Words mean something. Verbs mean something, actions or situations . And people, while using those verbs to express themselves, often like to give more emphasis to what they are saying.
Thus they create ways to make the verbs they use more intense in their message. Various languages have various systems to obtain or create such "intensive versions " of verbs, or as is said mostly : "intensive verbs".


The scope of our study is to establish possible elements of kinship between Indo-European and Semitic tongues. And we have stumbled upon some resemblance in resolving the problem of shaping "intensive verbs" in Hebrew and Dutch. We have less found such resemblance with sister- languages of Dutch.


Hebrew has a system that is clear and simple and is applied very consequently. Dutch is less perfect in rules and application, but offers an extra. So let us look at how this thing is done. For proper understanding we have to look first at the way verbs are presented in Dictionaries.





The criterion for the choice of the verbal form presented in dictionaries is that the chosen form should give the maximum facility in finding the many other forms of the same verb.


Thus the so-called basic forms of verbs are presented in a number of ways in different tongues. In Latin and Greek it is the first person singular of the present : "dico", "λεγω, lego.


In French dire", Italian "dire", Spanish "decir", Russian "сказать, skazatj, German "sagen", Swedish "säga" and Dutch "zeggen"it is the infinitive. In English that like Modern Greek has no infinitive form", the choice is as we know : in fact the preposition "to" with the modern root of the verb, "to say".


In Modern Hebrew there exists a form of "infinitive" that is comparable to the English practice.This modern "infinitive" is not recognized as such by all. It is written in one word, and is composed of the preposition "L" linked by a vowel to a nearly-root of the verb. "L-" means "to" or "for", like , with a noun, "Liyerushalaim" = "to Jerusalem" and "lehayom" = "for today".


But few Dictionaries do use this form because it is difficult and complicated to derive all forms of the verb from it. Naturally, as this is the criterion for the choice of basic dictionary-words in the various languages.


Therefore Hebrew presents its verbs with the "third person, singular, male, of the past tense".
We give rightaway a very common example :


KATAF,to write, but in reality meaning HE WROTE





In order to create an "intensive verb", in Hebrew two things are done :


  • 1. The vowels are changed into "i" and "e".


  • 2. The second (central) consonant is doubled.


The result is  KITTEF,  to write much, to engrave, but in fact  HE WROTE MUCH, HE ENGRAVED.

                   KIPPEL,   to pleat                                              HE PLEATED  



In order to obtain the same result, Dutch does two things and sometimes three :


  • 1. A syllable with a vowel "e" is added. (Sometimes vowels change.)


  • 2. The second consonant is doubled.


  • 3. , especially introducing "i" (with that extra "e").


The first point together with the combination of the second and third gives a result that is very much like the Hebrew method of shaping intensified forms of a verb.

Two examples :  BEVEN,  to tremble, becomes  BIBBEREN, to tremble much

                         KIJVEN,  to quarrel,  becomes  KIBBELEN, to bicker





The similarity of methods might be fortuitous, but it does not seem so . Especially as this is not the only resemblance in the shaping of verbal forms :.





Strong verbs are those that differentiate between tenses by using different vowels. Considering Germanic languages only it might be sufficient to use the common definition " verbs that form a past tense other than by means of a dental suffix" The characteristic of a past tense as to a present tense is not that of the dental suffix, which also can be found in some forms of the present. The real characteristic is that of the changing vowel. In this sense all Hebrew verbs are strong verbs, as they differentiate between tenses by differentiating vowels, besides the frequent use of other means.


Another point of the classic definition is that it supposes that the present tense is the basic form of verbs. That cannot be seen as generally true.


The terminology for verbal forms is not fully identical between Semitic and European languages.


What Europeans use as present is seen as verbal forms, but the forms used in Modern Hebrew are considered nominal forms. And they are flexed like nouns.


The verbal forms of the present, in Latin languages originally have been composed of verbal roots and pronouns, used as suffixes. Much of this is still recognizable. In Modern Germanic languages the flexions have nearly disappeared.


Whatever the linguistic definition, the way of expressing counts. In Hebrew we find the present expressed by the vocals "o" and "e", and the past by two "a"’s:


       PRESENT :                     KOTEF                      HE WRITES , HE IS WRITING

       PAST :                             KATAF                      HE WROTE , HE HAS WRITTEN


In Lower German languages we may find something like this in some verbs :


                                 English                          German                         Dutch

       PRESENT         HE COMES               ER KOMMT              HIJ KOMT

       PAST                 HE CAME                 ER KAM                    HIJ KWAM





In the following figure we show the way people have thought to express themselves in verbal forms, differentiating meanings by affixes. Very common is the use of pronominal units either as affixes or as separate words added to a verbal form.


Naturally the actual words are different between English and Hebrew, but a comparison between the two ways of using and composing elements is interesting.



Remote past I was writinghaya kotev haya kotev
I was writingI was writingI was writing
Past I wrote katafti katafti
I wrote wrote-I wrote-I
Present I write ektov ani kotev
I write I-write I am writing
Future I will write ektov ektov
(then) I write
I will write, I writeI write I write
Infinitive to write ktov likhtov
to write write to-write



We see that there are considerable similarities in the way of expressing oneself in verbal forms.
Modern English lets the pronoun as well as the preposition keep a separate position from the verbal stem. Hebrew, like Latin and Greek, as well as older Germanic words, attaches them as suffixes, with some adaptations as to the pronunciation





As a modern Germanic language Dutch has conserved a considerable number of strong verbs. We have counted 145 of them as commonly used. Important is to constate that these strong verbs are older words. Newer verbs are never coniugated as strong verbs, but apply those dental suffixes the classic definition mentioned. In these 145 strong verbs, vowels out of the following groups are used in the present and past tenses :


                                                      PRESENT TENSE                    PAST TENSE


                    A-sounds                               15                                           21

                    E-sounds                                39                                          38

                    I-sounds                                 73                                          17

                   O-sounds                                   7                                          69

                   U-sounds                                 11                                            0


The most frequent combinations are :  PRESENT  I-SOUND with PAST  E-SOUND     36

                                                                     ,,            I-      ,,         ,,       ,,         O-     ,,           33

                                                                     ,,            E-     ,,         ,,       ,,         O-     ,,           16


The vowel "A" does not play too important a role in Dutch strong verbs. In Hebrew it is very dominant , as the following figure shows.





An important difference to take into consideration is the following. Indo-European verbs in a root with three consonants commonly use only one vowel. Hebrew verbs commonly use two vowels. Roots with two consonants in Modern Hebrew are an exception, and often they are a contraction of earlier roots with three consonants. C.C.C-roots anyhow are the rule today. Therefore we see those two vowels. We will indicate them in capitals, with the exception of the frequent "shwa" or unaccented "e", like heard in English "item" or "about".


Type of Verb Present / FuturePast
Modern only Future
REGULAR active-IkhetOvkAtAv-
REGULAR status -UkhAl iAkhOl-
-IzqAn zAqEn 3 forms
AqAn- 6 forms
INTENSIVE -ekAttEv kIttEv- 3 forms
kIttAv- 6 forms
CAUSATIVE -AketIv hIkhtIv 3 forms
hIkhtAv 6 forms
REFLEXIVE -itkAttEv hitkAttEv 3 forms
hitkAttAv 6 forms






Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: Thursday 10 January 2013 at 19.42.53