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Shira: All About Hebrew Lesson 3 – Painless Hebrew Grammar. [שלום] (Sha'lom) everyone. Welcome back to HebrewPod101.com. And congratulations to you on having the guts to click play on a grammar lesson.
Amir: The word grammar seems so [foreboding].
Shira: Yeah, a lot of us have grammar anxiety.
Amir: I know I do.
Shira: Fortunately, at HebrewPod101.com, we have developed a therapy for this.
Amir: Well, what we do is take all that grammar and simplify it for you.
Shira: Yes. We're going to prove it for you today with a grammar head start.
Amir: So let's get started.
Shira: Ok, first of all, we need to let you know the good news, which is that Hebrew is very similar to English. In other words, it's an SVO language, where the sentence is structured as Subject, Verb, Object. So if you are familiar with this basic structure, things will be easier for you.
Amir: Well nothing's that easy.
Shira: It doesn't stop there. Just as English has three basic tenses, past, present and future, so does Hebrew. The one big difference is that in Hebrew there are more conjugations of each verb.
Amir: Yeah. The verb must agree in both gender and number. Let's demonstrate what we're talking about by using the most basic kind of sentence.
Shira: In a normal Hebrew declarative sentence, the word order is the same as a normal English declarative sentence. Subject, verb, object.
Amir: So for example, [אני לומד עברית] (A'ni lo'med ivrit).
Shira: "I study Hebrew" is precisely the same as English. [אני] (A'ni) is "I," [לומד] (Lo'med) is "study" and [עברית] (Ivrit) is the word for "Hebrew." But that's the masculine form, I would say [אני לומדת עברית] (A'ni lo'medet ivrit).
Amir: Yes. In the present tense, the verb changes according to the subject. For example, when the subject is "I," the conjugation of the verb differs when the speaker is a man or a woman.
Shira: Ok, I guess here is where it gets a little more difficult than English.
Amir: It is, but in the present tense you only have to learn four forms of the verb conjugation. And Hebrew is very consistent, so you'll be able to apply those four forms to most other words.
Shira: Right. Hebrew doesn't have irregular verbs like in English.
Amir: There are verbs that are partially irregular, but they still follow the same pattern as the regular verbs.
Shira: That does make it easier.
Amir: It does. And because the sentence structure is the same as in English, it makes it easier to start speaking Hebrew. I mean think of all the things you'll be able to say right away. Let's see more examples. How about [אני שותה תה] (A'ni sho'te teh).
Shira: "I drink tea." Again, the same structure as in English. And I would say [אני שותה תה] (A'ni sho'ta teh).
Amir: And how about [אני מלמד עברית] (A'ni me'la'med ivrit), meaning "I teach Hebrew"?
Shira: That's a good one. My version is [אני מלמדת עברית] (A'ni me'la'medet ivrit). So you can see how easy it is to start speaking Hebrew. You can already make three sentences.
Amir: I love it.
Shira: Well, unfortunately we have to get negative.
Amir: What?
Shira: Negating verbs.
Amir: Ah, yes. Making sentences negative. Ok, this is easy too.
Shira: Yes. Throw that grammar book out the window.
Amir: Negation occurs before the verb and any prepositional phrase. And all we have to do is add our negation word there.
Shira: So, for the example we just had, you just add the negation word [לא] (lo) in front of the verb.
Amir: [אני לא לומד עברית] (A'ni lo lo'med ivrit)
Shira: Which means "I don't study Hebrew."
Amir: Ok, but we are studying Hebrew, so let's talk about something else.
Shira: How about everyone's favorite irregular verb, "to be."
Amir: Oh, this one is so easy in Hebrew. There's absolutely nothing to learn.
Shira: Well, at least in the present tense.
Amir: So let's start by saying "I am Israeli." [אני ישראלי] (A'ni is'ra'e'li)
Shira: Did you catch that. The literal translation of what Amir just said is "I Israeli."
Amir: That's correct. The verb "to be," [להיות] (Lihi'yot), doesn't exist in the present tense. You just put the sentence together like you normally would and leave the verb out.
Shira: That's not the only thing that can disappear in Hebrew. In the past and future tenses, personal pronouns are usually not present.
Amir: The subject of the sentence is understood through the verb conjugation. So unless you need specific information about the subject, using it would be redundant. Let's see our sentence that we used before, "I study Hebrew," to demonstrate this.
Shira: In the past, that sentence would be [למדתי עברית] (Lama'de'ti ivrit). "Studied Hebrew" are the only two words there. The subject "I" is in the conjugation of the verb.
Amir: The future of that would be [אלמד עברית] (El'mad ivrit). Once again, the "I" is in the verb conjugation.
Shira: So that gives you a little taste of what the past and future tenses sounds like. So moving on. Should we talk a little bit about the root system in Hebrew? It's very interesting.
Amir: Sure. Words in Hebrew are made up from three to four letter roots. The root gives the word its essence, and when the word is applied to a pattern, it determines the word's part of speech and its meaning.
Shira: This often comes in handy because even if you don't know a word, you can guess its meaning by the root letters. Let's give some examples of this.
Amir: A good example is the root [כ.ת.ב] (ka.ta.v). The verbs that come from this root are [כתב] (katav), meaning "to write," [נכתב] (Nikh'tav) meaning "to be written," [הכתיב] (Hikhtiv) meaning "to dictate" and [התכתב] (Hit'ka'tev) meaning "to correspond." The nouns, on the other hand, that come from the same root are [כתב] (Katav) meaning "handwriting," [כתיב] (Ktiv) meaning "spelling," [מכתב] (Mikh'tav) meaning "letter," and [הכתבה] (Hakhtava) meaning "dictation."
Shira: They're all related. And they all sound similar. That's brilliant.
Amir: Now that we've covered word roots, let's have a closer look at gender.
Shira: In English, some nouns are automatically thought of as masculine or feminine, such as king, boy, queen and girl. Everything else is referred to as it, such as pencil, dog and so forth.
Amir: In Hebrew, on the other hand, all nouns are assigned a gender. Some of them, like the words for "man" and "woman," have an obvious classification, while other nouns that are usually thought of as "it" in English are classified into one of these two categories in Hebrew. Here are some examples.
Amir: Masculine [ילד] (Yeled).
Shira: Boy.
Amir: [מלך] (Melekh)
Shira: King.
Amir: [עיגול] (I'gul)
Shira: Circle.
Amir: Feminine. [ילדה] (Yalda)
Shira: Girl.
Amir: [מלכה] (Malka)
Shira: Queen.
Amir: [מברשת] (Miv'reshet)
Shira: "Brush." So the question then becomes how do you determine a nouns gender?
Amir: The end of the word will give you some clues as to what gender the word is. If a noun ends in a [ת] (tav) or a [ה] (he'i), it's probably feminine. If it ends with any other letter, it's probably masculine.
Shira: Now we need to know how to make those words plural, because we don't just talk about one book or a book. Sometimes we have to talk about books, two books or many books.
Amir: Making a noun plural in Hebrew requires knowing its gender. Take a deep breath. It goes like this. For masculine nouns, you start with singular [ילד] (Yeled).
Shira: Meaning "boy."
Amir: Which becomes [ילדים] (Ye'la'dim).
Shira: "Boys" or "children."
Amir: Likewise, we have [מלך] (Melekh).
Shira: King.
Amir: Which becomes [מלכים] (Me'la'khim).
Shira: Kings.
Amir: Finally, [עיגול] (I'gul).
Shira: Meaning "circle."
Amir: Becomes [עיגולים] (I'gu'lim).
Shira: Circles.
Amir: Well done. So for feminine nouns we have [ילדה] (Yalda).
Shira: Meaning "girl."
Amir: Which becomes [ילדות] (Ye'la'dot).
Shira: Girls.
Amir: Similarly, we have [מלכה] (Malka).
Shira: Meaning "queen."
Amir: Which becomes [מלכות] (Mal'kot).
Shira: Queens.
Amir: And [מברשת] (Miv're'shet).
Shira: Meaning "brush."
Amir: Becomes [מברשות] (Miv'ra'shot).
Shira: Brushes.
Amir: With most masculine nouns, we simply add [ים] (Yod mem) to the end of the word. With most feminine nouns, we drop the [ה] (He'i) or the [ת] (tav) at the end and add [ות] (vav tav).
Shira: There's a special group of nouns we should mention – doubled nouns.
Amir: Right. Nouns that come in pairs have a special plural ending. [יים] (Yod yod mem)
Shira: For instance, if you take the word for "leg," [רגל] (Regel), it becomes [רגליים] (Ragla'im) in the plural.
Amir: And [נעל] (Na'al), "shoe."
Shira: Becomes [נעליים] (Na'ala'im).
Amir: And so forth. Now let's look at articles. "The" is the definite article in English. Well, in Hebrew the definite article is actually a prefix.
Shira: You just add [ה] (He'i) to the beginning of a word and voila, you have a definite article.
Amir: So adding a definite article to the nouns that we were just using would sound like this. [הילד] (Ha'yeled) meaning "the boy." [הילדה] (Ha'yalda) meaning "the girl." [הילדים] (Ha'ye'la'dim) meaning "the boys" or "the children."
Shira: There must be more than that, right?
Amir: Of course, we also have indefinite articles. The English ones are "a" and "an," depending on the vowel sound. The Hebrew ones are…
Shira: Don't tell me. They don't exist again, right?
Amir: That's right. They're just implied. When you say [ילד] (Yeled), it's understood that you're talking about "a boy."
Shira: Wow, you Israelis are all about saving your breath.
Amir: Exactly, it's pretty resourceful as a language.
Shira: We're missing a bit of color in our grammar study, don't you think? And by color I mean adjectives.
Amir: I agree. If you want to make your Hebrew more colorful, you can add adjectives.
Shira: Adjectives need to agree with a noun they're modifying both in gender and in number. Luckily they basically use the same endings as nouns do.
Amir: This is what our nouns sound like when we make them more colorful. Shira, would you like to do the honor?
Shira: Sure. Let's use the word [גדול] (Ga'dol), which means "big." The masculine singular is [ילד גדול] (Yeled Ga'dol) or "big boy."
Amir: The feminine singular is [ילדה גדולה] (Yalda gdo'la) or "big girl."
Shira: The masculine plural is [ילדים גדולים] (Ye'la'dim gdo'lim) which can mean either "big boys" or "big children."
Amir: The feminine plural is [ילדות גדולות] (Ye'la'dot gdolot) or "big girls."
Shira: The placement of the adjective is different from English. The adjective follows the noun instead of coming before it.
Amir: That wasn't so tough. Hebrew uses those four endings all throughout the language.
Shira: That was an enlightening shot of grammar.
Amir: We promised painless and I think we delivered.
Shira: Yeah. Remember that this is your head start on Hebrew grammar. Keep up with HebrewPod101.com for more lessons that will teach you Hebrew in a way you want to learn, painlessly.