Bible Review 8:3, June 1992

Hebrew for Bible Readers

Strong and weak roots and narrative verb forms

By Keith N. Schoville

Bible Review

A notable feature of Hebrew is the three-consonant root, such as ldg, meaning “to be or become great.” Reading from right to left, the gGimel holds the initial position, the dDaleth the medial position and the lLamed the final position. The root ldg is the basis for a variety of words formed by adding a vowel or vowel and consonant combinations, and all share the basic meaning of the root. For example:

ldeG:

ga-del, “(he) is great”

lD'gÒTi

tig-dal, “you shall be great”

hl;WdGÒ

ged-ulah, “greatness”

lDeGI

gid-del, “he made (object) great”

lDeG:t]hi

hith-gad-del, “boast”

lD;gÒmi

mig-dal, “watchtower”

This triradical root system, as it is called, is the basis for most Hebrew words (the exceptions are some pronouns, the definite article, the conjunction and most prepositions).

ldg is called a strong root because its three root letters appear in all derived forms, but roots with the consonants y, w, h, a, and n are called weak roots because those consonants may not appear in some derived forms. Weak root letters may occur in any of the three positions. Sometimes a weak letter will be written but not pronounced. Note the following roots and derived forms:

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