1. Grammar and Spelling
Section One – Grammar and Spelling
Hebrew reads from right to left. It is a very compact language both in numbers of words used and numbers of characters within words. It tends to condense phrases into single words by the use of prefixes and suffixes to denote case, gender, prepositions, etc. You can expect a Hebrew translation to look much shorter than its English counterpart.
Hebrew has 22 alphabet letters. There are five letters which, as a rule, must change their form when they appear at the end of a word (this is similar to the character 's' in Greek). They are those represented by the English Kh, M, N, F and Tz which become ץ ף ן ם ך from צ פ נ מ כ respectively.
1. Capitalisation: There are no upper or lower case characters and when translating from English, capital letters will not have any representation in the Hebrew version.
One letter words: A single letter will never
appear alone in a
3. Articles: The character ה (ha) is the definite article prefix (of which there is only one). It is ALWAYS attached to the next word, i.e. the definite noun.
The direct object (with intransitive verbs), requires a special article/preposition תא which always comes before the definite article with a definite noun or a proper name (e.g. I saw the book = רפסה תא יתיאר).
4. Gender and number: Hebrew has two genders - masculine and feminine. They are usually represented by a suffix attached to a word. There is no neutral form.
noun has a gender, either masculine or feminine. The
most common feminine form is הX but there are many
forms so it can be hard to recognise.
has two plural forms – masculine plural and feminine
The most common masculine and feminine plural forms are י ם X and תוX respectively.
There is an agreement between a noun and an adjective in gender and number: i.e. a feminine noun will require the feminine ending for the adjective, a noun in masculine plural form will require the adjective to have masc. plural suffix, etc.
The masculine plural is the dominant plural in mixed cases i.e. where in the same sentence there is a masc. and fem. noun and one verb, this verb will be in its masc. plural form.
A conjugated verb will match the gender of the subject.
5. Prepositions: Prepositions can be short words or just one letter. If they are only one letter, they will be attached to the next word.
6. Stresses and vocalisation: these are indicated by dots and lines within or above the character. The use of these in normal, modern written text is virtually obsolete, as their greatest significance is the reserve of the spoken language. However, they must still be included in specific contexts, such as in quotes from the bible.
7. Spelling: Hebrew does not have vowels in the same sense as English vowels that give a specific sound to consonants. Hebrew has a "pointing" system for Hebrew "vowels" called "nikud". These are dots and lines that appear above or below letters. It helps the reader to know the exact pronunciation of the word. In modern Hebrew, this system is mainly now only used in children’s books and some religious and biblical texts.
certain reading and pronunciation issues and misunderstandings,
Academy of Hebrew Language developed the "non-nikud
rules" that nowadays are widely used by most
newspapers, editorials and
other publishing units.
There are no capital letters in Hebrew.
1. Brackets: Parentheses surrounding a purely English phrase within Hebrew text should follow the English order. If there is any Hebrew within the parentheses, then the text should follow the Hebrew order. This is only really relevant where the bracketed phrase is split over two lines, which should only happen as a last resort. For example, if the English ‘(Docklands Light Railway)’ was being included in Hebrew text and was split over two lines, it would read like this:
Docklands Light Hebrew writing Hebrew writing Hebrew writing)
(.Hebrew writing Hebrew writing Hebrew writing .Railway
Semi-colons and commas: Semi-colons and commas
can be either as in the English (attached to the right
of the word with the space to the right), or reflected
for Hebrew (attached to the left of the word with
the space to the left), depending on the font being
used at that point in the text.
Speech marks: in direct speech there are
two punctuation systems, one for the quoted text and
one for the speaker. One punctuation system must be
eliminated to avoid an overload of marks.
" הדובע דוע יל ינת "! האולק הקעצ .
comma after quote marks can be used in cases like:
" הפייע ינא " , יל הרמא איה .
2. “Would anyone like some tea?” asked George.
" הת הצור והשימ ? " ג לאש ' גרו ' .
3. “I’m bored – can I go home now?”, Michala said.
" יל םמעשמ , תכלל רשפא התיבה ? " הלאכימ הרמא .
8. Apostrophes: Apostrophes are used
for abbreviated words and single letters that stand
alone (the apostrophe then appears after the last
Measurements: Hebrew uses the metric system.
For computer monitors and diameters of pipes/tubes,
the imperial system is used.
The same numbers as used in English are used for Hebrew. Numbers are never reflected. Even in numbers comprising two or more digits, the whole number is written the same as in English (with the individual digits reading from left to right). Thus eight hundred and fifty would be 850, and not 058.
numbering points, dots/parentheses, etc. should be
to the left of the numbers, i.e.
In lists of numbers, however, the directional rule applies to the list as a whole. So 8, 9, 10, 11 would become 11 ,10 ,9 ,8 in Hebrew.
Mathematical formulae are the only other exception to the right>left directional rule in Hebrew. They are written exactly as you would find them in English.
Decimal points and commas to separate groups of thousands are used as in English.
It is very common in Hebrew to translate the count of '2' using words rather than digits. Thus '2 weeks' will most often be translated as 'fortnight'. There are also special words to convey 2 hours, 2 days, 2 months and 2 thousand etc. Do not be alarmed if digits (particularly '2's) seem to be missing from the translation.
Abbreviations: Abbreviations and acronyms
in Hebrew are indicated
by a single or double quote mark.
Four – Hyphenation
hyphens exist as for English and to indicate a change
Section Five – Miscellaneous Peculiarities
In order of priority, English text should be A) translated wherever possible, B) transliterated if impossible to translate, such as 'Internet' and 'V/volt', C) left in English as a last resort (English is not widely recognised though it is often regarded as sophisticated!).
Italics are best avoided but can be used if necessary. They should slant to the right.
Bold and underlining can be used (particularly in cases where the English uses capitalisation for emphasis).
Surnames are given after the first name, like in English.
Section Six – Geographic Distribution
Hebrew is one of the world's oldest languages. After ceasing to exist as a spoken 1anguage in about 250 B.C., it was reborn as a modern language in the 19th century, almost entirely thanks to Eliezer ben Yehudah. He devoted his life to the revival of the language, and at the same time adapted it for modern use through the introduction of thousands of modern terms.
gradually came into use among the Jewish settlers
in Palestine and became the official language of the
State of Israel when that nation was created in 1948.
Books, newspapers, and magazines published in Israel
today are written in a Hebrew that is much the same
as the language of the Bible.
is spoken/used in the following countries: Israel,
parts of the Palestinian Authority, West bank and
- Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages
of the World, Published by Routledge.
Section Seven – Character Set
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Regarding your (excellent) language
reference guide for Hebrew, I'd like to point out
a few errors:
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