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Hebrew—An Introduction to Reading the Old Testament
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Lesson 3: Verbs—imperfect
Form (step 3 of 9)
The imperfect paradigm

We saw with the perfect form that a letter or two was added to the end of the root to inflect the verb. With the imperfect, a letter is prefixed to the beginning of the verb in all the forms—and sometimes a letter or two is also added to the end. 

As we turn now to the paradigm, we will continue to choose example words which themselves appears many times in the scriptures. Thus, besides learning models for the qal imperfect, you are also learning actual word forms that you will meet often as you read the Hebrew Bible. For both those reasons, take your time and learn them well!
keep, guard (verb)
qal imperfect for שָׁמַר
1cs אֶשְׁמֹר I will keep
1cp נִשְׁמֹר we will keep
2ms תִּשְׁמֹר you [sir] will keep
2fs תִּשְׁמְרִי you [ma’am] will keep
2mp תִּשְׁמְרוּ you all will keep
2fp תִּשְׁמֹרְנָה [ladies] you all will keep
3ms יִשְׁמֹר he will keep
3fs תִּשְׁמֹר she will keep
3mp יִשְׁמְרוּ they will keep
3fp תִּשְׁמֹרְנָה [those ladies] will keep
Note that the 2ms and 3fs forms are identical. Same goes for the 2fp and 3fp. This is true of the imperfect in all seven stems. In such cases, context is used to determine the author’s meaning.
Weak form: hollow verbs

As with the qal perfect, the qal imperfect looks a bit different when the second letter of the root is a י or ו. Notice two things: (1) at times the second letter drops out, and (2) the vowels are almost completely different.
qal imperfect for בּוֹא
1cs אָבוֹא I will come
1cp נָבוֹא we will come
2ms תָּבוֹא you [sir] will come
2fs תָּבֹאִי you [ma’am] will come
2mp תָּבֹאוּ you all will come
2fp תָּבֹאנָה [ladies] you all will come
3ms יָבוֹא he will come
3fs תָּבוֹא she will come
3mp יָבוֹאוּ they will come
3fp תָּבֹאנָה [those ladies] will come
Weak form: weak final letter

In the imperfect, as was with the perfect, the final weak letter of the root is lost when the form adds letters on to the end. הָיָה is the most frequent example of this. (Another common qal imperfect with a weak third letter is עָשָׂה.)
qal imperfect for הָיָה
1cs אֶהְיֶה I will be
1cp נִהְיֶה we will be
2ms תִּהְיֶה you [sir] will be
2fs תְּהִי you [ma’am] will be
2mp תִּהְיוּ you all will be
2fp תִּהְיֶינָה [ladies] you all will be
3ms יִהְיֶה he will be
3fs תִּהְיוּ she will be
3mp יִהְיוּ they will be
3fp תִּהְיֶינָה [those ladies] will be
Weak form: weak first letter

Since the imperfect features a letter prefix, some words with a weak first letter in their root lose that initial root letter. We same some because you will note that הָיָה (above) did not lose its initial ה. But many words do. Common examples are לָקַח ,נָתַן and הָלַךְ.
give (verb)
take (verb)
qal imperfect for נָתַן
1cs אֶתֵּן I will give
1cp נִתֵּן we will give
2ms תִּתֶּן you [sir] will give
2fs תִתְּנִי you [ma’am] will give
2mp תִּתְּנוּ you all will give
3ms יִתֵּן he will give
3fs תִּתֶּן she will give
3mp יִתְּנוּ they will give
**Note: The 2fp and 3fp are left blank because those forms of נָתַן never appear in the Hebrew Bible.
On the next step we learn our fourth worship song of the course.