu'al, hif'il, huf'al and hitpa'el.