A Friendly Reminder: the Derived Stems

In this post I want to briefly define the derived stems and show their general relationship with one another.

  • Qal – this is the “light” form.  It is “light” because it is not made “heavy” by the additions of the Pi”el, Pu”al, etc.  It is your basic form; simple action.
    • Niph’al – with the passive form of the Qal falling out of use, the Niph’al began to function as the passive of the Qal.  More often, however, the Niph’al is a reflexive form.
  • Pi”el – this derived stem “intensifies” the action of the Qal.  In the Qal the verb שׂבר means ‘to break.’ In the Pi”el, the action is intensified: ‘to smash to pieces.’  The Pi”el has other meanings (factitive, denominative, etc.) but ‘intensive’ is the primary meaning.
    • Pu”al – the passive form of the Pi”el.
    • Hithpa”el – the reflexive form of the Pi”el.
    • NOTE:  Semitic grammarians note that it is the dagesh forte in the second root letter of these forms that give the intensive nuance.
    • NOTE: Not all verbs in the Pi”el are intensive.  More will be said about this later.
  • Hiph’il – this derived stem is the ‘causative’ stem.  Using the verb שׂבר again: in the Qal it means ‘to break.’  When the verb is in the Hiph’il it means ‘to cause [someone] to break’ something.
    • Hoph’al – the passive form of the Hiph’il.
    • NOTE: Like the Pi”el, not all Hiph’il verbs are causative.  Again, more will be said about this later.