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Happy New Year in Hebrew Posted by on Jan 3, 2018 in Celebrations and Holidays, Grammar

Last September, Jews all over the world celebrated the Jewish New Year. They ate apple dipped in honey, they wore new clothes, went to the synagogue to listen to the blowing of the shofar, and greeted each other with Happy New Year שָׂנָה טוֺבָה (shana tova).

Shana Tova by Chany Crystal from Flickr.com is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Academy of the Hebrew Language – an institution with legislated authority to study, guard, and guide the development of the Hebrew language – posted a New Year greeting on its website. The content of the Academy’s new year wish fits the Georgian New Year as well, but the terminology they chose is quite interesting; they posted a funny greeting with a Hebrew grammar vocabulary twist.


אָנוּ מְאַחֲלׅים לָכֶם שָׁנָה רַבַּת פְּעָלׅים שֶׁל בִּנְיָן וַעֲשִׂיָּה בְּכָל נוֹשֵׂא שֶׁתּׅרְצוּ.

We wish you a year full of achievements in any aspect you wish for.

The first word in bold is the noun פְּעָלׅים, plural of פּוֺעַל. The word פּוֺעַל means an “activity” or “effort” or “achievement”; and will usually be used in formal language. For example, in an appreciation letter: בְּהוֺקָרָה עַל פָּעַלְךָ (in appreciation of your work). Another example is the adjective mentioned in the greeting above: שָׁנָה רַבַּת פְּעָלׅים (a year full of achievements). The adjective רַב פְּעָלׅים can be used to describe people as well: אׅישׁ רַב פְּעָלׅים (an active person who does a lot). But in Hebrew linguistics, פּוֺעַל is a basic term means “verb”. For example:

נׅיתָן לְהַטוֺת כָּל פּוֺעַל בְּעׅבְרׅית.

Every verb in Hebrew can be conjugated.

הַיּוֹם אֲנִי אַחֲזוֺר עַל כּוֺל הַפְּעָלׅים בְּעׅבְרׅית שֶׁאֲנִי כְּבָר מַכּׅיר.

Today I’ll review all the Hebrew verbs I already know.

רְשׁׅימָה שֶׁל פְּעָלׅים חֲדָשׁׅים בְּעׅבְרׅית.

A list of new verbs in Hebrew.

מָחָר אֶלְמַד חֲמִשָּה פְּעָלׅים חֲדָשׁׅים בְּעׅבְרׅית.

Tomorrow I’ll learn five new verbs in Hebrew.

The second word in bold is בִּנְיָן, a common noun in spoken Hebrew means “building”. For example: זֶה בִּנְיָן יָפֶה (it’s a nice building); הַבִּנְיָן שֶׁאֲנׅי גָּר בּוֺ הוּא דֵּי קָטָן (the building I live in is pretty small); הֵם קָנוּ דּׅירָה בְּבִּנְיָן יָשָׁן (they bought an apartment in an old building); etc. In the New Year greeting above the word בִּנְיָן functions as verbal noun meaning “building” or “construction”. In the grammar field, the word בִּנְיָן has another meaning of verbal stem. There are plenty roots in Hebrew, and the verbal stems are the patterns that shape them into actual words. The verbal stem is the construction of the root. For example:

בַּשָּׂפָה הָעׅבְרׅית יֵשׁ שִׁבְעָה בּׅנְיָנׅים.

There are seven verbal stems in the Hebrew Language.

בּׅנְיָנֵי הַשָּׂפָה הָעׅבְרׅית הֵם: הִפְעִיל, הֻפְעַל, נִפְעַל, פָּעַל, פִּעֵל, פֻּעַל וְהִתְפַּעֵל.

The Hebrew verbal stems are: hif`il, huf`al, nif`al, pa`al, pi`el, pu`al, it`pa`el.

כְּדֵי לׅיצוֺר פּוֺעַל בַּשָּׂפָה הָעׅבְרׅית מְשַׁבֵּצׅים אֶת הַשּׁוֺרֶשׁ בְּתוֺךְ הַבִּנְיָן.

To create a verb in Hebrew you need to set a root into the verbal stem.

לְדוּגְמָה, הַשּׁוֺרֶשׁ כ-ת-ב בְּבִּנְיָן פָּעַל יוֺצֵר אֶת הַמּׅילָה כָּתַב.

The root k-t-v, for example, in the verbal stem pa`al creates the word katav (means “wrote”).

The third word in bold in this line is נוֹשֵׂא. The word נוֹשֵׂא is a useful noun to know in Hebrew. It means “topic” or “issue” or “theme”. For example: נוֹשֵׂא is the composition’s theme; נוֹשֵׂא is the lecture’s topic; נוֹשֵׂא is the conversation’s matter; נוֹשֵׂא is the article’s issue. But נוֹשֵׂא is also a grammatical word, belonging to the syntax field, and means “subject”. נוֹשֵׂא is a term that indicates the syntactic status of a word that is described by the predicate. The נוֹשֵׂא is the element – person or thing – about whom the sentence discusses. For example:

בְּמׅשְׁפַּט פָּעֳלִי בְּעׅבְרׅית קַל לְזָהוֺת אֶת הַנוֹשֵׂא כְּמׅי שֶׁמְּבַצֵּע אֶת הַפְּעוּלָּה.

In a Hebrew verbal sentence, it’s easy to find the subject as the one who is carrying out the act.

לְמָשָׁל, בַּמּׅשְׁפַּט “הַיֶּלֶד אָכַל תַּפּוּחַ” הַיֶּלֶד הוּא הַנוֹשֵׂא.

For example, in the sentence ‟the boy ate an apple” the boy is the subject.

בְּמׅשְׁפַּט סָבִיל בְּעׅבְרׅית מְבַצֵּע הַפְּעוּלָּה אֵינוֺ הַנוֹשֵׂא.

In a Hebrew passive sentence the person carrying out the act is not the subject.


שֶׁתּׅהֱיוּ בּׅסְמׅיכוּת לַאֲנָשִׁים היְקָרׅים לָכֶם, ושֶׁתָּשׂׅימוּ אֶת הַדָּגֵשׁ בְּמָה שֶׁחָשׁוּב בֶּאֱמֶת.

May you be close to your loved ones, and put the stress in what really important.

The first word in bold in this line is ּסְמׅיכוּת. The noun סְמׅיכוּת is rarely used in daily spoken Hebrew. It’s a formal word meaning “proximity”, and it can refer to time, location, numbers etc. It could appear in formal sentences like:  הַבִּנְיָן נִמְצָא בּׅסְמׅיכוּת לְבֵּית הָעִירִיָּה(the building is in proximity to the city hall). Or for example, in sentence like: סְמׅיכוּת הָאֵרוּעׅים הׅקְשְׁתָה עֲלָיו (the proximity of the events made it difficult for him). In Hebrew linguistics, the word סְמׅיכוּת is very common and means “construct state”. סְמׅיכוּת is a phrase of two nouns that connect to each other. For example: the president’s house, the evening news, a school yard, an autumn smell, etc. סְמׅיכוּת is a way to describe a noun and characterize it. For example:

סְמׅיכוּת הׅיא צֵירוּף שֶׁל שְׁנֵי שֵׁמוֺת עֶצֶם.

Construct state is a phrase of two nouns.

הַשֵּׁם הָרִאשׁוֹן בְּצֵירוּף סְמׅיכוּת נׅקְרָא נִסְמָךְ וְהַשֵּׁם הַשֵּׁנׅי נׅקְרָא סוֹמֵךְ.

The first noun in the construct state is called nis`mach, ans the second noun is called so`mech.

הַסְּמׅיכוּתַ נֵרוֺת שַׁבָּת מְתָאֶרֶת אֶת הַנֵּרוֺת.

The construct state Shabbat candles describes the candles.

The second word in bold is דָּגֵשׁ. דָּגֵשׁ is a noun meaning “emphasis” or “stress”. For example: לַמָּעֳמָד הֶחָדָשׁ יֵשׁ דְּגֵשׁׅים חֲדָשׁׅים (the new candidate has new emphasises); בֶּעָבָר הַדָּגֵשׁ שֶׁלׅי הָיָה עַל הֶישֵּׂגׅים, הַיּוֺם אֲנׅי מַעְדׅיף שַׁלְוָה (in the past, my emphasis was on achievments, today I prefer peace). The verbs that precede the noun are to put (לָשׂׅים) or to place (לְהָנׅיחַ). To avoid the use of verb+object you can simply use the verb to emphasize (לְהַדְגׅישׁ). For example:  לְהַדְגׅישׁ אֶת הַצּוֺרֶךְ (to emphasize the need), לְהַדְגׅישׁ אֶת הַמֶּסֶר (to highlight the messege). In Hebrew linguistic, דָּגֵשׁ is a diactric dot within a letter, used to stress the letter and modify the sound of it. For example:

דָּגֵשׁ הוּא נְקוּדָה בְּמֶרְכָּז הָאוֺת.

Emphasis dot is a dot in the center of the letter.

הַדָּגֵשׁ מַדְגּׅישׂ אֶת הֲגׅיַּית הָאוֺת.

The emphasis dot emphasizes the pronunciation of the letter.

הָהֲגִיָּה שֶׁל הָאוֺת ב רָפָה, וְאׅילּוּ הָהֲגִיָּה שֶׁל הָאוֺת בּ חָזְקָה.

The pronunciation of the letter ב is soft, while the pronunciation of the letter בּ is strong.


I exploit this festive opportunity to introduce you some of the Hebrew linguistic terms. They maybe not that useful in daily language, but they will probably help you at your Hebrew learning. Verbs, subjects, verbal stems and construct state have important rule in Hebrew grammar. Identifying them and the emphasis dot will imporve your pronunciation and your ability to make full correct sentences in Hebrew. If you have any questions feel free to leave me a comment.

שָׂנָה טוֺבָה!

Happy New Year!

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