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My question regards the parsing of verbs on the Biblehub website's interlinear Hebrew Bible. What do the ConjPerf/ConjImperf/ConsecImperf labels mean?

Let me post an example of each, with the relevant portions highlighted. enter image description here

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The letter ו (vav) prefixed to a verb functions in two ways:

  • as the וי"ו ההיפוך (vav ha-hippukh), or “conversive vav,”1 it changes the “aspect” of the verb from imperfect to perfect, or vice-versa, depending on the form of the verb to which the vav is prefixed.
    • the word הִפּוּךְ (hippukh) means “reversal, opposite, inversion.” Hence, the vav ha-hippukh reverses the aspect of the verb. הִפּוּךְ is related to the verb הָפַךְ (hafakh), “to turn.”
  • as the וי"ו החיבור (vav ha-chibbur), or “conjunctive vav,” it functions simply as a conjunction, connecting clauses together, while retaining the original aspect of the verb.
    • the word חִבּוּר (chibbur) means “conjunction, connection, joining.” Hence, the vav ha-chibbur joins clauses together. חִבּוּר is related to the verb חָבַר (chavar), “to join.”

Example:

וַיִּקְרָא (vayyikra) is a verb conjugated in binyan Paʿal (also known as binyan Qal or Kal), imperfect aspect. However, the vav prefixed to it is a vav ha-hippukh, thus changing the meaning of the verb from “and he calls” to “and he called,” as though the verb were conjugated in the perfect aspect.

enter image description here

Notice how וְקָרָא (vekara) can mean both “and he called” (perfect tense) and “and he calls/will call” (imperfect tense). The diacritics and spelling are identical. Pratico and Van Pelt discuss this and more on the vav consecutive and conjunctive in general.2 You will need to study a biblical Hebrew grammar to understand this topic more in-depth.


Footnotes

1 It seems that website calls the conversive vav by the term consecutive vav.
2 Pratico and Van Pelt, Ch. 17, p. 195–208

References

Pratico, Gary D.; Van Pelt, Miles V. Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

  • +1 So it seems that sometimes a vav changes the tense but other times it doesn't. Does that mean it's entirely up to context? Does that mean context is the only thing preventing Leviticus 1:1 from being translated as, "And YHWH will call to Moses and will speak to him . . ." ? – Pascal's Wager Jan 18 at 1:11
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    @Pascal'sWager The form וַיִּקְרָא unequivocally means “and he called.” Look at the table above and compare the diacritics of each verb in the second row. The only one that is dependent on context is the fifth column. This all assumes you're reading a Hebrew text with diacritics. – Der Übermensch Jan 18 at 1:52
  • That's really helpful! What if I'm reading the unpointed text? Ignoring context, will vav + imperfect always be ambiguous? What about vav + perfect? (I mean for any verb, not just qara) – Pascal's Wager Jan 18 at 2:00
  • If you’re reading unpointed text, the verb with a prefixed vav will appear the same, and you will have to rely on context to determine if it is a vav ha-chibbur or vav ha-hippukh (this applies to columns 2, 3, and 5; 5 already appears identical with or without vowel pointing). But, it will be easy to discern columns 1 and 4 with or without vowel pointing. – Der Übermensch Jan 18 at 2:31
  • As for “any verb,” I’m not fluent in Hebrew, and there’s so many different verb types, and in combination with the different binyanim, I would prefer not to make absolute statements. This book contains exhaustive verb tables of just about every possible verb type. I highly recommend it. (It might be out of stock there, but you can find it elsewhere I am sure.) – Der Übermensch Jan 18 at 2:37

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