The Hebrew Definite Article
The word “the” in Hebrew functions as a prefix to Hebrew words. That is, to make a Hebrew word (of either gender) definite, you add a Hey before the noun. Sometimes the vowel under the Hey changes, depending on whether the noun begins with a regular letter or a guttural letter.
CASE 1: Added to a word beginning with a non-guttural letter
The basic form of the article is a Hey pointed with a patach followed by a dagesh forte in the following (non-guttural) letter:
Notice that when the article is added to the noun, the first letter of the noun takes the dagesh mark (in the case of davar and ben, the dagesh changes from a dagesh kal to a dagesh chazak).
CASE 2: Added to a word beginning with a guttural letter
Recall that a guttural letter cannot take a dagesh mark (i.e., refuse to be “doubled”). If a noun begins with a guttural letter, then when the article is added, the patach under the Hey “compensates” and lengthens to a qamets:
Note, however, that before the guttural letters Hey or Chet, there is no change in the normal vowel under the article:
Finally, if the first letter of the noun is a guttural beginning with a Qamets, the article changes to Hey with Segol:
Note also that some vowel changes may occur within the word when the article is appended. This is common for words that include gutturals or geminate (hidden) letters.
The Indefinite Article
There is no indefinite article in Hebrew. For example, the word davar means “word” or “a word,” depending on the context.
Proper nouns (the specific names of persons or places) are definite by definition, and therefore do not use the definite article.
- Memorize the basic rules for adding the definite article to nouns beginning with non-guttural consonants
- Memorize the basic rules for adding the definite article to nouns beginning with guttural consonants
- Explain the difference between a proper noun and a common noun