Modern Hebrew verb conjugation

In Hebrew, verbs, which take the form of derived stems, are conjugated to reflect their tense and mood, as well as to agree with their subjects in gender, number, and person. Each verb has an inherent voice, though a verb in one voice typically has counterparts in other voices. This article deals mostly with Modern Hebrew, but to some extent, the information shown here applies to Biblical Hebrew as well.

Classification of roots

Verbs in Hebrew, like nouns, adjectives, and adverbs are formed and declined by altering a (usually) three letter root. However, the root can be identified as having a different pattern than normal in certain cases.

A root that contains at least one of the "weak" letters א alef, ה hey, ח het, י yod, נ nun, ו vav, and ע 'ayin or two of the same consonant is called a weak root. Each pairing of a weak letter with a position results in a slightly different conjugation pattern. Resh ר is often considered a weak letter, though it occasionally functions as a strong letter, depending on speaker and era of the language. Roots without weak letters are called strong roots, among other names.

A root that contains ח het, ה hey (except in third position with out mappiq), or ע 'ayin or א alef (in first position only) is a guttural root. The pattern changes from this group are largely due to all of these letters being unable to take schwa nah. Alef outside of first position is in its own group due to the vowel changes that accompany it being drastically different than other guttural roots. A root that contains ה hey word-finally without mappiq is also similarly divergent from guttural roots, due to being a marker of vowel-final words rather than any historical consonant.

A root that contains a ו vav or a י yod as the second letter is called a hollow root, as the simple (pa'al and nif'al) conjugation function as two-letter roots, while the other conjugations keep the letters somewhat due to the middle root being geminated. A root beginning with yod is usually marks a waw-initial root (due to Old Hebrew /w/ becoming /j/ at the beginning of words), but occasionally functions as if it a regular yod root.

A root containing נ nun is irregular due to the fact it will form geminated consonants rather than clusters of it. Roots containing two of the same consonant as the second and third part of the root function similarly.

Roots of four or more letters treat the middle letters as a permanent cluster and don't have forms in the simple conjugations pa'al and nif'al, but are regular otherwise.

There are also entirely irregular verbs like הָיָה ("to be"), and הָלַךְ ("to walk"), which are unusual beyond their bearing of weak letters.

Binyanim or conjugations

Hebrew verbs are conjugated according to specific patterns, derived stems, called בִּנְיָנִים (/binjaˈnim/ - binyanim, "constructions") where vowels patterns and affixes are slotted into the (usually) three-letter שרשים (/ʃoraˈʃim/ - shorashim, "roots") from which the majority of Hebrew words are built.

There are seven basic conjugations and a very rare eighth hitpuʕal, as well as some irregular verbs technically pa'al, nif'al or pi'el being used irregularly without necessarily a weak root (due to being descendants of obsolete conjugation or confluence between multiple conjugations). The traditional demonstration root is פ.ע.ל, which has the basic meaning of "action" or "doing":

root :               פעל
active reflexive passive

This simplified chart's menorah-like shape is sometimes invoked in teaching the binyanim to help students remember the main ideas about the binyanim: (1) which binyanim are active voice (left side) vs. passive voice (right side), and (2) which binyanim are simple (outer-most menorah branches), intensive (second-outer-most), causative (third-outer-most), and reflexive (center). Note that some binyanim have more than one meaning.


As mentioned, some binyanim have more than one meaning. For example, הִפְעִיל hifˈʕil's second most common meaning is "become". Verbs like "became fat" (הִשְׁמִין "hiʃˈmin") and "turned pale" (הֶחְוִיר "heħˈvir") are in this binyan. This meaning of הִפְעִיל hifˈʕil is similar to that of the Arabic ninth derived stem, افعلّ ifʕalla, while הִפְעִיל hifˈʕil's main meaning is shared with its Arabic historical equivalent, the fourth derived stem, أفعل afʕala.

Present Tense (Present Participle)

A verb in the present tense (הוֹוֶה, hoˈve) agrees with its subject in gender (masculine or feminine) and number (singular or plural), so each verb has four present-tense forms:

Form Root Singular Plural Translation
paˈʕal שׁמר שׁוֹמֵר שׁוֹמֶרֶת שׁוֹמְרִים שׁוֹמְרוֹת guards
sh-m-r ʃoˈmer ʃoˈmeret ʃoməˈrim ʃoməˈrot
piˈʕel גדל מְגַדֵּל מְגַדֶּלֶת מְגַדְּלִים מְגַדְּלוֹת raises, grows (something)
g-d-l məɡaˈdːel məɡaˈdːelet məɡadːəˈlim məɡadːəˈlot
hifˈʕil קטנ מַקְטִין מַקְטִינָה מַקְטִינִים מַקְטִינוֹת shrinks (something)
q-t'-n maqˈtin maqtiˈna maqtiˈnim maqtiˈnot
hitpaˈʕel בטל מִתְבַּטֵּל מִתְבַּטֶּלֶת מִתְבַּטְּלִים מִתְבַּטְּלוֹת belittles oneself, loafs
b-t'-l mitbaˈtːel mitbaˈtːelet mitbatːəˈlim mitbatːəˈlot
hufˈʕal קטן מֻקְטָן מֻקְטֶנֶת מֻקְטָנִים מֻקְטָנוֹת is shrunken by
q-t'-n muqˈtan muqˈtenet muqtaˈnim muqtaˈnot
puˈʕal גדל מְגֻדָּל מְגֻדֶּלֶת מְגֻדָּלִים מְגֻדָּלוֹת is raised
g-d-l məɡuˈdːal məɡuˈdːelet məɡudːaˈlim məɡudːaˈlot
nifˈʕal שׁמר נִשְׁמָר נִשְׁמֶרֶת נִשְׁמָרִים נִשְמָרוֹת is guarded
sh-m-r niʃˈmar niʃˈmeret niʃmaˈrim niʃmaˈrot
Example conjugations in the present tense.

The present tense does not inflect by first, second, or third person because its use as a present tense is a relatively recent trend, as this form was originally used only as the participle. The modern present tense verb is still used as the present participle; see below.

The ancient language did not have strictly defined past, present, or future tenses, but merely perfective and imperfective aspects, with past, present, or future connotation depending on context. Later the perfective and imperfective aspects were explicitly refashioned as the past and future tenses respectively, with the participle standing in as the present tense. (This also happened to the Aramaic language around the same time, but did not happen in Arabic, where the present and future tenses still share the same morphology, the one equivalent to the Hebrew future tense. The future tense is distinguished from the present tense by the use of prefixes.)

Past Tense (Past/ Perfect)

A verb in the past tense (עָבָר ʕaˈvar) agrees with its subject in person (first, second, or third) and number, and in the second-person singular and plural and third-person singular, gender.

Note that the past/perfect and the present/participle inflections of the third-person singular nif'al were historically pronounced with different vowels in the final syllablethe past/perfect with a paˈtaħ ( ַ  = /ɐː/), and the present/participle with a qaˈmats ɡaˈdol ( ָ  = /ɔː/). In Modern Hebrew, both of these vowels have merged to /a/, and the two verb forms now are pronounced the same. For example, the past tense נִשְׁמַר niʃˈmar means "he was guarded" (or in old-fashioned perfective "he is/was guarded"), whereas the present tense נִשְׁמָר niʃˈmar means "he is being guarded".

Form Root Singular Plural
He She You (singular) I They You (plural) We
paˈʕal שׁמר שָׁמַר שָֽמְרָה שָׁמַרְתָּ שָׁמַרְתְּ שָׁמַרְתִּי שָֽמְרוּ שְׁמַרְתֶּם שְׁמַרְתֶּן שָׁמַרְנוּ
sh-m-r ʃaˈmar ʃaməˈra ʃaˈmarta ʃaˈmart ʃaˈmarti ʃaməˈru ʃəmarˈtem ʃəmarˈten ʃaˈmarnu
piˈʕel גדל גִּדֵּל גִּדְּלָה גִּדַּלְתָּ גִּדַּלְתְּ גִּדַּלְתִּי גִּדְּלוּ גִּדַּלְתֶּם גִּדַּלְתֶּן גִּדַּלְנוּ
g-d-l ɡiˈdːel ɡidːəˈla ɡiˈdːalta ɡiˈdːalt ɡiˈdːalti ɡidːəˈlu ɡidːalˈtem ɡidːalˈten ɡiˈdːalnu
hifˈʕil קטנ הִקְטִין הִקְטִינָה הִקְטַנְתָּ הִקְטַנְתְּ הִקְטַנְתִּי הִקְטִינוּ הִקְטַנְתֶּם הִקְטַנְתֶּן הִקְטַנּוּ
q-t'-n hiqˈtin hiqtiˈna hiqˈtanta hiqˈtant hiqˈtanti hiqˈtinu hiqtanˈtem hiqtanˈten hiqˈtanu
hitpaˈʕel בטל הִתְבַּטֵּל הִתְבַּטְּלָה הִתְבַּטַּלְתָּ הִתְבַּטַּלְתְּ הִתְבַּטַּלְתִּי הִתְבַּטְּלוּ הִתְבַּטַּלְתֶּם הִתְבַּטַּלְתֶּן הִתְבַּטַּלְנוּ
b-t'-l hitbaˈtːel hitbatːəˈla hitbaˈtːalta hitbaˈtːalt hitbaˈtːalti hitbatːəˈlu hitbatːalˈtem hitbatːalˈten hitbaˈtːalnu
hufˈʕal קטנ הֻקְטַן הֻקְטְנָה הֻקְטַנְתָּ הֻקְטַנְתְּ הֻקְטַנְתִּי הֻקְטְנוּ הֻקְטַנְתֶּם הֻקְטַנְתֶּן הֻקְטַנּוּ
q-t'-n huqˈtan huqteˈna huqˈtanta huqˈtant huqˈtanti huqteˈnu huqtanˈtem huqtanˈten huqˈtanu
puˈʕal גדל גֻּדַּל גֻּדְּלָה גֻּדַּלְתָּ גֻּדַּלְתְּ גֻּדַּלְתִּי גֻּדְּלוּ גֻּדַּלְתֶּם גֻּדַּלְתֶּן גֻּדַּלְנוּ
g-d-l ɡuˈdːal ɡudːəˈla ɡuˈdːalta ɡuˈdːalt ɡuˈdːalti ɡudːəˈlu ɡudːalˈtem ɡudːalˈten ɡuˈdːalnu
nifˈʕal שׁמר נִשְׁמַר נִשְׁמְרָה נִשְׁמַרְתָּ נִשְׁמַרְתְּ נִשְׁמַרְתִּי נִשְׁמְרוּ נִשְׁמַרְתֶּם נִשְׁמַרְתֶּן נִשְׁמַרְנוּ
sh-m-r niʃˈmar niʃməˈra niʃˈmarta niʃˈmart niʃˈmarti niʃməˈru niʃmarˈtem niʃmarˈten niʃˈmarnu
Example conjugations in the past tense.

Future Tense (Unpast/ Imperfect)

A verb in the future tense (עָתִיד ʕaˈtid) agrees with its subject in person and number, and in the second- and third-person singular, gender. The second-person singular masculine and third-person singular feminine forms are identical for all verbs in the future tense. Historically, there have been separate feminine forms for the second- and third-person plural (shown in parentheses on the table). These are still occasionally used today (most often in formal settings), and could be seen as the 'correct' forms. However, in everyday speech, most Israelis use the historically male form for both genders.

Form Root Singular Plural
He She You (singular) I They You (plural) We
M F M (F) M (F)
paˈʕal שׁמר יִשְׁמֹר תִּשְׁמֹר תִּשְׁמְרִי אֶשְׁמֹר יִשְׁמְרוּ תִּשְׁמֹרְנָה תִּשְׁמְרוּ תִּשְׁמֹרְנָה נִשְׁמֹר
sh-m-r jiʃˈmor tiʃˈmor tiʃməˈri ʔeʃˈmor jiʃməˈru tiʃˈmorna tiʃməˈru tiʃˈmorna niʃˈmor
piˈʕel גדל יְגַדֵּל תְּגַדֵּל תְּגַדְּלִי אֲגַדֵּל יְגַדְּלוּ תְּגַדֵּלְנָה תְּגַדְּלוּ תְּגַדֵּלְנָה נְגַדֵּל
g-d-l jəɡaˈdːel təɡaˈdːel təɡadːəˈli ʔaɡaˈdːel jəɡadːəˈlu təɡaˈdːelna təɡadːəˈlu təɡaˈdːelna nəɡaˈdːel
hifˈʕil קטנ יַקְטִין תַּקְטִין תַּקְטִ֫ינִי אַקְטִין יַקְטִינוּ תַּקְטֵנָּה תַּקְטִינוּ תַּקְטֵנָּה נַקְטִין
q-t-n jaqˈtin taqˈtin taqˈtini ʔaqˈtin jaqˈtinu taqˈtenːa taqˈtinu taqˈtenːa naqˈtin
hitpaˈʕel בטל יִתְבַּטֵּל תִּתְבַּטֵּל תִּתְבַּטְּלִי אֶתְבַּטֵּל יִתְבַּטְּלוּ תִּתְבַּטֵּלְנָה תִּתְבַּטְּלוּ תִּתְבַּטֵּלְנָה נִתְבַּטֵּל
b-t-l jitbaˈtːel titbaˈtːel titbatːəˈli ʔetbaˈtːel jitbatːəˈlu titbaˈtːelna titbatːəˈlu titbaˈtːelna nitbaˈtːel
hufˈʕal קטנ יֻקְטַן תֻּקְטַן תֻּקְטְנִי אֻקְטַן יֻקְטְנוּ תֻּקְטַנָּה תֻּקְטְנוּ תֻּקְטַנָּה נֻקְטַן
q-t-n juqˈtan tuqˈtan tuqtəˈni ʔuqˈtan juqtəˈnu tuqˈtanːa tuqtəˈnu tuqˈtanːa nuqˈtan
puˈʕal גדל יְגֻדַּל תְּגֻדַּל תְּגֻדְּלִי אֲגֻדַּל יְגֻדְּלוּ תְּגֻדַּלְנָה תְּגֻדְּלוּ תְּגֻדַּלְנָה נְגֻדַּל
g-d-l jəɡuˈdːal təɡuˈdːal teɡudːəˈli ʔaɡuˈdːal jəɡudːəˈlu təɡuˈdːalna təɡudːəˈlu təɡuˈdːalna nəɡuˈdːal
nifˈʕal שׁמר יִשָּׁמֵר תִּשָּׁמֵר תִּשָּׁמְרִי אֶשָּׁמֵר יִשָּׁמְרוּ תִּשָּׁמֵרְנָה תִּשָּׁמְרוּ תִּשָּׁמֵרְנָה נִשָּׁמֵר
sh-m-r jiʃːaˈmer tiʃːaˈmer tiʃːamˈri ʔeʃːaˈmer jiʃːaməˈru tiʃːaˈmerna tiʃːaməˈru tiʃːaˈmerna niʃːaˈmer
Example conjugations in the future tense.

As in the past tense, personal pronouns are not strictly necessary in the future tense, as the verb forms are sufficient to identify the subject, but they are frequently used.


Form Root Singular Plural Translation
paˈʕal שׁמר שְׁמֹר שִׁמְרִי שִׁמְרוּ שְׁמֹרְנָה Guard
sh-m-r ʃəmor ʃimˈri ʃimˈru ˈʃəmorna
piˈʕel גדל גַּדֵּל גַּדְּלִי גַּדְּלוּ גַּדֵּלְנָה Raise, grow (it)
g-d-l ɡaˈdːel ɡadːəˈli gadːəˈlu ɡaˈdːelna
hifˈʕil קטנ הַקְטֵן הַקְטִינִי הַקְטִינוּ הַקְטֵנָּה Shrink (it)
q-t'-n haqˈten haqˈtini haqˈtinu haqˈtenːa
hitpaˈʕel בטל הִתְבַּטֵּל הִתְבַּטְּלִי הִתְבַּטְּלוּ הִתְבַּטֵּלְנָה Belittle yourself, loaf
b-t'-l hitbaˈtːel hitbatːəˈli hitbatːəˈlu hitbaˈtːelna
nifˈʕal שׁמר הִשָּׁמֵר הִשָּׁמְרִי הִשָּׁמְרוּ הִשָּׁמֵרנָה Be guarded
sh-m-r hiʃːaˈmer hiʃːaməˈri hiʃːaməˈru hiʃːaˈmerna
Example conjugations in the imperative.

Except for the strictly passive binyaním (puˈʕal and hufˈʕal), each binyan has distinct imperative forms in the second person. This imperative form is only used for affirmative commands. The pa'al, nif'al, pi'el and hif'il form their imperatives by dropping the initial ת taw of the future-tense form (e.g., תִּפְתַּח /tifˈtaħ/ (singular, masc.) → פְּתַח /ˈpətaħ/ "open!", תִּשְׁמְרִי /tiʃməˈri/ (singular, fem.) → שִׁמְרִי /ʃimˈri/ "guard!"); the fifth, hitpa'el, forms its imperative by replacing this initial ת with ה (/titbaˈtːel//hitbaˈtːel/ "do nothing!"). (Note that the dropping of the initial ת often results in a change in vocalization, as can be seen in the instance of /tiʃməˈri/ vs. imˈri/).

Negative commands use the particle אַל /ˈal/ followed by the future-tense form. For example, אַל תִּדְאַג /ˈal tidˈaɡ/ means "don't worry" (masculine, singular).

In informal speech, the future tense is commonly used for affirmative commands when making requests. Thus for example, תִּפְתַּח /tifˈtaħ/ can mean either "you will open" or "would you open" (masculine, singular). (Similarly in English one might say "would you open" or "could you open" in lieu of simply "open".) In Hebrew, as in English, the more formal way to avoid the implication of commanding is to use the word "please" (בְּבַקָּשָׁה /bə-vaq:aʃa/) with the imperative.

The infinitive can be used as a "general imperative" when addressing nobody in particular (e.g., on signs, or when giving general instructions to children or large groups), so that for example, נָא לֹא לִפְתֹּחַ /ˈna ˈlo lifˈtoaħ/ means "please do not open". This might be more literally rendered as "it is requested that [this] not be opened", avoiding the question of address by using a passive voice.


Present participles are identical to present tense forms (the modern present tense actually having been derived from the ancient present participle): נֵרוֹת בּוֹעֲרִים /neˈrot boʕaˈrim/ (burning candles), יַלְדָּה מַקְסִימָה /jalˈda maqsiˈma/ (charming girl).

Only the pa'al binyan has a true past participle: from כתב k-t-b we have כָּתוּב /kaˈtuv/, (writ, written). For verbs that have a pa'al form and a nif'al form serving as its passive, this provides a means to distinguish between a completed and a continuing action. The pa'al past participle indicates completion:

while the present tense of nif'al indicates that the action continues:

The passive participle is commonly used as an adjective, as in הַפְּקֻדָּה הַכְּתוּבָה /hapːəquˈd:a hakːətuˈva/ (the written order).

The present tense of the pu'al and huf'al are used as passive participles for the pi'el and hif'il respectively. For example, from hif'il הֵאִיר /heˈʔir/ (lit) we get חֶדֶר מוּאָר /ˈħeder muˈʔar/ (lit room).

Infinitives (Prospectives)

Infinitives (ʃəˈmot hapːoˈʕal) in Hebrew are primarily formed by adding the letter lamed (ל) to the front of the base form (tsuˈrat hamːaˈqor). The vowels change systematically according to the binyan.

Note that puʕal and hufʕal verbs do not have infinitives.


Gerunds (ʃəˈmot pəʕuˈla) are nouns expressing an action. Gerunds are created in Hebrew by putting the root of a verb into a miʃˈkal, a noun pattern (see Modern Hebrew grammar#Noun derivation). Five of the binyanim have gerunds: paʕal, piʕel, hifʕil, hitpaʕel, and nifʕal. For example:

Note that unlike in English (where gerunds and present participles share the same form but different etymology), Hebrew gerunds cannot be used as adjectives.


Modern Hebrew has an analytic conditional~past-habitual mood expressed with the auxiliary /haˈja/:

"לוּ הָיָה לִי זְמַן, הָיִיתִי הוֹלֵךְ."

ifwasto-me, I havetime,I-wasgo.
IfI hadthe time,I wouldgo.

"לוּ מִישֶׁהוּ הָיָה טוֹרֵחַ לְסַפֵּר לִי, הָיִיתִי יוֹדֵעַ."

luˈmiʃehuhaˈja toˈreaħləsaˈp:erˈli,haˈjitijoˈdeaʕ.
ifsomeonewas botherto-tellme,I-wasknow.
Ifsomeonehad botheredto tellme,I'dhave known.

"פַּעַם הָיִיתִי הוֹלֵךְ הָמוֹן לַקּוֹלְנוֹעַ."

I used togoa lotto the cinema.

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