Hebrew and Derived Stems

Posted: August 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

ImageThe following information comes  from Dr. Jason DeRouchie and Dr. Duane Garret in their book, A Modern Hebrew Grammar.

“There are seven main stems for the [Hebrew] verb (there are a few other unusual stems).  The Qal is the basic stem.  The other six, called derived stems, are Niphal, Piel, Pual, Hiphil, Hophal, and Hithpael…As a tree grows, its branches go off in different directions, but you could follow any branch back to the trunk and down to the root.  Analogously, a derived stem takes the root meaning of a word and moves it in a specific semantic direction with a specific meaning” (A Modern Hebrew Grammar, pg. 134).

As I move into trying to memorize the derived stem patterns (while not forgetting Qal patterns!!), I found this explanation to be very helpful in understanding what the different stems are doing.  DeRouchie and Garret go on to give brief, and general, explanations of each of the six derived stems.  I’ll note those below.

1. Niphal–can be either passive or reflexive.

2. Piel–active in meaning as opposed to passive.

3. Pual–this is the passive form of the Piel.

4. Hithpael–has a reflexive or reciprocal meaning.  Important to note is that reflexive means that the action of the verb comes back upon the subject.  Reciprocal would take the verb for “see” (you “saw” the test) and reciprocate the action.  Thus, (students saw the test and then looked at each other).

5. Hiphil–a causative verb.  I ate (Qal) or I caused you to eat (Hiphil).

6. Hophal–the passive form of the Hiphil.

There you have it.  The six derived stems that students of Hebrew are asked to know.  Although this little post may find few who are interested, simply taking the time to type it has helped me move closer to being able to read my Hebrew Bible.



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