Category Archives: Hebrew Grammar

Great tips for learning Hebrew grammar!

Why You NEED to Learn Hebrew Grammar — NOW!

Many people think that Hebrew grammar (and probably all grammar) is an annoying, boring pain to learn.

I know I used to think so!

It was not until after several years of serious Hebrew study that I finally figured out that Hebrew grammar was my friend.

In fact, grammar, especially Hebrew grammar, is the tool that helps one learn a language much more quickly.

How? Because with grammar you can learn many words every time you learn a single new vocabulary word.

Here is how it works:

When you know the rules of grammar you can take a new word you have learned and apply the grammar rules to it to figure out many other words that you have never even heard before.

In Hebrew you just need to figure out what the root (shoresh – שֹׁרֶשׁ) of a word is and then the grammar rules can usually be used to figure out dozens of new words. Sometimes over 100!

So how do you want to learn the language? One word at a time, or dozens of words at a time?

I know what my answer is.

When I finally figured out the amazing power of Hebrew grammar, I was excited by grammar instead of being bored by it. My new friend has treated me very well ever since. 🙂

And, by the way, if you want to know how to figure out what the shoresh is of a Hebrew word — it is easy! You just need to know Hebrew grammar!

The grammar rules in Hebrew are pretty complicated, but fortunately the language is very organized and there are relatively few “exceptions” compared to other languages.

So get to work! Make Hebrew grammar YOUR friend and see how much easier it is to progress in your Hebrew studies.

Click here fore some resources for learning Hebrew grammar.

Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Great Tips for Understanding the “Kamatz Katan”

If you are still learning Hebrew, you might be surprised to learn that the kamatz (the “ah” sound with a little stem in the middle) is sometimes pronounced “oh”. What gives?

What is happening is that there are really TWO kamatzim:

1) The kamatz gadol (“big kamatz”) pronounced “ah” in Modern Hebrew and normally just called “kamatz”;


2) The kamatz katan (“little kamatz”) pronounced “oh” in Modern Hebrew.

Unfortunately they are written the same in almost every printed text with a few notable exceptions.

So how do you know how to pronounce it??

The real answer (see below), unfortunately, is quite complicated.

So I will give you three answers, depending on your Hebrew level:


The simple answer is DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT except for a few common examples. The kamatz katan is quite unusual in Modern Hebrew so just say “ah” in all cases except for כָּל (all/every), חָכְמָה (wisdom), צָהֳרַיִם (noon) and any other case you may come across. If you make a mistake, you will be in good company and the listener will understand you without batting an eye.

In Biblical and ancient Hebrew the kamatz katan is much more common due to slight differences in the language. This is not a big issue for most people unless a) they pray in Hebrew using the common liturgical prayers and b) they use a Hebrew pronunciation which differentiates between the 2 kinds of kamatzim. (Modern Hebrew and some Sephardic pronunciations DO differentiate; most Ashkenazic pronunciations do NOT.) In that case get a siddur (prayerbook) that notes the difference, such as the Rinat Yisrael siddur.

#2: The next step: How to spot a kamatz katan:

Even though answer #1 above is sufficient for 99% of Hebrew learners, and worked for me for decades, I will give you a trick to help you spot a kamatz katan. WithOUT learning the complicated rules.

A bit of background: In Hebrew there are 10 vowels that come in 5 pairs. Modern Hebrew does not differentiate between the 2 vowels in each pair so that simplifies things. So, for example, the regular kamatz and the patach are both pronounced “ah”.

Historically, however, each vowel was pronounced differently and each pair consists of a “big” vowel and its corresponding “little” vowel, which is why there are two vowels in each pair in the first place. There is no difference in meaning between the two vowels of a pair. But each vowel of the pair is used in certain situations based on specific but complicated rules.

The cholom (the little dot vowel that says “oh”) and the kamatz katan are one of the 5 vowel pairs. The cholam is the “big” vowel and the “kamatz katan” is the little one in the pair. That is why it is called the kamatz katan, the “little kamatz”.

Basically a kamatz katan will be used when there should be a cholam but it has been made “smaller”.

So the trick is: If you see a word that you know is pronounced “oh” and/or that usually has a cholam and then you see it with a kamatz instead it is probably a kamatz katan.

To give you a common example already mentioned above:

The word כֹּל in Hebrew means “all” or “every”. For example “everything” is הַכֹּל.

But the word is written כָּל when it precedes another word that it modifies. For example, “all things” is כָּל דְּבָרִים. The two words here are a smichut (noun construct); they go together as a pair and that changes around the conditions for how to pronounce the first word in the pair. In this case, therefore, the vowel changes from the cholam in כֹּל to the kamatz katan in כָּל.

#3: The mostly-complete answer — for Hebrew teachers only!

The (mostly) complete answer can be found here:

Wikipedia: Almost everything you could possibly want to know about the Kamatz.

But that is a very technical discussion and assumes you understand other technical concepts related to Hebrew grammar. So I suggest you stick with answers #1 or #2 above.

Amazingly Simple and Useful Tricks for Speaking Hebrew

Here are 4 amazingly simple and useful Hebrew tricks that I teach my students to help them speak Hebrew, especially with verbs, probably the hardest part of the language:

These tricks are built on the fact that Israelis are used to people butchering Hebrew, especially with verbs. They are very tolerant of mistakes.

1) Just get the pronoun right. Israelis will assume you got the pronoun right if the verb conjugation doesn’t match it. Because pronouns are easier than verb conjugations.

2) For past/present/future tense you can gesture with your hands to show which you mean! (Try it.)

3) If you learn one verb conjugation you have the building blocks for ALL of them. The all have the same endings in the past tense, for example. Just learn one form well and adapt what you know to the others. Or fake it.

4) Stay cool, just get it close. But fast. Better to get it wrong and fast than than right and slow. Put the burden of figuring out what you mean on the listener. That is better than making him wait 15 seconds while you try to figure out a conjugation.

5) Bonus! Israelis will try to switch the conversation to English. Don’t take it personally. Apparently they think their English is better than it really is so it is natural for them to try to help out by switching. And they want to practice their English too. Just ignore them and keep speaking in Hebrew until they give up. 😉

NOTE: These tricks really work with Israelis, but be warned that non-Israeli Hebrew speakers are probably less patient than Israelis when listening to “bad” Hebrew. (Here “bad Hebrew” means “not as good as theirs”.) Ironic, no?