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Hebrew—An Introduction to Reading the Old Testament
About this course
Lesson 2: Verbs—perfect
Form (step 3 of 9)
Identifying perfect verbs

We begin by learning to identify verbs with a perfect aspect. Later in this lesson, we will examine the meaning and significance of this aspect.

As noted on the previous step, we will only be using the qal stem (the most basic stem) at this point. Letters added to the root in order to create the different inflected forms have been placed in yellow to make them easy to spot. On the left-hand side of the chart, you can see a short-hand indicator of the person, gender and number.
Person: 1, 2 and 3 stand for 1st person, 2nd person and 3rd person.
Gender: m stands for masculine, f stands for feminine and c stands for common (i.e. the gender is not indicated).
Number: s stands for singular and p stands for plural.
On the right-hand side of the chart is an English gloss. The glosses are a bit creative to distinguish between gender and number where Hebrew makes those clear. Finally, the verb אָמַר was chosen as an example because it appears 1167 times in the Hebrew Bible with a perfect aspect.
אָמַר
5308x
say (verb)
qal perfect for אָמַר
1cs אָמַרְתִּי I said
1cp אָמַרְנוּ we said
2ms אָמַרְתָּ you [sir] said
2fs אָמַרְתְּ you [ma’am] said
2mp אֲמַרְתֶּם you all said
2fp אֲמַרְתֶּן [ladies] you all said
3ms אָמַר he said
3fs אָמְרָה she said
3cp אָמְרוּ they said
Memorize this paradigm! Start from the top and say the forms one after the other, noting the parsings and meanings as you do so. By memorizing this chart, you will not only be learning how to identify the qal perfect forms of אָמַר, but also learning the basic qal perfect form for other verbs—the only difference being the three letter root used in each word.

**Minor note: The complex vowel אֲ in the 2nd masculine forms is not normal, but will only appear on words with an א as the first letter in their root.
Weak form: hollow verbs

But while the paradigm chart above serves as a model of the qal perfect for most verbs, certain words with “weak” letters change a bit differently. And it just so happens that these “weak” verbs are some of the most common words in Hebrew. Thus, let's take a look at two other charts with the key weak forms of the qal perfect.
qal perfect for בּוֹא
1cs בָּאתִי I came
1cp בָּאנוּ we came
2ms בָּאתָ you [sir] came
2fs בָּאתְ you [ma’am] came
2mp בָּאתֶם you all came
2fp בָּאתֶן [ladies] you all came
3ms בָּא he came
3fs בָּאָה she came
3cp בָּאוּ they came
If you compare the two charts above, the only significant difference you will note is that words with a י or ו as the second letter in their root (called “hollow” verbs) drop that middle letter when used in the qal perfect. Once again, spend some time reading through these forms of בּוֹא, noting what exactly you are saying with each form.
Weak form: weak final letter

The second weak form we will look at is representative of words with a י ,ו ,ה or נ as the final letter in their root. The most common of these is also the most common verb in the Hebrew Bible: הָיָה.
qal perfect for הָיָה
1cs הָיִיתִי I was
1cp הָיִינוּ we were
2ms הָיִיתָ you [sir] were
2fs הָיִיתְ you [ma’am] were
2mp הֱיִיתֶם you all were
2fp הֱיִיתֶן [ladies] you all were
3ms הָיָה he was
3fs הָיְתָה she was
3cp הָיוּ they were
As you can see in this chart, the last letter of the root is replaced by a י or dropped in most forms. In addition, the ה is turned into a ת in the 3fs (as ה has the habit of doing). Once again, learn this word well—you will see it everywhere and it will serve as a model to you for how other verbs with a weak third letter in their root appear in the qal perfect.
Other weak forms

While their certainly are a few other weak forms of the qal perfect, the paradigms above are enough to cover the vast majority of cases. When you find other minor differences in the qal perfect, they will typically be due to guttural letters (ע ,ח ,א and ר) preferring a-class vowels as mentioned in the first lesson of this course.
On the next step, we will learn a new song. But not any song—a song with two qal perfects!