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Pesach: The Jewish Passover

In Judaism, Passover is one of the most important holidays of the year. It celebrates the release of the Jews from Egypt as described in the biblical book of Exodus, and commemorates the events leading up to it. 

Maybe you’ve heard of Passover before, but never really understood what it’s about or how it’s celebrated. If so, this article will be your golden ticket to understanding the basics and getting better acquainted with Jewish culture and traditions. 

Let’s get started!

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1. What is Passover?

A Depiction of the Passover Sacrifice

Passover is a Jewish holiday celebrated for seven days during אביב (aviv), or spring. The celebration of this holiday is commanded and outlined in the biblical books of Exodus and Leviticus, and the purpose of this holiday is to commemorate the events leading up to the חירות (kherut), or freedom, of the Israelites after fleeing Egypt. 

The history of Passover in the Bible can be found in the book of Exodus, according to which the Jews were once enslaved by the people of Egypt. In the form of a burning bush, Yahweh commanded משה (Moshe), or Moses, to speak with Pharaoh about releasing the Israelites. Despite Moses’s strong faith and devotion, he lacked confidence in his speaking abilities and rather had his older brother אהרון (Aharon), or Aaron, speak on his behalf. When Pharaoh refused, Yahweh brought about the עשר מכות (Eser makot), or 10 Plagues, which wreaked havoc among the Egyptians and caused many deaths. 

The last of these plagues was the killing of all Egyptian firstborn sons, including the Pharaoh’s own son. The Israelites were spared this plague, for Yahweh commanded them to mark their doors with the blood of a lamb which would cause the Angel of Death to pass over them. It is this event which the holiday is named after. 

Passover is one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals. You can learn about the other two on our website! 

2. When is Passover This Year?

springtime flowers in a green field

The first day of Passover begins on the fifteenth of Nissan according to the Jewish calendar. Here are the start and end dates of this holiday on the Gregorian calendar for the next ten years: 

  • 2021: March 27 – April 4
  • 2022: April 15 – April 22
  • 2023: April 5 – April 12
  • 2024: April 22 – April 29
  • 2025: April 12 – April 19
  • 2026: April 1 – April 9
  • 2027: April 21 – April 29
  • 2028: April 10 – April 18
  • 2029: March 30 – April 7
  • 2030: April 17 – April 25

3. Passover Traditions

seder tu bishvat, or Passover food

Passover traditions actually begin the morning before, on the fourteenth of Nissan. This is when observant Jews scour their homes for any trace of חמץ (khametz), or hametz. Hametz refers to any type of leavened product, which is prohibited on Passover. All of the hametz that’s found in one’s home must be burned.

Another event that takes place prior to the actual Passover holiday is the Fast of the Firstborn. This is a fast that the firstborn son of every practicing Jewish family participates in to commemorate the fact that Yahweh spared all of the Jewish firstborns in the Exodus story. However, people are allowed to break this fast in the event of a celebratory event; synagogues often host such an event so that the firstborn sons can eat during Passover.

On the evening of the first day of Passover, observant Jews have the Passover seder. This is a special meal that aids in telling the Passover story and keeping it fresh in mind. The Passover meal consists of several different foods which symbolize key aspects of the Israelites’ journey to freedom: 

  • מרור (maror), which are bitter herbs symbolizing the bitterness of the Jews’ slavery
  • חרוסת (kharoset), or charoseth, which is a sweet mix of fruit and nuts with honey, symbolizing the mortar Jewish slaves used in building
  • מצה (matzah), or matzo, which is an unleavened bread product symbolizing the unleavened bread eaten by the fleeing Israelites

It’s also customary to pour wine for each guest, as well as a glass for the Prophet Elijah who is said to visit the homes of those observing the seder. 

Each of these food elements is held and consumed in accordance with the Exodus story from the Haggadah. In addition, the recital of the Four Questions takes place during the seder. 

The following day (the sixteenth of Nissan) marks another milestone on the Jewish calendar: it’s fifty days before Shavuot. It begins the Counting of the Omer, during which Jews begin the countdown to Shavuot. 

  • See our vocabulary on Israeli Food to learn more useful cuisine-related words! 

4. Afikoman

Another fascinating Passover tradition involves the children. Parents cut off part of the matzah from the seder, called the אפיקומן (Afikoman), and hide it. The children are then encouraged to find it in order to receive presents as compensation. 

A common variation of this tradition is for the children to steal the Afikoman themselves and return it in exchange for gifts. 

5. Essential Hebrew Vocabulary for Passover

different Passover foods

Here are some of the most important vocabulary words and phrases for Passover in Israel:

  • Spring – אביב (aviv), noun [m]
  • Arm – זרוע (z’roa’), noun [f]
  • Egypt – מצרים (mitz’rayim), noun [f]
  • Passover – פסח (Pesakh), noun [m]
  • Red Sea – ים סוף (Yam Suf), noun [m]
  • Pilgrimage – עליה לרגל (aliya la-regel), noun [f]
  • Afikoman – אפיקומן (Afikoman), noun [m]
  • Aaron – אהרון (Aharon), noun [m]
  • 10 Plagues – עשר מכות (Eser makot), noun [f]
  • Song of Songs – שיר השירים (Shir ha`shirim), noun [m]
  • Passover Sacrifice – קורבן פסח (Korban Pesakh), noun [m]
  • Pharaoh – פרעה (Par-oh), noun [m]
  • Moses – משה (Moshe), noun [m]
  • Matzo – מצה (matzah), noun [f]
  • Maror – מרור (maror), noun [m]
  • Hametz – חמץ (khametz), noun [m]
  • Freedom – חירות (kherut), noun [f]
  • Cleaning – נקיון (nikayon), noun [m]
  • Charoseth – חרוסת (kharoset), noun [f]

Also be sure to head over to our Passover vocabulary list! Here, you can listen to the pronunciation of each word and practice along with the recordings.

Final Thoughts

The Jewish Passover is a defining holiday for Jews in Israel and around the world, so we hope you enjoyed learning about it with us! What are some of the important religious holidays in your country? 

If you liked this lesson and want to continue exploring Israeli culture and the Hebrew language, make sure to explore HebrewPod101.com and take advantage of our numerous resources. Our free vocabulary lists, online dictionary, and numerous audio and video lessons will help you reach your language learning goals sooner than you think! 

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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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The Top 25 Hebrew Quotes

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In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “It is a pleasure to be able to quote lines to fit any occasion.” 

While this may be a truism, the unique allure of the aptly chosen and well-timed quote is something many of us give little thought to. The famous actress and singer Marlene Dietrich offers one insightful quote about quotes to help sum up this common phenomenon: “I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.”

Now, how does this apply to Hebrew quotes specifically?

While slipping in a pithy quote would seem to be a universal practice, one might argue that Jewish culture prizes it more so than other cultures. This may be because, as the People of the Book, Jews have historically viewed specific—and often encyclopedic—knowledge of Scripture and the ensuant body of legal and literary works as a special badge of erudition. In fact, the phenomenon of citing a well-turned, previously coined phrase is already ingrained in the Hebrew Bible itself, which contains multiple instances of self-reference (i.e. quoting verses in one part of the Bible from another part). 

It comes as no surprise that the Bible should be such a common source of quotes, widely read as it is the world over. Moreover, there are numerous works in the Bible that are quite clearly consciously preoccupied with the shaping of eloquent language to express the variety of life’s experiences with concision and panache. Indeed, by way of example, the Book of Proverbs is so named because it is just that: a sententious anthology of aphorisms beautifully shaped to the unique economical lines of the Hebrew language.

Indeed, Hebrew quotes from or about the Torah have long dominated the quotation scene, so to speak. This is largely due to the fact that, though Hebrew continued to be used more or less continuously in the post-Biblical era to produce religiously themed works of poetry and prose, there was no real secular Jewish culture or literature until relatively recently in history. On this note, it’s important to keep in mind that integration and assimilation were, for the most part, not possible throughout most of Jewish history, particularly in Europe. As a result, with a few notable exceptions, Jews didn’t really participate in secular culture even where it had taken root in the broader societies in which they lived.

Moreover, beginning from the Roman Exile around the year 70 BCE, Jews largely abandoned Hebrew as a spoken language. During this time, Yiddish (a blend of Hebrew and German) was the lingua franca of most European Jewish communities—or Ashkenazi Jews—and Ladino (a mixture of Hebrew and Spanish) was the preferred tongue among Sephardic Jewish communities, namely those from Spain. Indeed, outside of Israel, Hebrew was generally deemed inappropriate for use in describing lay matters; it became consciously reserved as לשון הקודש (leshon ha-kodesh), or “the language of holy matters.”

Thus, the vast majority of literary endeavors in Jewish communities were restricted to religious texts throughout most of history. However, particularly from the Haskalah movement of the late nineteenth century onward, European Jews (and later their brethren elsewhere) found entry into the secular, enlightened world. They henceforth began both partaking of and contributing to it, including through secular writings on all manner of topics. Many of these texts were, however, not in Hebrew, but rather in European languages like German, French, and English. One need only think of a few representative luminaries, such as Franz Kafka, Sigmund Freud, Arthur Miller, and Ayn Rand to realize that the Jewish contribution to modern-world literature has been nothing less than immense.

Apart from opening doors to the literary worlds of other languages, the Haskalah movement also gave rise to a new, secularized Jewish culture that emphasized the revival of Hebrew writing as a vehicle to express worldly (as opposed to religious) matters. The movement also marked a division between Yiddish- and Hebrew-language literature, the latter of which also represents a fairly broad corpus of secular (as well as religious) works.

With the expansion of the Zionist movement at the turn of the twentieth century, and with the return of ever-increasing numbers of Jews to their historical home in the Land of Israel, a new Hebrew literature flourished, as did the language’s lexis and range of expression. Hebrew novels, poems, and songs, as well as journalistic, academic, and technical texts, abounded with each passing year. Fast-forward to the modern State of Israel today, and Hebrew as a written language is not only alive and well, but more robust than ever. It’s also ever-evolving, with countless works published in every possible genre and field each year. 

As a result of all this rich history, today’s Hebrew-speaking world has a broad and varied corpus of literature—both historical and new—to draw on when looking for the right quote for any given occasion. In today’s lesson, we’ll look at the top 25 Hebrew quotes, covering a range of topics from love to learning, and everything in-between. Enjoy!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Life
  2. Quotes About Love
  3. Quotes About Time
  4. Quotes About Work
  5. Quotes About Family and Friendship
  6. Quotes About Wisdom and Foolishness
  7. Quotes About Food and Drink
  8. Quotes About Happiness and Health
  9. Quotes About Language
  10. Conclusion

1. Quotes About Life

Earth from Space

We’ll start by looking at some Hebrew quotes about life that cover topics such as the passage of time, the pace of life, life’s different stages, and the difficulties that life puts before us.

1. ואבא תמיד אומר, תעזבנו יום, יעזבך יומיים. העגלה נוסעת, אין עצור. קפצת ממנה היום, חלפו שנתיים והנה נשארת מאחור.

-מאיר אריאל, “נשל הנחש”

Ve-Abba tamid omer, ta’azvenu yom, ya’azvekha yomayim. Ha-agalah nosa’at, eyn atzor. Kafatzta mimenah hayom, khalfu sh’natayim ve-hine nish’arta me-akhor.

-Me’ir Ari’el, Neshel ha-Nakhash

“And father always says, leave it a day, it will leave you for two. The wagon travels on; there is no stopping. Jump off it today, two years go by. And look, you’ve been left behind.”

-Meir Ariel, The Skin of the Snake

This quote comes from a famous song by modern Israeli singer-songwriter Meir Ariel. The lines cited speak to the notion that life can easily pass us by if we don’t keep up with the pace of things. The quote itself actually paraphrases a passage from the Talmud, the main corpus of Jewish legal interpretations. The original Talmud passage means, essentially, that if you leave something undone, don’t expect it to hang around waiting for you.

2. הכל עבר כל כך מהר וקצת קשה להיזכר איך פעם זה היה פשוט לשיר לחיות ולא למות.

-יהונתן גפן, “אתם זוכרים את השירים”

Ha-kol avar kol kakh maher u-ktzat kasheh lehizakher eykh pa’am zeh hayah pashut lashir likhyot ve-lo lamut.

-Yehonatan Geffen, “Atem Zokhrim et ha-Shirim”

“Everything went by so quickly, and it’s a bit hard to remember how once it was simple to sing, to live, and not to die.”

-Yehonatan Geffen, You Remember the Songs

This quote about life is from author, poet, and songwriter Yehonatan Geffen. It comes from a song that embodies the feeling of nostalgia for one’s lost youth and the innocence of days gone by. The line cited captures the particular poignancy of such nostalgia from an Israeli perspective: the loss of youth goes hand in hand with the realization of the dangers and difficulties of life in a world in constant war.

3. כל ההתחלות קשות, אך קשה מהן היא ההתמדה.

-חיים נחמן ביאליק

Kol ha-hatkhalot kashot, akh kasheh me-hen hi ha-hatmadah.

-Khayim Nakhman Bialik

“All beginnings are hard, but harder yet is perseverance.”

-Khayim Nakhman Bialik

This is indeed an oft-cited quote in Israel, coming from the pen of one of modern Israel’s greatest poets. Bialik was so influential as a pioneer of Hebrew language poetry—apart from his prominence as a Yiddish writer—that for a long period, much poetry from other Hebrew writers was essentially derivative of his style. This is another quote that paraphrases an earlier Rabbinic precept, according to which beginnings are particularly difficult. The quote goes further by pointing out that it’s even more difficult to stick to something over time.

2. Quotes About Love

Pages Folded in Heart Shape

Now, let’s take a look at a topic we all love: love! We’ll examine three Hebrew quotes on love, each quote representing one of the three general periods of Hebrew: modern, Rabbinic, and Biblical.

4. בין האפל לנסתר בעולמנו המר, אומרים שיש עוד תקווה. קוראים לזה אהבה ומחכים לבואה.

-ארקדי דוכין, “יש בי אהבה”

Beyn ha-afel la-nistar be-olamenu ha-mar, omrim she-yesh od tikvah. Kor’im le-zeh ahavah u-mekhakim le-vo’ah.

-Arkadi Dukhin, “Yesh Bi Ahavah”

“Between the hazy and the hidden in our bitter world, they say there is still hope. It’s called love, and we await its coming.”

-Arkadi Duchin, I Have Love

This quote by famous singer-songwriter Arkadi Duchin is a beautiful encapsulation of both the need for love in a broken world and the deep yearning we all feel for it.

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

פרקי אבות ה’:י”ט

Kol ahavah she-hi tluyah be-davar, batel davar batlah ahavah. Ve-she-eynah tluyah be-davar eynah batlah le-olam.

-Masekhet Avot 5:19

“All love that is reliant upon a thing annuls that same thing. Love that is not reliant upon a thing will last forever.”

-Chapters of the Fathers 5:19

This pearl of wisdom comes from a famous compilation of ethical teachings from the Rabbinic sages. It gives eloquent expression to the notion that true love is not dependent on material matters, and that any love that does depend on something material is bound to be lost if that material thing is lost. This is similar to, though more analytical and specific than, the English adage, “True love lasts forever.”

6. אני לדודי ודודי לי, הרעה בשושנים.

-שיר השירים ו’:ג’

Ani le-dodi ve-dodi li, ha-ro’eh ba-shoshanim.

-Shir ha-Shirim 6:3

“I belong to my beloved, and he belongs to me, he who pastures his flock among the lilies.”

-Song of Songs 6:3

This is one of the more famous Hebrew Biblical quotes from the seminal love song known as Song of Songs or Song of Solomon. The theme of שושנים (shoshanim), or “lilies” (sometimes translated as “roses”), is recurrent in this work. A flower surrounded by sharp thorns serves to emphasize the contrast of beauty versus pain, as well as the fragility of love and perhaps the care we must show in how we treat our beloved.

3. Quotes About Time

Sun Dial

Though it’s often said that time is an illusion, it certainly is a pervasive aspect of life and a common theme in literature and art the world over. Hebrew culture is no exception. Here are a couple of Hebrew quotes about time.

7. גדול הוא האומץ לחכות מן האומץ לשפוך את הלב.

-נתן זך, “גדול הוא האומץ לחכות”

Gadol hu ha-ometz lekhakot min ha-ometz lishpokh et ha-lev.

-Natan Zakh, “Gadol Hu ha-Ometz Lekhakot”

“Greater is the courage to wait than the courage to spill one’s heart out.”

-Natan Zach, Greater is the Courage to Wait

This quote speaks on both the difficulty and the importance of holding out for the right moment rather than jumping the gun. The quote focuses specifically on the value of holding one’s tongue and speaking in the most opportune moment, rather than saying too much too soon. Of course, one can also apply these words to broader contexts.

8. לבל יהי יומי עליי כתמול שלשום. לבל יהי עליי יומי הרגל.”

-לאה גולדברג, “למדני אלוהי”

Leval yehi yomi alay ke-tmol shilshom. Leval yehi alay yomi hergel.

-Le’ah Goldberg, “Lamdeni Elohay”

“Lest my day be for me as yesterday or the day before. Lest my day be a habit to me.”

-Leah Goldberg, Teach Me, My Lord

This quote, from a poem by one of Israel’s most renowned poets, speaks on the importance of seeing each day with open eyes, renewing our energy, and making each day count. Here, in the form of a prayer, the poet asks God to help her avoid falling into a dull and repetitive routine so that she can remain engaged and excited about life each day.

4. Quotes About Work

Farmer Plowing

Jews are well-known the world over for being hard workers. Indeed, the image of the חלוצים (khalutzim), or “pioneers,” who drained the swamps, planted the forests, and generally built a flourishing country out of deserts and wastelands is deeply ingrained in the Israeli psyche. These pioneers are regarded as the nation’s early heroes. On that note, let’s now have a look at some Hebrew language quotes about work.

9. היום קצר והמלאכה מרובה.

-פרקי אבות ב’:ט”ו

Ha-yom katzar ve-ha-melakhah merubah.

-Pirkey Avot 2:15

“The day is short, and the work abounds.”

-Chapters of the Fathers 2:15

This terse quote, attributed to the sage Rabbi Tarfon, is another gem from Chapters of the Fathers. In an inimitable style, it encompasses the notion that time is short but the labor before us is great, such that we must take advantage of the time we have to get things done before it’s too late. A rough parallel in English might be: “Make hay while the sun shines.”

10. העבודה הראשונה העומדת עתה לפני האנושות היא עבודה של חינוך עצמי.

א.ד. גורדון, “האדם והטבע”

Ha-’avodah ha-rishonah ha-’omedet ‘atah lifney ha-enoshut hi ‘avodah shel khinukh ‘atzmi.

-A.D. Gordon, “Ha-Adam ve-ha-Teva’”

“The first order of business facing humanity today is that of self-education.”

-A.D. Gordon, Man and Nature

This wonderful quote comes from A.D. Gordon, a חלוץ (khalutz), or “pioneer,” who moved to the Land of Israel at an advanced age to live on a kibbutz. He was somewhat akin to an Israeli Henry David Thoreau, emphasizing in his writings the importance of doing an honest day’s work (particularly in terms of agriculture), living in harmony with nature, and, as this quote reflects, ensuring one’s own self-education through life experience.

5. Quotes About Family and Friendship

Siblings

Now let’s look at a theme of universal importance, namely that of family and friends. Here are some choice Hebrew quotes about family and friendship for you to ponder.

11. אני ואתה נשנה את העולם. אני ואתה, אז יבואו כבר כולם.

אריק איינשטיין, “אני ואתה”

Ani ve-atah neshaneh et ha-’olam. Ani ve-atah, az yavo’u kvar kulam.

-Arik Aynshteyn, “Ani ve-Atah”

“You and I, we’ll change the world. You and I, the rest will soon follow.”

-Arik Einstein, You and I

This is a lovely quote from iconic Israeli singer-songwriter and actor Arik Einstein. It speaks of the eternal hope of changing the world for the better, something that’s possible as long as we have just one person we can count on. The song doesn’t specify if the other person is family or a friend, but it clearly speaks of someone with whom there is a strong bond.

12. לא טוב היות האדם לבדו.

-בראשית ב’:י”ח

Lo tov heyot ha-adam levado.

-Bereyshit 2:18

“It is not good for man to be alone.”

-Genesis 2:18

This is, interestingly, the first piece of advice God offers Man in the creation story found in Genesis. God speaks these words to Adam just before informing him that He will create a partner for him (namely, Eve).

13. כשתשאל על אדם, שאל מי רעהו.

-רבי שלמה אבן גבירול, “מבחר הפנינים”

Ke-she-tish’al ‘al adam, she’al mi re’ehu.

-Rabi Shlomoh ibn Gabirol, “Mivkhar Pninim”

“Should you ask about a man, ask who his friends are.”

-Rabbi Solomon ibn Gabirol, Choice Pearls

This pearl of wisdom comes from a brilliant eleventh century poet and scholar whose influence on Hebrew culture has been profound over the centuries. Here, he eloquently expresses the notion that we are to be judged not only for our own merits and faults, but for those of the people with whom we choose to associate.

6. Quotes About Wisdom and Foolishness

Human Head and Brain

The theme of wisdom versus foolishness is a common one throughout Hebrew literature of every era, such that there are seemingly endless quotations to draw on in this category. Let’s have a look at a few popular Hebrew quotes that touch on this topic.

14. זו שסיימה בית ספר יתר על המידה, שהוציאה את כל השפה על נסיונות. תחת חלון על השלחן מנחת תעודה: ‘עברה את כשלונותיה’.

נורית זרחי, “שיעורי העונות”

Zu she-siymah beyt sefer yeter ‘al ha-midah, she-hotzi’ah et kol ha-safah ‘al nisyonot. Takhat khalon ‘al ha-shulkhan munakhat te’udah: ‘’Avrah et kishlonoteyhah.’

-Nurit Zarkhi, “Shi’urey ha-’Onot”

“She who finished school and then some, who spent all her language on experience. Beneath a window on the table lies a diploma: ‘She passed her failures’.”

-Nurit Zarchi, Seasons’ Lessons

This quote, from Israeli poet Nurit Zarchi, may be considered a parallel to Mark Twain’s famous quip, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Both authors draw our attention to the fact that there is much wisdom to be gleaned outside the confines of the classroom. In Zarchi’s case, she focuses specifically on the need to go through hardships—to fall and pick oneself up again—in order to fully “graduate.” This is more or less what we mean when we refer to the School of Hard Knocks in English.

15. מן המקום שבו אנו צודקים לא יצמחו לעולם פרחים באביב‭.

-יהודה עמיחי, “המקום שבו אנו צודקים”

Min ha-makom she-bo anu tzodkim lo yitzmekhu le-’olam prakhim ba-Aviv.

-Yehudah ‘Amikhay, “Ha-Makom she-Bo Anu Tzodkim”

“From the place where we are right, no flowers will ever bloom in spring.”

-Yehuda Amichai, The Place Where We Are Right

This is a particularly apt poem for Israel, considering the endless polemics wrapped up in the Israeli reality over so many different things, including existence itself. Here, soldier-turned-poet Yehuda Amichai, widely considered modern Israel’s most important poet, poignantly reminds us that excessive insistence on being right very often comes at the expense of growth and peace.

16. אין שכל, אין דאגות.

-עממי

Eyn sekhel, eyn de’agot.

-’Amami

“No brains, no worries.”

-Popular saying

This one, though not attributed to any particular author, is a very common saying in Israel. The gist of it is that people who think less worry less, much like the English saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” In the Hebrew version, this is both a blessing and a curse. People who enjoy the tranquility of ignorance are also often unaware of problems, even when such awareness might be to their benefit or when their ignorance may affect others negatively.

7. Quotes About Food and Drink

Set Table

Anyone who knows the first thing about Judaism knows that food and drink are a central theme in our culture. In fact, there’s even a popular dark joke in Israel, according to which all Jewish holidays can be classified as either feast days to celebrate the Jewish people surviving an attempted massacre, or fast days to commemorate the Jewish people falling victim to such a massacre. Let’s look at some representative quotes in the Hebrew language on food and drink.

17. על טעם וריח אין להתווכח‎.

-אברהם שלונסקי

‘Al ta’am ve-reyakh eyn lehitvake’akh.

-Avraham Shlonski

“One should not argue over taste and smell.”

-Avraham Shlonsky

This aphorism is a fairly ubiquitous one in Israeli life, and is something like a combination of the English sayings, “There is no accounting for taste,” and “To each his own.” Ironically (or perhaps not!), Israelis love to argue about food, drink, and other matters of taste. An altogether common conversation (or argument) topic in Israel, for instance, is where one can get the best hummus; agreement over one particular hummus shop is a rare creature, indeed!

18. למדני את השיר הפשוט של הלחם ופרוס לי חלק משלומך.

-רחל שפירא, “למדני את השיר הפשוט”

Lamdeni et ha-shir ha-pashut shel ha-lekhem u-fros li khelek mi-shlomekha.

-Rakhel Shapira, “Lamdeni et ha-Shir ha-Pashut”

“Teach me the simple song of bread, and slice me a piece of peace.”

This line comes from a beautiful song by poet and songwriter Rachel Shapira, who composed many of the most famous classics in Israeli music. This quote speaks of the importance of appreciating the simpler pleasures of life, such as a humble slice of bread. This sentiment is similar to what Walt Whitman meant when he wrote, “A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.”

19. ויין ישמח לבב אנוש.

-תהלים ק”ד:ט”ו

Ve-yayin yesamakh levav enosh.

Tehilim 104:15

“And wine shall gladden the heart of man.”

Psalms 104:15

This ancient passage from the Book of Psalms is often cited even in modern Hebrew to express, with eloquence and economy, the unique pleasures afforded by wine.

8. Quotes About Happiness and Health

Happy Older Couple

Health and happiness are common themes in Hebrew culture, with connections often being made between the two. Let’s see some good examples of Hebrew quotes about happiness and health. 

20. כי השמחה שלי היא המחאה שלי.

נעמי שמר, “על ראש שמחתי”

Ki ha-simkha sheli hi ha-mekha’ah sheli.

-Na’omi Shemer, “‘Al Rosh Simkhati”

“For my happiness is my protest.”

-Naomi Shemer, My Chiefest Joy

Naomi Shemer, often labeled the “First Lady” of Israeli music, was a prolific singer-songwriter particularly famous for her song ירושלים של זהב (Yerushalayim shel Zahav), meaning “Jerusalem of Gold.” This quote perhaps serves to help explain how Israel, despite the constant strain and strife of daily life under fire, is consistently reported among the happiest countries according to surveys. Not only is happiness a necessary answer to hardship, but a form of peaceful protest against violence.

21. אין עושר כבריאות, ולא נעימות כמו לב הטוב.

-רבי שלמה אבן גבירול, “מבחר הפנינים”

Eyn ‘osher ke-vri’ut, ve-lo ne’imut kmo lev ha-tov.

-Rabi Shlomoh ibn Gabirol, “Mivkhar Pninim

“There is no joy like health, and no pleasure like a heart of goodness.”

-Rabbi Solomon ibn Gabirol, Choice Pearls

Another wonderful quote from ibn Gabirol, this one almost seems to sum up the entirety of life! Indeed, it simply speaks for itself.

22. תוחלת ממשכה מחלה לב ועץ חיים תאוה באה.

-משלי י”ג:י”ב

Tokhelet memushakhah makhalah lev ve-’etz khayim ta’avah ba’ah.

-Mishley 13:12

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a tree of life is a longing fulfilled.”

Proverbs 13:12

This pithy maxim from Proverbs touches on the power of following one’s dreams and ensuring they are realized, rather than waiting too long and letting them fade.

9. Quotes About Language

Dictionary and Key

What better way to end our list of Hebrew quotes than to enjoy some quotes about language itself? Here they are.

23. בארץ הלוהטת הזאת, מילים צריכות להיות צל.

יהודה עמיחי, “שיר אהבה”

Ba-aretz ha-lohetet ha-zot, milim tzrikhot lihiyot tzel.

-Yehudah ‘Amikhay, “Shir Ahavah”

“In this blazing land, words must be shade.”

-Yehuda Amichai, Love Song

This quote speaks of the essential power of language to comfort and shelter us, and how vital that function of language is in a place as infernal as Israel has been.

24. מות וחיים ביד לשון, ואהביה יאכל פריה.

משלי י”ח:כ”א

Mavet ve-khayim be-yad lashon, ve-ohavehah yokhal piryah.

-Mishley 18:21

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

-Proverbs 18:21

This passage from Proverbs speaks of the power of language for both good and evil. It also sheds light on the fact that those who truly love language and use it wisely will reap the benefit from their own words accordingly.

25. לעזאזל השיר וכל אשר בו. אני צריכה 120 שקל חדש בחשבון אחרון.

-דליה רביקוביץ, “פרנסה”

La-’Azazel ha-shir ve-khol asher bo. Ani tzrikhah me’ah-’esrim shekel khadsh be-kheshbon akharon.

-Daliyah Ravikovitz, “Parnasah”

“To hell with poetry and everything that goes with it. I need 120 new Israeli shekels, when all is said and done.”

-Dalia Ravikovitch, Livelihood

To end on a lighter note, here’s a quote that captures the sardonic use of language so typical of much Israeli humor. Here, a writer ironically mocks her own craft, at once affirming (through the very fact of having written these lines) and dismissing (through the content of the lines) the art of poetry.

10. Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed our compilation of Hebrew quotes! Remember that learning Hebrew doesn’t just mean learning grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation—it also means tapping into an entire culture, rich in wisdom gleaned over millennia of reflection. As you can now attest to, much of this wisdom is captured in the vast Hebrew library of literary works, both old and new. In that vein, which of these Hebrew quotes was your favorite, and why?

We at HebrewPod101 are convinced that learning a language is as much a cultural endeavor as it is a linguistic one, and we hope today’s lesson has enriched your understanding of Hebrew from a new perspective. Check out our wealth of resources on many other aspects of Jewish and Israeli culture to learn even more. When you learn Hebrew with HebrewPod101, you’ll always be prepared to say the right thing at the right time!

Shalom!

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Take Care of Business with Hebrew Business Phrases

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In Israel, business is booming. It’s well-known that Israel is one of the most advanced and dynamic economies the world over. The country has, in fact, been dubbed the Startup Nation for the immense number of businesses launched in or from Israel. Having only sparse natural resources, Israel has, since its inception, wisely invested in its human resource through extensive research and development. In particular, Israel is a world leader in technology pertaining to communications, computers, aviation, the military, agriculture, and medicine, among many other sectors.

Amazingly, Israel has more companies listed on NASDAQ than any other country, except the U.S. and China! So, if you’re planning on doing business with Israelis or in Israel, it’s wise to prepare; Israeli businesspeople are no slouches when it comes to making a deal! With that in mind, there’s no better way to simultaneously make a good impression and position yourself for a favorable outcome than to arm yourself with a handy toolkit of Hebrew business words and phrases.

Like any language, Hebrew has its own lingo for conducting business. In today’s lesson, we’ll look at essential words and phrases for interviewing for a job, interacting with coworkers, impressing at business meetings, and fielding business-related phone calls and emails. So, get your pencils sharpened and your coffee ready to go, and let’s get to work!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Business Words and Phrases in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. Nailing a Job Interview
  2. Interacting with Coworkers
  3. Sounding Smart in Meetings
  4. Handling Business Phone Calls and Emails
  5. Let HebrewPod101 Get You Ready for Business

1. Nailing a Job Interview

Man In Suit Covering Face with @ Sign

If you’re planning on working for Israelis, it’s essential that you’re able to get your foot in the door. The first step is, of course, the oft-dreaded job interview. To make matters more intense, the Israeli business world is extremely competitive, as Israel is a small country filled with highly qualified people. (In fact, Israel’s citizens are the third-most educated in the world, after those in Canada and Japan!)

To ensure you give yourself a competitive edge, you’ll need to impress your prospective employer with your command of business Hebrew phrases. In this section, we’ll talk about how to introduce yourself, elaborate on your professional background, and respond to any questions the employer may have for you. 

Let’s have a look at some of the key words and phrases for nailing a job interview in Hebrew.

1. Introducing Yourself

Businesspeople Shaking Hands

You obviously want to start with a greeting. Here are the two most common ways to say hello in Hebrew.

a. שלום
Shalom
“Hello”

שלום (shalom), which literally means “peace,” is the most classic greeting in Hebrew. It also has the advantages of being appropriate in any situation, whether formal or informal, and not requiring any verb conjugations or gender-specific words. This makes it an easy-to-use greeting that will definitely be appropriate for your job interview.

b. היי
Hay
“Hi”

You can also use this less-formal greeting in a pinch. Next, let’s look at how to provide your name.

2. Self-Introduction

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, it’s customary to offer your name, and to ask for the other person’s name. We covered this topic in depth in our article about introductions, but here are the basic elements:

c. אני
Ani
“I [am]”

d. שמי
Shmi
“My name [is]”

e. השם שלי הוא
Ha-shem sheli hu
“My name is”

f. קוראים לי
Kor’im li
“I am called/named”

For example:

  • שלום, שמי דניאל.
    Shalom, shmi Dani’el.
    “Hello, my name is Daniel.”
  • היי, קוראים לי מישל.
    Hay, kor’im li Mishel.
    “Hi, I am named Michelle.”

Remember, none of these require any conjugation, so just practice until you memorize them, and you’re good to go!

3. Talking About Professional Experience

Different Occupations

There are some business terms in Hebrew that you should know to talk about your professional experience. These include key verbs and phrases to describe your studies, previous employment, and job duties. Let’s have a look.

a. למדתי
Lamadeti
“I studied/learned”

This is a very useful verb for describing things you’ve learned, whether at an institution of higher learning, on the job, or otherwise.

  • למדתי הנדסה חמש שנים.
    Lamadeti handasah khamesh shanim.
    I studied engineering for five years.”
  • למדתי עבודה בצוות בעבודה הקודמת שלי.
    Lamadeti avodah be-tzevet ba-avodah ha-kodemet sheli.
    I learned teamwork at my previous job.”
  • למדתי לתואר שני במנהל עסקים באוניברסיטת שיקגו.
    Lamadeti le-to’ar sheni be-minhal asakim be-universitat Shikago.
    I studied for my Masters degree in business management at the University of Chicago.”

b. יש לי
Yesh li
“I have”

You may have learned that Hebrew has no verb for “to have” and instead uses the form יש לי (yesh li), which is literally equivalent to, “There is/are to me.” We can use this phrase to describe experience, credentials, and more. Here are some examples:

  • יש לי תואר בחשבונאות.
    Yesh li to’ar be-kheshbona’ut.
    I have a degree in accounting.”
  • יש לי תעודה בתכנות JAVA.
    Yesh li te’udah be-tikhnut JAVA.
    I have a certificate in Java programming.”
  • יש לי הרבה ניסיון בשירות מול לקוחות.
    Yesh li harbeh nisayon be-sheyrut mul lekokhot.
    I have a lot of experience in customer service.”

c. התמחיתי ב ___.
Hitmakheti be ___.
“I specialized in ___.”

  • התמחיתי במיזוגים ורכישות בתפקיד הקודם שלי.
    Hitmakheyti be-mizugim ve-rekhishot ba-tafkid ha-kodem sheli.
    I specialized in mergers and acquisitions in my previous job.”
  • התמחיתי בפיתוח שווקים במסגרת התואר השני שלי.
    Hitmakheyti be-fitu’akh shvakim be-misgeret ha-to’ar ha-sheni sheli.
    I specialized in market development during my Master’s studies.”

4. Asking the Interviewer to Repeat His/Her Question

During the course of an interview, you may find yourself unsure of what you’ve been asked, or needing clarity for some other reason. In such a case, there’s nothing wrong with politely asking the interviewer to repeat a question. Let’s see how to do so.

  • האם תוכל/תוכלי לחזור על השאלה, בבקשה?
    Ha’im tukhal/tukhli lakhzor al ha-she’elah be-vakashah?
    “Could you repeat the question, please?”

5. Thanking the Interviewer for the Opportunity

Thank You Written Out

At the conclusion of a job interview, it’s considered polite—and therefore, in your interest—to thank the interviewer for taking the time to interview you and for the opportunity to present your candidacy for the position. Let’s see how to do that in Hebrew.

  • תודה על ההזדמנות.
    Todah al ha-hizdamnut.
    “Thank you for the opportunity.”

6. Closing the Interview

Lastly, it’s a good idea to express your enthusiasm for the job. Here are a couple of good ways to do so.

a. אשמח להיות בקשר.
Esmakh lihiot be-kesher.
“I look forward to being in touch.”

b. אני מְקַוֶּה/מְקַוָּה להיות בקשר.
Ani mekaveh/mekavah lehiyot be-kesher.
“I hope to be in touch.”

*Note the need to properly conjugate the last one, depending on your gender!

2. Interacting with Coworkers

Now, let’s assume you got the job you interviewed for, and are looking to build some rapport with your coworkers. In the following section, we’ll take a look at a number of important Hebrew business phrases for communicating with your colleagues.

1. Asking Someone’s Name

Girl with Question Mark Covering Face

The easiest way to ask for the other person’s name, assuming they haven’t shared it with you on their own (though many Israelis will give their name without needing to be asked), is to use the verb לקרוא (likro). This is the same form we just looked at for stating your own name, but this time we’ll be using it in question form.

The good news is that we only need to conjugate one word; in this case, it’s the second person pronoun “you.” Specifically, if we’re talking to a male, we ask, איך קוראים לְךָ? (Eich korim lekha?), while if speaking to a female, we ask, איך קוראים לָךְ? (Eich kor’im lakh?).

  • איך קוראים לְךָ/לָךְ?
    Eikh korim lekha/lakh?
    “What is your name?”

Here are some ways you could respond after getting their name.

a. נעים מאוד.
Naim me’od.
“Nice to meet you.”

b. נעים להכיר.
Na’im lehakir.
“Nice to meet you.”

2. Asking Others for Help

Hands Reaching Out

Especially if you’re new to a job, you may well find yourself in need of a bit of help, whether it’s to get the copier working or to find the nearest takeout joint for lunch. Here are the most common ways to ask for help. Pay attention to gender and how it changes the verb’s conjugation.

  • סליחה, האם תוכל/תוכלי לעזור לי?
    Slikha, ha’im tukhal/tukhli la’azor li?
    “Excuse me, could you possibly help me?”
  • סליחה, אפשר לבקש מִמְּךָ/מִמֵּךְ עזרה?
    Slikha, efshar levakesh mimkha/mimekh ezrah?
    “Excuse me, could I ask you for some help?”
  • סליחה, אפשר לשאול אוֹתְךָ/אוֹתָךְ שאלה?
    Slikha, efshar lish’ol otkha/otakh she’elah?
    “Excuse me, could I ask you a question?”

3. Apologizing

Woman Apologizing

Although obviously something you want to avoid, you may also find yourself in need of apologizing if, say, you jam up the printer or unwittingly take someone’s parking spot. Here are the most common phrases related to saying sorry in Israel, though keep in mind that Israelis aren’t typically very touchy about small stuff.

a. סליחה.
Slikha.
“Sorry.” / “Excuse me.”

b. אני מבקש/מבקשת סליחה.
Ani mevakesh/mevakeshet slikha.
“I have to apologize.”

c. עשיתי טעות.
Asiti ta’ut.
“I made a mistake.”

d. טעות שלי.
Ta’ut sheli.
Mea culpa. / “My bad.”

4. Saying Thank You

This one is pretty straightforward. There are certainly many situations in which you may find yourself wanting to say thank you. Let’s look at a number of constructs using the word תודה (todah), or “thanks.”

a. תודה על + noun
Todah al + noun
“Thanks for” + noun

  • תודה על העזרה.
    Todah al ha-ezrah.
    Thanks for the help.”
  • תודה על הטיפ.
    Todah al ha-tip.
    Thanks for the tip.”

b. תודה ש… + verb
Todah she… + verb
“Thanks for” + verb

  • תודה שעזרת לי.
    Todah she-azart li.
    Thanks for helping me.”
  • תודה שהראית לי איפה לחנות.
    Todah she-herayta li eyfoh likhnot.
    Thanks for showing me where to park.”

*Note the need to conjugate the verb with the correct gender and count here.

You can also intensify your thanks. Here are a few common ways to do so:

c. תודה רבה.
Todah rabah.
“Thank you very much.”

d. המון תודה.
Hamon todah.
“Thanks a ton.”

5. Inviting Coworkers Out After Work

If you’re looking for ways to form positive relationships with your coworkers, you should consider inviting them to join you in after-work activities. In this section, we’ll look at a couple of ways you can do this.

a. בא לְךָ/לָךְ לצאת אחרי העבודה?
Ba lekha/lakh latzet akharey ha-avodah?
“Do you feel like going out after work?”

b. אפשר להזמין אוֹתְךָ/אוֹתָךְ לצאת אחרי העבודה?
Efshar lehazmin otkha/otakh latzet akharey ha-avodah?
“Can I invite you to go out after work?”

3. Sounding Smart in Meetings

Many workplaces have meetings, and you may well be asked to participate in them. Therefore, it’s a good idea to equip yourself with some basic Hebrew for business meetings so you’re prepared to not only speak, but to impress, in such situations. Let’s have a look at a few key phrases that can help you sound smart in meetings.

1. Giving Your Opinion

Woman Speaking at Meeting

Let’s start with some phrases you can use to effectively express your opinions during a meeting.

a. אני חושב/חושבת ש ___.
Ani khoshev/khoshevet she ___.
“I think that ___.”

  • אני חושב שהמספרים לא משקפים את המציאות.
    Ani khoshev she-ha-misparim lo meshakfim et ha-metzi’ut.
    I think that the numbers do not reflect the reality.”
  • אני חושבת שדני צודק.
    Ani khoshevet she-Dani tzodek.
    I think that Danny is right.”

b. לדעתי ___.
Le-da’ati ___.
“In my opinion ___.”

  • לדעתי, אנחנו צריכים להשקיע בציוד חדש.
    Le-da’ati, anakhnu tzrikhim lehashki’a be-tziyud khadsh.
    In my opinion, we need to invest in new equipment.”
  • זה לא יהיה מספיק, לדעתי.
    Zeh lo yihiyeh maspik, le-da’ati.
    “That won’t suffice, in my opinion.”

c. אני סבור/סבורה ש ___.
Ani savur/svurah she ___.
“I am of the opinion that ___.”

  • אני סבורה שאנו מוכנים לפגישה עם הלקוח החדש.
    Ani svurah she-anu mukhanim la-pegishah im ha-lako’akh he-khadash.
    I am of the opinion that we are ready for the meeting with the new client.”
  • אני סבור שהדולר יתחזק.
    Ani savur she-ha-dolar yitkhazek.
    I am of the opinion that the dollar is going to strengthen.”

2. Making Suggestions

While making suggestions is a crucial part of business meeting engagement, in Israeli culture, it’s wise to make a polite suggestion rather than a blunt one; you don’t want to risk sounding too aggressive or condescending.

a. אני מציע/מציעה ש ___.
Ani metzi’a/metzi’ah she ___.
“I suggest that ___.”

  • אני מציעה שננסה מחדש.
    Ani metzi’ah she-nenaseh mekhadash.
    I suggest that we try again.”
  • אני מציע שנחכה עד לרבעון הבא.
    Ani metzi’a she-nekhakeh ad la-riv’on haba.
    I suggest that we wait until next quarter.”

b. הרעיון שלי הוא ___.
Ha-ra’ayon sheli hu ___.
“My idea is ___.”

  • הרעיון שלי הוא למכור רק למדינות אסייתיות בינתיים.
    Ha-ra’ayon sheli hu limkor rak le-medinot Asiyatiot beynatayim.
    My idea is to sell solely to Asian countries at the moment.”

3. Agreeing and Disagreeing

Woman Giving OK Sign

To successfully negotiate in a business meeting, you must know how to express that you agree or disagree with others. Note that in Hebrew, the structure for many opposing forms is the same, save for the absence or presence of the word לא (lo), meaning “no” / “not,” for negation. This is true for the first two phrases here.

a. אני (לא) מסכים/מסכימה.
Ani (lo) maskim/maskimah.
“I agree/disagree.”

  • אני לא מסכים שאנו צריכים מחשבים חדשים.
    Ani lo maskim she-anu tzrikhim makhshevim khadashim.
    I disagree that we need new computers.”
  • אני מסכימה שהגיע הזמן להיות יותר פרואקטיביים.
    Ani maskimah she-higi’a ha-zman lihiyot yoter proaktiviyim.
    I agree that the time has come to be more proactive.”

b. אני (לא) חושב/חושבת כמו ___.
Ani khoshev/khoshevet k’mo ___.
“I am of a like mind with ___.”

  • אני חושב כמו בני.
    Ani khoshev k’mo Beni.
    “I am of a like mind with Benny.”
  • אני חושבת כמו עמיתי לעבודה כאן.
    Ani khoshevet k’mo amiti la-avodah kan.
    “I am of a like mind with my coworker here.”

c. אני חולק/חולקת על דַּעְתְּךָ/דַּעְתֵּךְ.
Ani kholek/kholeket al da’etkha/da’etekh.
“I differ with you.”

*Note that the last form is a bit more formal and emphatic.

4. Responding to Others

To close this category, let’s look at some ways you can politely and professionally open a response to something another person said. These are a bit formal, especially in Israeli society where niceties are not terribly common. Nevertheless, when used correctly, they can effectively get people’s attention and lend an air of seriousness to your comments.

a. בנוגע למה ש ___ אמר/אמרה ___.
Be-noge’a le-mah she___ amar/amrah ___.
“Regarding what ___ said ___.”

  • בנוגע למה ששרון אמרה, אני חושב שיש לחכות קצת לפני שנשיק מוצרים חדשים.
    Be-noge’a le-mah she-Sharon amrah, ani khoshev she-yesh lekhakot ktzat lifney she-nashik motzarim khadashim.
    Regarding what Sharon said, I think we need to wait a bit before launching new products.”
  • בנוגע למה ששמוליק אמר, זה נדמה לי קצת מרחיק לכת.
    Be-noge’a le-mah she-Shmulik amar, zeh nidmeh li ktzat markhik lekhet.
    Regarding what Shmulik said, it strikes me as a bit far-fetched.”

b. הייתי רוֹצֶה/רוֹצָה להגיב למילים של ___.
Hayiti rotzeh/rotzah lehagiv la-d’varim shel ___.
“I would like to respond to ___’s comments.

  • הייתי רוצה להגיב לדברים של רם. אני חושבת שהוא צודק אבל יש עוד כמה נושאים רלוונטיים כאן.
    Hayiti rotzah lehagiv la-d’varim shel Ram. Ani khoshevet she-hu tzodek aval yesh od kamah nos’im relevantiyim kan.
    I would like to respond to Ram’s comments. I think he is right, but there are a few other relevant issues here.”
  • כמנהל המחלקה, הייתי רוצה להגיב לדברים של תומר ומיכל.
    Ke-menahel ha-makhlakah, hayiti rotzeh lehagiv la-d’varim shel Tomer ve-Mikhal.
    “As department head, I would like to respond to Tomer’s and Michal’s comments.”

c. התרשמתי ממה ש ___ אמר/אמרה.
Hitrashamti mi-mah she-amar/amrah ___.
“I was impressed by what ___ said.”

  • התרשמתי ממה שאמר דימה, ואני לגמרי בעד הרעיון שלו.
    Hitrashamti mi-mah she-amar Dimah, va-ani legamrey be’ad ha-ra’ayon shelo.
    I was impressed by what Dimah said, and I am completely in favor of his idea.”
  • למען האמת, די התרשמתי ממה שאסנת אמרה.
    Le-ma’an ha-emet, dey hitrashamti mi-mah she-Osnat amrah.
    “To be honest, I was pretty impressed by what Osnat said.”

4. Handling Business Phone Calls and Emails

Finally, we’re going to look at Hebrew business words and phrases for handling phone calls and emails, both of which are a part of many jobs. 

1. Business Phone Calls

Woman on Phone

a. Answering the phone

  • שלום, מדבר/מדברת ___.
    Shalom, medaber/medaberet ___.
    “Hello, this is ___ speaking.”
  • שלום, מדבר אלון רוט.
    Shalom, medaber Alon Rot.
    Hello, this is Alon Roth speaking.”
  • שלום, מדברת רוני אזולאי.
    Shalom, medaberet Roni Azulay.
    Hello, this is Roni Azulai speaking.”
  • הִגַּעְתָּ/הִגַּעְתְּ ל ___.
    Higata/Higa’t le/la ___.
    “You have reached ___.”
  • הִגַּעְתָּ למשרד של איתי ריבלין.
    Higata la-misrad shel Itay Rivlin.
    You have reached the office of Itai Rivlin.”
  • הִגַּעְתְּ למעבדת מיקרו-מק.
    Higat le-Ma’abadat Mikro-Mak.
    You have reached Micro Mac Laboratories.”

b. Offering to help

  • במה אוכל לעזור לְךָ/לָךְ?
    Ba-meh ukhal la’azor lekha/lakh?
    “How can I help you?”
  • לאן להעביר את שִׂיחָתְךָ/שִׂיחָתֵךְ?
    Le’an leha’avir et sikhatkha/sikhatekh?
    “How may I direct your call?”

c. Signing off

  • שמחתי לעזור.
    Samakhti la’azor.
    “I was happy to help.”
  • אנחנו נהיה בקשר.
    Anakhnu nihiyeh be-kesher.
    “We will be in touch.”
  • אל תהסס/תהססי להתקשר.
    Al tehases/tehasesi lehitkasher.
    “Don’t hesitate to call.”
  • אנחנו עומדים לְשֵׁרוּתְךָ/לְשֵׁרוּתֵךְ.
    Anakhnu omdim le-sherutkha/sherutekh.
    “We are at your service.”

2. Business Emails

Man Writing Email

The art of writing an effective business email, or any type of letter for that matter, is clearly a topic unto itself. It’s certainly a skillset worth developing, but a bit much to cover in today’s lesson. For today’s discussion, then, let’s limit ourselves to some key words and phrases you can use when drafting business emails.

a. לכל מאן דבעי
Le-khol man dab’i
“To Whom It May Concern”

b. אג”ן (אדון, גברת נכבדים)
AG”N (Adon, Geveret nekhbadim)
“Dear Mr./Mrs.”

c. בתגובה לְבַקָּשָׁתְךָ/לְבַקָּשָׁתֵךְ
Be-teguvah le-vakashatkha/le-vakashatekh
“In response to your request”

d. מצ”ב (מצורף בזה)
MTz”B (Metzoraf ba-zeh)
“Enclosed”

e. בברכה
Bi-vrakhah
“Sincerely”

f. נ”ב (נכתב בצד)
N”B (Nikhtav ba-tzad)
“P.S.”

5. Let HebrewPod101 Get You Ready for Business

We hope you enjoyed today’s lesson. It goes without saying that preparing yourself to do business and/or work in a foreign culture is a complex endeavor. However, with some essential vocabulary under your belt, you’ve already got the ball rolling. Practice these phrases, as well as any relevant grammatical or lexical points, and build the confidence you need to succeed working or doing business in Israel.

Is there a related topic we didn’t cover, or are you still unclear about something we did discuss? We at HebrewPod101 love hearing from you so that we can custom-tailor our lessons to your needs. Get in touch today, and let us know how we’re doing! In the meantime, Shalom!

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Top 10 Hebrew YouTube Channels for Your Hebrew Studies

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Feeling like you’ve lost some momentum in your Hebrew language studies? Or maybe you’re just looking to spice things up a bit? Along with Hebrew movies and TV shows, YouTube channels are one of the best ways to supplement your Hebrew learning while lightening the load on those gray cells. Indeed, watching Hebrew YouTube videos is a great way to expose yourself to authentic Hebrew spoken by native Israelis, while at the same time taking a break from the books.

There’s no doubt that HebrewPod101 is your best bet for a solid Hebrew foundation, offering you a wealth of resources to work on grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and idiomatic features of the language, including slang. In fact, all of our lessons are prepared and/or taught by native Hebrew speakers to ensure you get the real deal. We also give you access to a huge library of comprehensive and diverse materials, with both spoken and written lessons. And while one of our main goals is to ensure that your learning experience is fun and stress-free, we know that it’s only natural to want to mix things up now and again.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the top ten Hebrew YouTube channels for supplementing your Hebrew studies. When used in conjunction with HebrewPod101—including our own YouTube channel—this can be a fantastic way to absorb more vocabulary in context, while also exposing yourself to native Israeli culture and even humor. You’ll be amazed at just how much sinks in when you spend a bit of time immersing yourself in some videos in the Hebrew language. Just pick a channel that appeals to you, and try it out for yourself today!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. קומדי בר T.V. Komedi Bar T.V. (“Comedy Bar TV”)
  2. Sugar Zaza
  3. The WORD in HEBREW
  4. כאן חדשות Kan Khadashot (“News Here”)
  5. היהודים באים Ha-Yehudim Ba’im (“The Jews Are Coming”)
  6. טופ גיק “Top Geek”
  7. שרים קריוקי Sharim Kariyoki (“Singing Karaoke”)
  8. משרד החינוך Misrad ha-Khinukh (“The Ministry of Education”)
  9. האקדמיה ללשון העברית Ha-Akademiyah la-Lashon ha-Ivrit (“Academy of the Hebrew Language”)
  10. ערוץ הספורט ‘Arutz ha-Sport (“The Sports Channel”)
  11. Bonus: Learn Hebrew with HebrewPod101.com
  12. With HebrewPod101 as Your Foundation, YouTube Can Be a Fun and Useful Supplement

1. קומדי בר T.V.

Komedi Bar T.V. (“Comedy Bar TV”)

Standup Comedian

Category: Humor
Level: Advanced
Example video

What better way to take a break from serious studies than to enjoy a bit of humor? The American brand of Jewish humor, of course, is world-famous. One need only think of the likes of Woody Allen or Larry David, among a myriad list of others. Israeli comedy is also well worth checking out, though one should be forewarned that it does tend to be a bit more rough around the edges. This is easy to understand, considering the difficult life circumstances facing Israelis day to day. However, it’s surely the ability to laugh at even the darkest aspects of life that lends the Israeli people much of their unique vitality.

The YouTube channel Comedy Bar T.V. is dedicated to showcasing Israeli comedians with a variety of different styles of humor, both in stand-up performances and in sketches. The videos include Hebrew subtitles, so you can catch the often rapid-fire Hebrew they use in their bits. Even though it’s a challenge, as humor is prone to using language in quite complex ways, this channel is a great option if you need to take a break from serious studies while still improving your Hebrew (especially slang).

2. Sugar Zaza

Category: Reading in Hebrew
Level: Intermediate / Advanced
Example video

Woman Reading

This is another fun channel full of silly videos of all sorts. Though not exactly comedians, the channel’s hosts, Tom and Or, offer amusing videos on all manner of topics. Of particular interest for Hebrew learners are the videos in which they read books and other texts, sought out specifically for their humor or absurdity. This is a fun way to practice reading along with the text, which is displayed on the bottom of the screen while it’s read.

Another series on this channel that can be useful in building vocabulary and practicing pronunciation consists of videos called משחק הציורים הנוראי (Miskhak ha-Tziyurim ha-Nora’i), or “The Terrible Pictures Game.” This is basically a simplified game of Pictionary. These videos can strengthen your vocabulary for describing visuals, and they’re a lot of fun to watch and play along with! 

3. The WORD in HEBREW

Category: Bible / Religion
Level: Beginner
Example video

Bible Open to Book of Jonah

Would you like to throw in some Biblical Hebrew on top of your Modern Hebrew lessons? YouTube channel The WORD in HEBREW is a great place to do so. 

In the spirit of offering a variety of options for enrichment, this channel is for those who have any interest in supplementing their studies in modern Hebrew (what’s spoken in Israel today and the focus of HebrewPod101) with Biblical Hebrew, as well as the Mishnaic, Medieval, and later Hebrew of Rabbinic literature. It should be noted that these are very different languages from modern Hebrew, similar to how the English of Shakespeare’s time differs greatly from what’s spoken on the streets of London, Sydney, or New York today.

Whether you are religious or not, there’s an undeniably rich literature beginning with the Old Testament of the Bible (which is what Jews consider the entire Bible, excluding the New Testament), and progressing through centuries of liturgical writings. For those with curiosity vis-à-vis this literature, the channel’s host, Ayelet, presents Bible passages, prayers, and blessings, helping you pronounce and understand the texts in question in a friendly and patient manner. While not necessarily essential in mastering modern Hebrew, a basic knowledge of Biblical and religious Hebrew can certainly help, as much of this language is still encountered in expressions and phrases used even now.

4. כאן חדשות

Kan Khadashot (“News Here”)

Stack of Newspapers

Category: News and current affairs
Level: Intermediate / Advanced
Example video

One of the best ways to learn a foreign language is to use it to access topics that are of interest to you and/or about which you already have “top-down knowledge.” This can truly help to boost your morale, as you’ll be able to pick up more new vocabulary when watching videos on topics you already know something about (or want to know about). If you have any interest in news and current affairs, this Hebrew news YouTube channel may be of interest to you.

כאן חדשות offers a wide range of news-related videos, including numerous programs produced by the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation. Here, you can absorb yourself in current affairs, politics, cultural issues, and so on, with the advantage that most of the presenters speak with clear pronunciation and diction to facilitate your understanding.

5. היהודים באים

Ha-Yehudim Ba’im (“The Jews Are Coming”)

Biblical Scene

Category: Comedy / Satire / History / Culture
Level: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced
Example video

This is actually a specific program put out by the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation mentioned above. The show takes a comedic approach to Israeli and Jewish topics, both historic and current, presenting them in a humorous and often satirical light. The show is something like an Israeli take on Monty Python’s Flying Circus of yesteryear, mixing social and historical commentary with absolute tomfoolery.

For example, the show presents the story of the mass suicide at Masada via a military psychologist interviewing a Jew who does not want to commit suicide, arguing the logic of mass suicide with him in philosophical terms à la Catch 22. Another skit depicts King David, traditionally attributed as the author of Psalms, as a narcissist only interested in composing songs to his own glory.

While this brand of irreverent humor may not be for everyone, and some skits admittedly do push the envelope quite far, this is a fun channel to watch if you’re interested in picking up some Jewish and Israeli history or culture with a fat dose of laughter to go with it. English subtitles are available to help you along the way.

6. טופ גיק

“Top Geek”

Geek

Category: Entertainment / Popular and consumer culture
Level: Intermediate / Advanced
Example video

This Hebrew YouTube channel is a hodgepodge of videos on all sorts of topics related to popular/consumer culture and entertainment. To get an idea of the variety it offers, a glimpse at its Videos page will show you videos on must-have Android apps, a discussion on the top movie of the past decade, and a tour of NYC. There’s also a series called דברים שלמדתי היום (Dvarim she-Lamadeti ha-Yom), or “Things I Learned Today,” which covers a fairly random cross-section of curiosities on just about everything.

The channel has reviews for movies, shows, and products, unboxing clips, and basically an endless array of ways to waste your time—if not for the fact that you’ll be learning Hebrew vocabulary and working on your listening comprehension!

7. שרים קריוקי

Sharim Kariyoki (“Singing Karaoke”)

Woman Singing Karaoke

Category: Music/Karaoke
Level: Beginner
Example video

This one is pretty straightforward: a Hebrew-language karaoke channel. Here lies a trove of Hebrew songs on YouTube, prepared for karaoke singing with the Hebrew lyrics on the screen. Music has been proven to aid your memory, so take advantage and sing along with a song or two as you practice your pronunciation. You can even invite a friend to sing along with you and double the fun. It’s obviously best to acquaint yourself with the lyrics before jumping in.

8. משרד החינוך

Misrad ha-Khinukh (“The Ministry of Education”)

Graduate in Cap and Gown

Category: Education
Level: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced
Example video

This is the official channel of Israel’s Ministry of Education, and it contains a wealth of programming pertaining to and promoting education. Some of the material is about education in Israel, while other videos are for students (or made by them). Thus, one can find videos preparing high school students for exams, interviews with educators in different aspects of education in Israel, and student project videos submitted as part of their studies.

The variety offered on this channel, including in terms of student age, can help to facilitate learning based on your level. For instance, if you’re a beginner, you might well find it easy to listen to videos by or about younger students, as their vocabulary is going to be much more limited than, say, a lecture on pedagogical developments (though the latter may be of interest to you if you’re more advanced).

9. האקדמיה ללשון העברית

Ha-Akademiyah la-Lashon ha-Ivrit (“Academy of the Hebrew Language”)

Woman with Question Marks Above Head

Category: Education / Linguistics
Level: Intermediate / Advanced
Example video

This is the official YouTube channel of the Academy of the Hebrew Language, the formal body responsible for all matters of Hebrew lexicology, grammar, and linguistics in general. This is a bit heavier fare, but if you’re truly interested in finding more complex Hebrew lessons on YouTube, this channel is a wellspring of information. You can delve deeper into grammar or other linguistic issues you may have come across on HebrewPod101, or perhaps discover new themes that we haven’t covered.

For example, you can find videos of expert linguists discussing grammar questions, the differences between Hebrew and Yiddish, the issue of gender in Hebrew, and so on. It’s important to note, however, that the register here is fairly high-brow, and not necessarily representative of “street Hebrew,” just as the Oxford English Dictionary or the Chicago Style Manual may not be the best representatives of how spoken English normally sounds. Nevertheless, it’s important to have rules and order so that language can function and be taught, and that’s precisely what the Academy works toward.

10. ערוץ הספורט

‘Arutz ha-Sport (“The Sports Channel”)

Sports Medal

Category: Sports
Level: Intermediate / Advanced
Example video

Last but not least, for all of you sports fans, this YouTube channel covers a range of sports, from soccer to tennis to basketball, among many others. It covers Israeli leagues and events, as well as events and teams from the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere in the world, including full matches and sports commentary shows. You may be surprised to find that the NBA and, to a lesser extent, the NFL, are quite popular in Israel.

As mentioned earlier, a great way to reinforce your Hebrew while simultaneously giving yourself positive encouragement is to access Hebrew language materials that pertain to topics you enjoy and know about. So, if you know a lot about sports or are at all interested in them, watching the sports you like in Hebrew can help you learn new vocabulary specific to sports and improve your level of listening comprehension.

11. Bonus: Learn Hebrew with HebrewPod101.com

Girl Clicking YouTube Icon

Category: Education
Level: Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced
Example video

Let’s not forget the HebrewPod101 YouTube channel. Here you can find a vast array of video resources to support your Hebrew learning endeavors, with both audio and video lessons. Our channel is an exhaustive resource, taking you from your very first words in Hebrew to advanced topics like slang and cultural issues. Our lessons are taught solely by native speakers, and cover all four language skills: speaking, writing, listening, and reading.

Make sure to take advantage of our expert teaching methods and custom designed material to boost your Hebrew language skills in a fun, interesting, and effective way. We’re always adding new videos, so be sure to subscribe to our channel to keep up to date!

12. With HebrewPod101 as Your Foundation, YouTube Can Be a Fun and Useful Supplement

As you can see, there’s no shortage of Hebrew YouTube channels to speak to the interests and needs of all sorts of students. Whether you want to delve deeper into a grammar point covered in a HebrewPod101 lesson, expand your vocabulary in a specific area, or just have some laughs while enjoying Hebrew comedy, YouTube is definitely a great resource to supplement your studies with us.

Which Hebrew YouTube channel interests you the most? Let us know in the comments! 

Just remember that it’s important to strike a balance between education and entertainment if you’re serious about learning anything, Hebrew included. While we definitely encourage you to avail yourself of the vast media resources available online in general, and on YouTube in particular, a solid base of well-planned and organized lessons is your best bet for achieving success in your language learning objectives. And that is what we here at HebrewPod101.com are all about! 

Shalom!

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The Top 10 Ways to Say Goodbye in Hebrew

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Knowing how to say goodbye is a key skill in any language. In Hebrew, as in most languages, the way we say goodbye depends on a number of factors, such as the particular situation we’re in, the person or people we’re addressing, and the time of day. Just as it’s crucial to leave a good first impression by saying hello and introducing yourself, it’s equally important to leave a good last impression by taking your leave in a manner suitable to the circumstances. Farewells are precisely the opportunity to do so; correctly using Hebrew goodbye phrases will show that you’re sensitive to the nuances of the language and culture.

In this article, we’ll look at the top ten ways to say goodbye in Hebrew. We’ll cover day-to-day goodbyes, goodbyes for different times of day, and goodbyes to be used in specific situations. By the end of today’s lesson, you should be well-equipped to say adieu to Hebrew-speakers in a number of the most common everyday situations. Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE!(Logged-In Member Only)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Hebrew Table of Contents
  1. The Most Common Ways to Say Goodbye
  2. Saying Goodbye at Different Times of Day
  3. Ways of Saying Goodbye in Specific Situations
  4. Put Your Best Foot Forward with HebrewPod101

1. The Most Common Ways to Say Goodbye

Most Common Goodbyes

First, let’s have a look at the most common ways to say goodbye. Each word and phrase listed here is pretty versatile, though they do vary in terms of their respective levels of formality. One of the great things about these expressions is that you don’t need to conjugate or modify them depending on the person or people you’re talking to. Each one is ready to go as-is!

You’ll notice that the first Hebrew word for goodbye here is just taken à la carte from English. While it could be considered slang, it’s so commonly used by now (as is the greeting “Hi”) that you can use it in any casual setting without fear.

    1. ביי
    Bay
    “Bye”

As mentioned, this one is pretty much a catchall. Because this word is obviously “borrowed,” it’s important to note that Israelis pronounce it slightly differently than English-speakers do, elongating the diphthong (or mixed vowel sound). Also note that, in Hebrew, we use “bye” but not “goodbye.” For example:

    היה לי ממש כיף היום. ביי!
    Hayah li mamash keyf hayom. Bay!
    “I had a really good time today. Bye!”
    תודה שבאתם לבקר. ביי!
    Todah she-batem levaker. Bay!
    “Thanks for coming to visit. Bye!”
    2. להתראות
    Lehitra’ot
    “See you (later).”

When it comes to saying goodbye in Hebrew, lehitra’ot is perhaps the most common expression. It’s literally just the unconjugated (infinitive) reflexive verb that means “to see one another.” You can use it in pretty much any situation.

    שיהיה לכם יום נעים. להתראות!
    She-yihiyeh lakhem yom na’im. Lehitra’ot!
    “Have a nice day. See you!”
    להתראות! אל תשכח להתקשר.
    Lehitra’ot! Al tishkakh lehitkasher.
    “See you later! Don’t forget to call.”
    3. שלום, שלום
    Shalom shalom
    “Farewell.” (Literally: “Peace, peace.”)

This one is a bit more old-fashioned, and it’s more commonly used among older generations. However, it’s still a perfectly acceptable way of saying goodbye, even among younger folks, albeit a bit more formal. Note that we typically use a single “Shalom” for greeting and two for a farewell.

    תודה על הארוחה הטעימה, סבתא. שלום, שלום!
    Todah ‘al ha-arukhah ha-te’imah, Savtah. Shalom, shalom!
    “Thank you for the delicious meal, Grandma. Farewell!”
    שלום, שלום! ד”ש חמה להורים שלך.
    Shalom, shalom! Dash khamah la-horim shelkha.
    “Farewell! Warm regards to your parents.”

2. Saying Goodbye at Different Times of Day

Sundial

We can also say goodbye by referencing the time of day or night. Don’t get too caught up on the precise time of day here. Just keep in mind that, like in English, we generally have different greetings for people depending on whether it’s morning (before noon), afternoon (after noon, but while it’s still light out), evening (dark out, but still not very late), or night.

Also note that in some cases, there’s some variation between how we use time references in greetings versus how we use them in farewells. For example, we usually say בוקר טוב (Boker tov), or “Good morning,” as a form of salutation, but we don’t typically use it as a farewell. 

Below is an appropriate farewell to use any time in the morning (i.e. before noon).

    4. יום טוב
    Yom tov
    “[Have] a nice day.”
    תודה על הייעוץ, דוקטור. יום טוב!
    Todah ‘al ha-ye’utz, Doktor. Yom tov!
    “Thank you for the advice, Doctor. Have a nice day!”
    יום טוב לך, גבירתי. התחדשי על הכובע החדש.
    Yom tov lakh, gvirti. Hitkhadshi ‘al ha-kova’ he-khadash.
    “Have a nice day, ma’am. Enjoy the new hat.”

The next Hebrew goodbye is used in the afternoon (after twelve o’clock noon, but before it gets dark). Note that the word for “afternoon” is plural, and conjugated accordingly. So, the word “good” will be טובים (tovim), and not טוב (tov).

    5. צהריים טובים
    Tzohorayim tovim
    “[Have a] good afternoon.”
     תודה על הקפה. היה כיף לראות אותך, אבל אני חייב לחזור לעבודה. צהריים טובים!
    Todah ‘al ha-kafeh. Hayah keyf lir’ot otakh, aval ani khayav lakhzor la-’avodah. Tzohorayim tovim!
    “Thanks for the coffee. It was nice seeing you, but I have to get back to work. Have a good afternoon!”
    צהריים טובים. כבר אכלתם?
    Tzohorayim tovim. Kvar akhaltem?
    “Good afternoon. Did you eat yet?”

Once the sun starts going down, but before around nine or ten o’clock, we can use the following phrase to say goodbye.

    6. ערב טוב
    ‘Erev tov
    “[Have a] good evening.”
    נהיה כבר מאוחר ובעלי בטח מחכה לי בבית. ערב טוב!
    Neheyah kvar me’ukhar u-va’ali betakh mekhakeh li ba-bayit. ‘Erev tov!
    It’s late already, and my husband is surely waiting for me at home. Have a good evening!”
    ערב טוב. כנסו בבקשה, ארוחת הערב כבר מוכנה.
    ‘Erev tov. Kansu be-vakashah, arukhat ha-’erev kvar mukhanah.
    “Good evening. Please, come in. Dinner is ready.”

This last phrase should be reserved for the later hours of the day, typically after nine or ten o’clock.

    7. לילה טוב
      Laylah tov
      “Goodnight.”
    אני ממש עייף, אז אני אלך לישון. לילה טוב! נתראה בבוקר.
    Ani mamash ayef, az ani elekh lishon. Laylah tov! Nitra’eh ba-boker.
    “I’m really tired, so I’m going to go to bed. Goodnight! See you in the morning.”
    לילה טוב. היזהר בכבישים! יורד גשם.
    Laylah tov. Hizaher ba-kvishim! Yored geshem.
    “Goodnight. Be careful on the road. It’s raining.”

Ways of Saying Goodbye in Specific Situations

Shaking Hands at Business Meeting

For our final category, let’s look at some common ways of saying goodbye in Hebrew that are particular to specific situations. Be careful not to use these as liberally as those in our first category; you should only use them when the situation warrants it. It’s worth mentioning that there are many more condition-specific forms of goodbye than those listed here, but these are the most common ones.

The first farewell is used whenever we’re sending someone off on a journey. For example, when we’re taking someone to the airport to go on a trip to another country, or as that person is getting into their car to drive home.

Woman Waving from Train
    8. נסיעה טובה
    Nesi’ah tovah
    “[Have a] nice trip.”
    נסיעה טובה! אני מקווה שתהנו באמסטרדם!
    Nesi’ah tovah! Ani mekaveh she-tehanu be-Amsterdam!
    “Have a nice trip! I hope you have fun in Amsterdam!”
    רוץ מהר שלא יסעו בלעדיך. נסיעה טובה!
    Rutz maher she-lo yis’u bil’adekha. Nesi’ah tovah!
    “Hurry up now so they don’t leave without you. Have a nice trip!”

The next Hebrew goodbye is for the Sabbath, which, in Judaism, begins Friday at sundown and ends a little after sundown on Saturday (specifically when three stars are visible in the night sky). This is more or less the Jewish equivalent of “Have a nice weekend.” Note that we can use this one as a greeting or a farewell, with no changes. We should also point out that this phrase is not limited to religious speakers or communities, but rather, it’s used by all to refer to what in Israel is the day of rest, separate from the workweek. Incidentally, the Israeli workweek is six days, beginning on Sunday.

Sabbath Challah Bread
    9. שבת שלום
    Shabbat shalom
    “[Have a] peaceful Sabbath.”
    שבת שלום! אני מקווה שתנוחו אחרי שבוע ארוך של עבודה.
    Shabbat shalom! Ani mekavah she-tanukhu akharey shavu’ah arokh shel ‘avodah.
    “Have a peaceful Sabbath! I hope you rest after a long week of work.”
    שבת שלום לכל המשפחה. נתראה ביום ראשון.
    Shabbat shalom le-khol ha-mishpakhah. Nitra’eh be-Yom Rishon.
    “A peaceful Sabbath to all the family. See you on Sunday.”

Our last Hebrew goodbye is used on holidays, whether religious (e.g. Shavuot) or secular (e.g. Independence Day). As you’ll see in the two examples below, this can be used with or without specifying the particular holiday that’s being celebrated. Note that we don’t use this phrase on fast days or other solemn commemorative occasions, such as Yom Ha-Zikaron (Memorial Day).

Israeli Independence Day
    10. חג שמח
    Khag same’akh
    “Happy holidays.” / “Happy [specific holiday].”
    שתהיה לכם אחלה חופשת פסח בצרפת. חג שמח!
    She-tihiyeh lakhem akhlah khufshat Pesakh be-Tzarfat. Khag same’akh!
    “Have a great Passover break in France. Happy holidays!”
    חג פורים שמח! נתראה במסיבה.
    Khag Purim same’akh! Nitra’eh ba-mesibah.
    “Happy Purim! See you at the party.”

Put Your Best Foot Forward with HebrewPod101

Student with Books Waving Goodbye

We hope you’ve found this lesson helpful, and that you can see how important it is to be prepared for different situations and the specific phrases they call for. There are obviously many other forms of farewell in Hebrew, but you now have a fair cross-section of words and phrases to help you say goodbye in any situation. 

Is there a particular Hebrew goodbye phrase we didn’t cover that you would like to know? Unclear about one of the farewells we did cover? As always, we would love to hear from you with any questions or doubts you may have. Get in touch and let us know how we can help! That’s what we’re here for. 

In the meantime, lehitra’ot!

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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!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Hebrew

10 Common Mistakes in Learning Hebrew & How to Avoid Them

Thumbnail

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.

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