Page 18: The Passive Voice

The passive voice is a grammatical construction that allows us to shift focus from the doer of the action to the receiver of the action. It is used quite frequently in Hebrew, and thus, is an essential concept to grasp. This section will help you understand and use the passive voice in Hebrew proficiently.

A. Passive Binyanim

The Hebrew verb system is built around seven derivative patterns called Binyanim. Each Binyan transforms the verb’s meaning in a specific way. Two of these Binyanim – Huf’al (הֻפְעַל) and Pu’al (פֻּעַל) – are primarily used for passive verbs.

The Huf’al Binyan is used to form the passive voice of the Hif’il Binyan, whereas Pu’al is used to form the passive voice of the Pi’el Binyan. For instance, the Pi’el verb “לְטַפֵּל” (to nurse) has a passive equivalent in Pu’al: “לְטֻפַּל” (to be nursed).

B. Forming and Recognizing Passive Verbs

Recognizing passive verbs in Huf’al and Pu’al Binyanim can be a little tricky, but there are certain patterns and guidelines you can follow.

In Pu’al, the vowels under the first and second root letters are ‘u’ and ‘a’, respectively. If the second root letter is a guttural, the vowel pattern might change slightly.

In Huf’al, verbs start with the letter ‘ה’ with a ‘u’ vowel under it. The second root letter will have a ‘a’ vowel.

For example, the Hif’il verb “הכריח” (made smell) becomes “הוכרח” (was made to smell) in Huf’al.

C. Using Passive Verbs

Using passive verbs accurately involves understanding the sentence’s context and knowing which Binyan to use. To help you, we will provide practical exercises that include translating sentences, filling in the blanks, and rewriting active sentences into passive ones.

By the end of this section, you will be able to identify and form passive verbs in Hebrew, and more importantly, use them accurately in sentences and conversations. This understanding will significantly enhance your Hebrew fluency and comprehension.

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