Grammar of Biblical Hebrew

by Wolfgang Schneider (Author)
©2016 Monographs XIV, 276 Pages
Series: Studies in Biblical Hebrew, Volume 1


Although Wolfgang Schneider’s Grammatik des biblischen Hebräisch: Ein Lehrbuch serves primarily as an introductory textbook to biblical Hebrew, it makes an invaluable contribution to the text-linguistic study of Hebrew Bible. Schneider’s understanding of narrative syntax and discourse linguistics continues to influence such grammarians as Niccacci and Talstra, through whom his work is validated. His discussion of clauses and text syntax remains pertinent to Hebrew students and professors alike. With this English translation, Schneider’s work may now make a worldwide contribution to biblical studies by clarifying for the student the contribution of text grammar to the reading of the biblical text.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • From the Foreword to the First Edition
  • Part I Elements Speaking—Writing—Reading 01–10
  • 01 Consonants
  • 01.1 General Comments
  • 01.2 Writing
  • 01.3 Groups of Sounds
  • 02 Vowels
  • 02.1 Existence
  • 02.2 Vowel Changes
  • 03 Vowel Signs
  • 03.1 Vowel Letters
  • 03.2 The Tiberian Punctuation
  • 04 The Schwa-Sign
  • 04.1 Signs for Half-Vowels
  • 04.2 Signs for Vowellessness
  • 04.3 Differentiation of Schwa Mobile and Schwa Quiescens
  • 05 Signs of Articulation
  • 05.1 Mappíq
  • 05.2 Dagesch
  • 06 Accent Signs
  • 06.1 Méteg
  • 06.2 Maqqéf
  • 06.3 Accents
  • 07 Masoretic Notes on the Text of the Bible
  • 07.1 Ketíb and Qeré
  • 07.2 Qeré perpetuum
  • 07.3 Further Notes
  • 08 Character and Vocalization of Syllables
  • 08.1 Basic Rules
  • 08.2 Open Syllables
  • 08.3 Closed Syllables
  • 08.4 On the Right Reading of the Qamets
  • 09 Gutturals and Resch
  • 09.1 Disappearance of Vowels
  • 09.2 Doubling
  • 09.3 End of a Syllable
  • 09.4 Further Special Features
  • 10 Accent and Vocalization in Words with Changeable Vowels
  • 10.1 Tone Syllable and Pre-Tone Syllable
  • 10.2 Unaccented Syllable before the Pre-Tone Syllable
  • 10.3 Construct State
  • 10.4 Rule of Thumb
  • 10.5 Special Places of Stress
  • Part II Forms Particles 11–15, Nominals 16–23, Verbs 24–43
  • 11 Pronouns
  • 11.1 Overview
  • 11.2 Personal Pronouns
  • 11.3 Suffixes
  • 11.4 Demonstrative Pronouns
  • 11.5 The Personal Pronoun as Demonstrative Pronoun
  • 12 Noun Companions
  • 12.1 Article
  • 12.2 Prepositions with Regular Suffix Forms
  • 12.3 The Prepositions כ ל ב
  • 12.4 Particles with Irregular Suffix Forms
  • 12.5 Prepositions with Apparent Plural Forms
  • 12.6 Compound Prepositions
  • 13 Clause Introducers
  • 13.1 The Conjunction ו (Waw copulativum)
  • 13.2 Relative Particle שֶׁ (Schin prefix)
  • 13.3 Interrogative Particle הֲ (He interrogativum)
  • 13.4 Interrogative Pronouns
  • 14 Clause-Forming Particles
  • 14.1 Existence
  • 14.2 Overview
  • 15 Overview of the Proclitic Particles
  • 15.1 Prepositions and ו
  • 15.2 Article and He interrogativum
  • 16 Forms of the Noun
  • 16.1 State
  • 16.2 Number and Gender
  • 16.3 He Locale and Relatives
  • 17 Suffixes on Nominals
  • 17.1 Suffixes on the Singular
  • 17.2 Suffixes on Dual and Plural
  • 18 Nominals with Helping Vowels (Segolata)
  • 18.1 Basic Form and Helping Vowels
  • 18.2 Formation of Forms
  • 18.3 Segolata with Waw or Jod as the 2nd Radical
  • 18.4 Segolata with Waw or Jod as the 3rd Radical
  • 19 Nominals with Final ä
  • 20 Nominals with Double End Consonants
  • 21 Nominals Formed Irregularly
  • 21.1 Relationships
  • 21.2 Man and Woman
  • 21.3 Irregular Singular Forms
  • 21.4 Apparent Dual Forms
  • 21.5 Irregular Plural Forms
  • 22 Numbers
  • 22.1 Cardinal Numbers from 1 to 20
  • 22.2 Tens, Hundreds, Thousands
  • 22.3 Ordinal Numbers from 1 to 10
  • 23 Settled Rules for Nominal Forms
  • 23.1 Characteristics
  • 23.2 The Vowels of the Lexical Form
  • 24 Verbs: General Comments on Formation
  • 24.1 Terms
  • 24.2 Existence of Forms
  • 24.3 Strong and Weak Verbs
  • 24.4 Ways of Citing
  • 25 The Forms of the Preformative Conjugation
  • 25.1 Use
  • 25.2 Formation
  • 25.3 The Forms in the Base Stem (Qal)
  • 25.4 Imperfect Consecutive or Narrativ
  • 26 Further Personal Forms of the Imperfect Class
  • 26.1 Imperative
  • 26.2 Modi
  • 27 The Forms of the Afformative Conjugation
  • 27.1 Use
  • 27.2 Formation
  • 27.3 The Forms in the Basic Stem (Qal)
  • 27.4 The Perfect Consecutive
  • 28 Nominal Forms of the Verb
  • 28.1 Infinitives
  • 28.2 Participles
  • 29 The Derived Stems of the Verb
  • 29.1 Function
  • 29.2 Overview
  • 29.3 The Names of the Stems
  • 29.4 The Meanings of the Stems
  • 30 The Forms of the Nif‘al
  • 30.1 Overview
  • 30.2 Afformative Conjugation
  • 30.3 Preformative Conjugation
  • 30.4 Nominal Forms
  • 31 The Forms of the Doubled Stems
  • 31.1 Overview
  • 31.2 Common Features
  • 31.3 Pi‘el
  • 31.4 Pu‘al
  • 31.5 Hithpa‘el
  • 32 The Forms of the Causative Stems
  • 32.1 Overview
  • 32.2 Hif‘il
  • 32.3 Hof‘al
  • 32.4 Analytical Features of All the Stems
  • 33 Verb Forms with Suffixes
  • 33.1 Use
  • 33.2 Forms
  • 33.3 Suffixes on Nominal Forms
  • 34 Strong Verbs with Gutturals
  • 34.1 General Comments
  • 34.2 Verbs with a Guttural as the 1st Radical (Verben primae gutturalis)
  • 34.3 Verbs with a Guttural as the 2nd Radical (Verben mediae gutturalis)
  • 34.4 Verbs with a Guttural as the 3rd Radical (Verben tertiae gutturalis)
  • 35 Weak Verbs with Alef as the 1st Radical (פ״א verbs)
  • 35.1 Existence
  • 35.2 Forms
  • 36 Weak Verbs with Nun as the 1st Radical (פ״נ Verbs)
  • 36.1 Forms with Assimilation
  • 36.2 Tables of the Qal PC
  • 36.3 Weak Imperatives and Infinitives
  • 36.4 The Verbs נתן, לקח and Doubly Weak Verbs
  • 37 Weak Verbs with Jod as the 1st Radical (פ״י Verbs)
  • 37.1 Weak Forms with i in the Preformative (Qal Imperfect)
  • 37.2 Weak Forms with e in the Preformative (Hif‘il)
  • 38 Weak Verbs with Original Waw as the 1st Radical (פ״ו Verbs)
  • 38.1 Qal Forms—Overview
  • 38.2 Qal Forms
  • 38.3 Forms with o or u in the Open Preformative Syllable (Forms of the Nif‘al, Hif‘il, and Hof‘al) and Forms with Sharpened Preformative Syllable
  • 38.4 Verbs with Special Features
  • 39 Weak Verbs with Final Vowel (ל״ה Verbs)
  • 39.1 General Comments
  • 39.2 Weak Forms
  • 39.3 Short Forms
  • 39.4 Verbs with Gutturals
  • 39.5 Tabular Overview of 39.2–4
  • 39.6 Verbs with Special Characteristics
  • 39.7 Doubly Weak Verbs
  • 40 Weak Verbs with Final Vowel (ל״א Verbs)
  • 40.1 Weak Forms
  • 40.2 Tables of the ל״א Qal Forms
  • 41 Two Radical Verbs with Long Vowel (Hollow Roots or ע״וי Verbs)
  • 41.1 General Comments
  • 41.2 Weak Forms without Preformative (Qal)
  • 41.3 Weak Forms with Long a in the Open Preformative Syllable (Qal and Hif‘il PC)
  • 41.4 Weak Forms with Long e in the Open Preformative Syllable (Hif‘il AC)
  • 41.5 Weak Forms with Open Preformative Syllable: Nif‘al and Hof‘al
  • 41.6 Weak Forms with Strengthened Preformative Syllable (Nif‘al PC and Aramaized Forms)
  • 41.7 Doubled Stems
  • 41.8 Verbs with Special Characteristics
  • 41.9 Verbs with Gutturals
  • 42 Two Radical Verbs with Short Vowel (So-Called ע״ע Verbs)
  • 42.1 General Comments
  • 42.2 Features of the Weak Forms
  • 42.3 Weak Forms without a Preformative (Qal Perfect and Imperative/Infinitive)
  • 42.4 Weak Forms with a in the Open Preformative Syllable (PC Qal and Hif‘il, AC Nif‘al)
  • 42.5 Weak Forms with e in the Open Preformative Syllable (PC Qal and AC Hif‘il)
  • 42.6 Weak Forms with u in the Open Preformative Syllable (Hof‘al)
  • 42.7 Weak Forms with Strengthened Preformative Syllable (PC Nif‘al and Aramaized Forms)
  • 42.8 Doubled Stems
  • 42.9 Verbs with Gutturals
  • 43 Features for the Analysis of Weak Verb Forms
  • 43.1 Forms with Strengthened Preformative Syllable
  • 43.2 Forms with Preformative
  • 43.3 Forms without Preformative
  • Part III Texts Clauses And Parts Of Clauses 44–51, Text Syntax 52–54
  • 44 Types of Clauses
  • 44.1 Classification
  • 44.2 The Function of the Clause Types in the Text
  • 44.3 Clause Construction in the Nominal Clause (NC)
  • 44.4 Clause Construction in the Compound Nominal Clause (CNC)
  • 44.5 Clause Construction in the Verbal Clause (VC)
  • 44.6 Congruence
  • 45 Nominal Groups: Construct Connections
  • 45.1 Function
  • 45.2 Definiteness
  • 45.3 Extensions
  • 45.4 Possibilities of Translation
  • 45.5 Construct Connections with Prepositions and Clauses
  • 46 Nominal Groups—Appositions
  • 46.1 Function
  • 46.2 Concerning Translation
  • 46.3 Adjectival Attributes
  • 47 Other Nominal Groups
  • 47.1 Prepositional Attributes
  • 47.2 Nominal Groups with Numerals
  • 48 The Verbal Part of the Clause—Tenses
  • 48.1 Existence and Distribution of Tense Forms
  • 48.2 The Tenses in Narrative Texts
  • 48.3 The Tenses in Discourse Texts
  • 48.4 Tense Transitions: Narrative to Dialogue
  • 48.5 Tense Transitions: Foreign Tenses in Narratives
  • 48.6 Tense Transitions: Discourse Story Telling
  • 48.7 Tense Transitions: Narrative Tense in Speech Context
  • 48.8 The Imperative as Tense
  • 48.9 Overview
  • 49 The Verbal Part of the Clause—Verbal Nominals
  • 49.1 Participles
  • 49.2 Infinitive Absolute
  • 49.3 Infinitive (Infinitivus constructus)
  • 50 Extensions of the Verbal Part of the Clause
  • 50.1 Objects
  • 50.2 Adverbial Substantives
  • 50.3 Prepositional Additions
  • 50.4 Infinitive Absolute (Infinitivus absolutus)
  • 50.5 Infinitive (construct) and Finitive Forms of Relative Verbs
  • 51 Description of the Statement of Intent (Mood)
  • 51.1 Strengthening
  • 51.2 Negation
  • 51.3 Questions
  • 51.4 Wish—Intent—Request
  • 52 Orientation in the Meaning Structure of Texts—References in the Text
  • 52.1 References
  • 52.2 The Levels of Meaning of a Text
  • 52.3 Backward (anaphoric) Referencing Elements
  • 52.4 Elements Referenced (deictically) on the Speech Situation
  • 52.5 The Article as a Referencing Sign
  • 52.6 Forward (kataphoric) Referencing Elements
  • 52.7 Analysis of a Text
  • 53 Orientation in the Meaning Structure of Texts—Organizing Particles
  • 53.1 The Conjunction וְ (waw copulativum)
  • 53.2 The Introductory Formulas וַיְהִי and וְהָיָה
  • 53.3 The Particle כִּי
  • 53.4 The Particle אֲשֶׁר
  • 53.5 The Particle אִם
  • 54 Orientation in the Meaning Structure of Texts—Macrosyntactical Signals
  • 54.1 Opening Signals and Transition Signals in Dialogue
  • 54.2 Beginnings of Narratives
  • 54.3 Transition Signals in Narratives
  • 54.4 Conclusion Signals
  • Topical Index
  • Index of Hebrew Letters and Words
  • Index of Scripture Passages
  • Series index

| xiii →


Hebrew is nothing special. Even though an amazing and miraculous history was told by it, Hebrew is a normal language of normal humans. To study and describe their grammar means to get on the trail of the regularity upon which humans have settled when they communicate with one another in their native tongue. And in Hebrew these are hardly different than in other languages.

I have studied this for many years as a Hebrew teacher, and I have tried to orient my textbook from 1973 logically with a view to this.

The morphology has thus been adjusted for only those things that serve for instructions regarding the independent shape of forms. Features of form and syntax, which help with analysis, stand in the foreground. Likewise, the grammar now contains more detailed tables of forms, but not for learning by heart, rather as visual aids and material for comparison. Many “exceptions” remain unmentioned or are marked (in footnotes) as rarities.

I have preserved the text-grammatical approach in the syntax. It should not fall victim to the polemic. On the contrary, I have only been confirmed through a serious discussion that started approximately 10 years after the writing of the grammar. Above all, Alviero Niccacci, as well as Eep Talstra and members of the Societas Hebraica Amstelodamensis, have picked up and continued my proposals so that I can present this today much better, simpler, and clearer.

In principle (ignoring minor details) it was not changed in structure and paragraph enumeration; at the same time one can use the book in the future with the book of exercises, Debarim.

Mönchengladback, February 2001

| xv →

From the Foreword to the First Edition

This grammar is a textbook. This does not mean that one can use it for teaching Hebrew continuously from § 1 to § 54 or that it should in general be regarded as the sole object of instruction. It only means, on the one hand, that the presentation strives for less than completeness, on the other hand, it is intent on the greatest possible comprehensibility and clarity. …

As a textbook, the grammar is oriented toward that which the learner brings to grammatical insight in order to be able to understand Hebrew texts. … The one who would understand a word form or a syntactical construction in a text asks not about the regularity of the linguistic historical development of sound. That one must know the relatively few formal and syntactical features which help with understanding, and he has consulted the grammar about them. In its structure, the grammar attempts to comply with this direction of question. To a large extent, linguistic historical discussions are avoided or relegated to the footnotes.

Because the goal of Hebrew instruction is not the active mastery of the Hebrew language, all rules can lapse that are necessary for a back translation from German into Hebrew, thus for all instructions concerning the independent formation of verb forms and nominal forms. For that reason, this grammar also contains no complete conjugation-tables, because the information in the text and the special tables in the individual paragraphs of the grammar are enough for the analysis of verb forms.

Naturally the presentation is based on reliable, detailed scientific grammar as e.g. … that of Gesenius/Kautzsch. I have gone separate ways where analogy to Latin grammar books appears to me to obscure the particular nature of Hebrew rather than to clarify it. In the syntax, I have taken up suggestions of newer linguistics and tried to present the Hebrew tenses according to a simple and coherent theory (§ 48) and to grasp the regularity in the constitution of texts (§§ 52 and 54).

Wuppertal, September 1973

| 1 →



Speaking—Writing—Reading 01–10

| 2 →

01 Consonants

01.1 General Comments

In principle only the consonants are written. Vowel signs have only been invented relatively late (→ § 03).

In print, above all in the Bible, the so-called square script is customary (→ table in § 01.2). In addition, in modern Hebrew, i.e. the “Ivrit,” a cursive script (writing script) is also used (→ table in § 01.2).


The use of Hebrew consonants as signs of numbers (→ table) does not occur in the text of Biblia Hebraica, only in the Masora (→ § 07.3). Compound numbers have the order hundred-tens-ones from right to left, e.g.: יא equals 11; קיא equals 111. Hundreds from 500–900 are denoted through the final consonants ך through ץ or through combination with ת, which equals 400.

In order to avoid the group of letters יה (an abbreviation of the name of God יהוה), וט (9 + 6) is written for the number 15.

01.2 Writing

Writing is done from right to left. In the square script, the individual letters are not connected. A space the size of a square letter appears between two words. There is no word division.

Summary of Consonant Signs (Alef-Bet)


← 2 | 3 →

← 3 | 4 →

01.3 Groups of Sounds


Stops and Fricatives (Mnemonic Word: “BeGaDKeFaT”: בְּגַדְכְּפַת):

The consonants Bet, Gímel, Dálet, Kaf, Pe and Taw are pronounced hard (as stops) when they carry a diacritical point (Dagesch → § 05.2):1


They are pronounced soft (as fricatives) when they carry no such point. Most of the time today, it is still common to follow this distinction only with Bet, Kaf, and Pe:

  פ כ     ב
  f ch     v


Labials (Mnemonic Word: “Bumaf” בּוּמַף):

פ מ ו ב


The guttural sounds (gutturals2) have particularly special vocalization (→ § 09):

ר has some special features in common with the gutturals.

ע ח ה א
ר ← 4 | 5 →

1 Tables in which the order of Hebrew linguistic signs plays a role are aligned from right to left.

2 The guttural sounds are always called “Gutturals” in this grammar, even though this is not entirely correct linguistically. Other grammars also call them “Laryngals.”

| 5 →

02 Vowels

02.1 Existence

There are full vowels and half vowels.

Full Vowels

In masoretic Hebrew, seven full vowels have been distinguished. Each one has a separate sign (→ § 03.2).


å is pronounced as a short, open o as in the English: “not.”

e and o are always regarded as long (→ § 03.2).

Half Vowels

Half vowels occur under changing conditions of accent.1 In Hebrew they can appear only in a syllable before a full vowel (anacrusis/upbeat). In biblical Hebrew, two kinds of half vowels are differentiated by character:

Half vowels with German echoes to the vowels a, ä, and å (→ Chatéf vowels § 04)

and an entirely disappearing sound as e.g. e in English “the” (→ Schwa § 04).

Double Sounds

Hebrew has probably known the double sounds (diphthongs) au, ai and oi.

However, those who pointed the text have not recognized and, as a result, pointed the double sounds, so that they are always vowel + consonant. Thus they should be read aw, ay, oy. We follow this rule with two exceptions: aj = ai (אֲדֹנָיadonai); and we read ajw (יוInline) as aw in particular suffix forms (→ § 17.2).

02.2 Vowel Changes

In general, historical-linguistic processes are not referred to for explanation in this grammar, because they are complicated and its research is not undisputed. For ← 5 | 6 → particular regularity of formation of verb and noun forms, however, historical-linguistic considerations are helpful. For that reason, here some vowel changes are indicated:

From the “pre-semitic” vowels that were in existence—namely i—a—u (short) and î—â—û (long)—new vowels originate through change of sound, contraction, lengthening, and reduction.

Sound Change

Examples for change of sound:

â > ô רָאשִׁים râšim רֹאשׁ rôš
i > ä e.g. with gutturals tikam > täkam: תֶּחְכַּם
u > å huqal > håqal: הָקְטַל


Examples for contraction:

ay > ê bajtu > bajt > bêt בֵּית
aw > ô mawtu > mawt > môt מוֹת
iy > î tijab > tîab תִּיטַב
uw > û huwšab > hûšab הוּשַׁב

In general, vowels that are originally long are unchangeable by contraction.


Example for lengthening:

i > ê kabid > kâbêd כָּבֵד
a > â jammím > jâm יָם
u > ô qaun > qâôn קָטוֹן

Vowels arising through lengthening are changeable.


Examples for reduction: ê > ä, â > a, ô > å. In unstressed, closed syllables a > i.

1 Cf. e.g. in German the vowel e in the syllable “ge” in the cases of “ben” and “Gebét.”

| 7 →

03 Vowel Signs

Various systems have been developed that also represent the vowels and therefore can fix the pronunciation of the sacred texts. The system of vowel letters is old (9th century b.c.): Individual consonant signs stand for vowels. Systems of punctuation that could determine the pronunciation precisely were invented later (5th–9th century a.d.).

03.1 Vowel Letters

Jod and Waw

The half-vowels Jod (י) and Waw (ו) as consonants can be made silent after vowels. They continue in Scripture, appearing now to mark the vowel standing there.

E.g.: תיטב *tijab (j is silent) → ab: תיטב (Jod for i)
הושׁב *huwšab (w is silent) → hûšab: הושׁב (Waw for u)

Alef and He

The end sounds Alef (א) and He (ה) as consonants can be cancelled out and appear now to mark the final vowel.

Finally, vowel letters are also written in cases where no consonant was dropped.

The Individual Vowel Letters

Waw (ו) stands for the deep vowels o and u. לוט lo
רות rut
Jod (י) stands for the light vowels i, e or ä. דויד dawid
היטיב heib
אלהיך älohäka
He (ה) stands in the final sound of a word for all long vowels other than i. עשׂה ‘aśa - ‘aśe - ‘ośä
פה po

If a He (ה) at the end of the word should be pronounced as a consonant, then it has a diacritical point called a Mappíq: הּ (→ § 05.1).

Alef (א) stands in the final sound of a syllable for every long vowel. עזרא äz ra
לא lo ← 7 | 8 →

Technical Terms


XIV, 276
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (April)
Biblical Hebrew Syntax grammar translation forms Discourse linguistic
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XIV, 276 pp.

Biographical notes

Wolfgang Schneider (Author)

Wolfgang Schneider (1933–2009) served as lecturer in linguistics and Hebrew at the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal from 1970 until he retired in 1995. He became a member of the Societas Hebraica Amstelodamensis in 1991 and was given an honorary Doctor of Theology by the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal in 2001. His other works include Debarim: Ein Übungsbuch für den Hebräisch-Unterricht. Randall L. McKinion has served as Associate Professor of Old Testament at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, since 2014. Previously he served for 11 years as Associate Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Shepherds Theological Seminary in Cary, North Carolina. He received his PhD in Biblical studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.


Title: Grammar of Biblical Hebrew
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