This is Craig’s “cheat sheet” for Hebrew Grammar. I plan to expound upon this in the future, but thought I would share it now.
Perfect – The Hebrew qātal. The suffixed conjugation denotes the perfective aspect of the verb. That is, it views the action of the verb from an outer perspective, the perspective of seeing or thinking of the action of the verb as a whole and complete, without respect to the time of the action. The perfect conjugation conveys the totality of an action without dividing up its chronological processes.
Imperfect – The Hebrew yiqtōl. The prefixed conjugation denotes the imperfective aspect of the verb. That is, it views the action of the verb from the inside or from the perspective of the action’s unfolding. This imperfective aspect can speak of (depending on context) habitual actions, actions in progress, or even completed actions that have unfolding, ongoing results. The term ‘imperfective’ does not refer to tense, though. Biblical Aramaic does not have tense like English or Greek (time of action is conveyed by context). ‘Imperfective’ refers to the kind of action being described, not the time of the action. An action can be viewed in process in the past (“was walking”), the present (“is walking”), or even the future (“will be walking”). When the context dictates, the prefixed conjugation also conveys the indicative mood, the mood of reality.
In Biblical Hebrew, ‘stem’ refers to the relationship between the verb’s subject and object relative to the action of the verb. Refers to the system of modifying of a root verb by means of various vowels and consonantal prefixes and suffixes. The resulting verbal patterns are referred to by many Hebrew grammarians as binyanim (singular – binyan). The stem system partly serves to denote the relationship of the subject to the action or state; that is, the grammatical voice. It also describes the object’s relationship to and participation in the action or state.
Qal – The qal is the unmarked stem; it has no nuanced meaning per se and thus implies a literal interpretation of actual events regarding a genuine relationship formed between the subject and object relative to the action of the verb. It is the stem of simple reality.
Hifil – The hifʿîl stem indicates the causative sense of verbs. That is, the subject of the verb in the hifʿîl stem causes the object of the verb to participate in the action of the verb as a sort of ‘undersubject’ or ‘secondary subject’. In the sentence “Bob caused the car to crash,” the direct object [car] participates in the action that the subject [Bob] caused.
Hofal – The hofʿal stem is the passive counterpart to the hifʿîl stem in Hebrew. That is, the subject of the verb in the hifʿîl or hafʿēl stem causes the object of the verb to participate in the action of the verb as a sort of ‘undersubject’ or ‘secondary subject’. In the sentence “Bob forced his son to run in the race,” the direct object [son] participates in the action that the subject [Bob] caused. The hofʿal would be illustrated by the sentence “Bob was made to force his son to run in the race.” The son is still participating in the action, but the subject of the verb [Bob] was acted upon, as expected in the passive.
Nifal – The nifʿal stem is the reflexive counterpart to the qal stem (or the piʿʿēl or hifʿîl stems in cases where the qal stem is unattested or intransitive). It conveys reflexive action, where the subject of the verb both carries out and receives the action of the verb. The nifʿal is also occasionally used for simple passive, where the subject of the verb receives the action of the verb.
Pual – The puʿʿal is the passive counterpart of the piʿʿēl stem. The piʿʿēl stem expresses the bringing about of a state. The object of the piʿʿēl verb’s action “suffers the effect” of the action. In the sentence “Bob flies the plane,” the direct object [plane] is put into the state of flight by the subject of the verb [Bob]. The puʿʿal would read “Bob is flown in the plane.” The plane is affected by the action of the verb [it is in flight], but in this case the subject of the verb is also being acted upon.
Istafel – The ʾištafʿēl stem is considered a parallel to the hištafʿal. In some verbs in Aramaic, the prefixed hē (ה) of various stems was replaced by an ʾalef (א). Like the hištafʿal then, the ʾištafʿēl is related to the causative šafʿēl (i.e., the object of the verb is made to participate in the action of the verb). As a reflexive, though, the subject of the ʾištafʿēl verb acts upon or with respect to itself.
Hitpolel / Hitpael – This rare Hebrew stem corresponds to the hiṯpaʿʿēl and is reflexive of pôlēl. With reflexive verb forms, the subject of the verb acts upon or with respect to itself. The hiṯpaʿʿēl would be illustrated by “Bob flies the plane himself,” a reflexive sense which makes it clear that the subject is not being assisted or acted upon by another force.
Cohortative – The cohortative is the expression of volition; that is, a wish or desire, expressed in the first person (“may I walk!”; “let me walk!”). The cohortative is usually marked by appending the suffix ָה- to the first person imperfect verb form.
Imperative – The mood that normally expresses a command, intention, or exhortation; i.e., it is the mood of volition. The imperative mood is therefore not an expression of reality but possibility. In Biblical Hebrew, volition can be expressed for the first person (cohortative; “I will”, “let us”), the second person (imperative “you”), and the third person (jussive “he will”, “let him”).
Jussive – ‘Jussive’ refers to a third person expression of volition; that is, a wish or desire, expressed in the third person (“let him worship!”; “let them worship!”; “let it worship!”). The jussive is typically marked by a shortening of the usual third person imperfect verb form. Note that the jussive is also used to express a negative command in the second person (i.e., negative אַל with the second person jussive form; “do not walk!”).
Paragogic he and nun – This is similar in form to the ָה lengthening of the cohortative, but the meaning of the paragogic hē, if any meaning remains, is subtle. It may convey emphasis, serve as an honorific, or be used simply to increase euphony. The letter nun (ן) appearing at the end of a particular verb form, like the cohortative.
Infinitive – An infinitive is a verbal noun. That is, it is a word that has characteristics of both a noun (“To read is fun”) and a verb or adverb (“I want to read”). In Biblical Hebrew, the infinitive can function as a noun (e.g. as the subject or object of a verb), as a verb itself, or to intensify the action of another verb. The absolute form is the normal form of the infinitive when not in a bound construct relationship.
Participle – A participle is a verbal adjective, i.e., a word that has characteristics of both a verb and an adjective or noun. Participles can therefore function as a verb (“teaching”), modify a noun (“teaching position”; “teaching pastor”), or a substantive noun (“Teaching is fun”). The participle in Hebrew and Aramaic codes for stem, number and gender, like other verb forms, but not aspect/tense or person (as the finite verbs have). Like adjectives, nouns and infinitive verbs, it may be found in construct or absolute states.
Construct – The state of the noun, infinitive or participle used to indicate that it is grammatically bound to the nominal that follows it in a (broadly) possessive / genitival construction.