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1. Grammar and Spelling
2. Punctuation
3. Measurements and Abbreviations
4. Hyphenation
5. Miscellaneous Peculiarities
6. Geographic Distribution
7. Character Set

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.

2. One letter words: A single letter will never appear alone in a
sentence, unless it is referring to a letter, e.g. “see table A” - א הלבט האר ' , or the name of God - ה ' , and the letter will always appear with an apostrophe. In all other cases, a single letter unit (preposition, article) will be attached to the following word.

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.

Every 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.
Other elements such as adjectives, verbs, pronouns etc can be conjugated and can appear in masculine, feminine, plural and singular form.

Hebrew has two plural forms – masculine plural and feminine plural.
In the plural (of nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns), the gender must be specified, e.g. there are always two forms of plural depending on the gender of the subject. The plural is usually represented by a suffix attached to the word.

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.

To avoid certain reading and pronunciation issues and misunderstandings, the Academy of Hebrew Language developed the "non-nikud Hebrew spelling rules" that nowadays are widely used by most newspapers, editorials and other publishing units.

Section Two - Punctuation

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

2. 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.

3. Exclamation marks and questions marks: There are used in the same way as English (thus ‘?’ is never reflected).

4. Dashes and hyphens: A careful distinction should be made between a dash (–) and a hyphen (-), as hyphens also serve to link Hebrew prefixes to English words within a Hebrew text.
E.g. 'and Hewlett-Packard' within a Hebrew text would look like this:
When a dash is used, there is a space between the word before and after and the dash.
When a hyphen is used, there is no space, i.e. תיב - רפס

5. Full stops: Full stops still give a slightly foreign feel to Hebrew and are used far less to mark sentence endings than in English.

6. Brackets: if a complete sentence (after a full stop) appears within brackets, the full stop should also be inside the brackets. Otherwise, the punctuation should be outside.

7. 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.

1. “Give me more work!”, shouted Chloe.

" הדובע דוע יל ינת "! האולק הקעצ .

A comma after quote marks can be used in cases like:
“I’m tired”, she told me.

" 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 letter).

Section Three - Measurements and Abbreviations

1. Measurements: Hebrew uses the metric system. For computer monitors and diameters of pipes/tubes, the imperial system is used.
In certain industry sectors (i.e. semiconductor), the imperial system is used for measurements of material diameters and thickness. Weights of precious metals are represented by the imperial system measurements.

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.

When numbering points, dots/parentheses, etc. should be to the left of the numbers, i.e.
.1 (1
.2 (2
.3 (3

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 and thousands:
The decimal marker is a dot. i.e. ס " מ 4.2
The thousands marker is a comma i.e. 2,000, 50,000

Decimal points and commas to separate groups of thousands are used as in English.

10.30 AM 10:30 רקובב =
10.30 PM = ) ברעב ( 22:30 or
הלילב 10:30
4.30 PM ) החא " צ = ( 16:30
The 24 h system is more common. If you use the 24h system for time you don’t necessarily need to put “morning”, “evening” etc.

The most common way to represent dates is:
20 February 2004 = 20 ראורבפב 2004

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.

2. Abbreviations: Abbreviations and acronyms in Hebrew are indicated by a single or double quote mark.
Hebrew tends to abbreviate ('') wherever possible. Often two (or more) words will be abbreviated into one. This is done by taking the first character of each word and putting a double quote before the last character). When transliterating English acronyms, dots are used instead of double quotes.

Section Four – Hyphenation

Line-split: basically don't! Special rules apply when it absolutely can't be

Word-split: hyphens exist as for English and to indicate a change in direction
of flow of the text between English and Hebrew sections.
Hebrew has special words that are called “construct”, they are made out of 2
words and get a new meaning. Some of these words are separated by a

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.

Hebrew 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.
Today about 3 million people speak Hebrew either as their maternal, adopted, or religious tongue.

Hebrew is spoken/used in the following countries: Israel, parts of the Palestinian Authority, West bank and Gaza Strip.
Official: Hebrew, Arabic
Other: Russian, English

Language Family
Family: Afro-Asiatic (Hamito-Semitic)
Subgroup: Semitic
Branch: Canaanitic

Source: http://www.worldlanguage.com/Languages/Hebrew - Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.

Section Seven – Character Set

כ ך
מ ם
נ ן
פ ף
צ ץ


Visitor Testimonial

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Regarding your (excellent) language reference guide for Hebrew, I'd like to point out a few errors:

Section 2 (Punctuation) item 5 says full stops are not used as often as in English. This is no longer accurate, in modern Hebrew full stops are used at sentence endings exactly as in English.

Section 6 (geographic distribution), second paragraph, says that Hebrew is spoken by 3 million people. However there are almost 7 million people living in Israel today, and all of them, except newborns and freshly arrived new immigrants, speak or use Hebrew, including the large Arab minority. In addition many of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza can speak Hebrew, as well as an estimated half million people in various Jewish communities around the world. So I'd say a more accurate estimate of the number of Hebrew users would be around 8 million.

Otherwise, a fine reference guide.

Yours sincerely,

Neri Sevenier

Neri Sevenier-Gabriel
Translator and Interpreter

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