Heblish – Hebrew lessons: Day 46

Special letters – b, p, k

Free Hebrew lessons – November 2010 – Training – Day 46

Shalom, ma shlom^em? (Hi, how are you [plural] doing?)

Today I will introduce you to three special Hebrew letters. 

In our previous lesson we started to talk… We built many sentences using words we previously learned and some verbs that we’ve learned lately. At the end of the lesson I said that you may have some questions and if you didn’t, something was wrong… because I used some inflections you haven’t seen before.

I received many e-mails and a few comments on Facebook and our Heblish website. I highly recommend that you use our Heblish group on Facebook or simply place a comment here.

Anyway, most of you asked me “how it can be, that a verb such as “break” – “shover“, becomes “eshbor” in the future tense?”

Today, we will review three special Hebrew letters which will answer this question. 


Today’s menu: Special letters – b, p, k

Attention: The underlined letters represent the accent.

In Hebrew there are six letters called the “begged-keffet” letters which, in some cases, can get a special emphasis, a dagesh (a dot in the middle of the letter).

When these letters get this special emphasis, they have a different pronunciation.

However, in the last 60 years, three of these six “begged-keffet” letters lost their uniqueness, so in Hebrew we pronounce them the same, whether they have that emphasis or not.

The other three letters which have two different sounds are: b, p and k.

As I mentioned before, this will happen only in certain conditions, but we won’t learn the conditions since we are not learning Hebrew Punctuation, yet.

In this special condition, the letter “b” can also be pronounced as “v“; the “p” as “f” and the “k” can also be “^.”  You can review the use of “^” and listen to the sound it makes here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTJoip09FnU

 BPK in Hebrew pronunciation

If you remember from our last lesson, one of our examples was:

Present Tense: Ani shover et ha’bakbuk – I break the bottle.

Past tense: Shavarti et ha’bakbuk – I broke the bottle.

You see that I used “shoVer” and “shaVarti” for present tense and past tense, even though the root is “sh.b.r.”, but when I say these words in the future tense, I say:  eshBor… – I will break…

In Hebrew it’s the same letter “b“, but the special condition I talked about causes that letter to be pronounced differently.

Some of you asked me if this happens only in the future tense. The answer is “no,” and the reason is that we are teaching simple Hebrew using English letters. People who need to learn complex Hebrew will need to study and master the Hebrew alphabet to fully learn the language. Our goal here is to teach students some useful words and phrases, and introduce basic Hebrew.

Here is another example for p (p/f): sofer – count:

Ani sofer, ata sofer, at soferet, hu sofer, hi soferet.. (I, you (m), you (f), he, she) count(s). 

Safarti, safarta, safart, hu safar, hi safra (I, you (m), you (f), he, she) counted.

Espor, tispor, tisperi, hu ispor, hi tispor… (I, you (m), you (f), he, she) will count.


Let’s see what happens to the following words (these words are new for you):

– I build – ani bone.
– I want to build – ani rotse livnot.

– I’m writing – ani kotev.
– I want to write – ani rotse li^tov.

– The balls have been counted – ha’kadurim (kadurim = balls) nisperu.
– I counted them again – safarti otam shuv (shuv = again).

The same verbs, the same letters, but a different sound for one of the letters: b, p and k.

In this lesson I only wanted to show the idea, even though I didn’t teach you “why” it happens. I want to remind you that all the rules in Hebrew have been taken from… you guessed it, the Bible. So when you think about it that way, every Thursday you are touching a piece of history…

Next Thursday, November 25th, is Thanksgiving Day, so we will not have a lesson, but if you watch your e-mail, free-hebrew.com and the Heblish Group on Facebook, next Thursday, you may see something verrrry interesting. 

Lehitraot in lesson 47 (December 2nd)

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