Biblical Hebrew: 06. Simple Verbs (Qal, Niphal)

In this lesson, you will learn two stems with the lowest intensity: Qal and Niphal.


Qal means “light” or “simple”. This designation reflects the fact that it has no consonantal change (e.g. prefix or infix). It conveys active action with no force in intensity.

For verbs, primary source forms are always perfect and imperfect. From these forms, others are drawn.


pl sg
f m f m
קָטְלוּ קַטְלָה קָטַל
קְטַלְתֶן קְטַלְתֶם קָטַלְתְ קָטַלְתָ
קָטַלְנוּ קָטַלְתִי


תִקְטֹלְנָה יִקְטְלוּ תִקְטֹל יִקְטֹל
תִקְטֹלְנָה תִקְטְלוּ תִקְטְלִי תִקְטֹל
נִקְטֹל אֶקְטֹל

As you can see the main differencing character between perfect and imperfect is that of prefix (green color) while perfect is accompanied only by postfixes. Good news is that these prefixes (green) and postfixes (red) are same throughout all stems. You need to learn these prefixes and postfixes in order to recognize the particular form. Be also mindful of changes in vocalization (vowels).

In Hebrew, for translation two things are important: aspect and context. Therefore, Qal perfect קָטַל would be translated as “he killed” (since the action is perfective - finished) and Qal imperfect יִקְטֹל as “he will kill” (the action is imperfective - yet to be finished). Remember, that using simple past and future tense is just for the sake of example here. In a real context, things could be different.

We will now explain other verbal categories. Meaning of these categories is same for all stems. Therefore what we describe here goes for other stems as well and won't be repeated unless for particular differences or specifics.


It represents the volitive mood of the first person. It is formed by adding ה ָ to the end of the first person imperfect form. It can be intensified by adding particle נָא. For Qal we have:

אֶקְטְלָה I wish to kill, may I kill
נִקְטְלָה we wish to kill, may we kill

As you can see these forms are taken from the first person imperfect.


It represents the volitive mood of the third and second person (sometimes also the first). Its forms are identical with imperfect. We can tell the difference only by context, or by shortening the end of a word, or by the weakening of the last vowel. We can safely discern its Hiphil forms because of a change in vocalization (as will be shown later).


It represents the volitive mood of the second person. It has four forms drawn from imperfect without imperfective prefix. It may be emphasized by adding ה ָ to the end of the word. It can be also further intensified by adding particle נָא. For Qal we have:

f m  
קִטְלִי קְטֹל sg kill!
קְטֹלְנָה קִטְלוּ pl  


It is a verbal noun drawn from imperfect without imperfective prefix. It expresses action or state which is not directly related to a person or thing. There are two types of infinitive called absolute and construct each having a different form. The infinitive absolute expresses emphasis (surely, indeed) when preceding a verb, and duration when following it. The infinitive construct can be prefixed with prepositions בְּ ,כְּ ,לְ and is usually translated with subordinate clause according to proposition employed.

The construct form is קְטֹל “to kill” (it is same as imperative m. sg.). This form also takes the prepositions noted above:

  • בִּקְטֺל “when”: translated by a subordinate clause “when he kills”

  • לִקְטֺל “to, in order”: “in order to kill” (he)

  • כִּקְטֺל “as, when”

The absolute form is קָטֹל “to kill” (vocalization change to patah). It can be used in special instances such as:

  • Figura etymologica: שָׁמוֹר שָׁמַר “guarded by the guarding, truly guarded”

  • Ceremonial imperative: זַכוֹר את־יוֹם הַשַׁבָּת “remember the day sabbath” (Ex 20:8)

  • Sworn formula: מוֹת תָּמוּת “by death you die, you surely die” (Gn 2:17)


It is a verbal adjective agreeing in number and gender with its noun or pronoun. The participle is either active or passive:

active passive
pl sg pl sg
קֹטְלִים קֹטֵל קְטוּלִים קַטוּל m
קֹטְלֵי קְטוּלֵי
קֹטְלוֹת קֹטְלָה קְטֻלוֹת קְטֻלָה f
קֹטְלַת קְטֻלַת
killing being killed


A verb can be prefixed with the letter וַ (note patah) and having dagesh in its following consonant. This is not the conjunction “and” (which is vocalized with shwa) but a marker that is usually used in stories (narratives).

Very common narrative form is וַיֹּאמֶר “he said” of the verb אמר “say”.

Pronominal Suffixes

Verbs can be also extended with pronominal suffixes as it is with substantives. When a pronominal suffix is used it denotes the accusative (direct object) and affects vocalization.


Gen 1:1 בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ
  At the beginning created God the heavens and the earth
Lev 1:1 וַיִּקְרָ֖א אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה
  And cry onto Moses 
Gen 1:26 נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ
  Let us make adam in our image as our likeness
1 Sam 18:16 וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וִיהוּדָ֔ה אֹהֵ֖ב אֶת־דָּוִ֑ד
  And the whole Israel and Judah were loving David
Deut 6:1 וְזֹ֣את הַמִּצְוָ֗ה לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת בָּאָ֔רֶץ
  And these are the commandments … to do them in the land


What we have described above also goes for Niphal and other following stems. We will now only discuss the characteristic differences and particular forms.

Compared to Qal, Niphal conveys passive-reflexive action (translation “he killed himself; he was killed”). This is its main characteristics. Its forms are as follows:


pl sg
f m f m
נִקְטְלוּ נִקְטְלָה נִקְטַל
נִקְטַלְתֶן נִקְטַלְתֶם נִקְטַלְתְ נִקְטַלְתָ
נִקְטַלְנוּ נִקְטַלְתִי


תִקְטֹלְנָה יִקְטְלוּ תִקְטֹל יִקְטֹל
תִקַּטַלְנָה תִקַּטְלוּ תִקַּטְלִי תִקַּטֵל
נִקַּטֵל אֶקַּטֵל


As you can see, there is נִ prefix in the perfect which is its main characteristic. The imperfect has same prefixes but with different vocalizations and dagesh (doubling) in the first consonant of the verb root. This is due to assimilation of נ because of

יִ + נְ + קטל יִקַּטֵל (notice the dagesh)

If you remember these two characteristics, you will be able to discern Niphal without any hesitation.

You can find all of the other forms of the rest of verbal categories in Niphal chart in this lesson. However, we would like to point out one specific characteristic. As we have shown, Niphal prefix is נִ, however, in the case of imperative and infinitive this prefix is changed into הִ.

Deut 4:31 כִּ֣י אֵ֤ל רַחוּם֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָלֹ֤א יִשְׁכַּח֙ אֶת־בְּרִ֣ית אֲבֹתֶ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר נִשְׁבַּ֖ע לָהֶֽם
  Because God is compassionate, your Lord God … he will not forget the covenant of your fathers he sweared them
Judg 2:18 כִּֽי־יִנָּחֵ֤ם יְהוָה֙ מִנַּֽאֲקָתָ֔ם
  Because Lord regreted from their groaning
Gen 49:2 הִקָּבְצ֥וּ וְשִׁמְע֖וּ בְּנֵ֣י יַעֲקֹ֑ב
  Assemble and listen sons of Jacob
Num 16:27 נִצָּבִ֗ים פֶּ֚תַח אָֽהֳלֵיהֶ֔ם
  Standing them self in front of the entrances to their tents


Hebrew Verbs: Niphal

Nifal has specific prefix Ni. In the imperfect this prefix is assimilated with imperfect prefix in a way that the first letter of the root is doubled (dagesh).




  • Conveys active action


  • Conveys passive-reflexive action
  • Perfect is prefixed with נִ
  • Imperfect has dagesh in the first consonant after prefix
  • Imperative and infinitive are prefixed with הִ