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Negation in Hebrew: How to Say No Like a Pro

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Expressing negation is a crucial skill in any language. Not only do we need to know the right word(s) to say in order to make logical negative sentences, but we also need to understand which forms are appropriate in which cases. Unlike some cultures, which seemingly struggle with saying no, Israelis are (as in all other spheres of communication) quite direct when expressing things like disinterest, the lack of something, or the inability to do something. While Hebrew negation may sound abrasive to the untrained ear, the fact is that there’s an art to it all, and a nuanced one at that. Today’s lesson will prime you to say no like a pro as we look at all facets of Hebrew negation.

The first thing to understand is that Israelis tend to be more frank than what Westerners may be accustomed to, with fewer niceties of conversation, less small talk, and less beating around the bush. When a situation arises in which someone wishes to express a negative, they’ll typically do so in the most direct and efficient way possible. The other person will generally not take any offense at such directness, as this is simply the nature of Hebrew.

That being said, you also don’t want to find yourself inadvertently exaggerating your directness. That’s why we’re going to look at different ways to express negation in Hebrew—including more formal ones—along with contextual examples to demonstrate their correct usage. Finally, we’ll look at some of the top words and phrases that you can use to say no in Hebrew.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Negative Statements
  2. Negative Imperatives
  3. Answering Questions with Negation
  4. Other Words and Phrases for Negation
  5. Don’t Be Afraid to Learn Hebrew – HebrewPod101 Has Always Got Your Back!

1. Negative Statements

The most basic thing we need to know is how to formulate simple negative statements. The great thing is that, by and large, you’ll only need to know one word: לא (lo). This word, meaning “no,” is your go-to for all things negative, though it can also take the function of other negative English words and phrases, such as “don’t” or “won’t.” 

Let’s begin by having a look at how לא works in context by comparing positive and negative statements, with לא being the only distinction between them. Note that the word לא comes after the subject and before the word or phrase it negates.

A- Use of the word לא (lo) – “no” /Japan road sign 302.svg

No Sign with Guy Holding Up Hand
  1. אני סטודנטית.
    Ani studentit.
    “I’m a student.”
  1. אני לא סטודנטית.
    Ani lo studentit.
    “I’m not a student.”
  1. אני רעב.
    Ani ra’ev.
    “I’m hungry.”
  1. אני לא רעב.
    Ani lo ra’ev.
    “I’m not hungry.”
  1. אני רוצה לראות סרט.
    Ani rotzeh lir’ot seret.
    “I want to see a movie.”
  1. אני לא רוצה לראות סרט.
    Ani lo rotzeh lir’ot seret.
    “I don’t want to see a movie.”
  1. ההורים שלי גרים בישראל.
    Ha-horim sheli garim be-Yisrael.
    “My parents live in Israel.”
  1. ההורים שלי לא גרים בישראל.
    Ha-horim sheli lo garim be-Yisrael.
    “My parents don’t live in Israel.”

B- Use of the word אין (eyn) – “no” / “there is no” / “there are no”

Woman Holding Hands Palms Up

The word אין (eyn) can also be used for simple negation. It means the opposite of יש (yesh), meaning “there is” or “there are,” which can also take the place of the English verb “have,” for which there’s no Hebrew equivalent. אין (eyn) is chiefly used to describe the lack of something. Here are some examples:

  1. יש מבחן מחר.
    Yesh mivkhan makhar.
    “There’s a test tomorrow.”

    אין מבחן מחר.
    Eyn mivkhan makhar.
    There’s no test tomorrow.”

  1. יש לי אחים.
    Yesh li akhim.
    “I have siblings.”

    אין לי אחים.
    Eyn li akhim.
    “I don’t have siblings.”

  1. יש לי זמן לדבר מחר.
    Yesh li zman ledaber makhar.
    “I have time to speak tomorrow.”
  1. אין לי זמן לדבר מחר.
    Eyn li zman ledaber makhar.
    “I do not have time to speak tomorrow.”

אין can also be used as an alternative to לא in negating nouns/nominal phrases or verbs/verbal phrases. However, unlike לא, which is used without any morphological changes (i.e. changes to the form of the word itself), אין must be conjugated to fit the subject’s gender and number, as demonstrated in the examples below.

Additionally, אין is generally considered a bit more formal. For example, you may encounter this word on signs warning of things not to be done in a given place, or in instruction manuals advising users on improper use of a product. 

  1. אבא שלי דתי.
    Abba sheli dati.
    “My father is religious.”
  1. אבא שלי אינו דתי.
    Abba sheli eyno dati.
    “My father is not religious.”
  1. אמא שלי אוהבת אוכל חריף.
    Imma sheli ohevet okhel kharif.
    “My mother likes spicy food.”
  1. אמא שלי אינה אוהבת אוכל חריף.
    Imma sheli eynah ohevet okhel kharif.
    “My mother does not like spicy food.”
  1. אני רעב.
    Ani ra’ev.
    “I am hungry.”
  1. אינני רעב.
    Eyneni ra’ev.
    “I am not hungry.”
  1. אתה מורשה להשתמש בציוד משרדי לשימוש עצמי.
    Atah mursheh lehishtamesh be-tziyud misradi le-shimush atzmi.
    “You are authorized to use office supplies for personal use.”
  1. אינך מורשה להשתמש בציוד משרדי לשימוש עצמי.
    Eynkha mursheh lehishtamesh be-tziyud misradi le-shimush atzmi.
    “You are not authorized to use office supplies for personal use.”
  1. את מוסמכת להפעיל את כלי הרכב הזה.
    At musmekhet lehaf’il et kli ha-rekhev ha-zeh.
    “You are authorized to operate this vehicle.”
  1. אינך מוסמכת להפעיל את כלי הרכב הזה.
    Eynekh musmekhet lehaf’il et kli ha-rekhev ha-zeh.
    “You are not authorized to operate this vehicle.”
  1. הרופא נמצא כעת.
    Ha-rofe nimtza ka-’et.
    “The doctor is currently in.”
  1. הרופא אינו/איננו נמצא כעת.
    Ha-rofe eyno/eynenu nimtza ka-’et.
    “The doctor is not currently in.”
  1. אחותי מעוניינת בפוליטיקה.
    Akhoti me’unyenet ba-politikah.
    “My sister is interested in politics.”
  1. אחותי אינה/איננה מעוניינת בפוליטיקה.
    Akhoti eynah/eynenah me’unyenet ba-politikah.
    “My sister is not interested in politics.”
  1. אתם רצויים כאן.
    Atem retzuyim kan.
    “You are wanted here.”
  1. אינכם רצויים כאן.
    Eynkhem retzuyim kan.
    “You are not wanted here.”
  1. אתן נמצאות ברשימת המוזמנים.
    Aten nimtza’ot bi-r’shimat ha-muzmanim.
    “You are on the guest list.”
  1. אינכן נמצאות ברשימת המוזמנים.
    Eynkhen nimtza’ot bi-r’shimat ha-muzmanim.
    “You are not on the guest list.”
  1. קרובי המשפחה רשאים להיכנס לחדר בלי ציוד מגן אישי.
    Krovey ha-mishpakhah rasha’im lehikanes la-kheder bli tziyud magel ishi.
    “Relatives are allowed to enter the room without PPE.”
  1. קרובי המשפחה אינם רשאים להיכנס לחדר בלי ציוד מגן אישי.
    Krovey ha-mishpakhah eynam rasha’im lehikanes la-kheder bli tziyud magel ishi.
    “Relatives are not allowed to enter the room without PPE.”
  1. העובדות יודעות איך התחילה השריפה.
    Ha-ovdot yod’ot eykh hitkhilah ha-s’reyfah.
    “The employees know how the fire started.”
  1. העובדות אינן יודעות איך התחילה השריפה.
    Ha-ovdot eynan yod’ot eykh hitkhilah ha-s’reyfah.
    “The employees do not know how the fire started.”

2. Negative Imperatives

No Written on Hand

Sometimes we want to tell people what they should or must do, and sometimes we want to tell them what not to do. This is when negative imperatives come in handy. In Hebrew, negative imperatives are formed with just one word: אל (al) – “do not.” Just be aware that, as in English, speaking to someone in the imperative voice should be reserved for situations of urgency, as it’s a highly direct form of speech, particularly when you’re essentially ordering someone not to do something. 

Here are some examples of negative imperatives in Hebrew:

  1. אל תרוץ בתוך הבית.
    Al tarutz betokh ha-bayit.
    Don’t run inside the house.”
  1. אל תאכלו באוטובוס.
    Al tokhlu ba-otobus.
    Don’t eat on the bus.”
  1. אל תסעי לשם לבד.
    Al tis’i le-sham levad.
    Don’t go there alone.”
  1. אל תפחדו, זה לא נחש ארסי.
    Al tifkhadu, zeh lo nakhash arsi.
    Don’t worry, that’s not a poisonous snake.”
  1. אל תסתכל בקנקן אלא במה שיש בו.
    Al tistakel ba-kankan ela mah she-yesh bo.
    Don’t look at the jug, but at its contents.” (This is a saying equivalent to English’s, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”)

3. Answering Questions with Negation

Woman Making Iffy Face

Now let’s have a look at how we can answer questions with negative answers. As in most languages, there are a number of ways to do this in Hebrew, including with לא and אין. For the purposes of this lesson, we’ll look at the most common forms to answer questions with negation, though there are obviously others. We’ll illustrate these through a few short exchanges demonstrating negative answers to various questions.

  1. -יש לך 20 שקל במקרה?
    -Yesh lekha esrim shekel be-mikreh?
    -“Do you have 20 shekels by any chance?”

    אין עליי כלום.
    -Eyn alay klum.
    -“I don’t have a thing on me.”

*Note that Hebrew uses double negatives, so the above sentence literally translates to: “I don’t have nothing on me.”

  1. -את רוצה לנסוע לצפון בחגים?
    -At rotzah linso’a la-Tzafon ba-khagim?
    -“Do you want to travel to the North over the holidays?”

    לא, אני לא רוצה.
    Lo, ani lo rotzah.
    -“No, I don’t.”

  1. -אתה מעוניין להצטרף אלינו למסיבה?
    -Atah me’unyan lehitztaref eleynu la-mesibah?
    -“Are you interested in joining us at the party?”

    -אני מעדיף שלא.
    -Ani ma’adif she-lo.
    -“I’d prefer not to.”

  1. -את חושבת שתסיימי את הפרוייקט השבוע?
    -At khoshevet she-tisaymi et ha-proyect ha-shavu’a?
    -“Do you think you’ll finish the project this week?”

    לא נראה לי.
    Lo nir’ah li.
    -“I don’t think so.”

  1. -לדעתך ירד גשם היום?
    -Le-da’atekh yered geshem ha-yom?
    -“Do you think it will rain today?”

    לא חושבת.
    Lo khoshevet.
    -“I don’t think so.”


4. Other Words and Phrases for Negation

Man with Tape Over Mouth

Finally, let’s take a look at some of the more common words and phrases used in the context of negation. There are obviously many more ways of making a sentence or statement negative in Hebrew than what’s provided here, but this list covers the top 10 most commonly used negative expressions.

*Note the use of double negatives in many of the examples below. Though we saw this previously, it bears clarifying that Hebrew uses double negatives, with negative verbs or verbal phrases taking negative objects. This can be confusing for English speakers, as double negatives are not used in correct English, so make sure to pay attention!

  1. כמעט ולא
    Kim’at ve-lo
    “Hardly”

    אני כמעט ולא רואה טלוויזיה.
    Ani kim’at ve-lo ro’eh televiziyah.
    “I hardly watch TV.”

  1. בכלל לא
    Bikhlal lo
    “Not at all”

    הוא בכלל לא רואה משחקי כדורגל.
    Hu bikhlal lo ro’eh miskhakey kaduregel.
    “He doesn’t watch soccer games at all.”

  1. לעולם לא
    Le-’olam lo
    “Never”

    היא לעולם לא יצאה מישראל.
    Hi le-’olam lo yatzah me-Yisrael.
    “She has never been outside of Israel.”

  1. בחיים לא
    Ba-khayim lo
    “Never ever”

    -היית אוכל כריש?
    -Hayita okhel karish?
    -“Would you eat shark?”

    בחיים לא!
    Ba-khayim lo!
    -“Never ever!”

  1. גם לא
    Gam lo
    “Neither” / “Either” / “Nor” / “Or”

    מה שעשיתם זה לא הוגן וגם לא יפה.
    Mah she-’asitem zeh lo hogen ve-gam lo yafeh.
    “What you did was not fair, nor was it nice.”

  1. אין מצב
    Eyn matzav
    “No way”

    אין מצב שאתם עושים מסיבה בלי להזמין אותי.
    Eyn matzav she-atem ‘osim mesibah b’li lehazmin oti.
    “There’s no way you guys are having a party without inviting me.”

  1. אף אחד
    Af ekhad
    “No one”

    אף אחד לא שאל אותך!
    Af ekhad lo sha’al otkha!
    No one asked you!”

  1. אף פעם
    Af pa’am
    “Never” / “Not once”

    אף פעם לא מאוחר להתפייס.
    Af pa’am lo me’ukhar lehitpayes.
    “It’s never too late to make up.”

  1. כלום
    Klum
    “Nothing” / “Anything”

    מחר אנחנו לא עושים כלום.
    Makhar anakhnu lo ‘osim klum.
    “We’re not doing anything tomorrow.”

  1. שום דבר
    Shum davar
    “Nothing at all” / “Not a thing”

    שום דבר לא יכול לעצור בן אדם בעל רצון.
    Shum davar lo yakhol la’atzor ben adam ba’al ratzon.
    “There’s not a thing that can stop a motivated person.”


5. Don’t Be Afraid to Learn Hebrew – HebrewPod101 Has Always Got Your Back!

We hope you found today’s lesson useful. Even though our focus was on negation, we truly hope you had a positive learning experience. Our goal at HebrewPod101 is always to make sure you receive quality lessons that are informative, interesting, and clear. If there’s anything else you’d like to know about Hebrew negation, please get in touch with us, and one of our expert Hebrew teachers will be happy to respond!

Remember that with broad topics like negation, it’s best not to bite off more than you can chew and digest at any one time. For that reason, we recommend learning and practicing a few small language chunks at a time, rather than attempting to assimilate an entire lesson in one sitting. Practice these words and phrases a little bit at a time, and you’ll see that they’ll start to sink in before you know it!

Until next time, shalom!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew

Learn About Hebrew Verb Tenses without the Tension

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Grammar seems to be one of the least inviting parts of language learning, but it’s like stretching after exercise or checking the air in your tires before a trip: it’s something essential you have to give your attention to if you want to ensure success. 

As you learn about Hebrew verb tenses in particular, you’ll find that Hebrew grammar is actually easier than many other languages. In fact, though other linguistic means can be used to express things like conditionals, the Hebrew language has only three real tenses: simple past, simple present, and simple future. That’s right! No progressives, no perfect tenses, and no compound tenses to trip you up.

Hebrew is known for its economy, in the sense that it gets a lot of mileage out of limited language elements. The case of tenses is no exception. Although there are only three main tenses, Hebrew makes use of extra descriptors (such as time cues) for nuance; these help distinguish between a past event that just happened versus one that occurred some time ago, for instance.

In the following article, we’ll be looking at how to form the three Hebrew tenses, along with helpful examples that illustrate their use. Note that many Hebrew learners like to start learning the tenses by first mastering one tense (typically the present), and only then moving on to the rest. 

Let’s jump right in!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. The Hebrew Present Tense
  2. The Hebrew Past Tense
  3. The Hebrew Future Tense
  4. The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Using the Tenses in Hebrew
  5. Verb Conjugation Overview
  6. Let HebrewPod101 Make Your Future Plans for Hebrew Happen in the Present!

1. The Hebrew Present Tense

Stopwatch

In modern Hebrew, the present tense is used for anything that is happening right now, as well as for generally repeated actions or states such as habits. Unlike in English, there are no progressive or perfect present forms in Hebrew; these are expressed using context and time cues. It’s also important to note that there’s no form of the verb “to be,” or להיות (lehiyot), in present tense; it’s simply omitted. 

Without further ado, let’s have a look at which words and phrases are commonly used with the present tense, along with examples of how it’s used.

    1. עכשיו
    ‘Akhshav
    “Now”

    אני אוכל עכשיו.
    Ani okhel ‘akhshav.
    “I’m eating now.”

    2. בדיוק
    Bediyuk
    “Right now”

    *Note that this same word can be used to say “exactly.”

    אני בדיוק עולה לרכבת.
    Ani bediyuk ‘oleh la-rakevet.
    “I’m getting on the train right now.”

    3. כרגע
    Karega’
    “At present”

    אני לא עובד כרגע.
    Ani lo ‘oved karega’.
    “I’m not working at present.”

    4. תמיד
    Tamid
    “Always”

    אני תמיד קורא לפני השינה.
    Ani tamid kore lifney ha-sheynah.
    “I always read before bed.”

    5. כל יום/שבוע/חודש/שנה
    Kol yom/shavu’a/khodesh/shanah
    “Every day/week/month/year”

    אני עושה כושר כל יום.
    Ani ‘oseh kosher kol yom.
    “I do exercise every day.”

    *Note the difference between כל יום (kol yom), meaning “every day,” and כל היום (kol ha-yom), meaning “all day.”

2. The Hebrew Past Tense

Old Photos

In Hebrew, the past tense is used to express any completed action or state. There are no progressive or perfect past forms in Hebrew, so these are expressed using context and time cues. Below is a list of the most common words and phrases used with the past tense, along with sample sentences.

    1. אתמול
    Etmol
    “Yesterday”

    אתמול אכלתי במסעדה.
    Etmol akhalti be-mis’adah.
    Yesterday, I ate at a restaurant.”

    2. בדיוק
    Bediyuk
    “Right now”

    בדיוק עלית לרכבת.
    Bediyuk ‘aliti la-rakevet.
    “I just got on the train.”

    3. לא מזמן
    Lo mizman
    “Not long ago”

    לא מזמן ראיתי אותך בתל אביב.
    Lo mizman ra’iti otakh be-Tel Aviv.
    Not long ago, I saw you in Tel Aviv.”

    4.כבר
    Kvar
    “Already”

    כבר קראתי את העיתון היום.
    Kvar karati et ha-‘iton hayom.
    “I already read the newspaper today.”

    5.לפני שעה/יומיים/חודש/שנה
    Lifney sha’ah/yomayim/khodesh/shanah
    “An hour/two days/a month/a year ago”

    טסתי להודו לפני שנה.
    Tasti le-Hodu lifney shanah.
    “I flew to India a year ago.”

3. The Hebrew Future Tense

Road to the Future

In Hebrew, the future tense is used for any planned or projected action or state. There are no progressive or perfect future forms in Hebrew, so these are expressed using context and time cues. Note that many times, in Hebrew, we simply use one of these time or context cues with the present tense rather than the future, especially to express plans. This is akin to the use of the present progressive in English, which is used to express plans. Below is a list of the words and phrases most commonly used with the Hebrew future tense, as well as examples illustrating their use.

    1. מחר
    Makhar
    “Tomorrow”

    מחר אסע לצפון.
    Makhar esa’ la-Tzafon.
    Tomorrow, I’m going to the North.”

    *Note that, as mentioned, this same plan could be expressed using the present tense with the same time cue, as follows:

    מחר אני נוסע לצפון.
    Makhar ani nose’a la-Tzafon.
    Tomorrow, I’m going to the North.”

    2. בקרוב
    Bekarov
    “Soon”

    אנחנו נתחתן בקרוב.
    Anakhnu nitkhaten bekarov.
    “We’ll be getting married soon.”

    3. עוד מעט
    ‘Od me’at
    “In a while”

    עוד מעט נגיע הביתה.
    ‘Od me’at nagi’a habaytah.
    “We’ll get home in a while.”

    4. כבר
    Kvar
    “Already” / “In no time”

    כבר תהיה ילד גדול.
    Kvar tihiyeh yeled gadol.
    “You’ll be a big boy in no time.”

    5. בעוד שעה/יומיים/חודש/שנה
    Be-‘od sha’ah/yomayim/khodesh/shanah
    “In an hour/two days/a month/a year”

    בעוד חודש אהיה בחופש.
    Be-‘od khodesh eheyeh be-khofesh.
    In a month, I’ll be on vacation.”

4. The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Using the Tenses in Hebrew

Infinity Clock

Now that you’ve seen some of the most common words and phrases to use with the three main tenses in Hebrew, let’s sum up by looking at the top five things you need to know in order to use the Hebrew verb tenses correctly.

1. The verb “to be” is omitted in the present tense.

As mentioned earlier, there’s no form of the Hebrew verb להיות (lehiyot), or “to be,” in the present tense. But don’t worry! All you need to do is omit it (marked in the example with [-]). Here’s an example to illustrate:

    המרק הזה חם מאוד.
    Ha-marak ha-zeh [-] kham me’od.
    “This soup is very hot.”

2. There are no progressive, perfect, or compound tenses in Hebrew.

Unlike English, which has a whopping 12 tenses, Hebrew relies almost entirely on just three. For instance, the Hebrew equivalent of the English sentence “I am going to go” would be either “I go” or “I will go.” The same is true for the past tense: “I have been wondering” in Hebrew would just be “I wondered” or “I wonder.” 

Remember that to clarify and express finer nuances of time, we rely on time and context cues like the words and phrases outlined above.

3. The present tense can be used to express future plans or projections, approximating English’s -ing structure.

Just as English will often make use of the present tense to express future plans or expectations, Hebrew also makes frequent use of the present tense to express the future. For example, if you plan to rest tomorrow, you can say it in either future or present tense:

    מחר אנוח.
    Makhar anu’akh.
    “Tomorrow, I’m going to rest.”
    (FUTURE TENSE)

OR

    מחר אני נח.
    Makhar ani nakh.
    “Tomorrow, I’m going to rest.” (Literally: “Tomorrow, I rest.”)
    (PRESENT TENSE TO EXPRESS FUTURE)

4. The verb ללכת (lalekhet), or “to go/walk,” can be used to talk about future plans in the same way that English uses “going to.”

Hebrew often uses the verb ללכת (lalekhet), which literally means “to go” or “to walk,” as an auxiliary that has the same meaning it does in English when used to talk about future plans. Here’s an example:

    אני הולך לראות סרט עם חברים הערב.
    Ani holekh lirot seret ‘im khaverim ha-erev.
    “I’m going to see a movie with friends this evening.”

5. The subjunctive mood can be expressed by combining a past tense form of the verb להיות (lehiyot), or “to be,” with another verb in the present tense.

The subjunctive mood is used when talking about hypothetical situations or things we would like to happen. Where English uses modal verbs like “could” and “would” or verbs of desire like “wish” and “like,” Hebrew combines the past and present tenses, with the verb להיות (lehiyot), or “to be,” in the past and another main verb in the present. Here are a couple of examples:

    הייתי רוצה אוטו יותר חדש.
    Hayiti rotzeh oto yoter khadash.
    “I wish I had a newer car.” (Literally: “I would like a newer car.”)

    היית אוכלת בשר כריש?
    Hayit okhelet basar karish?
    “Would you eat shark meat?”

5. Verb Conjugation Overview

Verb Conjugation List

Finally, although we’ve covered Hebrew verb forms and conjugations in depth in other lessons, such as this one, let’s just take a quick look at the following verb conjugation table as a reminder of how this looks across the tenses. For the purposes of this lesson, let’s use the verb לאכול (le’ekhol), or “to eat.”

PresentPastFuture
1st per. sing. m./f.אני (ani)אוכל (okhel)אכלתי (akhalti)אוכל (okhal)
2nd per. sing. m.אתה (atah)אוכל (okhel)אכלת (akhalta)תאכל (tokhal)
2nd per. sing. f.את (at)אוכלת (okhelet)אכלת (akhalt)תאכלי (tokhli)
3rd per. sing. m.הוא (hu)אוכל (okhel)אכל (akhal)יאכל (yokhal)
3rd per. sing. f.היא (hi)אוכלת (okhelet)אכלה (akhlah)תאכל (tokhal)
1st per. pl.אנחנו (anakhnu)אוכלים (okhlim)אכלנו (akhalnu)נאכל (nokhal)
2nd per. pl. m.אתם (atem)אוכלים (okhlim)אכלתם (akhaltem)תאכלו (tokhlu)
2nd per. pl. f.אתן (aten)אוכלות (okhlot)אכלתן (akhalten)תאכלו (tokhlu) /
תאכלנה (tokhalnah)
3rd per. pl. m.הם (hem)אוכלים (okhlim)אכלו (akhlu)יאכלו (yokhlu)
3rd per. pl. f.הן (hen)אוכלות (okhlot)אכלו (akhlu)יאכלו (yokhlu) /
תאכלנה (tokhalnah)

6. Let HebrewPod101 Make Your Future Plans for Hebrew Happen in the Present!

We hope you enjoyed today’s lesson on the Hebrew verb tenses, and that you agree that they’re not too tricky in the scheme of things. Our goal at HebrewPod101 is to make sure your learning experience is a smooth process, and that you have fun along the way. Was there anything we missed in our discussion of the tenses? Any tense structures you’ve seen that we didn’t cover? Feel free to get in touch and let us know.

If you enjoyed today’s lesson, we invite you to peruse the wealth of resources we have available on our website for your benefit. Whether you need to work on some sticky grammar points or are just looking to build up your Hebrew vocabulary, we’ve got it covered in our text and audiovisual lessons. 

We hope to see you next time, and until then, shalom!

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How Long Does it Take to Learn Hebrew?

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How long does it take to learn Hebrew? This is an altogether common question for people interested in picking up this ancient, vibrant, and wholly unique language. 

No two students are alike, so the answer to this question will vary based on who you are and how you go about studying. For example, if you already know how to read the Hebrew alphabet, you’ll surely progress much faster than someone starting from scratch. Or if you’re able to do immersion learning in Israel, you’ll likely progress more quickly than someone learning in a place where they can’t engage with Hebrew day and night.

Of course, motivation is one of the most central factors in determining how fast you progress with a language. For instance, if you’re learning Hebrew in order to land a new business contract—or better yet, to impress a girl or guy you met at a party—you’ll likely find yourself progressing at a faster clip than someone who, say, has to learn Hebrew because their parents think it’s important for them to be able to read prayers or the Torah.

In any case, today we’ll be looking at:

  • Factors that can influence your learning speed
  • The essential skills you’ll need to reach the beginner, intermediate, and advanced Hebrew proficiency levels
  • Some helpful tips on how to learn Hebrew fast

We’ll also talk about how long you can expect it to take you to reach each of these levels, though the numbers can vary quite a bit from one language learner to the next. Without further ado, let’s have a look at how long it takes to learn Hebrew.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Factors That Can Influence Your Learning Speed
  2. Beginner Level
  3. Intermediate Level
  4. Advanced Level
  5. Top 10 Tips to Help You Learn Hebrew Faster
  6. Let HebrewPod101 Get You on the Fast Track to Hebrew Learning

Factors That Can Influence Your Learning Speed

Car Going Over Speed Bump

Before we look at each level and what it entails, let’s look at some more general factors that are likely to influence your learning speed.

Motivation

As mentioned previously, your motivation level is going to be reflected in the speed at which you progress with your Hebrew studies. Generally speaking, an intrinsically motivated student, meaning someone who is learning Hebrew out of his or her own personal choice, is going to find it much easier to advance. This is because there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in achieving something you set your mind to. Plus, you’re typically going to be able to use Hebrew for a specific goal, which can be very gratifying, indeed.

Chances are, if you’re reading this lesson, you already have some reason for wanting to improve your Hebrew. But even if that isn’t the case, try to set your eyes on smaller goals that you can keep at the front of your mind as you study. This will help keep you motivated as you progress through your stated goals and feel that sense of accomplishment. For example, you may want to be able to sing along with a Hebrew song you like or to read Hebrew without nikkud. Keep your goals realistic for your current level, rather than overshooting it!

Your language(s) going in

Language Books

One thing that’s going to make a huge difference in terms of how fast you progress with Hebrew is the language(s) you speak going in. Because Hebrew is a member of the Semitic language family, you’ll be more comfortable with the way Hebrew works if you speak any Arabic or Farsi, for example. This is because these languages share common traits (such as being read and written right to left) and comparable grammar logic. 

English speakers are unlikely to find any foothold here, as they would with Germanic or Romance languages. Hebrew is altogether distinct from these language families and really bears no resemblance to English (other than all the loanwords it has from English, Latin, and other international languages). You may well recognize individual words, but don’t expect this to get you too far. At the end of the day, you just have to accept that the Hebrew language has its own separate character, rules, and approach to expressing the world.

Your linguistic abilities and experience in general

Another key factor is any prior experience you have with languages. For example, if you grew up bilingual or polyglot, you’ll likely have a leg up on someone who is monolingual—even if none of the languages you know are Semitic! This is partly due to something known as “tolerance for ambiguity,” a term that refers to a language learner’s willingness to accept and assimilate language features that differ from what s/he knows from her/his native tongue(s).

Moreover, if you’ve ever studied a language before, whether Hebrew or any other language foreign to you, your prior experience is likely to have some bearing on how you approach your Hebrew learning. For example, if you had good language teachers in school who inculcated healthy learning habits and gave you an overall positive language learning experience, you’re likely to have an easier time taking up a new language. On the other hand, if you had lousy teachers, you may be somewhat traumatized from these experiences and need to develop new habits and a new attitude toward language learning.

How and where you’re studying

Woman Studying from Books

As we said in the introduction, immersion studying is always going to be ideal, but it may not be a possibility for everyone who wants to learn Hebrew. If you can find a way to spend time in Israel, you’ll be able to benefit from constant exposure to the Hebrew language through interactions with other people, listening to the news, watching TV, etc., all in Hebrew. However, if you can’t physically go to Israel, try your best to boost your exposure to Hebrew by taking advantage of the wealth of media available online. For example, you can check out Hebrew-language Netflix series, Hebrew songs on YouTube, and even Hebrew-language forums.

Apart from location, it will be beneficial to have some sort of structure to your learning. This will help to ensure that you progress in a linear fashion, building your knowledge successively and acquiring all the skills you need in one level before running ahead to a more advanced one. It will also prevent you from feeling like you’re drowning in an overwhelming sea of information, without knowing how to progress.

It’s always a good idea to vary your learning, as well. We recommend using a mix of serious and fun learning materials (for example, grammar lessons vs. lessons on slang), as well as giving all four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) equal attention. Of course, there are some situations where you may need to hone only one or two skills. For example, in an academic setting, you may only need to be able to read Hebrew (and not produce it). Or maybe you simply want to learn conversational Hebrew and have little interest in learning to read it. In such cases, you may want to focus only on the necessities.

Beginner Level

The beginner level is just what it sounds like. This level describes someone who is in the initial phases of acquiring the Hebrew language. 

The US Foreign Service Institute (FSI) groups world languages into four different categories, with Category I languages being the most similar to English and Category IV languages being the least similar. They have ranked Hebrew as a Category III language, meaning it has significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English. Languages in this category are estimated to require 44 weeks (or 1100 hours) in order to reach “General Professional Proficiency” in speaking and reading. This would be equivalent to Intermediate Level on HebrewPod101.com.

Extrapolating based on this projection, the average time it takes to reach the beginner level might be something like 22 weeks (or 550 hours), if we assume that the beginner level is halfway to the intermediate level. 

At the beginner level, the assumption is that you’re building up a lot of passive knowledge, but obviously with the goal of being able to apply it and produce language (i.e. speak or write) more and more as you progress.

Wondering how to learn Hebrew from scratch? Here’s a list of skills and abilities you’ll want to master as a beginner:

The alphabet – אלפבית (alefbeyt)

Hebrew Book

As Hebrew does not use the Latin alphabet, you’ll need to learn to read the 22 characters of the Hebrew alphabet. To make things more complicated, Hebrew is an abjad, meaning that vowels are not letters but diacritical marks placed above, below, or within the letters, which are all consonants or vowel-bearing placeholders. To make it just a bit more complicated, these diacritical marks, called ניקוד (nikkud), are almost universally omitted from written and printed Hebrew and therefore need to be deduced from context. However, many learning materials include them for the benefit of the student reader. One last complication is that Hebrew uses one script for print and another for handwriting, so you’ll probably want to learn both of these.

Basic verbs

Verbs are action words, so you won’t see much action without them! The good news about Hebrew verbs is that there are only three main tenses—simple past, simple present, and simple future—and there’s no verb “to be” in present tense. The bad news is that there are a whopping seven conjugation patterns to learn.

Male and female forms

One of the aspects of Hebrew that tends to be particularly tricky for speakers of non-gendered languages, such as English, is the fact that Hebrew uses male and female forms for nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verb conjugations.

Talking about yourself

Two women talking

At the beginner level, you’ll learn how to introduce yourself and how to say basic things about yourself, such as where you’re from and what you do.

Saying hello and goodbye

You won’t get very far without these essential skills.

Countries, nationalities, and languages of the world

The beginner level is a great place to learn these, starting with your own country of origin, nationality, and language(s). Once you have those down, you can progress to other countries, nationalities, and languages so that you can also talk about other people in this regard.

Likes and dislikes

Woman Making Face of Displeasure

As a beginner, you should learn to express basic likes and dislikes, as well as things like your hobbies and pastimes.

Food and drink

In Israel, we love food! So, no basic Hebrew-language education would be complete without learning how to discuss food. This includes verbs, nouns, and adjectives for eating, drinking, ordering at a restaurant, etc.

Work and school

You’ll also want to know how to talk about work and school, including the vocabulary for different professions and careers.

Numbers and time

Numbers on Check

Finally, numbers and the related topic of telling time are also essential for the beginner level. Note that Hebrew also has male and female forms for numbers, so you’ll want to master this, as well.

Intermediate Level

As you progress, you’ll move on to the intermediate level, which is where many students feel comfortable staying. At this level, which, as mentioned, might take around 44 weeks (1100 hours), you’ll already be getting much more comfortable holding a basic conversation and generally defending yourself in Hebrew.

Here’s a list of skills and abilities you’ll want to acquire at the intermediate level of Hebrew:

Dealing with travel situations

Because this is an essential skill set that draws on various abilities, you should get to a certain level of comfort when handling travel situations. This includes things like taking a taxi and buying bus tickets, as well as asking for and even giving directions.

Writing simple texts

Icon of Envelope

At this level, you should be able to produce simple texts, such as short text messages and emails or brief descriptions.

Describing things with some detail

Man Talking

At this point, you should also be acquiring sufficient vocabulary. This includes not only nouns and verbs, but also adjectives and adverbs which will permit you to describe experiences, plans, and opinions with some level of detail and precision.

Reading and understanding more complex texts

Books

You should be able to read and comprehend more complex texts such as news items or technical articles in fields you’re familiar with, such as those related to your profession. Much of this, of course, will have to do with vocabulary acquisition.

Have lengthier, more complex conversations

Again, as you progress in your ability to understand speech spoken at native speeds, and as you build up your own ability to speak with fluency, you should be able to engage in more interesting and drawn-out conversations.

Advanced Level

First of all, it should be noted that there really isn’t a limit to the advanced level. While there is a distinction in terms of skills and abilities when compared to the intermediate and beginner levels, you can take the advanced level just about as far as you wish—even to the point of achieving what’s known as near fluency. 

So, how long does it take to learn Hebrew fluently? A conservative estimate might be something like 2 years, though a really motivated and talented student might get there as soon as, say, 18 months.

Here’s a list of skills and abilities that pertain to the advanced level of Hebrew-language study:

Understanding longer and more demanding texts or conversations

As you grow your vocabulary and improve your grasp of things like grammar and syntax, you should be able to fend for yourself even when reading complex texts such as full-length books, opinion pieces, and even poems and song lyrics. You should also be able to engage in lengthy and complex conversations, such as discussing your opinions on politics or talking about technical matters.

Expressing ideas comfortably and in a fluid manner

Woman with Lots of Thought Bubbles

By now, you should feel comfortable expressing most of your thoughts and ideas with fluency, which in the literal sense means that your speech flows, without much stuttering, hesitation, or searching for words.

Effectively using language in social, academic, and professional situations

Your broad vocabulary, improved grammar, and stronger rhetorical abilities should enable you to feel comfortable using language in functional settings, such as at work or school, or in making and getting to know friends…or even that special someone.

Writing well-structured, detailed texts on complex topics

Woman Working on a Written Project

Assuming you’re focusing on writing and not just speaking, you should now be able to write more complex texts, such as essays and full-length letters or emails. You should have a solid grasp of different registers (e.g. formal vs. informal) and when to employ them.

Top 10 Tips to Help You Learn Hebrew Faster

Regardless of your current level or your language learning goals, there are several things you can do to make the most of your study time. Here are our top ten tips for how to learn Hebrew faster!

1. Read both with and without vowels to practice word recognition.

This is obviously going to be more important at the beginner level (and perhaps the intermediate level, to some extent), as the expectation is that by the time you reach the intermediate level, you’ll have become comfortable reading without vowels. That’s why it’s important to start practicing this ability as early as possible.

2. Keep track of vocabulary.

Record new words as you go, using a notebook or even your phone. Also, quiz yourself regularly to make sure you’re retaining this vocabulary.

3. Make sure to talk to native speakers, and ask them to correct you.

Two men in conversation

This is obviously much easier to do if you’re physically in Israel, but even if you’re not, you should do whatever it takes to find some native speakers in your town or online. This way, you can practice speaking Hebrew with someone who can offer you helpful feedback on your use of the language.

4. Watch and listen to plenty of media in Hebrew.

One of the best and most enjoyable ways to improve your Hebrew is to take advantage of the wealth of media available, particularly online, in the Hebrew language. Watch Hebrew TV shows and movies, and listen to Hebrew music as much as you can, especially with subtitles in Hebrew (see below).

5. Study with a partner.

Dancers

This may not be for everyone, but many people find that a study partner can be a great way to get mutual encouragement. It can also help with any anxiety when it comes to speaking. Obviously, it’s always best to try to find someone who is more or less at the same level of proficiency as you are.

6. Be willing to make mistakes.

Numerous studies have shown that the most successful language learners are those who go easy on themselves. Making mistakes is part and parcel of learning languages, so don’t just allow for this—expect it. Learn to laugh at yourself when you make a silly mistake, rather than getting caught up on it.

7. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions.

Question Marks and Light Bulb

According to a Hebrew proverb, a bashful person makes for a poor student, and a strict person makes for a bad teacher. Part of any successful learning endeavor is a sense of comfort about asking questions whenever you’re in doubt. So when in doubt, ask someone for help!

8. Practice pronunciation in front of the mirror.

Woman in front of mirror

This will probably feel funny at first, but by actually watching what your mouth is doing when you speak, you have a better chance of honing in on the mechanics of producing the right sounds to approximate native-sounding Hebrew. In the same vein, pay attention to what you see Israelis’ mouths doing when they make any sounds you’re having difficulty with, and do your best to mimic them when you practice.

9. Do karaoke in Hebrew.

This one’s a no-brainer. Not only is it fun to let loose in front of the karaoke screen, but actually singing a song to beat is a great way of drumming language into your head—literally.

10. Use subtitles to help connect words to sound.

Popcorn and Remote

Subtitles are your friend. They’re a fantastic tool for working on anything, from expanding your vocabulary to recognizing words without vowels to picking up on grammar and syntax structures. 

As a beginner, you’ll likely need subtitles in your native language, but as you progress, you can use subtitles in a more challenging way. An intermediate student, for example, can pick up a lot of new words by watching TV or movies in his/her native tongue, with Hebrew subtitles to accompany it. As you advance, however, challenge yourself to watch Hebrew-language TV shows and movies with Hebrew subtitles. This can go a long way toward helping you connect the physical appearance of words with the sounds they make.

Let HebrewPod101 Get You on the Fast Track to Hebrew Learning

As you can see, there are many components to tackle in mastering the Hebrew language. We at HebrewPod101 are proud to offer you a broad array of learning materials to ensure that you learn comfortably and at as fast a pace as you desire.

Whether you prefer audio lessons or written ones like this one, our library of materials is diverse and designed with the optimal student experience in mind. In addition to our learning materials, we also offer numerous lessons addressing tips and techniques to make your learning more efficient and more enjoyable. 

Is there anything else you’d like to know about the process of learning Hebrew? Feel free to get in touch and let us know.

Until next lesson, shalom!

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Hebrew Proverbs: Right from the Source

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The word “proverb” is generally used to refer to a traditional saying that boils down a commonsense observation about life into a pithy adage, often through the use of a metaphor or some other rhetorical device. All languages, it would seem, express the wisdom of the ages using concise sayings that are easy to remember and recall to use for strategic effect. Indeed, the name of the game is knowing the right proverb for the right moment.

In the case of Hebrew proverbs, there’s an extensive arsenal to draw on. In fact, one of the oldest examples of a proverb folklore is the Book of Proverbs, which represents one of the Hebrew language’s greatest contributions to world literature. This book, of course, is part of a longstanding tradition of Hebrew proverbs, from Biblical times through the Rabbinic period, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, and right into modern times. As the People of the Book, Jews have long considered a well-turned phrase burnished at just the right moment to be a mark of erudition and eloquence.

Man Reading Bible

Of course, the vast majority of these old Hebrew proverbs are religious in nature and emanate from religious sources, namely the Hebrew Bible and the vast library of exegetical works (works that interpret the Bible). Because modern Israel is a largely secular country, some portion of these proverbs have certainly been relegated to the demographically more limited sphere of Israel’s religious communities. However, there’s still a large number of Hebrew proverbs used by the general public.

In any event, nothing will add stripes to your rank as a speaker of the language like a few pithy proverbs in Hebrew to employ at a choice moment in your conversation with a native speaker. To that end, our lesson today will cover the top thirty Hebrew proverbs along with context examples to help you know when best to use them.

Friends Having a Conversation
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. The Top 30 Hebrew Proverbs
  2. HebrewPod101 is Your Proverbial Go-To for All Things Hebrew

1. The Top 30 Hebrew Proverbs

אכול ושתו כי מחר נמות .1

TransliterationAkhol ve-shato ki makhar namut.
Literal translation“Eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die.”
SourceIsaiah 22:13
Parallel English proverbLife is short.
Usage in contextYour friend is trying to convince you to go skydiving with him, but you’re on the fence due to safety concerns. To try to win you over, he uses this phrase.

2. אם אין אני לי מי לי? וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי?

TransliterationIm eyn ani li mi li? U-kh’she-ani le-’atzmi, mah ani? Ve-im lo ‘akhshav, eymatay?
Literal translation“If I am not for myself, who will be? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, then when?”
SourcePirkei Avot 1:14
Parallel English proverbThere’s no time like the present. [last part]
Usage in contextThis proverb is often quoted in part, depending on the application. For example:

It’s Friday, and you’re considering going to visit the Dead Sea for the first time, but you know you have a work assignment to hand in on Monday. To give you a bit of a push, your friend (who wants you to go with him) says, ואם לא עכשיו אימתי? (Ve-im lo ‘akhshav eymatay?)

Man Looking at Watch

3. מצא מין את מינו.

TransliterationMatza min et mino.
Literal translation“He found his own type.”
SourcePopular
Parallel English proverbLike two peas in a pod.
Usage in contextYour brother, who is a classical pianist, tells you about a date he went on with a classical violinist, to which you reply with this proverb.

4. ואהבת לרעך כמוך.

TransliterationVe-ahavta le-re’akha kamokha.
Literal translation“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Source Leviticus 19:18
Parallel English proverbSame as in Hebrew
Usage in contextA taxi driver wants to nudge in ahead of you at a merge onto the road. He rolls down his window, signaling for you to let him in, and quotes this proverb.

5. כל אהבה שהיא תלויה בדבר בטל דבר בטלה אהבה. ושאינה תלויה בדבר אינה בטלה לעולם.

TransliterationKol ahavah she-hi tluyah be-davar batel davar batlah ahavah. Ve-she-eynah tluyah be-davar eynah betelah le’olam.
Literal translation“Any love that depends upon a thing is annulled if that thing is annulled. Love that does not depend upon a thing will never be annulled.”
SourcePirkei Avot 5:19
Parallel English proverbTrue love lasts forever.
Usage in contextYou tell your Israeli girlfriend you need to go on a business trip abroad for a couple of months, and ask if she’ll wait for you to return. She replies with this proverb.

Hands Forming Heart Shape

6. כל הפוסל במומו פוסל.

TransliterationKol ha-posel be-mumo posel.
Literal translation“He who invalidates another invalidates himself.”
SourceTalmud Bavli: Kidushin 70:2
Parallel English proverbWhat you spot is what you’ve got.
Usage in contextYou criticize your neighbor for leaving trash outside his front door, and he points to your mailbox full of old mail, quoting this proverb.

Woman Looking in Rearview Mirror

7. עבר יומו בטל קרבנו.

Transliteration‘Avar yomo batel korbano.
Literal translation“Its day passed, its sacrifice was annulled.”
SourceTosefet Masekhet Berakhot 4
Parallel English proverbYou missed the boat.
Usage in contextYou forget your friend’s birthday, but offer to take him out to eat a month later. She replies with this proverb.

8. לכל זמן, ועת לכל חפץ תחת השמים.

TransliterationLa-kol zman, ve-’et le-khol khefetz takhat ha-shamayim.
Literal translation“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.”
SourceEcclesiastes 3:1
Parallel English proverbEverything in its own time.
Usage in contextYou ask your father when he’s going to retire already, and he replies with this proverb.

9. תפשת מרובה לא תפשת.

TransliterationTafasta merubeh lo tafasta.
Literal translation“If you grab too much, you grab nothing.”
SourceTalmud Bavli: Sukkah 5:1
Parallel English proverbDon’t bite off more than you can chew.
Usage in contextYou tell your parents you’re going to double major in biochemistry and plasma physics, and your mother replies with this proverb.

10. חזית איש מהיר במלאכתו, לפני מלכים יתיצב.

TransliterationKhazita ish mahir bi-m’lakhto lifney melakhim yityatzev.
Literal translation“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings.”
SourceProverbs 22:29
Parallel English proverbPractice makes perfect.
Usage in contextYou observe a master falafel hawker flipping the balls high into the air so they land right in the pita, and you say this proverb to your friend in admiration.

11. לעולם יאכל אדם פחות מן הראוי לו לפי ממונו וילבש כראוי לו ויכבד אשתו ובניו יותר מן הראוי לו.

TransliterationLe-’olam yokhal adam pakhot min ha-ra’uy lo lefi mamono ve-yilbash ka-ra’uy lo vi-yekhabed ishto u-vanav yoter min ha-ra’uy lo.
Literal translation“A man should always eat less than is befitting him, dress as is befitting him, and provide for his wife and children more than is befitting him.”
SourceHilkhot De’ah 5:10
Parallel English proverbNone.
Usage in contextThis might be good advice to a friend trying to budget their expenses, as it relates to monetary priorities vis-à-vis one’s earnings.

12. על ראש הגנב בוער הכובע.

Transliteration‘Al rosh ha-ganav bo’er ha-kova’.
Literal translation“The hat burns atop the thief’s head.”
SourcePopular
Parallel English proverbLiar, liar, pants on fire.
Usage in contextYou see that the prime minister is nervous and fidgety in an interview about the criminal embezzlement leveled against him, and you say this proverb in response.

Burglar

13. אין דבר העומד בפני הרצון.

TransliterationEyn davar ha-’omed bifney ha-ratzon.
Literal translation“Nothing can stand before will.”
SourceThe Book of Zohar
Parallel English proverbWhere there’s a will, there’s a way.
Usage in contextYour sister asks you how you’re able to learn so much Hebrew on HebrewPod101.com, and you reply with this proverb.

14. קנה חכמה מה טוב מחרוץ וקנות בינה נבחר מכסף.

TransliterationKno khokhmah mah tov me-kharutz u-knot binah nivkhar mi-kasef.
Literal translation“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver.”
SourceProverbs 16:16
Parallel English proverbThe greatest wealth is wisdom.
Usage in contextYour grandfather asks you why you’re studying philosophy at university instead of business management, and you reply with this proverb.

15. איזה הוא חכם? הלומד מכל אדם.

TransliterationEyzeh hu khakham? Ha-lomed mi-kol adam.
Literal translation“Who is the wise man? He who learns from all men.”
SourcePirkei Avot 4:1
Parallel English proverbYou can learn something from everyone.
Usage in contextYou complain to your friends about your new roommate, who is very different from you, and they reply with this proverb.

16. כי ברב חכמה רב כעס, ויוסיף דעת יוסיף מכאוב.

TransliterationKi be-rov khokhmah rov ka’as, ve-yosif da’at yosif makh’ov.
Literal translation“For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”
SourceEcclesiastes 1:18
Parallel English proverbIgnorance is bliss.
Usage in contextYour boyfriend starts reading the nutritional values label on your favorite ice cream, and you tell him to stop, citing this proverb.

17. צרת רבים חצי נחמה.

TransliterationTzarat rabim khatzi nekhamah.
Literal translation“Suffering when shared is half a comfort.”
SourcePopular (based on Midrash Rabah)
Parallel English proverbMisery loves company.
Usage in contextA group of your employees all gather around to complain about the new strict boss, and you offer this proverb as a slight consolation.

18. איזהו גיבור? הכובש את יצרו.

TransliterationEyzehu gibor? Ha-kovesh et yitzro.
Literal translation“Who is the hero? He who conquers his urges.”
SourcePirkei Avot 4:1
Parallel English proverbDiscipline is wisdom and vice-versa.
Usage in contextYou are about to go for seconds at your favorite pizzeria, and your brother mentions this proverb while reminding you of your newly adopted diet.

Saluting Silhouette

19. אילני סרק קולם הולך.

TransliterationIylaney srak kolam holekh.
Literal translation“Barren trees make much noise.”
SourceGenesis Rabba 16:3
Parallel English proverbAn empty barrel makes the most noise.
Usage in contextYou call out one of your colleagues (a notorious know-it-all who always has something nasty to say about everyone), using this proverb to put her in her place.

20. אין חכם כבעל ניסיון.

TransliterationEyn khakham ke-va’al nisayon.
Literal translation“There is none wiser than the experienced.”
SourcePopular
Parallel English proverbExperience makes the best teacher.
Usage in contextWhen you ask your teacher why she’s given you so much homework, she replies with this proverb.

21. לא הבישן למד ולא הקפדן מלמד.

TransliterationLo ha-bayshan lamed ve-lo ha-kapdan melamed.
Literal translation“Neither does the timid learn nor the strict teach.”
SourcePirkei Avot 2:5
Parallel English proverbNone
Usage in contextThis is something a student might say in criticism of a teacher who does not invite questions, or that a teacher might say of a student who’s too afraid to ask them.

22. דברי חכמים בנחת נשמעים. 

TransliterationDivrey khakhamim be-nakhat nishma’im.
Literal translation“Wise words should be spoken pleasantly.”
SourceEcclesiastes 9:17
Parallel English proverbYou can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Usage in contextYou ask your friend how best to talk to your neighbors about their loud parties, and he cites this proverb.

23. סייג לחכמה שתיקה.

TransliterationSyag le-khokhmah shtikah.
Literal translation“Silence is a fence around wisdom.”
SourcePirkei Avot 3:13
Parallel English proverbBetter to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.
Usage in contextJust before you raise your hand at your first work meeting, your colleague whispers this proverb in your ear.

Man Zipping Lips

24. והוי זנב לאריות, ואל תהי ראש לשועלים.

TransliterationVe-hevi zanav la-arayot, ve-al tehi rosh la-shu’alim.
Literal translation“It is better to be the tail of the lion than the head of the fox.”
SourcePirkei Avot 4:15
Parallel English proverbBetter the head of a dog than the tail of a lion. (It’s humorous to note that the parallels are opposite!)
Usage in contextYou’re offered a position with a lower salary than your current job, but at a leading firm with lots of opportunity. Your friend offers you this proverb as advice.

25. בור ששתית ממנו אל תזרוק בו אבן.

TransliterationBor she-shatita mimenu al tizrok bo even.
Literal translation“Don’t throw stones into a well you’ve drunk from.”
SourceNumbers Rabba 22
Parallel English proverbDon’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Usage in contextYour father tells you not to criticize your mother’s coddling, mentioning this proverb.

26. אמור מעט ועשה הרבה.

TransliterationEmor me’at va-’aseh harbeh.
Literal translation“Speak little and do much.”
SourcePirkei Avot 1:14
Parallel English proverbActions speak louder than words.
Usage in contextAfter hearing about your plans to finally learn Hebrew, your brother offers you this proverb by way of advice.

Woman Rock Climbing

27. אל יתהלל חגר כמפתח.

TransliterationAl yithalel khoger ki-mefate’akh.
Literal translation“Let not him that girdeth on his armor boast himself as he that putteth it off.”
Source1 Kings 20:11
Parallel English proverbDon’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Usage in contextYou announce to your boyfriend that you’re sure you’ll get the scholarship you applied for, and he replies cautiously with this proverb.

28. חושך שבטו שונא בנו.

TransliterationKhosekh shivto sone beno.
Literal translation“He that spareth his rod hateth his son.”
SourceProverbs 13:24
Parallel English proverbSpare the rod and spoil the child.
Usage in contextYour friend admonishes you with this proverb for letting your grounded son go out to play with his friends after feeling bad for him.

29. שלח לחמך על פני המים כי ברב הימים תמצאנו.

TransliterationShlakh lakhmekha ‘al pney ha-mayim ki be-rov ha-yamim timtza’enu.
Literal translation“Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.”
SourceEcclesiastes 11:1
Parallel English proverbWhat goes around comes around.
Usage in contextYour grandmother encourages you to give to charity, mentioning this proverb.

30. טובים השנים מן האחד.

TransliterationTovim ha-shnayim min ha-ekhad.
Literal translation“Two are better than one.”
SourceEcclesiastes 4:9
Parallel English proverbTwo heads are better than one.
Usage in contextWhen you finally meet ‘the one’ and bring him home to meet the family, your father happily quotes this proverb.

Cutout of Two People

2. HebrewPod101 is Your Proverbial Go-To for All Things Hebrew

We hope you enjoyed today’s lesson on Hebrew proverbs, and that you found our selection of proverbs useful, interesting, and enlightening. Obviously, it would be a lot to expect anyone to memorize all thirty of these; we recommend working on just a couple at a time. You’ll be sure to get some pleasantly surprised reactions when you whip out a perfectly timed Hebrew proverb with your Israeli friends!

Was there anything related to Hebrew proverbs that we didn’t cover today, or anything we did cover that you’d like to know more about? We at HebrewPod101 are always happy to hear from you, so please feel free to get in touch with us. Until next time, Shalom!

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A Concise Hebrew Grammar Guide

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British linguist David Wilkins once said of language, “Without grammar, little can be conveyed; without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed.” 

This captures succinctly the fact that, while it is essential to have sufficient knowledge of a language’s vocabulary in order to describe and express what we wish, we won’t get very far using individual words without knowing how to organize them in logical ways. This logic is dictated by a language’s grammar.

As we look now at Hebrew grammar, you should know that it’s particularly logical and orderly. For example, the most common way to express that everything is okay in Hebrew is to say, הכל בסדר (hakol be-seder), or “everything is in order.” 

A useful Hebrew language grammar guide must take into account that Hebrew is both synthetic, meaning it changes words’ meanings or relationships to other words by adding prefixes and suffixes (and, in Hebrew’s case, also by changing vowels), as well as analytic, meaning it uses helping words to indicate meaning and relationship.

A good command of Hebrew also requires proficiency in using grammatical gender and number correctly, as nouns, verbs, and adjectives are all gendered and must agree in terms of number. This can be particularly tricky for English speakers, who are lucky enough to not have to worry about grammatical gender, except in cases of biological gender (i.e. boy vs. girl or chicken vs. rooster). 

A final prominent grammatical feature of Hebrew is the fact that its word order is sometimes—but not always—parallel to that of English. 

In today’s lesson, we’ll take a look at some of the general features of Hebrew grammar so you can get acquainted with the structure of the language and identify any particular grammar points you’d like to work more on. Let’s get started!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. General Hebrew Grammar Rules
  2. Gender and Number (For Nouns, Adjectives, and Verbs)
  3. Nikkud (Diacritical Marks)
  4. Hebrew’s Root System
  5. Synthetic Grammar
  6. HebrewPod101 is Your One Stop For All the Hebrew Grammar Help You Need

1. General Hebrew Grammar Rules

A good way to broach the subject of Modern Hebrew grammar is to look at how it compares to what we know about English grammar. We’ll cover three key points by way of comparing and contrasting Hebrew with English.

1. Basic Word Order

Filing Cabinet

Let’s start by examining something basic that will generally look familiar when compared to English: the general word order you can expect in Modern Hebrew. 

But before we jump in, let’s first define the words subject, verb, and object. In the context of grammar, the subject is the agent or the noun (a person, place, thing, or idea) that is responsible for whatever the verb describes. The verb is a word describing an action or a condition or state that’s being met. The object is the noun that the subject is acting upon or affecting through the verb.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a simple example of how this plays out:

אני לומד עברית.
Ani lomed Ivrit.
“I study Hebrew.”

Here you can see the same syntax, or word order, as you would expect in English: SVO (Subject + Verb + Object). Luckily, most sentences will indeed follow this structure, though not always. One notable exception is the case of present tense sentences using the verb להיות (lehiyot), or “to be.” This verb is omitted—in fact, does not even exist—in present form. So don’t think something is missing if you see a sentence with just two words, like this one:

אני שרון.
Ani Sharon.
“I [am] Sharon.”

Or even one word, like this one:

חם!
Kham!
“[It’s] hot!”

2. Tenses

Sign Post with Tenses

Speaking of tenses, there’s more good news. In Hebrew grammar, tenses are one aspect where Hebrew is immensely easier than English. This is because there are only three of them! That’s right. There are no progressive tenses (e.g. -ing verbs like going), nor are there any perfect tenses (I have gone or I have been going). There are only simple tenses: past, present, and future. 

Here are some examples to illustrate:

A. Present

  • אני הולכת הביתה עכשיו.
    Ani holekhet habaytah akhshav.
    “I am going home now.” [Literally: “I go home now.”]

B. Past

  • אני הלכתי הביתה בעשר.
    Ani halakhti habyatah be-’eser.
    “I went home at ten.”

    Note that because the verb conjugation itself tells us not only the tense of the verb, but also the person and number of the subject (in this case, first person singular), we often omit the pronoun in Hebrew. This is the more common way to say the same sentence:
  • הלכתי הביתה בעשר.
    Halakhti habaytah be-’eser.
    “I went home at ten.”

C. Future

We also tend to omit the pronoun for future tense. You can find both forms below, one with the pronoun and the other without.

  • אני אלך הביתה בעוד שעה.
    Ani elekh habaytah be-’od sha’ah.
    “I’m going home in an hour.” [Literally: “I will go home in an hour.”]
  • אלך הביתה בעוד שעה.
    Elekh habaytah be-’od sha’ah.
    “I’m going home in an hour.” [Literally: “I will go home in an hour.”]

3. Verb Conjugations

Hand with Dominoes

Israelis are famous for their blunt honesty. In that vein, the honest truth is that verb conjugation is one of the most difficult aspects of Hebrew grammar for beginners. 

This is because Hebrew uses the system of בניינים (binyanim), a word literally meaning “structures,” to pattern verb conjugation—and there are a whopping seven different בניינים. To make matters more complex, all verb conjugations are gendered and numbered as singular or plural, in addition to having different forms for different speakers (e.g. first person singular [“I”] versus first person plural [“we”] or second person singular [“you”]).

On the bright side, these patterns are very structured, as their name suggests, with few exceptions. Also to your advantage as a student of Hebrew is the fact that verbs are categorized logically into different בניינים based on the verb’s function. For instance, they are classified based on whether they are active verbs, passive verbs, or reflexive verbs.

Additionally, all of Hebrew is built on the שורש (shoresh), or “root,” system, which forms related words using the same cluster of two, three, or sometimes four consonants. This means that you will see most verbs represented in different בניינים (binyanim) to apply a meaning related to the שורש (shoresh) in different relationships. 

For example, you can see how this works with the verb לשמוע (lishmo’a), meaning “to listen” or “to hear.” Here you can see how changes to the letters and vowels around the root consonants—ש (shin), מ (mem), and ע (‘ayin)—change the meaning from listening to something or someone, to being listened to or heard, to playing something (like a CD) or making it sound, etc.

  • שמעתי שיר יפה ברדיו.
    Shamati shir yafeh ba-rad’io.
    “I heard a lovely song on the radio.”
  • השיר שנשמע ברדיו הוא מאת אריק איינשטיין.
    Ha-shir she-nishma ba-rad’io hu me’et Arik Aynshteyn.
    “The song that was heard on the radio is by Arik Einstein.”
  • בוא, אני אשמיע לך את השיר.
    Bo, Ani ashmi’alekha et ha-shir.
    “Come, I’ll play the song for you.

The bottom line is that, yes, verb conjugations are one of the tougher things to learn in Hebrew, but they do have a very clear system of patterns. Once you crack that code, you’re home free.

Important Things to Know From Day 1

Times Table on Chalkboard

To sum up our general overview of Modern Hebrew grammar, let’s look at three golden rules for English speakers to keep in mind when embarking on any serious study of Hebrew grammar.

  1. Rule #1: As we mentioned earlier, unlike in English, there is no verb להיות (lehiyot), or “to be,” in the present tense. This means we often encounter very terse-looking sentences, sometimes with just one or two words.
  1. Rule #2: Unlike in English, there are only three tenses: simple present, simple past, and simple future. We can still express many of the same temporal states as English does, but we depend more on contextual words, such as time markers, to do so.
  1. Rule #3: Unlike in English, verb conjugations are quite systematic. They convey meaning beyond just person, number, and tense, based on the בניין (binyan), or conjugation pattern, used. As there are seven such conjugation patterns, don’t expect to master them all in one go. Little by little is the name of the game.

2. Gender and Number (For Nouns, Adjectives, and Verbs)

Abacus

It’s very important to recognize that, unlike English, Hebrew is grammatically gendered, even when words are referring to something with no biological gender. This is similar to the Romance languages, such as Italian and French, as well as other languages like German and Russian. However, Hebrew works a bit differently, as it does not have separate masculine and feminine articles. In fact, ה (ha or he) is the only article in Hebrew, used whether a noun is masculine or feminine, singular or plural.

Hebrew has both masculine and feminine forms of many nouns, as well as nouns that only have a masculine form or a feminine form. Most, but not all, feminine nouns end in either ה (heh) or ת (tav). Another helpful tip is that, in plural form, most—but not all—masculine words end in -ים (-im); most, but not all, feminine words end in -ות (-ot).

Moreover, adjectives must agree with the gender of the noun they describe, and verbs must be conjugated according to the number and gender of their subject.

Here are just a few examples of how this affects words.

1. Nouns with both a masculine and a feminine form

Male and Female Ice Skaters
  • Masculine
    • אני רופא.
      Ani rofeh.
      “I am a doctor.”

    • אני רופא ילדים.
      Ani rofeh yeladim.
      “I am a pediatrician.”
  • Feminine
    • אני רופאה.
      Ani rof’ah.
      “I am a doctor.”
    • אני רופאת ילדים.
      Ani rof’at yeladim.
      “I am a pediatrician.”

2. Nouns which are either masculine or feminine

Dining Table
  • Masculine
    • זה סוס.
      Zeh sus.
      “This is a horse.”
    • זה כיסא.
      Zeh kise.
      “This is a chair.”
    • זה אוטו.
      Zeh oto.
      “This is a car.”
  • Feminine
    • זאת צלחת.
      Zot tzalakhat.
      “This is a plate.”
    • זאת קערה.
      Zot ke’arah.
      “This is a bowl.”
    • זאת כוס.
      Zot kos.
      “This is a cup.”

3. Gender and number with adjectives

Paper Cut-Outs of People

As mentioned, in Hebrew grammar, adjectives must be in agreement with the number and gender of the nouns they describe. Here are some examples:

  • Masculine
    • הוא רופא טוב.
      Hu rofeh tov.
      “He is a good doctor.”
    • הם רופאים טובים.
      Hem rof’im tovim.
      “They are good doctors.”
    • זה סוס גדול.
      Zeh sus gadol.
      “This is a big horse.”
    • אלה סוסים גדולים.
      Eleh susim gedolim.
      “These are big horses.”
  • Feminine
    • היא רופאה טובה.
      Hi rof’ah tovah.
      “She is a good doctor.”
    • הן רופאות טובות.
      Hen rof’ot tovot.
      “They are good doctors.”
    • זאת צלחת גדולה.
      Zot tzalakhat gedolah.
      “This is a big plate.”
    • אלה צלחות גדולות.
      Eleh tzalakhot gedolot.
      “These are big plates.”

4. Gender and number with verbs

Figurines in Arrow Formation

As we mentioned earlier, Hebrew verbs also need to be in agreement with their respective subjects in terms of number and gender. Here are some examples of how verbs change to accommodate this:

  • Masculine
    • הרופא עובד בבית החולים.
      Ha-rofe ‘oved be-veyt ha-kholim.
      “The doctor works at the hospital.”
    • הרופאים עובדים בבית החולים.
      Ha-rof’im ‘ovdim be-veyt ha-kholim.
      “The doctors work at the hospital.”
  • Feminine
    • הרופאה עובדת בבית החולים.
      Ha-rof’ah ‘ovedet be-veyt ha-kholim.
      “The doctor works at the hospital.”
    • הרופאות עובדות בבית החולים.
      Ha-rof’ot ‘ovdot be-veyt ha-kholim.
      “The doctors work at the hospital.”

3. Nikkud (Diacritical Marks)

Fountain Pen

Another key point of both Hebrew grammar and Hebrew orthography is that of ניקוד (nikkud), or diacritical marks. 

Because Hebrew is an abjad, written Hebrew letters are restricted to consonants or placeholders for vowels, while vowels themselves are represented by lines and dots above, below, or next to these letters. To make the ride even more exciting, written and printed Modern Hebrew—as well as, incidentally, the Torah, or Hebrew Bible—almost always omit these diacritical marks. This means that learners will need to first learn to read with them, and then wean themselves off of the written vowels, eventually learning to infer them as native Hebrew speakers do. Think of it like learning to ride a bicycle with training wheels, which are eventually taken off so you can ride freely.

As for the grammatical significance of ניקוד, there are two key points you should know.

1. Consonant Homonyms

Woman Reading with Confused Look

Firstly, there are consonant homonyms. These are words whose letters (which, if you recall, are only consonants and vowel placeholders) look identical, but which are not actually homophones (words that sound the same). This is because the vowels make all the difference. We obviously need to know which word we’re dealing with if we want to get the rest of our grammar right.

Here’s an example of three letters that can spell out three totally different words, based on the vowels employed. Just remember that you would normally see these all written without the diacritical marks as דוד (equivalent to dvd), and would have to infer the right word based on the context. Tricky, I know. But the fun is in the challenge!

  • דָּוִד
    David
    “David,” as in the proper name
  • דּוֹד
    Dod
    “Uncle”
  • דּוּד
    Dud
    “Boiler”

2. Construct States

Boy Handing Girl a Book

Another way that ניקוד is related to grammar is in the case of construct states. 

In Hebrew grammar, construct states are where two nouns work together to form either a compound noun or a genitive (possessive) phrase. In a construct state, the first noun will be the genitive of the second noun, making the second noun “possessed” by the first. In most cases, the words involved will see some change to their letters and their ניקוד, and in some cases only to their ניקוד. In the latter cases, considering that the vowels are generally omitted, you will once again have to learn to infer them. 

Here are some examples:

  • עוּגָה
    ‘Ugah
    “Cake”
  • עוּגַת שׁוֹקוֹלָד
    ‘Ugat shokolad
    “Chocolate cake” (Literally: “Cake of chocolate”)
  • מִלְחָמָה
    Milkhamah
    “War”
  • מִלְחֶמֶת הָעַצְמָאוּת
    Milkhemet ha-Atzma’ut
    “The War of Independence”
  • סְפָרִים
    S’farim
    “Books”
  • סִפְרֵי יְלָדִים
    Sifrey yeladim
    “Children’s books”
  • בַּיִת
    Bayit
    “House”
  • בֵּית סֵפֶר
    Beyt sefer
    “School” (Literally: “House of the book”)

4. Hebrew’s Root System

Tree Roots

Another key aspect is Hebrew’s root system. 

One of the most interesting and unique aspects of the Hebrew language is its use of שורשים (shorashim), a system of using consonant roots to form words. Not only do these roots help you to acquire, recognize, and even infer new vocabulary, but they also make for a very systematic learning experience. 

If you visually and sonically contrast Hebrew words belonging to one root with their English counterparts, you will see just how much more inviting Hebrew’s system is. Instead of having to memorize words that have no apparent connection other than their meanings, the relationships between Hebrew words is evident in both their look and their sound.

This root system applies to all parts of speech, as we’ve already seen. 

Let’s have just a quick glimpse at some examples of words derived from a single root to better understand how this works in Hebrew. We’ll use the triconsonantal root אמר (equivalent to amr) here, but keep in mind that the patterns you see here can be applied to almost any root to express almost anything.

  1. לומר
    Lomar
    “To say”
  1. להיאמר
    Lehe’amer
    “To be said”
  1. אמירה
    Amira
    “Saying”
  1. מאמר
    Ma’amar
    “Article”

As you can clearly see, by identifying the root consonants, you can get some idea of the “family” a word is in, even if you’re unsure of its exact meaning. In this case, each of these words have to do with speaking or expressing oneself. Moreover, once you begin to recognize set patterns, you’ll be even better prepared to grasp a word’s meaning. For instance, the מ (mem) in מאמר (ma’amar) is a common prefix added to a root to create a noun form.

In addition to using this root system to form different but related words, Hebrew uses suffixes and prefixes to provide further information about words. This is particularly true for the genitive form. For instance, מאמרי (ma’amari) would be “my article,” מאמרו (ma’amaro) “his article,” and מאמרנו (ma’amarenu) “our article.”

5. Synthetic Grammar

Man Speaking to Woman with Letters and Question Mark Floating

A final, crucial grammar point to be aware of is that Hebrew is largely synthetic, meaning that it uses different morphologies, or physical forms of the same word, to convey meaning, relationships, and other information. We already saw this in terms of the genitive, but there are other cases where this is true as well. 

Let’s look at some common situations, along with examples.

1. Prefixes for articles and prepositions

Books

One way in which words can change is by gaining a prefix or prefixes in order to accommodate an article, a preposition, or both. Note how all of these look, visually, like single words, but (apart from the first example) they all consist of two or three elements.

  • ספר
    Sefer
    “Book”
  • הספר
    Ha-sefer
    “The book”
  • מִסֵּפֶר
    Mi-sefer
    “From a book”
  • מהספר
    Me-ha-sefer
    “From the book”

2. Suffixes for plurals and genitives

Twins with Book and Computer

We also saw that suffixes are used, as in English, to form plurals. They can also be used to indicate that a noun is genitive, or both genitive and plural. 

Here are some examples:

  • ספר
    Sefer
    “Book”
  • ספרי
    Sifri
    “My book”
  • ספרו
    Sifro
    “His book”
  • ספרים
    Sfarim
    “Books”
  • ספריו
    Sfarav
    “His books”
  • אהבה
    Ahavah
    “Love”
  • אהבות
    Ahavot
    “Loves”
  • אהבותיהם
    Ahavoteyhem
    “Their loves” (with “their” referring to masculine or mixed gender)

6. HebrewPod101 is Your One Stop For All the Hebrew Grammar Help You Need

As you can see, while Hebrew grammar does share some elements in common with English, there is plenty of new territory to be explored when learning this unique language. HebrewPod101 is here to help you every step of the way with clear and engaging lessons that break things down, step-by-step, with plenty of examples and usage in context.

Our lessons include both text- and audio-based units to keep your learning diverse and interesting. As you can see by the examples we linked to throughout the article, we have a truly vast wealth of materials at your disposal so that you can pick and choose as you wish based on your needs and interests.

We hope you’ve found this overview helpful, and we look forward to guiding and encouraging you along the way as you progress with your Hebrew studies. Be sure to let us know in the comments if you have any questions about what we covered today.

Shalom!

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Is Hebrew Hard to Learn? (And Why to Learn Anyway.)

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Let’s face it. Hebrew is not the most popular language choice for those seeking to acquire a new one. It’s not as sexy-sounding as, say, French or Spanish. It doesn’t have international status as a lingua franca for culture or commerce. It’s spoken by a mere nine million people worldwide

Yet there are a number of great reasons to make it your next language undertaking. In this article, we’ll answer the question “Is Hebrew hard to learn?” and talk about its simpler and more complex aspects. But first, we’ll show you why you should learn this beautiful language.

The number-one reason is that Hebrew is, quite simply, unique among all languages, and for more than one reason. It’s the language of nearly the entire Old Testament (the Book of Daniel is written in Aramaic, a closely related Semitic language that’s very similar to Hebrew). When God said, “Let there be light,” he said it in Hebrew! So when you learn Hebrew, you’re connecting yourself to a primal part of history. Indeed, the earliest examples of Paleo-Hebrew date back to the tenth century BCE, making Hebrew at least 3,000 years old!

Torah Scroll

Obviously, the Hebrew language has contributed greatly to Western civilization through the vast literary works in the Hebrew language that are part of the Biblical canon. Just as interesting is the fact that Hebrew ceased to be used as a spoken language between the third and fifth centuries. During this time, it was relegated to לשון הקודש (leshon ha-kodesh), or the Language of Holy Matters, used for Bible study, prayer, and religious poetry—but not for everyday communication.

Jewish Prayer Book

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that Hebrew was revived as a spoken language. In fact, this was achieved through a linguistic enterprise, the likes of which had never been seen before and which has not been replicated since. A number of highly motivated and impressively talented individuals, most prominently Eliezer Ben Yehuda, set about coining Hebrew words to describe the modern world, so removed as it was from the ancient context of Biblical Hebrew.

They began publishing Hebrew dictionaries and periodicals, codifying grammatical rules, putting on Hebrew-language theater productions, founding Hebrew schools and clubs, and generally revitalizing the language as an everyday tongue equal to any other spoken language. In fact, Eliezer Ben Yehuda is credited with raising the first child to speak Hebrew as his native (and at least initially exclusive) tongue, keeping his son Itamar under something like house arrest in his early years so he wouldn’t be exposed to other languages, which he felt might confuse the child.

Today, Hebrew is the State of Israel’s official language. It’s the mother tongue of millions of people, used in newspapers, books, TV programs, movies, music, poetry, food labels, websites, legislation, advertisements, and any other use you can think of for a language. So when you learn and speak it, you’re participating in what could be argued to be the most successful linguistic experiment in history—the revival of a language that had not been spoken for over a thousand years!

What’s more, just as Hebrew is unique among languages, Israel is a country unlike any other. Geographically at the crossroads of three continents—Europe, Asia, and Africa—Israel is a true melting pot of cultures, with immigrants and their descendants from literally all four corners of the globe. It’s also a fascinating meld of ancient culture with cutting-edge modernity. Learning Hebrew gives you direct access to all of this rich diversity, and to a wealth of unique and interesting literature, art, music, cuisine, and people.

Wailing Wall / View of Old Jerusalem

So why should you learn Hebrew? Perhaps the real question is why not?!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Is it Hard to Learn Hebrew?
  2. The Hardest and Easiest Aspects of the Hebrew Language
  3. I Want to Learn Hebrew, But Don’t Know Where to Start
  4. What Makes HebrewPod101 Your Partner in Learning Hebrew with Success?

1. Is it Hard to Learn Hebrew?

Confused Looking Student

So you’re interested in the possibility of studying Hebrew, but before you take the plunge, you just have one big question: Is Hebrew hard to learn? This question is easier asked than answered, as it depends on many factors. For instance, if you know another Semitic language, such as Arabic, this will give you a number of advantages as you’ll already be familiar with the basics of vocabulary and grammar.

If you speak a language with gutturals, such as French or German, this will go a long way toward helping your Hebrew pronunciation. If you’ve studied the Hebrew Bible at all, this can also be of help, though it can also cause confusion due to the divergence of modern Hebrew from Biblical Hebrew. 

And overall, how hard it is to learn Hebrew will depend on how good your ear is, how willing you are to make and learn from mistakes, and how much effort you put in.

All that being said, learning Hebrew is definitely a manageable task. It’s not the hardest language to learn by a long shot, though we’ll admit it’s not the easiest either. We’re going to take an honest look at various features that might make the Hebrew language hard for some learners, and other features that make Hebrew relatively easy. 

In this author’s opinion, while Hebrew does present some key obstacles, especially in the very early stages, it’s an extremely logical and economical language overall. For this reason, I believe anyone with the right attitude absolutely can and should learn Hebrew with the certainty that success will come if you invest in your studies.

Pensive Looking Student

At HebrewPod101.com, we’re committed to your language-learning success. To that end, we have created a vast library of fun, engaging, and enriching material, both written and in audio format, to help and guide you in your Hebrew language endeavors. So don’t stress! While learning any language comes with difficulties, you can take comfort in the knowledge that we are here to help you along the way!

Without further ado, let’s get into the thick of it and see which features of Hebrew will likely present a challenge and which are more inviting. We’re confident that once you see the breakdown, you’ll be inspired to go for it and study Hebrew in earnest.

2. The Hardest and Easiest Aspects of the Hebrew Language

Let’s start with the good news and take a look at some of the ways in which Hebrew is, in fact, one of the easier languages to pick up. You may actually be surprised by some of them!

The top five easiest aspects of learning Hebrew

1. It’s phonetic.

Man Speaking with Letters

Like Spanish and Italian—and unlike English and French—Hebrew is phonetic. This means that, with a few exceptions, the sounds that Hebrew letters make are constant and don’t change depending on their location in a word. That makes learning new vocabulary a whole lot easier, as you can pronounce new words with confidence, as long as you know the sound each Hebrew letter makes.

What’s more, there are only five voiced vowel sounds and one unvoiced vowel sound. No diphthongs (vowel combinations, like the “ou” in the English word “mouse”) to complicate matters. It’s just as simple as learning six vowels, and you’re set!

To make things even easier in terms of proper pronunciation, there are only two possible ways to stress syllables: either the last syllable or the penultimate syllable gets stressed. There are some imported words, mostly from English, where this is not the case, but the vast majority of Hebrew words do follow this rule.

2. It’s root-based.

Roots

While this may sound like something you would find printed on a bottle of vegetable juice, “roots” here refer to verb stems, or שורשים (shorashim). In true testament to its logical nature, Hebrew uses words based on three- or four-letter roots from which various words can be formed using different patterns. There are patterns for verbs of different kinds (e.g. accusative, reflexive, etc.), for nouns of different kinds (describing actions, equipment, diminutives, etc.), as well as for adjectives and adverbs. Words from the same root can be viewed as members of a single family, with a semantic connection (i.e. their individual meanings will all share a common theme).

You may be asking how this makes learning Hebrew easier. The answer is that once you’ve learned a word or two based on a given root, you’ll have more than a fair chance of at least approximating the meaning of another word from the same root. Let’s take a look at an example.

The root ח-ב-ר (kh-v-r) denotes connection or connectivity, so all words deriving from it will have a meaning along those lines. Obviously, once you get to know the conjugation patterns, you’ll also be able to infer meaning with greater accuracy. But even without this knowledge, you can be sure that any word from this root has something to do with connection. So, say you know the word חבר (khaver) means “friend,” and you suddenly see the word חיבור (khibur). You may not know what it means, but you can guess that it has something to do with connection. And you would be quite right! חיבור (khibur) means “connection”!

Here are some other words formed from the same root, along with their meanings. (The root letters have been bolded for easier identification.)

  • חבורה (khavurah)
    “gang,” “pack”
  • חברה (khevrah)
    “company,” “society”
  • חבר‘ה (khevreh)
    “group of people,” “guys,” “folks”
  • לחבר (lekhaber)
    “to connect [one thing to another]”
  • להתחבר (lehitkhaber)
    “to connect [yourself to something]”
  • מחברת (makhberet)
    “notebook” [i.e., a ream of connected pages]
  • תחביר (takhbir)
    “syntax” [i.e., how we connect words to each other]

3. It only has three tenses.

Signs: Now, Tomorrow, Yesterday

Here’s one that should give you a huge sigh of relief. Unlike many languages, English among them, which have various tenses both simple and complex (e.g. “I have been studying Hebrew for a year.”), Hebrew is content to make do with just three—simple past, simple present, and simple future—the vast majority of the time. You can still express all of the same things as in English, but you would rely on context for the nuances of time. For example:

  • אני אוכל עכשיו.
    Ani okhel akhshav.
    “I am eating now.”

* The word עכשיו (akhsav), meaning “now,” tells us that this is an ongoing action happening at present, equivalent to the present progressive tense in English.

Contrast this with the following:

  • אני אוכל במסעדה פעם בשבוע.
    Ani okhel be-mis’adah pa’am be-shavu’ah.
    “I eat at a restaurant once a week.”

* In this case, we’re talking about a general habit, which is equivalent to the simple present tense in English.

4. In simple present, you never need to use the verb “to be.”

Man Pointing to Watch

That’s right! In the simple present tense (the only present tense Hebrew has), we don’t use the verb להיות (lehiyot), or “to be.” That ought to save you some work! Here are a couple of examples:

  • אני סוזי.
    Ani Suzi.
    “I [am] Susie.”
  • אני סטודנטית.
    Ani studentit.
    “I [am] a student.”
  • האוכל טעים מאוד.
    Ha-okhel ta’im me’od.
    “This food [is] very tasty.”

5. There is only one article.

Man with Lightbulbs

This is definitely a huge advantage in comparison to other languages. Languages vary widely in their use of articles. For instance, Slavic languages are devoid of articles, while Italian has a whopping twelve types of articles. Spanish has nine, and English, French, and German have three each. But Hebrew only has one article to learn, so that’s one thing you can definitely be grateful for. Whether male or female, singular or plural, Hebrew uses only the prefix ה- (ha-) for all definite nouns.

The top five hardest aspects of learning Hebrew

You’ve seen a number of key ways in which Hebrew learning is facilitated by the language’s logic and economy. Now let’s face the music and confront the big question: Why is Hebrew so hard to learn for many students?

Here’s an overview of the unique challenges Hebrew poses. 

1. You have to learn a new alphabet, probably written in the direction opposite of what you’re used to.

Man Writing on Blackboard

This is likely the first thing that may have occurred to you as a potential challenge. And you would be right. This is an obstacle that you wouldn’t face, by and large, if learning any of the Romance or Germanic languages (apart from a few morphemes unique to each language). With Hebrew, you’ll be learning an alphabet completely different from what you know, which is also written from right to left rather than left to right.

That said, the alphabet only contains twenty-two consonants—versus English’s twenty-six—and six vowel sounds. As for the consonants, there’s a further complication in that the letters ב (bet), כ (kaf), and פ (peh), are either plosive or fricative depending on whether they use a דגש קל (dagesh kal), a diacritical point in their center. So, while ב is equivalent to /v/ in English, בּ is equivalent to /b/; כ is pronounced kh, like a Scot pronouncing the “ch” in Loch Ness, but כּ is /k/; and פ is /f/ while פּ is /p/.

Additionally, the letters כ (kaf), מ (mem), נ (nun), פ (peh), and צ (tzadi) all have distinct final forms, meaning they’re written differently when they come at the end of a word. Their final forms are:

ך, ם, ן, ף, and ץ, respectively.

Obviously, apart from learning a new alphabet, you’ll also have to get accustomed to reading and writing from right to left. It may be of interest to know why this is the case. Old as it is, and owing to logistical issues of climate and technology, proto-Hebrew was originally chiseled, carved, or engraved into rock or clay rather than written on animal skin or papyrus, unlike cuneiform. This is because, most people being right-handed, it was easier to hold the chisel in the left hand and hammer with the right. On the other hand (no pun intended), when writing with ink, writing from left to right prevented right-handed people from inadvertently smudging the ink on the scroll or page before it had dried.

2. Say goodbye to written vowels, for the most part.

Man and Women Speaking with Floating Letters and Question Mark

To complicate matters further, Hebrew is a type of language—like Arabic and Persian—called an abjad. These languages, in written form, by and large only supply the reader with consonants, omitting any diacritical marks (the dots and dashes within, above, below, or next to letters that indicate vowel sounds and other features of pronunciation). These sounds are generally inferred, though there are cases of words with the same consonants and various possible vowels, which can be tricky. Here’s an example:

  • דָּוִד
    David
    “David” (the proper name)
  • דּוֹד
    dod
    “uncle”
  • דּוּד
    dud
    “boiler”

* Note that the consonants in all three words are the same, with only the vowels changing. Because written Hebrew does not generally supply us with the vowels, these would all appear to be the same word to the uninitiated. Let’s see how this might look in the context of a sentence, first without vowels, then with them.

  • דוד דוד קנה דוד חדש.
    דּוֹד דָּוִד קנה דּוּד חדש.
    Dod David kanah dud khadash.
    “Uncle David bought a new boiler.”

Don’t let this phase you, though. If nine-million Hebrew-speakers can read without the aid of written vowels, you can get there too! There aren’t too many cases where words share the same consonants but differ in vowels alone. And those that do exist are generally quite easy to distinguish from their homographs by using context clues. When this isn’t the case, the author will usually supply the diacritical marks to allay confusion.

3. Hebrew uses a different script for printed letters and written ones.

Eraser on Page

Continuing in the orthographical vein, printed Hebrew—such as what appears in books, newsprint, most ads, subtitles, and so on—uses block letters, whereas written Hebrew uses cursive. To be fair, though, the case is much the same in English—or at least it traditionally was for those old enough to have been taught to write in cursive when penning letters and so on. In any case, cursive Hebrew is very similar to its printed counterpart. The written form of the letters is actually no more than a matter of convenience, as round letters are easier to write than square ones.

4. There are male and female forms for nouns, pronouns, verbs, AND adjectives.

Male/Female Symbols

This one is definitely a challenge, though by no means an insurmountable one. For all of its many complications, English is free of grammatical gender (though, as history buffs will know, this was not always the case). However, many languages have grammatical (versus biological) gender, meaning that even inanimate objects are gendered either masculine or feminine (and in the case of some languages, such as German, they can be neutral, as well).

Hebrew does not have a neutral form, but it does have masculine and feminine forms—both singular and plural—for nouns, pronouns, verb conjugations, and adjectives. While this may seem overwhelming, the good news is that these forms are standardized, meaning that once you learn the right suffixes and conjugation forms to make a word either masculine or feminine, and plural or singular, you’ll be able to apply the same pattern over and over to different words.

There are, of course, irregulars, but not many. And they’re only irregular in that they use the masculine form for a feminine word or vice-versa, rather than having a totally non-sequitur plural form as is often the case in English (e.g. man, men). For example, -ים (-im) is the plural suffix for masculine nouns, while -ות (-ot) or -יות (-iyot) is the plural suffix for feminine nouns.

Here are a few examples:

  • בן, בנים
    ben, banim
    “son,” “sons”
  • בת, בנות
    bat, banot
    “daughter,” “daughters”
  • חודש, חודשים
    khodesh, khodashim
    “month,” “months”
  • ארוחה, ארוחות
    arukhah, arukhot
    “meal,” “meals”
  • בקבוק, בקבוקים
    bakbuk, bakbukim
    “bottle,” “bottles”
  • שקית, שקיות
    sakit, sakiyot
    “bag,” “bags”

5. There are seven binyanim (verb conjugation patterns).

Verb List

There’s no way around this one. There are seven distinct types of verbs in Hebrew, each with its own pattern of conjugation. Compare that to, say, Spanish or Italian, where there are just three basic patterns, or English where there is only one basic pattern (which is chock-full of irregulars).

That being said, these binyanim, or conjugation patterns, are here to help you. They’re not mere morphological patterns, but have semantic meaning as well. In layman’s terms, whereas the conjugation patterns in Spanish and Italian are linked to their orthographic endings (the letters they terminate in), Hebrew binyanim tell you the character of the verb.

For instance, the binyan התפעל (hitpa’el) indicates a reflexive verb, meaning that when we learn how to use and identify this conjugation pattern, we also learn how to change an indicative (a regular statement or question) verb into a reflexive one (meaning it’s either acting on itself or on its agent). This also means that even if we’re not completely sure of a verb’s meaning, we can surmise something about the situation or relationship being described based on its binyam: Is something or someone acting on something or someone else? Is something happening passively to something or someone? Is someone or something activating or animating something or someone else to do something?

So yes, while the binyanim are tricky and take plenty of practice to master, they give you something you won’t find in many other languages: an understanding of the logical relationship between words. This will help you immensely as you progress with your studies, so look at it as a challenge that is well worth tackling! 

3. I Want to Learn Hebrew, But Don’t Know Where to Start

Woman with Blank Thought Bubble

Considering that Hebrew is a very logical, even mathematical, language, it’s best to get a good foundation when you first start your studies. While some may consider this dull, you can be certain that any seeming drudgery will pay off in dividends later on.

The following are some tips for getting started:

1. Learn the alphabet.

A good recommendation is to begin by learning the alphabet, as well as the correct pronunciation of all the consonants and vowels. Remember that Hebrew is phonetic, so once you learn these sounds, you only need to be able to reproduce them wherever they appear. There’s no variation as in English or French. With only a few exceptions, the same grapheme (written unit) will correspond to the same phoneme (sound unit) anywhere it appears.

2. Learn basic verb conjugation.

From there, you would want to focus on learning at least the more common binyanim, or verb conjugation patterns, so you can use verbs freely. You could start by focusing on just one tense and look at various verbs in this tense. Or you could focus on one binyan, tackling its forms in all three tenses. Any way you choose to go about it is fine, as long as you’re systematic.

3. Build up a basic vocabulary.

This is key to any language you’re trying to learn. Rather than focusing solely on technical issues like grammar and pronunciation, make sure you spend a lot of time building your vocabulary. Start with simple, everyday words that would be useful in common situations. Think of how children learn a language: they start with the most basic building blocks before they ever move on to forming sentences and questions. This should be your guiding principle. You have to crawl before you can walk, after all.

4. Use realia for fun and effective learning.

When undertaking any language endeavor, exposure is key. You want to flood yourself with as much authentic Hebrew language as you can. If you’re in Israel or know a group of Israelis living abroad where you are, try to hang out with them and practice any vocabulary you can. Listen attentively to their conversations and take part as much as possible. To this end, it’s best to identify patient native speakers who will be willing to help and encourage you.

No matter where you are, the Internet is a wonderful resource full of endless opportunities to expose yourself to authentic native Hebrew. Whether through music, movies, TV shows, or any other medium, Israel is a true powerhouse of media production, so you have your pick. No matter what your tastes are, you’re sure to find something to your liking in the Hebrew language. Use these media to learn new words, practice your comprehension, or work on pronunciation.

5. Start small and work your way up from there.

Work with smaller chunks at first before you try to take on, say, translating an entire song from Hebrew to your native language. Focus on individual words first, then word combinations, then sentences, then paragraphs (or stanzas), and only then entire works. Keep your goals realistic and achievable so that you’ll not only succeed in reaching them, but feel positive about your progress.

It’s worth noting that, as a country of mass immigration from countries the world over, Israel produces material specifically designed to help עולים חדשים (‘olim khadashim), or “new immigrants,” learn Hebrew. This even includes simplified newspapers that print stories on current affairs and cultural interest stories in basic Hebrew to facilitate easy reading for non-native speakers.

6. Be consistent.

Make sure you’re consistent in your studies. Dedicate time every week to your language studies, and try your best to stick to it, even if it’s only a couple of hours. Practice the words or grammar points you’ve learned until you’re sure you have dominated them. Go back and review previous lessons every now and again to refresh your memory. Most of all, don’t give up! Results are the direct product of your commitment to your goals!

4. What Makes HebrewPod101 Your Partner in Learning Hebrew with Success?

Man Jumping from Cliff to Cliff

HebrewPod101’s raison d’être is to make your language-learning experience a success, and to make sure you have fun along the way. We offer a wealth of audio, video, and written lessons designed and delivered by native Hebrew-speakers. These lessons focus on real-life topics, ranging from using public transportation to asking someone out on a date.

We also offer a multitude of learning materials, all designed with both the general difficulties of language-learning and the particular difficulties of Hebrew in mind. With HebrewPod101, you can build your vocabulary with our Free Word of the Day, practice grammar with our free mobile apps, track your progress online, and benefit from a vast array of study tools. These include flashcards, word banks, and even a voice recorder for working on your pronunciation.

With HebrewPod101, you’ll have access to lesson notes which accompany our audio and video lessons. You can also repeat any lesson at any time and check your knowledge using our quizzes. The best part of all is that, unlike in a classroom setting, you can learn at your own pace. This gives you the flexibility to work your studies in around your personal schedule and progress according to your drive, availability, and needs.

At HebrewPod101.com, we’re committed to making the challenges of learning Hebrew not only surmountable, but welcome. After all, nothing feels better than setting your sights on the summit, scaling the mountain step-by-step, and finally standing way above, looking out at the expanse below, knowing you got there thanks to your commitment and hard work. Let us be your partner in success. Sign up today to start getting new Hebrew lessons for free every single week!

Before you go, we would love to hear your thoughts on learning Hebrew. Are you ready to start after reading this article, or do you still have questions or concerns? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll do our best to help you out!

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10 Common Mistakes in Learning Hebrew & How to Avoid Them

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It’s more than expected to make mistakes when learning a new language, particularly when that language is quite different from your mother tongue. Whether in terms of correct pronunciation, the right word for the right situation, or the small differences that can make the difference between an idiomatic phrase and an idiotic one, languages are full of traps that only native speakers can navigate with ease. 

With all that in mind, it’s perfectly normal for a language-learner to make the occasional mistake in Hebrew. But we here at HebrewPod101.com are here to help you avoid the worst of them.

Today’s lesson will cover the top ten most common Hebrew mistakes. While there are some mistakes in life that one must make in order to learn from, we like to think that in language we can minimize mistakes. To that end, we’ll look at issues of pronunciation, word choice (vocabulary), grammar, and even spelling. We’ll also include some mistakes that even native speakers have been known to make, leading to further confusion among language-learners. 

Together, we’ll see what the common mistakes in learning Hebrew are, why they’re mistakes, and what we can do to avoid making them. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Pronunciation Mistakes: Gutturals
  2. Word Choice Mistakes
  3. Word Order Mistakes
  4. Grammar Mistakes
  5. The Biggest Mistake of All
  6. Let HebrewPod101 Help You Learn Correct Hebrew and Avoid Mistakes

1. Pronunciation Mistakes: Gutturals

Teacher Teaching Pronunciation

Hebrew seems to be among the more challenging languages for native speakers of a range of languages. English-speakers in particular tend to have difficulty producing some of the sounds that are natural to the Hebrew tongue. 

Hebrew, like Arabic or German, is a language that relies heavily on guttural sounds—sounds we produce using the back of the throat—and these can pose a challenge to the uninitiated. Let’s see what these sounds are and how to avoid mispronouncing them.

1 – ח (khet) and כ/ך (khaf)

Let’s start with the good news. In modern Hebrew, the vast majority of native speakers pronounce these two letters identically. (In the past, they were distinguished by how far back in the throat you would pronounce each letter’s sound.) 

To make this sound correctly, you can think about the movement you make when you’re trying to clear your throat. The sound is similar to the “ch” in Loch Ness, as pronounced by a native Scot, or to the jota in the Spanish name Juan.

Many non-native Hebrew-speakers take the easy way out on this sound and, rather than producing it correctly, “fudge” it with a soft “H” sound. This not only sounds bad, but it can lead to confusion, as sometimes this substitution can actually mean that we’re saying a totally different word. For example, לך (lakh) is the second person feminine singular form of “to/for you,” whereas לה (lah) is the third person singular form of the same pronoun. 

To avoid this mistake in Hebrew, practice these sentences. Focus on distinguishing between the different sounds (ה [heh] vs. ח/כ/ך, khet/khaf/khaf).

  • אני הולך להרים מחר.
    Ani holekh la-harim makhar.
    “I am going to the mountains tomorrow.”
  • אני אוכל מהר בהיכל. 
    Ani okhel maher ba-heykhal.
    “I am eating quickly in the auditorium.”

2 – ר (resh)

Technically, this letter is a voiced uvular fricative rather than a guttural. But for our purposes, the important thing to note is that most modern Hebrew-speakers produce the “ר” sound from the back of the throat and top of the palette, rather than by using the tip of the tongue or the teeth. 

As this sound is totally different from most English-speakers’ “R” sound, it takes a bit of practice to get it right. The sound is similar to how the “R” sound is produced by many French-speakers. The best way to get it right is to listen to how Israelis say it, and to practice the sound to get it as close as possible. 

Here are some tongue-twisters to help:

  • רק רגע, מור, אני כבר רושם את מה שאתה אומר.
    Rak rega’, Mor, ani kvar roshem et mah she-atah omer.
    “Just a moment, Mor, I’m just about to write down what you say.”
  • הרוחות רשרשו כשהשתחררתי מחיל האוויר.
    Ha-rukhot rishreshu keshe-hishtakhrarti mi-Kheil ha-Avir.
    “The winds rustled when I was discharged from the Air Force.”

2. Word Choice Mistakes

Blackboard with Word List

Another category of common Hebrew mistakes is that of incorrect word choices. Obviously, this is a huge category, as the opportunities for vocabulary mishaps lie everywhere. But here, we’ll only focus on the top three commonly confused words. 

It’s a good idea here to practice each word and to internalize how and where to use it. To this end, feel free to practice with the sample sentences provided below, and avoid these Hebrew word mistakes in the future.

אח -1 (akh) – “brother” / “male nurse” / “fireplace” / “ouch” vs. אך (akh) – “but”

In modern Hebrew pronunciation, the two words above sound identical, but note that each spelling has multiple meanings, so it’s easy to get confused here. The first one, אח (akh), most commonly means “brother,” and, in fact, the “male nurse” definition is merely a derivative of the same (just as in the past, female nurses in English were referred to as “sisters”). It’s also used to spell out the exclamation for pain, basically Hebrew’s version of “ouch.”

On the other hand, אך (akh) with a ך is a conjunction, meaning it links two words or phrases. In this case, it marks a contrast between them. 

Note the differences between the examples below:

אח (akh) “brother” / “fireplace” / “ouch”

  • זה אח שלי, ירון.
    Zeh akh sheli, Yaron.
    “This is my brother, Yaron.”
  • יש לך אח גדול, נכון?
    Yesh lekha akh gadol, nakhon?
    “You have an older brother, don’t you?”
  • האח שטיפל בי בבית החולים היה נחמד מאוד.
    Ha-akh she-tipel bi be-veyt ha-kholim hayah nekhmad me’od.
    “The male nurse who treated me at the hospital was very kind.”
  • קר בחוץ! בא נשב מול האח כדי להתחמם.
    Kar ba-khutz! Bo neshev mul ha-akh kedey lehitkhamem.
    “It’s cold outside! Let’s go sit by the fireplace to warm up.”
  • אח! דבורה בדיוק עקצה אותי בגב!
    Akh! Devorah bidiyuk aktzah oti ba-gav.
    Ouch! A bee just stung me in the back.”

אך (akh) – “but”

  • רצינו לשחות בים אך הגלים היו חזקים מדי.
    Ratzinu liskhot ba-yam akh ha-galim hayu khazakim miday.
    “We wanted to go swimming in the ocean, but the waves were too strong.”
  • אני לא אוהב ארטישוק אך אח שלי מת על זה.
    Ani lo ohev artishok akh akh sheli met al zeh.
    “I don’t like artichokes, but my brother is crazy about them.”

2- קרה (karah) – “happened” / “occurred” vs. קרא (kara) – “read” vs. קרע (kara’) – “ripped” / “tore”

Here we have three words that, in modern Hebrew pronunciation, sound identical or close to it, but which nevertheless have significantly different meanings. Note that all three are the male singular first person past tense form of a verb. Here are some examples of how their meanings differ:

קרה (karah) – “happened” / “occurred”

  • מה קרה? הכל בסדר כאן?
    Mah karah? Ha-kol be-seder kan?
    “What happened? Is everything okay here?”
  • אף פעם לא קרה לי נס, אבל אני עוד מחכה.
    Af pa’am lo karah li nes, aval ani od mekhakeh.
    “A miracle has never happened to me, but I’m still waiting.”

קרא (kara) – “read”

  • אני מקווה שהוא קרא את ההוראות לפני שהוא התחיל לעבוד.
    Ani mekavah she-hu kara et ha-hora’ot lifney she-hu hitkhil la’avod.
    “I hope he read the instructions before he started working.”
  • אבא שלי קרא לי מליון ספרים בילדות שלי.
    Abba sheli kara li milyon sefarim ba-yaldut sheli.
    “My father read me a million books in my childhood.”

3- צבע (tzeva’) – “color” / “paint” vs. צבא (tzava) – “army” / “military”

This is another pair that’s easy enough to confuse, as they sound almost the same, particularly to the untrained ear. Note that, in addition to the difference in vowels, צבע is stressed on the first syllable (TZEva’), whereas צבא is stressed on the second syllable (tzaVA). Here are some examples to help you practice:

צבע (tzeva’) – “color” / “paint”

  • איזה צבע את הכי אוהבת?
    Eyzeh tzeva’ at ha-khi ohevet?
    “What is your favorite color?”
  • הצבע הזה ממש מבליט את העיניים שלך!
    Ha-tzeva’ ha-ze mamash mavlit et ha-eynayim shelkha!
    “This color really brings out your eyes!”
  • אל תיגע בזה. הצבע עוד טרי!
    Al tiga’ be-ze. Ha-tzeva’ od tari!
    “Don’t touch that. The paint is still wet!”

צבא (tzava) – “army” / “military”

  • איפה שירתת בצבא?
    Eyfoh shirateta ba-tzava?
    “Where did you serve in the army?”
  • לישראל יש את הצבא הכי מנוסה בעולם!
    Le-Yisrael yesh et ha-tzava hakhi menuseh ba-’olam.
    “Israel has the most experienced military in the world.”
  • אחרי הצבא אני טס לארגנטינה.
    Akharey ha-tzava ani tas le-Argentina.
    “After the army, I am flying to Argentina.”

3. Word Order Mistakes

Word Magnets

Another area that commonly invites mistakes among non-native speakers is syntax, or word order. Particularly for English-speakers—though not for most Romance language-speakers—it can get tricky to remember to do the reverse of what you’re used to, which is often the case with Hebrew.

Let’s look at the two most common issues Hebrew-learners are likely to face in this regard, namely adjective-noun combinations and possessive nouns.

1- Noun-adjective combinations

It’s important to remember that in Hebrew, adjectives always come after the nouns they describe. This is the exact opposite of what we’re used to in English, so it’s best to give this language feature plenty of practice to avoid making this kind of Hebrew mistake. Here are some examples of mistakes, followed by the correct forms.

MISTAKE
הגדול הכלב הוא פיטבול.

CORRECTION
הכלב הגדול הוא פיטבול.
Ha-kelev ha-gadol hu pitbul.
The big dog is a pit bull.”

MISTAKE
זה טוב חבר שלי מאוסטרליה.

CORRECTION
זה חבר טוב שלי מאוסטרליה.
Zeh khaver tov sheli me-Ostraliyah.
“This is my good friend from Australia.”

MISTAKE
בא לך קר קפה?

CORRECTION
בא לך קפה קר?
Ba lakh kafeh kar?
“Would you like an iced coffee?”

2- Possessive adjectives

In Hebrew, the correct syntax for expressing possessives is for the noun to precede the possessive adjective. While this form does exist in English—think of “child of mine”—it’s definitely not the usual order we use, which is the other way around (think “my child”). Therefore, it’s worth practicing this one as well. Let’s see some examples.

MISTAKE
הנה, זה שלי האוטו.

CORRECTION
הנה, זה האוטו שלי.
Hineh, zeh ha-oto sheli.
“Here is my car.”

MISTAKE
השלנו מורה יודע הכל על הכל.

CORRECTION
המורה שלנו יודע הכל על הכל.
Ha-moreh shelanu yode’a ha-kol ‘al ha-kol.
Our teacher knows everything about everything.”

MISTAKE
השלך מפתחות תלויות ליד הכניסה.

CORRECTION
המפתחות שלך תלויות ליד הכניסה.
Ha-maftekhot shelakh tluyot leyad ha-knisah.
Your keys are hanging by the entrance.”

4. Grammar Mistakes

Woman with Thought Bubbles

Let’s take a look at a couple of common grammar mistakes. These mistakes are, in fact, not limited to Hebrew students alone. These common mistakes in Hebrew are even made among native Hebrew-speakers, so why not master them and show off to your Israeli friends? After all, there’s nothing more authentically Israeli than showing someone you know more than he or she does!

1- נִרְאֶה (nir’eh) – “seems” / “looks” vs. נִרְאָה (nir’ah) – “seemed” / “looked”

This one is a rather straightforward distinction between the past form and present form of the same verb. נִרְאֶה (nir’eh) is the present form of the verb להיראות (leheyra’ot), meaning “to seem” or “to look,” whereas נִרְאָה is the past tense. Israelis, as well as students, are wont to use the past form where they should use the present one. Let’s see some examples.

MISTAKE
בא לי לאכול כבר! האוכל נִרְאָה ממש טעים.

CORRECTION
בא לי לאכול כבר! האוכל נִרְאֶה ממש טעים.
Ba li le’ekhol kvar! Ha-okhel nir’eh mamash ta’im.
“I feel like eating already! The food looks truly delicious.”

MISTAKE
הסרט הזה נִרְאָה לי משעמם.

CORRECTION
הסרט הזה נִרְאֶה לי משעמם.
Ha-seret ha-zeh nir’eh li mesha’amem.
“That movie looks boring to me.”

2- Using the wrong gender adjective/number/verb/etc. for irregular nouns

Another common grammar issue arises with irregular nouns, when the plural form doesn’t correspond to the grammatical gender of the singular noun. For example, though the word חלון (khalon), meaning “window,” is masculine, it uses the feminine suffix -ות (-ot) instead of the masculine suffix -ים (-im) to form the plural. Thus, it’s easy to get confused and use a feminine adjective if you’re referring to various windows. Watch out for this! Here are some examples, along with the correct forms:

MISTAKE
מי יושב מאחורי החלונות הגבוהות?

CORRECTION
מי יושב מאחורי החלונות הגבוהים?
Mi yoshev me’akhorey ha-khalonot ha-gevohim?
“Who sits behind the high windows?”

MISTAKE
קנינו שלוש ארונות ספרים חדשות לסלון.

CORRECTION
קנינו שלושה ארונות ספרים חדשים לסלון.
Kaninu shloshah aronot sfarim khadashim la-salon.
“We bought three new bookcases for the living room.”

MISTAKE
הנשים האלה שרים יפה מאוד.

CORRECTION
הנשים האלה שרות יפה מאוד.
Ha-nashim ha-eleh sharot yafeh me’od.
“Those women sing very nicely.”

5. The Biggest Mistake of All

Man Wearing Dunce Cap

In this teacher’s opinion, the biggest mistake any of us can make when trying to speak a new language is to rely on word-for-word translation. The perils in doing so can be great as, very often, one language simply will not line up with the other one on a word-by-word basis. There’s not really any one surefire way to avoid these kinds of mistakes in Hebrew, apart from adopting an attitude of trying to really think in Hebrew. In addition, be wary of dictionaries, and make sure you’ve found the right definition of the word you wanted to translate.

These tips will help you focus less on how the language you’re learning differs from your native tongue, and allow you to absorb the way it works in a more natural, organic way. Just remember that you’ll make mistakes, and the best thing to do when that happens is laugh at yourself and learn from your errors. And, as always, there’s no substitute for practice.

Now, take a look at some of the ways word-to-word translation can fail us. Check the following sentences and see if you can find the mistake (keeping in mind that these are the results of too literal a translation from Hebrew to English). Then, check your guess using the key provided below.

  1. סליחה על האיחור. התגעגעתי לאוטובוס.
    Slikha ‘al ha-ikhur. Hitga’aga’ti la-otobus.
  1. לא אוכל לבוא לשיעור. אני מרגיש מתחת למזג האוויר.
    Lo ukhal lavo la-shi’ur. Ani margish mitakhat le-mezeg ha-avir.
  1. מאז שאני בן 13, אני מנגן בחביות.
    Me-az she-ani ben shlosh-’esreh, ani menagen be-khaviyot.
  1. אם אין לך חבר, אני מזמין אותך לצאת החוצה מתישהו.
    Im eyn lakh khaver, ani mazmin otakh latzet ha-khutzah matayshehu.
  1. אין לי רמז מה קורה כאן.
    Eyn li remez mah koreh kan.

CORRECTIONS WITH EXPLANATIONS

  1. סליחה על האיחור. פספסתי את האוטובוס.
    Slikha ‘al ha-ikhur. Fisfasti et ha-otobus.
    “Sorry I’m late. I missed the bus.”
    The word התגעגעתי (hitga’aga’ti) means “I missed” in the sense of longing for something that is absent, rather than in the sense of not making it to something on time.
  1. לא אוכל לבוא לשיעור. אני מרגיש חולה.
    Lo ukhal lavo la-shi’ur. Ani margish kholeh.
    “I won’t be able to make it to class. I am feeling sick.”
    The idiomatic phrase “under the weather” has no direct equivalent in Hebrew, so we should just say that we’re sick or unwell.
  1. מאז שאני בן 13, אני מנגן בתופים.
    Me-az she-ani ben shlosh-’esreh, ani menagen be-tupim.
    “I’ve been playing drums since I was thirteen.”
    The word we want here is תופים (tupim), meaning “drums” as in the musical instrument, rather than חביות (khaviyot), drums as in the large cylindrical recipients like those used for storing oil.
  1. אם אין לך חבר, אני מזמין אותך לצאת מתישהו.
    Im eyn lakh khaver, ani mazmin otakh latzet matayshehu.
    “If you don’t have a friend, I’d like to ask you out sometime.”
    In this case, we probably want to ask a girl out on a date, or לצאת (latzet), and not to go outdoors, or לצאת החוצה (latzet ha-khutzah). This is a good example of a too-literal translation.
  1. אין לי מושג מה קורה כאן.
    Eyn li musag mah koreh kan.
    “I have no idea what’s going on here.”
    The correct word here is מושג (musag), meaning “notion.” Using the word רמז (remez), or “clue,” sounds entirely non-idiomatic in Hebrew, even though this is the word used in the English phrase.

6. Let HebrewPod101 Help You Learn Correct Hebrew and Avoid Mistakes

Eraser Erasing Page

We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s lesson on the top ten Hebrew mistakes. As always, we welcome you to get in touch with us and let us know if there’s anything we covered that you’re unsure of, or anything we didn’t cover that you would like us to add information on.

Language-learning is not an easy undertaking, but with the right folks to guide you, it can not only be painless but even fun. Our team of language experts at HebrewPod101.com take pride in offering you enjoyable, engaging, and useful learning materials so you can learn Hebrew at your own pace and according to your own personal needs. 

Until next time, Shalom!

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The Top 10 Most Common Hebrew Questions & How to Answer Them

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Voltaire once famously said: “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” 

In Jewish tradition, in particular, questions are of immense importance. 

For instance, the Passover Seder invites the children to participate by asking Four Questions in Hebrew about the traditions particular to that meal. There’s another point in the Seder where we talk about the four types of children. The first three are the Good, the Wicked, and the Simpleton; each is characterized by the nature and content of the questions he asks about Passover. The final child is called He Who Does Not Know to Ask Questions, and we’re encouraged to ask the questions for him. 

So, you can see that questions are powerful and important in Judaism.

On a more basic level, questions are a frequent part of interpersonal communication, so they should certainly be considered an essential element in any language-learning endeavor. Whether introducing yourself or asking for the price of an item you’re interested in purchasing, it’s crucial to know not only how to ask a variety of questions, but also to be familiar with the most common answers to them. 

Luckily, unlike in English, the form of Hebrew questions generally follows the same form as statements, without any tricky grammar points.

In today’s lesson, we’re going to examine the top ten most common questions you might hear or want to ask of others. We’ll look at the form of each question, possible variations, and, as mentioned, the most common answers. As always, we need to keep in mind the necessary grammatical adjustments depending on who we’re addressing in terms of gender, as well as our own gender. 

Let’s have a look now at our list of common Hebrew questions and answers.

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  1. What’s your name?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. Do you speak ___?
  4. How are you?
  5. What do you do?
  6. Do you have ___?
  7. Do you like ___?
  8. What are you doing?
  9. Is everything okay?
  10. How much does _____ cost?
  11. HebrewPod101 is Here to Clear Up All Your Questions About Hebrew

1: What’s your name?

First Encounter

Perhaps the most common questions are those we use to ask for someone’s name. In Hebrew, there are actually a number of ways we can ask this. Note the difference between asking this question to a male versus a female.

  • מה שִׁמְךָ/שְׁמֵךְ?
    Mah shimkha/sh’mekh?
    “What’s your name?”
  • שמי דניאל.
    Shmi Daniel.
    “My name is Daniel.”
  • שמי דניאלה.
    Shmi Daniela.
    “My name is Daniela.”

We can also ask the same question using the longer possessive form, as follows. Both forms of this Hebrew question are common and completely acceptable, with no difference in formality between them.

  • מה השם שֶׁלְּךָ/שֶׁלָּךְ?
    Mah ha-shem shelkha/shelakh?
    “What’s your name?”
  • השם שלי (הוא) מיכאל.
    Ha-shem sheli (hu) Mikha’el.
    “My name’s Michael.”
  • השם שלי (הוא) מיכל.
    Ha-shem sheli (hu) Michal.
    “My name’s Michal.”

*Note that the word הוא (hu) is optional here.

Here’s another common way to formulate this question, along with example answers:

  • איך קוראים לְךָ/לָךְ?
    Eykh kor’im lekha/lakh?
    “What’s your name?” [Literally: “What are you called?”]
  • קוראים לי שלומי.
    Kor’im li Shlomi.
    “My name’s Shlomi.”
  • קוראים לי יפעת.
    Kor’im li Yif’at.
    “My name’s Yifat.”

2: Where are you from?

World Map with Pins

Another common question, often used as a follow-up to asking someone’s name, is asking where they’re from. This is a pretty straightforward question in Hebrew, though we do have to choose the right pronoun depending on the gender of the person we’re asking.

  • מאיפה אתה/את?
    Me-eyfoh atah/at?
    “Where are you from?”
  • אני מקנדה.
    Ani mi-Kanadah.
    “I’m from Canada.”
  • אני מפריז.
    Ani mi-Pariz.
    “I’m from Paris.”
  • אני מווירג’יניה שבארה”ב.
    Ani mi-Virjinyah she-be-Artzot ha-Brit.
    “I’m from Virginia, USA.”

3: Do you speak ___?

Introducing Yourself

This can be a very important question in Hebrew, particularly if you don’t know a word or phrase. Knowing if your Hebrew interlocutor speaks your language can be a lifesaver. Alternatively, native Hebrew-speakers may wish to ask a foreigner if he or she speaks Hebrew. Again, this is a very simple structure, as follows:

  • האם) אתה/את מדבר/מדברת אנגלית)?
    (Ha’im) atah/at medaber/medaberet Anglit?
    “Do you speak English?”
  • האם) אתה/את מדבר/מדברת צרפתית)?
    (Ha’im) atah/at medaber/medaberet Tzarfatit?
    “Do you speak French?”
  • האם) אתה/את מדבר/מדברת ספרדית)?
    (Ha’im) atah/at medaber/medaberet Sfaradit?
    “Do you speak Spanish?”
  • האם) אתה/את מדבר/מדברת עברית)?
    (Ha’im) atah/at medaber/medaberet Ivrit?
    “Do you speak Hebrew?”

*Note that the Hebrew question word האם (ha’im) is entirely optional.

Following are a few examples of how we might answer these questions.

  • כן, אני מדבר אנגלית שוטפת.
    Ken, ani medaber Anglit shotefet.
    “Yes, I speak fluent English.”
  • בטח, הצרפתית שלי מצויינת.
    Betakh, ha-Tzarfatit sheli metzuyenet.
    “Sure, my French is great.”
  • אני יודעת קצת ספרדית.
    Ani yoda’at ktzat Sfaradit.
    “I know a bit of Spanish.”
  • לא, אני לא יודעת עברית.
    Lo, ani lo yoda’at Ivrit.
    “No, I don’t know Hebrew.”

4: How are you?

Two People Talking

As anyone with the slightest of manners knows, it’s customary to ask someone how he or she is as a matter of courtesy. In fact, this type of language has a word—phatic communication—which is basically a fancy way of saying “small talk.” Just as in English, in Hebrew, it’s customary to ask about someone’s well-being when first greeting them. Following are the most common Hebrew questions to do so, and the kinds of answers you can expect.

  • מה שְׁלוֹמְךָ/שְׁלוֹמֵךְ?
    Mah shlomkha/shlomekh?
    “How are you?”

Obviously, we can answer in any number of ways, depending on our mood. Here are some of the more typical forms to answer this question.

  • שלומי טוב.
    Shlomi tov.
    “I’m good.”
  • אני בסדר.
    Ani be-seder.
    “I’m alright.”
  • לא רע.
    Lo ra’.
    “Not bad.”
  • הכל דבש.
    Ha-kol dvash.
    “Everything is great.” [Literally: “Everything is honey.”]

Here are some other common ways to ask someone how he or she is.

  • איך אתה/את?
    Eykh ata/at?
    “How are you?”
  • איך אתה/את מרגיש/מרגישה?
    Eykh ata/at margish/margishah?
    “How do you feel?”

5: What do you do?

Kids Dressed Up as Professionals

Another frequent question one may wish to ask is what someone does for a living. Note that there are a number of ways to ask this in Hebrew. Let’s have a look at the most common ones.

  • מה אתה/את עוֹשֶׂה/עוֹשָׂה בחיים?
    Mah atah/at oseh/osah ba-khayim?
    “What do you do in life?”
  • במה אתה/את עוסק/עוסקת?
    Be-mah atah/at osek/oseket?
    “What do you do for a living?”
  • במה אתה/את עובד/עובדת?
    Be-mah atah/at oved/ovedet?
    “What do you work in?”

There are a variety of possible answers, as well:

  • אני עובד במפעל.
    Ani oved be-mif’al.
    “I work in a factory.”
  • אני שוטרת.
    Ani shoteret.
    “I am a police officer.”
  • אני לומד באוניברסיטה.
    Ani lomed ba-universitah.
    “I study at university.”

6: Do you have ___?

Lady with Dog

Over the course of many different conversations, you may wish to ask if someone has someone or something. For instance, we may wish to ask if someone has a car, a pet, a hobby, children, and so on. As in English, the pattern for this is constant. 

  • יש לְךָ/לָךְ 10 שקלים?
    Yesh lekha/lakh ‘asarah shekalim?
    “Do you have ten shekels?”
  • יש לְךָ/לָךְ ילדים?
    Yesh lekha/lakh yeladim?
    “Do you have children?”
  • יש לְךָ/לָךְ אוטו?
    Yesh lekha/lakh oto?
    “Do you have a car?”

To answer these questions, we can just affirm or negate with “yes” or “no” (כן [ken] or לא [lo], respectively), or we can elaborate. Here are a couple of examples.

  • לא, אין עליי שקל.
    Lo, eyn alay shekel.
    “No, I don’t even have one shekel.”
  • כן, יש לי שני בנים ובת אחת.
    Ken, yesh li shney banim u-bat akhat.
    “Yes, I have two boys and a girl.”

7: Do you like ___?

Hands Making Heart Sign

It’s certainly quite common to ask someone whether he or she likes something or someone. Note that in Hebrew, there’s no separate word for “like” versus “love.” Rather, the context and intonation generally determine the intensity. Here are some examples of how to ask if someone likes something or someone.

  • אתה/את אוהב/אוהבת אוכל סיני?
    Atah/At ohev/ohevet okhel sini?
    “Do you like Chinese food?”
  • אתה/את אוהב/אוהבת לרכוב על אופניים?
    Atah/At ohev/ohevet lirkov ‘al ofanayim?
    “Do you like riding a bicycle?”
  • אתה/את אוהב/אוהבת את האנשים שאתה/שאת עובד/עובדת איתם?
    Atah/At ohev/ohevet et ha-anashim she-atah/she-at oved/ovedet itam?
    “Do you like the people you work with?”

Here are some possible answers, more elaborate than just a simple “yes” or “no.”

  • אני ממש אוהב אוכל סיני.
    Ani mamash ohev okhel sini.
    “I really like Chinese food.”
  • אני בכלל לא אוהבת לרכוב על אופניים.
    Ani bikhlal lo ohevet lirkov ‘al ofanayim.
    “I don’t like riding a bicycle at all.”
  • אני מאוד אוהבת את האנשים שאני עובדת איתם.
    Ani me’od ohevet et ha-anashim she-ani ovedet itam.
    “I like the people I work with very much.”

8: What are you doing?

Lady Texting

This is another simple question, but one that can come in handy in all manner of situations. This can be a casual question to find out what someone is up to in a given moment, or even a question of annoyance or anger if we don’t like what another person is doing. Obviously, the way one asks this question will make one’s intention clear, just as in English.

  • מה אתה/את עוֹשֶׂה/עוֹשָׂה?
    Mah atah/at oseh/osah?
    “What are you doing?”

We can also tag on a time indicator. For instance:

  • מה אתה/את עוֹשֶׂה/עוֹשָׂה כרגע?
    Mah atah/at ‘oseh/’osah karega’?
    “What are you doing right now?”

Answers to this question can vary greatly, depending on what the other person is doing. 

  • אני נוסע לתל אביב עם חברים.
    Ani nose’a le-Tel Aviv ‘im khaverim.
    “I’m headed to Tel Aviv with friends.”
  • אני מכינה לעצמי ארוחת ערב.
    Ani mekhinah le-’atzmi arukhat ‘erev.
    “I’m making myself some dinner.”
  • אני לומדת למבחן מחר.
    Ani lomedet la-mivkhan makhar.
    “I’m studying for tomorrow’s exam.”
  • אני לא עושה כלום.
    Ani lo ‘oseh klum.
    “I’m not doing anything.”

9: Is everything okay?

Lady Giving Ttwo Thumbs Up

Sometimes, you may wish to see if everything is alright with someone. For example, to check that something we’ve done or said is alright with them, or to check on someone who seems upset, in distress, or in need of help. Let’s look at some of the most common ways to ask this sort of question.

  • הכל בסדר?
    Ha-kol be-seder?
    “Is everything okay?”
  • האם) אתה/את בסדר)?
    (Ha’im) atah/at be-seder?
    “Are you okay?”
  • קרה משהו?
    Karah mashehu?
    “Did something happen?”
  • אתה/את צריך/צריכה עזרה?
    Atah/at tzarikh/tzrikhah ‘ezrah?
    “Are you in need of assistance?”

Here, too, answers can run the gamut. But to answer that everything’s fine, one would answer as follows:

  • הכל בסדר.
    Ha-kol be-seder.
    “Everything is fine.”

10: How much does _____ cost?

Price Tag in Supermarket

This is the type of question and answer in Hebrew you’ll want to become familiar with right away. In Israel, in particular, prices aren’t always printed, even in restaurants. Therefore, you’re more than likely to find yourself wanting to ask the price of something that interests you. By doing so in English, you run the risk of invoking the “foreigner tax,” by way of which prices are inflated with the assumption that foreigners won’t know how much a fair price for a given item or service might be.

Therefore, it’s wise to practice these questions so you can ask in Hebrew without breaking a sweat. Note that you’ll need to change the verb לעלות (la’alot), meaning “to cost,” depending on the grammatical gender of the item or service in question.

  • כמה עוֹלֶה המעיל הזה?
    Kamah ‘oleh ha-me’il ha-zeh?
    “How much does this jacket cost?”
  • כמה עוֹלָה השמלה הזאת?
    Kamah ‘olah ha-simlah ha-zot?
    “How much does this skirt cost?”
  • כמה עולה כרטיס הלוך ושוב לעפולה?
    Kamah oleh kartis halokh va-shov le-’Afulah?
    “How much is a roundtrip ticket to Afulah?”
  • כמה זה יעלה לי עם ביטוח?
    Kamah ze ya’aleh li ‘im bitu’akh?
    “How much will that cost me with insurance?”

Obviously, the answer to any question will be given using numbers and often the currency being used, which is almost always New Israeli Shekels, but sometimes also dollars or euros. Here are some examples of the different possible forms for expressing price in Hebrew:

  • השמלה עוֹלָה 20 שקל.
    Ha-simlah ‘olah ‘esrim Shekalim.
    “The dress costs twenty shekels.”
  • מחיר כרטיס הלוך ושוב הוא 13.50.
    Mekhir kartis halokh va-shov hu shlosh-’esreh khamishim.
    “The price of a roundtrip ticket is 13.50.”
  • עם ביטוח זה ייצא לך 327 דולר.
    ‘Im bitu’akh ze yeytzeh lekha shlosh-me’ot ‘esrim-ve-sheva’ dolar.
    “With insurance, it will come to $327.”

11: HebrewPod101 is Here to Clear Up All Your Questions About Hebrew

We hope you found today’s lesson useful. We can surely all appreciate the huge importance of being able to ask and answer basic questions in any language. Luckily, as mentioned, there’s no complex grammar to learn related to formulating questions. So go ahead and practice these top ten questions and answers in Hebrew so you’re fully equipped to deal with any basic situation that may arise.

Any questions you would like to ask in Hebrew that we left out? What about answers? We’re always happy to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and let us know how we can help you! Shalom!

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The Top 10 Hebrew Sentence Patterns

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One of the most helpful things to keep in mind when acquiring an additional language is the importance of picking up patterns. Our brains, in a way, are very much like computers. They work much more efficiently if we can program them with patterns that have versatile applications, instead of trying to memorize every single instance of a given task. 

In the case of learning Hebrew, picking up simple Hebrew sentence patterns is essential. This is because the task at hand is that of either producing or comprehending information (very often both), noting and correctly applying the ways in which it’s organized according to the patterns used in that language.

Hebrew sentence patterns, much like the בניינים (binyanim), or verb conjugation patterns, are certainly among the most useful building blocks you can acquire to help you as you work toward dominating the language. By learning how words are organized and combined to express different kinds of information, you’ll be able to plug the vocabulary you pick up into meaningful sentences and questions. In addition, you’ll be able to understand the same from Hebrew speakers in real life, or from texts, video, and audio.

In today’s lesson, we’re going to show you the top ten Hebrew sentence patterns most commonly used in everyday language. To keep it simple, we’ll focus on present tense only. If you master these easy Hebrew sentence patterns, you’ll quickly find yourself with a new given confidence in both speaking and understanding Hebrew. 

Let’s jump right in!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Linking Two Nouns
  2. Using Adjectives to Describe Nouns
  3. Expressing Wants
  4. Expressing Needs
  5. Expressing Likes/Dislikes
  6. Making Polite Requests
  7. Asking Whether Something is Possible or Permitted
  8. Asking for Basic Information
  9. Asking the Time
  10. Asking for Location or Directions
  11. Turn Your Hebrew Lessons into a Pattern with HebrewPod101

1. Linking Two Nouns

Sentence Patterns

Perhaps the most common sentence is that for linking two nouns (remember: people, places, and things). 

Think of sentence patterns in English such as “I am Jon,” or “Jon is my neighbor.” These sentences are almost like a mathematical equation, where the verb “to be” is roughly equivalent to an “equal” sign (=).

Of course, this pattern is just as frequently used in Hebrew. However, there is an interesting difference. In Hebrew, we don’t use the verb להיות (lehiyot), or “to be,” in present tense. That being so, you merely need to say the two nouns you want to link, one after the other. Here are a few examples:

  • אני דניאלה.
    Ani Daniela.
    “I am Daniela.”
  • אני תלמיד.
    Ani talmid.
    “I [am] a student.”

*Note that Hebrew does not use indefinite articles, so, for instance, “a student” is just “student.”

In the case of the third person, there’s a variation worth noting in this pattern, in which we insert a personal pronoun between the two nouns we’re linking. This pattern is an acceptable alternative to that shown above, and doesn’t change the meaning at all. Using the last of the above Hebrew sentence examples, we can see the slight change:

  • הכלב שלי הוא לברדור.
    Ha-kelev sheli hu Labrador.
    “My dog [is] a labrador.”

A similar pattern is where we link two nouns by way of a linking verb and what is called a predicative adjective. Think of these as a “roughly equivalent to” sign (≈). In this case, we’ll indeed use that verb in Hebrew. Here are a couple of examples:

  • אתה נשמע כמו חייל.
    Ata nishma kemo khayal.
    “You sound like a soldier.”
  • הכלב ההוא דומה לכלב שלי.
    Ha-kelev ha-hu domeh la-kelev sheli.
    “That dog looks like mine.”
  • הסלט נראה טעים!
    Ha-salat nireh ta’im.
    “The salad looks tasty.”

2. Using Adjectives to Describe Nouns

Boy Describing Something

Another very common sentence pattern in Hebrew is that which uses predicative adjectives to describe nouns with the verb “to be” linking the noun and the adjective. In this case, we’re not saying that one thing equals another; rather, we’re linking a certain attribute to it. Again, we’ll find that in Hebrew, unlike in English, the verb “to be” is absent in this pattern. Here are some examples:

  • אתה גבוה מאוד.
    Atah gavoha meod.
    “You [are] really tall.”
  • העוגה הזאת מתוקה.
    Ha-ugah ha-zot metukah.
    “This cake [is] sweet.”
  • השירים האלה נעימים.
    Ha-shirim ha-eleh ne’imim.
    “These songs [are] pleasant.”
  • הקפה טרי מאוד.
    Ha-kafeh tari me’od.
    “The coffee [is] very fresh.”

3. Expressing Wants

Boy Pointing to Something He Wants

Another basic Hebrew sentence structure is that for expressing wants. In fact, there are two subcategories to look at here, specifically dealing with whether we want nouns or verbs. This is simply the difference between wanting a person, place, thing, or idea versus wanting to do, to have, etc. 

In both cases, Hebrew uses the same main verb, לִרְצוֹת (lirtzot), meaning “to want.” Don’t confuse this with לְרַצּוֹת (leratzot), which means “to please” or “to satisfy.” Let’s have a look at both patterns, along with some helpful examples:

A. Want + Noun

  • אני רוצה בירה.
    Ani rotzeh birah.
    “I want a beer.”
  • אמא רוצה תה צמחים.
    Ima rotzah teh tzmakhim.
    “Mom wants an herbal tea.”

B. Want + Verb

  • אנחנו רוצים לראות סרט.
    Anakhnu rotzim lir’ot seret.
    “We want to see a movie.”
  • שלומי רוצה להזמין אותך לדייט.
    Shlomi rotzeh lehazmin otakh le-deyt.
    “Shlomi wants to ask you on a date.”

We can make these negative by simply inserting the word לא (lo) in front of the verb לרצות (lirtzot):

  • אני לא רוצה בירה.
    Ani lo rotzeh birah.
    “I don’t want a beer.”
  • אנחנו לא רוצים לראות סרט.
    Anakhnu lo rotzim lir’ot seret.
    “We don’t want to see a movie.”

4. Expressing Needs

Emergency Room

We all know that sometimes we don’t just want something, we need it. This is certainly an essential pattern to learn for whenever you need to express an urgent necessity, or even an emergency. Again, we’ll look at two subcategories here, namely those for needing nouns and needing verbs. Once more, the verb is going to be the same in both cases: להצטרך (lehitztarekh), meaning “to need” or “to have to.” Here are some examples of both patterns:

A. Need + Noun

  • רונית צריכה את העזרה שלך.
    Ronit tzrikhah et ha-ezrah shelkha.
    “Ronit needs your help.”
  • אני צריך אוטו חדש.
    Ani tzarikh oto khadash.
    “I need a new car.”

B. Need + Verb

  • הממשלה צריכה לעזור לנזקקים.
    Ha-memshalah tzrikhah la’azor la-nizkakim.
    “The government has to help the impoverished.”
  • אני צריך לאכול עכשיו.
    Ani tzarikh le’ekhol akhshav.
    “I need to eat now.”

Again, making a negative statement is as simple as inserting the word לא (lo) before the verb להצטרך (lahitztarekh):

  • רונית לא צריכה את העזרה שלך.
    Ronit lo tzrikhah et ha-ezrah shelkha.
    “Ronit doesn’t need your help.”
  • אני לא צריך לאכול עכשיו.
    Ani lo tzarikh le’ekhol akhshav.
    “I don’t need to eat now.”

5. Expressing Likes/Dislikes

Sentence Components

Another pattern you’re more than likely to find yourself wanting to use in Hebrew is that for expressing your likes and dislikes. Again, we have two subcategories: like/love + noun and like/love + verb.

One interesting, and perhaps rather strange, aspect of the Hebrew language is that it doesn’t use different verbs to distinguish between liking something/someone and loving it or him/her. So just keep that in mind when you use this pattern. Generally, the context and/or the tone of voice you employ will make the degree of your enthusiasm clear. However, when you use the verb in question, לאהוב (le’ehov), meaning “to like” or “to love,” with a person as the object, it almost always means “to love.” So make sure you mean it if you’re going to say it!

A. Like/Love + Noun

  • אני אוהבת שוקולד.
    Ani ohevet shokolad.
    “I like/love chocolate.”
  • הילדים שלי אוהבים סרטי דיסני.
    Ha-yeladim sheli ohavim sirtey Disni.
    “My kids like/love Disney movies.”

B. Like/Love + Verb

  • חברה שלי אוהבת לאפות לחם.
    Khaverah sheli ohevet le’efot lekhem.
    “My girlfriend likes/loves to bake bread.”
  • דני אוהב לשחק שחמט.
    Dani ohev lesakhek shakhmat.
    “Danny likes/loves to play chess.”

And you guessed it! To make these statements negative, all we need to do is add the word לא (lo) before the verb לאהוב (le’ehov). Note that, as in English, we don’t usually say that we don’t love, but rather that we don’t like either a noun or a verb:

  • אני לא אוהבת שוקולד.
    Ani lo ohevet shokolad.
    “I don’t like chocolate.”
  • דני לא אוהב לשחק שחמט.
    Dani lo ohev lesakhek shakhmat.
    “Danny doesn’t like to play chess.”

6. Making Polite Requests

Someone Taking Couple's Picture on Phone

Yet another common pattern that can be immensely helpful is that for making polite requests. This is particularly helpful when we’re asking something of a person we don’t know well, such as asking a stranger for directions or the time. 

Let’s look at two Hebrew language sentence structure possibilities here: one using an imperative with the word בבקשה (be-vakashah) or “please” attached to it, and the other an indirect question.

A. Imperative + בבקשה (be-vakashah)

  • אמור לי בבקשה מהו שמך.
    Emor li be-vakashah mahu shimkha.
    “Please tell me what your name is.”
  • העבר לי בבקשה את המלח.
    Ha’aver li be-vakasha et ha-melakh.
    “Please pass me the salt.”

* An important note here is that many, if not most, speakers of modern Hebrew use the future form instead of the imperative. While this isn’t technically correct from a grammatical standpoint, it’s so prevalent that one might even say it’s more natural-sounding than the correct form. Here’s what the above examples would look like using this variation:

  • תאמר לי בבקשה מהו שמך.
    Tomar li be-vakashah mahu shimkha.
    “Please tell me your name.” (Literally: “Please, you will tell me your name.”)
  • תעביר לי בבקשה את המלח.
    Ta’avir li be-vakasha et ha-melakh.
    “Please pass me the salt.” (Literally: “Please, you will pass me the salt.”)

As in English, we can also shift the position of the word בבקשה (be-vakashah) to the end of the sentence, without changing the meaning in any way:

  • אמור לי מהו שמך בבקשה.
    Emor li mahu shimkha be-vakashah.
    “Tell me your name, please.”
  • העבר לי את המלח בבקשה.
    Ha’aver li et ha-melakh be-vakasha.
    “Pass me the salt, please.”

B. Indirect Question Using the Future Tense

  • האם תוכל לומר לי מה השעה?
    Ha’im tukhal lomar li mah ha-sha’ah?
    “Could you tell me the time?”
  • האם תוכלי לעזור לי עם שיעורי המתמטיקה?
    Ha’im tukhli la’azor li im shi’urey ha-matematikah?
    “Could you help me with the math homework?”

There are a couple of possible variations here. For one thing, the word האם (ha’im), roughly equivalent to the modal “could” or “would” in English, is optional. Additionally, for extra politeness, we can add in the word בבקשה (be-vakashah) to the same pattern, generally at the very end of the question:

  • תוכל לומר לי מה השעה, בבקשה?
    Tukhal lomar li mah ha-sha’ah, be-vakashah?
    “Could you tell me the time, please?”
  • תוכלי לעזור לי עם שיעורי  הבית במתמטיקה, בבקשה?
    Tukhli la’azor li im shi’urey ha-bayit be-matematikah, be-vakashah?
    “Could you help me with the math homework, please?”

7. Asking Whether Something is Possible or Permitted

No Smoking Sign

Needing to ask permission is yet another situation that’s bound to come up in daily language usage. Let’s take a look at two types of Hebrew phrases for doing this. The first pattern, using אפשר (efshar), is more general, and can be used for asking about whether something is possible (though in certain contexts, it’s also used to ask about permissibility). The second, using מותר (mutar), is used specifically to ask if something is permitted.

A. Asking Whether Something is Possible

We can use the word אפשר (efshar) before a noun to make a basic request, or before a longer question for more complex requests. This form is rather flexible, and can even be used as an alternative way of making a polite request. This is similar to saying “Would it be possible…” in English.

  • אפשר אש?
    Efshar esh?
    “Might I have a light?” (Literally: “Is a light possible?”)
  • אפשר לקבל מים בבקשה?
    Efshar lekabel mayim be-vakashah?
    “Could I have some water, please?”
  • אפשר פיצה גדולה עם הכל?
    Efshar pitzah gedolah im hakol?
    “Could I have a large pizza to go?”
  • אפשר להזמין את הפריט במשלוח מהיר?
    Efshar le-hazmin et ha-parit be-mishlo’akh mahir?
    “Is it possible to order the item with express shipping?”
  • אפשר לומר לך משהו בארבע עיניים?
    Efshar lomar lakh mashehu be-arba eynayim?
    “Could I tell you something in private?” (Literally: “Could I tell you something with four eyes?”)

B. Asking Whether Something is Permitted

  • מותר לצלם כאן?
    Mutar letzalem kan?
    “Are pictures allowed here?” (Literally: “Is it permissible to take pictures here?”)
  • מותר להשתמש במילון בזמן המבחן?
    Mutar lehishtamesh be-milon bi-zman ha-mivkhan?
    “Are we allowed to use a dictionary during the exam?” (Literally: “Is it permissible to use a dictionary during the exam?”)
  • מותר לנסוע באוטו בשבת אם אני לא נוהג?
    Mutar linso’a’ be-oto be-Shabat im ani lo noheg?
    “Is it permissible to travel by car on Shabbat if I am not driving?”

8. Asking for Basic Information

Information Desk

Being able to ask for information is, of course, always useful—and in many cases, vital. Luckily, this is another very simple Hebrew sentence structure that’s easy enough to internalize so that you can use it when you need to. 

All we need here is to know our interrogative and personal pronouns in Hebrew to form quick and simple questions for asking basic information. Note, again, the absence of the verb “to be” in these questions. Let’s see some examples:

  • מה זה הדבר הזה?
    Ma zeh ha-davar ha-zeh?
    “What [is] that thing?”
  • מה זה להתבונן?
    Mah zeh lehitbonen?
    “What [is] ‘contemplating’?” / “What does ‘to contemplate’ mean?”
  • מי זה הבחור ההוא?
    Mi zeh ha-bakhur ha-hu?
    “Who [is] that guy?”
  • מי זאת ריהאנה?
    Mi zot Rihana?
    “Who [is] Rihanna?”

Note that when referring to a single person by a description rather than a proper name, we can use either the pronoun זה/זאת (zeh) or הוא/היא (hu/hi), depending on gender. That said, we generally use the second option for males, and not very often for females. For example:

  • מיהו הבחור ההוא?
    Mihu ha-bakhur ha-hu?
    “Who [is] that guy?”

Additionally, when asking questions about people, we can omit the personal pronoun entirely without changing the meaning of our question. For instance:

  • מי הבחור ההוא?
    Mi ha-bakhur ha-hu?
    “Who [is] that guy?”

9. Asking the Time

Woman Checking Watch

It’s quite common to find ourselves asking the time, say, if our phone’s battery dies or if we’re visiting Israel and haven’t yet adjusted our clocks to the local time zone. Let’s look at a basic pattern for asking the time. In addition, we’ll see another pattern we can use to ask for the time that something is set to occur.

A. Asking the Time

  • מה השעה?
    Mah ha-sha’ah?
    “What time is it?”

B. Asking When Something is Going to Occur

  • מתי יום ההולדת שלך?
    Matay yom ha-huledet shelkha?
    “When is your birthday?”
  • מתי מתחיל הסרט?
    Matay matkhil ha-seret?
    “When does the movie start?”
  • מתי אנחנו חוזרים הביתה?
    Matay anakhnu khozrim habaytah.
    “When are we going home?”

10. Asking for Location or Directions

Road Sign with Arrow

The final pattern that we’ll look at today is useful for asking for information pertaining to the location of something (or directions, if that place or thing is far from our current location). Once again, the verb “to be” is omitted.

  • איפה השירותים?
    Eyfoh ha-sheyrutim?
    “Where [is] the bathroom?”
  • איפה התחנה המרכזית?
    Eyfoh ha-takhnah ha-merkazit?
    “Where [is] the central bus depot?”
  • איפה המפתחות שלי?
    Eyfoh ha-maftekhot sheli?
    “Where [are] my keys?”

An alternative pattern we can use here is created by simply adding the verb להימצא (lehimatze), meaning “found” or “located,” after the question word איפה (eyfoh), meaning “where.”

  • איפה נמצאים השירותים?
    Eyfoh nimtza’im ha-sheyrutim?
    “Where [is] the bathroom found?”
  • איפה נמצאת התחנה המרכזית?
    Eyfoh nimtzet ha-takhnah ha-merkazit?
    “Where [is] the central bus depot located?”

11. Turn Your Hebrew Lessons into a Pattern with HebrewPod101

Man Reading in Cafe

We really hope you’ve found these common Hebrew sentences and question patterns informative and useful. By simply picking up a few patterns, you can go ahead and plug in the vocabulary you want to create myriad sentences and questions of your own. To use them correctly, just focus on which elements are fixed, which need to be conjugated or gendered, and which are totally free to be replaced with the information you wish to insert.

So go ahead and start by practicing the examples given here, then use them to make your own examples for each of the ten categories we’ve seen. In no time, you’ll have added a huge amount of variety and flexibility to your Hebrew skills, thanks to these handy patterns.

Our goal, as always, is to make your learning experience fun, effective, and interesting. Feel free to get in touch with us and let us know if there are any other Hebrew sentence patterns you want to know, or if you need any further examples in the categories we covered. HebrewPod101 is here to help you develop your Hebrew and enjoy yourself as you progress! We’re always happy to hear from you along the way. 

Shalom!

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100 Essential Hebrew Adverbs

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If you’ve been working mostly on subject-verb constructs in your Hebrew practice, adverbs can open new dimensions of expressive possibilities. Learning how to use Hebrew adverbs is a great and easy way to expand your toolkit and start expressing and understanding more complex ideas. The best thing about them is that they’re also very simple to use.

In fact, adverbs in Hebrew have only one form, so you can, for a change, stop worrying about singular versus plural and male versus female. Moreover, they don’t get conjugated, so no matter what tense you’re using, you just need to remember one word and one form to use an adverb properly.

Adverbs are essential to any language, and certainly to Hebrew, though they sometimes don’t get the attention they deserve as compared to adjectives. But stand out by dominating this area of Hebrew language study, and you’ll soon impress your Israeli friends. Today’s lesson will cover the basics and arm you with the top 100 adverbs in Hebrew so you’ll have no shortage of ways to express yourself!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. What is an Adverb?
  2. Adverbs of Time
  3. Adverbs of Frequency
  4. Adverbs of Place
  5. Adverbs of Manner
  6. Adverbs of Degree
  7. Adverbials Using Adjectives
  8. Placement of Adverbs within the Sentence
  9. Conclusion: Practice Your Adverbs with HebrewPod101

1. What is an Adverb?

Top Verbs

So what is an adverb, anyway? You may notice that it contains the word “verb,” so it’s no surprise that an adverb modifies a verb. It can also modify adjectives and even other adverbs. Adverbs supply us with more information about a verb, usually about time, place, manner, intensity, or frequency. So, for example, the English adverbs “well” and “poorly” could describe the verb “do,” and thus inform us as to how a person performed a certain task.

Hebrew adverbs function the same way as English adverbs, more or less. In fact, they even share some of the same grammatical patterns. Unlike in English, which generally uses the “-ly” ending to identify adverbs, adverbs in Hebrew don’t have a fixed structure to help form or identify them. But the good news, as mentioned, is that they don’t need any conjugation and don’t change based on the gender of the noun(s) they relate to. Nor do they have singular or plural forms; they’ll always remain the same in any application.

Moreover, in Hebrew grammar, adverbs are often formed by modifying nouns with a simple formula, which you can apply in a large number of situations to create a ready-to-go adverb. 

So, rest easy. Adverbs are one of the more approachable elements of Hebrew. Let’s take a closer look!

2. Adverbs of Time

More Essential Verbs

As mentioned, adverbs are commonly used to indicate the time of an action or event. This is a very useful application for adverbs, as it can help us to describe when we did, will do, or tend to do something. Let’s have a look at the most common Hebrew adverbs to describe time.

  • היום
    Hayom
    “Today”

היום אני הולך לאכול פלאפל.
Hayom ani holekh le’ekhol falafel.
Today, I’m going to eat falafel.”

  • אתמול
    Etmol
    “Yesterday”

אתמול נסענו לתל אביב.
Etmol nasanu le-Tel Aviv.
Yesterday, we went to Tel Aviv.”

  • מחר
    Makhar
    “Tomorrow”

יש לי ראיון עבודה מחר.
Yesh li raayon avodah makhar.
“I have a job interview tomorrow.”

  • שלשום
    Shilshom
    “Two days ago”

שלשום אח שלי סיים את הלימודים באוניברסיטה.
Shilshom akh sheli siyem et ha-limudim ba-universitah.
Two days ago, my brother graduated from university.”

  • מחרתיים
    Mokhortayim
    “In two days from now”

מחרתיים אנו יוצאים סוף סוף לחופש!
Mokhortayim anu yotzim sof sof le-khofesh!
In two days from now, we’re finally going on vacation.”

  • כבר
    Kvar
    “Already”

כבר אכלתן?
Kvar akhalten?
“Did you eat already?”Od“Did you eat already?”

  • עוד
    Od
    “Still”

הוא עוד עייף מהטיסה.
Hu od ayef me-ha-tisah.
“He’s still tired from the flight.”

  • עוד לא
    Od lo
    “Still not”

עוד לא התעוררתי. תן לי קפה.
Od lo hit’orarti. Ten li kafeh.
“I’m still not awake. Give me some coffee.”

  • כמעט
    Kimat
    “Almost”

כמעט הגענו.
Kimat higanu.
“We’re almost there.”

  • מיד
    Miyad
    “Immediately”

נקה את החדר שלך מיד!
Nakeh et ha-kheder shelkha miyad!
“Clean your room immediately!”

  • רגע
    Rega
    “Momentarily”

בוא ננוח רגע מהעבודה.
Bo nanuakh regah mehaavodah.
“Let’s take a break from work momentarily.”

  • פתאום
    Pitom
    “Suddenly”

פתאום התחיל לרדת גשם.
Pitom hitkhil laredet geshem.
Suddenly, it started to rain.”

  • לפתע
    Lefeta
    “All of a sudden”

לפתע שמנו לב ששכנו לשלם את החשבון.
Lefeta samnu lev she-shakhakhnu leshalem et ha-kheshbon.
All of a sudden, we realized we had forgotten to pay the bill.”

  • בקרוב
    Bekarov
    “Soon”

הוא מסיים את הצבא ממש בקרוב.
Hu mesayem et ha-tzava mamash bekarov.
“He’s getting out of the army very soon.”

  • הפעם
    Hapaam
    “This time”

הפעם אני לא אשכח להביא מעיל.
Hapa’am ani lo eskakh lehavi me’il.
This time, I won’t forget to bring a coat.”

  • כרגע
    Karega
    “At the moment”

לא עכשיו. אני עסוק כרגע.
Lo akhshav. Ani asuk karega.
“Not now. I’m busy at the moment.”

  • לראשונה
    Larishonah
    “For the first time”

התאהבתי כשראיתי אותה לראשונה.
Hitahavti kesheraiti otah larishonah.
“I fell in love when I saw her for the first time.”

  • לאחרונה
    Laakharonah
    “Recently”

יצאתם לטייל לאחרונה?
Yatzatem letayel laakharonah?
“Have you gone on any trips recently?”

  • אחר כך
    Akhar kakh
    “Afterward”

נאכל, אחר כך נדבר.
Nokhal, akhar kakh nedaber.
“Let’s eat and talk afterward.”

  • לפני כן
    Lifney khen
    “Beforehand”

זה טוב לבלות, אבל צריך לעבוד לפני כן.
Zeh tov levalot, aval tzarikh la-avod lifney khen.
“It’s good to have fun, but beforehand you need to work.”

  • אז
    Az
    “Then” / “Afterward”

ראינו סרט ואז יצאנו למסעדה.
Rainu seret ve-az yatzanu le-misadah.
“We saw a movie, and then we went out to a restaurant.”

  • מאז
    Me’az
    “Since then”

הוא טס לברלין לפני שנה ומאז לא שמענו ממנו.
Hu tas le-Berlin lifney shanah u-meaz lo shamanu mimeno.
“He flew to Berlin a year ago, and since then, we haven’t heard from him.”

  • כיום
    Kayom
    “These days”

פעם עשיתי הרבה כושר אבל כיום אין לי זמן.
Pa’am asiti harbeh kosher aval kayom eyn li zman.
“I used to do a lot of exercise, but these days I have no time.”

  • כל היום
    Kol hayom
    “All day”

איפה את? אני מחכה לך כל היום!
Eyfoh at? Ani mekhakeh lakh kol hayom!
“Where are you? I’ve been waiting for you all day!”

  • כל הלילה
    Kol halaylah
    “All night”

אני גמור. לא ישנתי כל הלילה.
Ani gamur. Lo yashanti kol ha-laylah.
“I’m exhausted. I didn’t sleep all night.”

3. Adverbs of Frequency 

Agenda Book

Another common adverb category that’s related to time is frequency. Note that the difference is that here, we are answering the question how often rather than when. Note that the position of these Hebrew adverbs of frequency changes depending on the word, much like in English.

  • הרבה
    Harbeh
    “Much”

אני לא קורא הרבה.
Ani lo kore harbeh harbeh.
“I don’t read much.”

  • מעט
    Me’at
    “Little” / “Few”

אמור מעט ועשה הרבה.
Emor me’at vaaseh harbeh.
“Speak little and do much.”

  • כמעט ולא
    Kimat velo
    “Hardly”

היא כמעט ולא יוצאת מהבית.
Hi kimat velo yotzet me-ha-bayit.
“She hardly leaves the house.”

  • בתכיפות
    Betkhifut
    “Frequently”

הנתונים מתעדכנים בתכיפות גבוהה.
Ha-netunim mit’adkenim betkhifut gvoha.
“The data updates frequently.”

  • לעיתים קרובות
    Leitim krovot
    “Often”

הם יוצאים לתיאטרון לעיתים קרובות.
Hem yotzim la-teatron leitim krovot.
“They go to the theater often.”

  • לעיתים רחוקות
    Leitim rekhokot
    “Not often”

אני אוכלת בשר רק לעיתים רחוקות.
Ani okhelet basar rak leitim rekhokot.
“I don’t often eat meat.”

  • לעולם
    Leolam
    “Never”

לעולם אל תיסע בטרמפים.
Leolam al tisa be-trempim.
Never hitchhike.”

  • תמיד
    Tamid
    “Always”

שלמה תמיד מגיע בזמן.
Shlomo tamid magia ba-zman.
“Shlomo always arrives on time.”

  • לפעמים
    Lif’amim
    “Sometimes”

לפעמים אני שר לעצמי כשאני לבד.
Lif’amim ani shar le-atzmi ke-she-ani levad.
Sometimes I sing to myself when I’m alone.”

  • כל יום
    Kol yom
    “Every day”

אתה חייב לאכול ירקות כל יום.
Atah khayav le’ekhol yerakot kol yom.
“You must eat vegetables every day.”

  • כל ערב
    Kol erev
    “Every evening”

אני משתדל לצאת להליכה כל ערב.
Ani mishtdel latzet le-halikhah be-khol erev.
“I try to go out for a walk every evening.”

  • כל לילה
    Kol laylah
    “Every night”

כל לילה הם הולכים לישון בדיוק בתשעה.
Kol laylah hem holkhim lishon bidiyuk beteyshah.
“They go to sleep every night precisely at nine.”

  • פעם ביום
    Pa’am be-yom
    “Once a day”

נסו לעשות מדיטציה פעם ביום.
Nasu laasot meditatziyah paam beyom.
“Try to meditate once a day.”

  • פעם בשבוע
    Pa’am be-shavua
    “Once a week”

אנחנו מבקרים אצל סבתא פעם בשבוע.
Anakhnu mevakrim etzel savta pa’am be-shavua.
“We visit Grandma once a week.”

  • כל שבוע
    Kol shavua
    “Every weeK”

כל שבוע אני קורא ספר חדש.
Kol shavua ani koreh sefer khadash.
Every week, I read a new book.”

  • כל חודש
    Kol khodesh
    “Every month”

הסחורה החדשה מגיעה כל חודש מיוון.
Ha-skhorah ha-khadashah magiah kol khodesh mi-Yavan.
“The new merchandise comes in every month from Greece.”

  • כל שנה
    Kol shanah
    “Every year”

הם צובעים את הבית צבע חדש כל שנה.
Hem tzovim et ha-bayit tzeva khadash kol shanah.
“They paint the house a new color every year.”

  • אף פעם
    Af pa’am
    “Never”

אף פעם אל תשכח את השורשים שלך!
Af pa’am al tishkakh et ha-shorashim shelkha!
Never forget your roots!”

  • מתי שבא לי/לו/וכו’
    Matay sheba li/lo/etc.
    “Whenever I/he/etc. feel(s) like it”

אני שותה בירה מתי שבא לי.
Ani shoteh birah matay she-ba li.
“I drink beer whenever I feel like it.”

  • מתי שיוצא לי/לו/וכו’
    Matay she-yotze li/lo/etc.
    “Whenever I/he/etc. can”

אני לומדת משהו חדש מתי שיוצא לי.
Ani lomedet mashehu khadash matay sheyotze li.
“I learn something new whenever I can.”

  • בכל הזדמנות
    Be-khol hizdamnut
    “Every chance I/he/etc. get(s)”

רמי נוסע לצפון בכל הזדמנות.
Rami nose’a la-Tzafon be-khol hizdamnut.
“Rami heads to the North every chance he gets.”

  • פעם בחיים
    Pa’am bakhayim
    “Once in a lifetime”

פעם בחיים כדאי לעשות משהו באמת מטורף.
Pa’am ba-khayim keday la’asot mashehu be’emet metoraf.
“Once in a lifetime, you should do something really crazy.”

4. Adverbs of Place

We also use adverbs to describe the location or position of nouns, or to give similar information regarding a verb. The following are the most commonly used such adverbs in Hebrew.

  • פה
    Poh
    “Here”

ממש חם פה.
Mamash kham po.
“It’s really hot here.”

  • כאן
    Kan
    “Here”

אני גר כאן באמצע הטבע.
Ani gar kan be-emtza ha-teva.
“I live here in the heart of nature.”

  • שם
    Sham
    “There”

אתה רואה את הבית הצהוב שם?
Atah roeh et ha-bayit ha-tzahov sham?
“Do you see the yellow house there?”

  • עד הנה
    Ad henah
    “This far”

אם הגעתם עד הנה, למה לא להמשיך עד סוף הדרך?
Im higatem ad henah, lamah lo lehamshikh ad sof ha-derekh?
“If you’ve made it this far, why not continue to the end of the path?”

  • בפנים
    Bifnim
    “Inside”

חברה שלך מחכה לך שם בפנים.
Khaverah shelkha mekhakah lekha sham bifnim.
“Your girlfriend is waiting for you there inside.”

  • בחוץ
    Bakhutz
    “Outside”

קר מאוד בחוץ היום.
Kar meod bakhutz hayom.
“It’s very cold outside today.”

  • קדימה
    Kadimah
    “Forward”

סע קדימה וכבר תראה את החנות.
Sa kadimah ve-kvar tir’eh et ha-khanut.
“Go forward and you’ll see the store in just a moment.”

  • אחורה
    Akhorah
    Akhorah

הסתכל אחורה. איזה נוף יפה!
Histakel akhorah. Eyzeh nof yafeh!
“Look back. What a beautiful view!”

  • הצידה
    Hatzidah
    “Sideways” / “Aside”

זוזי הצידה בבקשה כדי שאוכל לעבור.
Zuzi hatzidah bevakashah kedey she-ukhal la’avor.
“Move aside, please, so that I can pass.”

  • ימינה
    Yeminah
    “Right”

פנה ימינה ברמזור.
Pneh yeminah baramzor.
“Turn right at the light.”

  • שמאלה
    Smolah
    “Left”

פני שמאלה בצומת.
Pni smolah batzomet.
“Turn left at the intersection.”

  • למעלה
    Lemalah
    “Above” / “Upstairs”

בא לך לעלות למעלה לכוס תה?
Ba lakh laalot lemalah lekos teh?
“Would you like to come upstairs for a cup of tea?”

  • למטה
    Lematah
    “Below” / “Downstairs”

מישהו מחכה לך למטה בכניסה.
Mishehu mekhakeh lekha lematah baknisah.
“Someone is waiting for you downstairs at the front door.”

  • מסביב
    Misaviv
    “Around” / “All around”

הסבתא מתכוננת לצאת למסע מסביב לעולם.
Ha-savta mitkonenet latset le-masa misaviv la-olam.
“The grandmother is planning to go on a trip around the world.”

  • אחורה
    akhora
    “Backward”

סע אחורה! כאן חסום.
Sa akhora! Kan khasum.
“Go backward! This way is closed.”

  • מעל
    Meal
    “Atop / “On top of”

יש נוף נפלא מעל הבניין שלנו.
Yesh nof nifla meal habinyan shelanu.
“There’s an incredible view from atop our building.”

  • מתחת ל…
    Mitakhat l…
    “Beneath” / “Under”

מצאתי מכתב מתחת לשטיח.
Matzati mikhtav mitakhat la-shatiakh.
“I found a letter under the mat.”

  • ליד
    Leyad
    “Next to”

חפש בשולחן ליד האגרטל.
Khapes ba-shulkhan letzad ha-agartal.
“Look on the table next to the vase.”

  • בסמוך ל
    Besamukh le
    “Alongside” / “Near”

הבית שלה נמצא בסמוך לתחנה המרכזית.
Habayit shelah nimtsa besamukh la-takhanah hamerkazit.
“Her house is near the bus depot.”

5. Adverbs of Manner

Man Lighting Cigarette with Money

Adverbs of manner are a general category that refers to adverbs which provide information about the manner or way something is done or happens. This can be in terms of anything: speed, intensity, proficiency, appearance, and much more. Let’s see the most commonly used Hebrew adverbs of manner.

This is a good opportunity to introduce the form we mentioned earlier, in which we create an adverbial (an adverb phrase) by joining the preposition ב (be), meaning “in” / “with,” to a noun. For example, if we want to say “thoroughly,” we can use the noun יסודיות (yesodiyut), or “thoroughness,” to create ביסודיות (beyesodiyut), which, though it literally means “in thoroughness,” is the equivalent of “thoroughly” in English. 

You’ll see several more examples of this form below.

  • היטב
    Heytev
    “Well”

אל תדאג, אני מבין אותך היטב.
Al tidag, ani mevin otkha heytev.
“Don’t worry, I understand you well.”

  • רע
    Ra
    “Poorly”

היא רוקדת רע מאוד.
Hi rokedet ra meod.
“She dances very poorly.”

  • נכון
    Nakhon
    “Correctly”

יופי, ענית נכון על השאלה שלי.
Yofi, anita nakhon al hasheelah sheli.
“Nice, you answered my question correctly.”

  • לא נכון
    Lo nakon
    “Incorrectly”

רשמת את השם שלי לא נכון.
Rashamt et ha-shem sheli lo nakhon.
“You wrote my name incorrectly.”

  • יפה
    Yafeh
    “Nicely” / “Beautifully”

איזה יפה הוא שר!
Eyzeh yafeh hu shar!
“How beautifully he sings!”

  • מהר
    Maher
    “Fast”

זוז מהר, הם מחכים לנו!
Zuz maher, hem mekhakim lanu.
“Move fast, they’re waiting for us.”

  • לאט
    Le’at
    “Slow(ly)”

למה הם הולכים כל כך לאט?
Lamah hem holkhim kol kakh le’at?
“Why are they walking so slowly?”

  • ברצינות
    Biritzinut
    “Seriously”

אנחנו צריכים לדבר ברצינות.
Anakhnu tsrikhim ledaber biritzinut.
“We need to talk seriously.”

  • מעולה
    Meuleh
    “Fantastically”

ענת מבשלת מעולה.
Anat mevashelet meuleh.
“Anat cooks fantastically.”

  • בכיף
    Bekef
    “With pleasure”

בכיף אצטרף למשחק שלכם!
Bekeyf etztaref la-miskhak shelakhem!
“I’ll join your game with pleasure!”

  • בשמחה
    Besimkhah
    “Gladly”

נעזור לך בשמחה.
Na’azor lekha besimkhah.
“We’ll gladly help you.”

  • בעדינות
    Be’adinut
    “Gently”

שים את התינוק במיטה בעדינות.
Sim et ha-tinok ba-mitah be’adinut.
“Put the baby in the bed gently.”

  • בזהירות
    Bi’zhirut
    “Carefully”

הרם את הטלוויזיה הזאת בזהירות.
Harem et hateleviziyah hazot biz’hirut.
“Pick that TV up carefully.”

  • בזריזות
    Bezrizut
    “On the double”

התארגן בזריזות. האוטובוס כבר יוצא.
Hitargen bezrizut. Haotobus kvar yotze.
“Get ready on the double. The bus is about to leave.”

  • בטירוף
    Be’teyruf
    “Savagely” / “Wildly”

אכלנו בטירוף, היינו כל כך רעבים.
Akhalnu beteyruf, hayinu kol kakh reevim.
“We ate savagely, we were so hungry.”

  • בעייפות
    Be’ayefut
    “Tiredly”

אם אתה הולך לעבוד ככה בעייפות, עדיף שנמשיך מחר.
Im atah holekh laavod kakhah beayefut, adif shenamshikh makhar.
“If you’re going to work tiredly like that, it’s better that we continue tomorrow.”

6. Adverbs of Degree

Voltmeter

A very important group of Hebrew adverbs, the adverbs of degree tell us the extent of an adjective or adverb. (Remember that adverbs are words that describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.) Let’s see the most important ones in Hebrew.

  • מאוד
    Very
    “Very” / “Very much”

נעים מאוד להכיר.
Naim meod lehakir.
Very nice to meet you.”

  • ממש
    Mamash
    “Really” / “Truly”

אילן הוא ילד ממש נחמד.
Ilan hu yeled mamash nekhmad.
“Ilan is a really nice boy.”

  • קצת
    Ktzat
    “A bit” / “Slightly”

האם תוכל לדבר קצת יותר לאט?
Haim tukhal ledaber ktzat yoter leat?
“Could you speak a bit more slowly?”

  • יותר
    Yoter
    “More”

האם תוכל לדבר קצת יותר לאט?
Haim tukhal ledaber ktzat yoter le’at?
“Could you speak a bit more slowly?”

  • פחות
    Pakhot
    “Less”

לירון מבינה במחשבים פחות מנילי.
Liron mevinah be-makhshevim pakhot mi-Nili.
“Liron knows less about computers than Nili.”

  • בכלל לא
    Bikhlal lo
    “Not at all”

למה לשתות אם אני בכלל לא צמא?
Lamah lishtot im ani bikhlal lo tzame?
“Why should I drink if I’m not thirsty at all?”

  • המון
    Hamon
    “A lot”

החבר’ה האלה עושים המון רעש.
Hakhevreh haeleh osim hamon raash.
“Those guys are making a lot of noise.”

  • די
    Dey
    “Fairly” / “Pretty”

אני די בטוח שביטלו את השיעור.
Ani dey batuakh she-bitlu et ha-shiur.
“I’m pretty sure the class was cancelled.”

  • כל כך
    Kol kakh
    “So”

למה אתם כל כך עייפים?
Lamah atem kol kakh ayefim?
“Why are you so tired?”

  • נורא
    Nora
    “Terribly”

אלכס נורא מתגעגע אליך.
Aleks nora mitga’agea elayikh.
“Alex misses you terribly.”

  • לגמרי
    Legamrey
    “Totally”

רוני אבוד לגמרי במתמטיקה.
Roni avud legamrey be-matematikah.
“Ronit is totally lost in math.”

  • בהחלט
    Behekhlet
    “Certainly”

המבחן הזה בהחלט היה קשה.
Hamivkhan hazeh behekhlet hayah kasheh.
“That test was certainly difficult.”

  • לחלוטין
    Lekhalutin
    “Completely”

השאלה שלך אבסורדית לחלוטין.
Hasheelah shelakh absurdit lekhalutin.
“Your question is completely absurd.”

7. Adverbials Using Adjectives

Finally, let’s take a look at an adverbial form rather unique to the Hebrew language. Since, as you will have noticed, Hebrew doesn’t have a set pattern for creating adverbs from adjectives, like in English. Let’s look at two ways we can take most adjectives and turn them into adverbials.

Basically, we can use the preposition ב (be), meaning “in” or “with,” along with either the noun צורה (tzurah) or אופן (ofen), both of which mean “manner” or “way,” followed by the adjective we want to turn into an adverb. This can be done with just about any adjective, although obviously some are used this way more commonly than others. Here are some common examples.

  • בצורה אוטומטית
    Betzurah otomatit
    “Automatically”

המחשב משנה את השפה בצורה אוטומטית.
Hamakhsehv meshanah et hasafah betzurah otomatit.
“The computer changes languages automatically.”

  • באופן מקצועי
    Be-ofen miktzo’ii
    “Professionally”

השיפוץ נעשה באופן מקצועי.
Hashiputz neesah be-ofen miktzoi.
“The renovation was done professionally.”

  • בצורה נקייה
    Be-tzurah nekiyah
    “Cleanly” / “Neatly”

שרה עובדת בצורה נקייה.
Sarah ovedet be-tzurah nekiyah.
“Sarah works cleanly.”

  • באופן מושלם
    Be-ofen mushlam
    “Perfectly”

חנית את האוטו באופן מושלם!
Khanita et ha-oto beofen mushlam!
“You parked the car perfectly!”

  • בצורה מטומטמת
    Betzurah metumtemet
    “Stupidly”

מי בנה את הכביש הזה בצורה כל כך מטומטמת?
Mi banah et ha-kvish hazeh be-tzurah kol kakh metumtemet?
“Who built this road so stupidly?”

  • לחלוטין
    Lakhalutin
    “Wholly” / “Completely”

השודדים רוקנו את הבנק לחלוטין.
Hashodedim roknu et ha-bank lakhalutin.
“The robbers cleaned out the bank completely.”

  • בצורה מצחיקה
    Betzurah matzkhikah
    “Funny” / “Funnily”

האישה ההיא מדברת בצורה מצחיקה.
Ha-ishah ha-hi medaberet be-tzurah matzkhikah.
“That lady talks funny.”

8. Placement of Adverbs within the Sentence

Just like in English, the question of word order vis-a-vis adverbs is somewhat complicated. However, there are some general rules to help us. Let’s have a look at them.

1. Time adverbs can come first or last in the sentence and, for some time adverbs, right after the subject. The only difference in terms of choosing where to place them is one of emphasis. For example, compare these three variations:

  • עכשיו אני הולך לישון.
    Akhshav ani holekh lishon.
    “Now, I am going to sleep.”
  • אני הולך לישון עכשיו.
    Ani holekh lishon akhshav.
    “I am going to sleep now.”
  • אני עכשיו הולך לישון.
    Ani akhshav holekh lishon.
    “I am now going to sleep.”

2. Frequency and manner adverbs, except in very literary instances, come after the verb or its object. For example:

  • הוא רץ מהר.
    Hu ratz maher.
    He runs fast.”
  • חצינו את הכביש בזהירות.
    Khatzinu et ha-kvish bi’zhirut.
    We crossed the street carefully.”

3. Degree adverbs tend to follow the adjective they qualify. For example:

  • עברית היא שפה קשה מאוד.
    Ivrit hi safah kashah meod.
    “Hebrew is a very difficult language.”

4. Unlike in English, it’s possible to position an adverb between a subject and its object. For example:

  • אני לומד עכשיו עברית.
    Ani lomed akhshav Ivrit.
    I am learning Hebrew now.”

5. Adverbials (adverb phrases made up of two or more words, or compounds) tend to come at the very beginning or the very end of the sentence. For example:

  • בכל הזדמנות אני עושה יוגה.
    Bekhol hizdamnut ani osah yogah.
    “Every chance I get, I do yoga.”
  • אני עושה יוגה בכל הזדמנות.
    Ani osah yogah bekhol hizdamnut.
    “I do yoga every chance I get.”

9. Conclusion: Practice Your Adverbs with HebrewPod101

We hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson on Hebrew adverbs very well (Did you notice how I threw in two adverbs there to see if you were paying attention?). As we tend to recommend when covering topics like this one, it’s a good idea to digest adverbs in Hebrew a bit at a time. You can do this by category, alphabetically, or any way you’d like, just so long as you don’t overwhelm yourself with too much at once.

Our goal here at HebrewPod101.com is to ensure you can develop your Hebrew with as little stress and as much fun as possible. Because learning languages should never hurt!

Feel free to let us know how you’re feeling about adverbs in Hebrew after this lesson. Are things pretty clear or are you still a bit shaky? Do you need any further help with something we mentioned, or did we leave anything out you would like to know about adverbs? Get in touch. We’d be happy to hear from you. 

Shalom!

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