11 November 2018
This is a translation of an article by Mark Delta, writer and language teacher.
Modal verbs – i. e. verbs expressing possibility, permission, obligation or likelihood (such as can, should, must or ought to), as well as desire, intention and other attitudes to actions – are rarely a problem for us in our first language, as we are used to them since our early childhood. But in a new language, they may cause issues because of their language-specific subtleties, as well as the fact that almost all of these verbs have multiple meanings.
For example, the English sentence "he must go to the store" may express an order ("go to the store!") or an obligation, much like "he should go to the store". However, "he must have gone to the store" is an assumption: looks like he has gone to the store. In the same time, "he mustn't go to the store" is not a negation of the obligation (that would be "he doesn't have to go to the store"), but a prohibition: he must stay at home.
Also, compare the following: "I didn't need to go there" is just a statement that someone had no obligation to go. However, "I shouldn't have gone there" expresses regret: it would be better if I didn't go there.
So, this is an article about modal verbs and auxiliary words that express obligation. How does one say "must", "should", "has to", "obliged to" in Hebrew? Below is the list of words, usage cases and explanations.
אני צריך ללכת לחנות ani tzarich lalechet la-chanut means "I must go to the store". The reasons can be different: I decided, I planned, I was forced; with the words צָרִיךְ tzarich (צְרִיכָה tzricha, צְרִיכִים tzrichim, צְרִיכוֹת tzrichot) it does not matter.
The word tzarich does not assume an obligation: the phrase above can mean "I need to go to the store (just because I decided to)".
In the past tense, we would say: הייתי צריך ללכת לחנות. In the future tense: אהיה צריך ללכת לחנות, or אצטרך ללכת לחנות etztarech lalechet la-chanut. In this case, the verb לְהִצְטָרֵךְ lehitztarech works as a kind of future tense for the word צריך.
In its second meaning, להצטרך means "to be forced, to have to" (bound by external circumstances): אצטרך ללכת לחנות - "I'll have to go to the store". In this meaning, the verb להצטרך can be used not only in the future tenses, but in all tenses: הצטרכתי ללכת לחנות hitztarachti lalechet la-chanut - "I had to go to the store".
When used in the present tense, this verb conveys a periodic, habitual or regular need, rather than a momentary obligation: אני מצטרך ללכת לחנות "I have to go to the store" (from time to time, on a regular, repeated basis).
In its third meaning, להצטרך is used with a direct object (that is, without a preposition or with the preposition אֶת et – even though it is uncommon for hitpa'el verbs), or (less often) with the preposition לְ־ le-, and means "to need need something or someone": אצטרך את הספר eztarech et hа-sеfer hа-zе - "I will need this book." The same phrase can be also used in the past tense.
The word זָקוּק zakuk (ל־) "in need (of)" is used with the same meaning:
הייתי זקוק לספר הזה, אני זקוק לספר הזה, אהיה זקוק לספר הזה.
The verb לְהִזְדַּקֵּק lehizdakek with the same root זק"ק can be used instead, also with the preposition לְ־ le-:
הזדקקתי לספר הזה, אני מזדקק לספר הזה, אזדקק לספר הזה.
But let’s return to צריך. The same word can be used in impersonal sentences – when the subject is not explicit or even not implied. Such sentences are uncommon in English, but are common in other languages, for example, Russian: "нужно пойти в магазин" or French: "il faut aller au magazin", roughly translated into English as "there is a need to go to the store". In Hebrew, one would say:
צריך ללכת לחנות = צריכים ללכת לחנות = יש צורך ללכת לחנות tzarich, tzrichim, yesh tzorech. the last expression means literally "there is a need" (צֹרֶךְ ~ צורך tzorech). In other tenses:
.היה צריך, יהיה צריך
.היו צריכים, יהיו צריכים
.היה צורך, יהיה צורך
The word tzarich is also used with nouns when something is needed or required. While להזדקק and זקוק are used with the preposition ל- , a direct object is used after צריך :
אני צריך את המילון הזה – "I need this dictionary".
הוא צריך, היה צריך, יהיה צריך את הספר הזה - "he needs (needed, will need) this book."
From the roots ז-ק-ק and צ-ר-ך some more words are formed:
לְהִזָּקֵק ~ להיזקק lehizakek, נִזְקָק nizkak (ле-) "to need (something), to be in need"
לְהִצָּרֵךְ ~ להיצרך lehitzarech, נִצְרָךְ nitzrach – 1) "to be consumed" (passive voice of לצרוך "to consume"), 2) "to need (something)" (lehitzarech le-).
לְהַצְרִיךְ lehatzrich – "to demand (someone to do something), to put someone in dependence on something".
וְנָא אַל תַּצְרִיכֵנוּ יי אֱלהֵינוּ לא לִידֵי מַתְּנַת בָּשָׂר וָדָם וְלא לִידֵי הַלְוָאָתָם (from Birkat hа-mazon, the blessing after meal): "please do not make us dependent upon the gifts of mortal men nor upon their loans".
Note, however, that להצריך is rarely used in modern language, even in written texts.
The words דָּרוּשׁ darush and נָחוּץ nachutz express approximately the same idea as צריך, but they take the thing that is needed as subject (rather than the person who needs the thing). They also convey a slightly stronger grade of necessity:
– הספר הזה דרוש לי ha-sefer ha-ze darush li: "this book is necessary (required) for me". The word דרוש is also used in job announcements: דרושים נהגים "drivers wanted";
– הספר הזה נחוץ לי ha-sefer ha-ze nachutz li "this book is necessary (strongly necessary) for me";
– הספר הזה הכרחי לי ha-sefer ha-ze hechrechi li "this book is necessary for me; I can't do without it".
The word הֶכְרֵחִי hechrechi "necessary" is more often used in negative sentences:
– הספר הזה לא הכרחי – "this book is not necessary" (in the given situation).
– לא הכרחי ללכת לחנות – "it's not necessary to go to the store".
An even stronger grade of necessity can be expressed by the word חִיּוּנִי chiyuni "vital, of vital importance":
– !הספר הזה חיוני. אנחנו ממש חייבים ללכת לחנות הספרים כדי לרכוש אותו – "This book is of vital importance. We really must go to the store to buy it!"
חיוני is related to the words חַי chay "alive" and חַיִּים chayim "life". Note also that the sentence above features the word חַיָּב ~ חייב chayav "must, obliged, required to", but we will discuss it later.
The word דָּרוּשׁ darush "wanted, required" is the passive participle of the verb לִדְרֹשׁ ~ לדרוש lidrosh "to require". Of course, this verb can also be used to express obligation. לדרוש and לְהִדָּרֵשׁ ~ להידרש lehidaresh "to be required" – a pa'al verb and a nif`al verb of the same root – give us the following tools to express necessity:
In public announcements, the following language is often used:
Sometimes such formal requirements or appeals are expressed through requests rather than demands:
הנהגים מתבקשים להיזהר מפני החלקה hа-nehagim mitbakshim lehizaher mipnei hаchlaka, lit. "Drivers are being asked to beware of black ice".
The verb לְהֵאָלֵץ ~ להיאלץ lehe'aletz indicates a need for doing something forced by either by circumstances or (more often) by people: נאצלתי / אני נאלץ / איאלץ! ne 'elatzti, ani ne'elatz, e'aletz. It can also be translated “I have to”.
The related word for "to force, to compel, to coerce" (לאלץ) is a pi'el verb – somewhat confusingly, as one would expect a pa'al counterpart to the nif'al verb להיאלץ.
The corresponding verbal noun, "coercion", is אִלּוּץ ~ אילוץ ilutz. Often, this word is used in the plural with the meaning "constraints". מחר לא אוכל ללכת לחנות: יש לי יותר מדי אילוצים – "I can't go to the store tomorrow: I’m too busy" ("there are too many constraints").
Another verb with the meaning "to force, to coerce" is !(word-3.3.quote לְהַכְרִיחַ INF-L), of binyan hif'il, and has a passive counterpart הֻכְרַח ~ הוכרח huchrach "was forced, compelled", of binyan huf'al.
The root כ-ר-ח, on which the verbs הכריח and הורכח are constructed is found in the noun כֹּרַח ~ כורח korach, meaning necessity or compulsion, and which is used mostly in literature and press. For example:
הוא עשה את זה בעל כורחו bе-аl korchо – "He did it reluctantly."
(Note that בְּעַל in this sentence is not the noun בַּעַל ba'al – "owner, holder, husband", but a combination of two prepositions: בְּ־ be- and עַל al.)
The action noun for לְהַכְרִיחַ lehachriach is הֶכְרֵחַ hechreach "necessity, need". Some expressions with this word are מן ההכרח min ha-hechreach "out of necessity" (although this one is mostly used in the literary langauge) and בהכרח be-hechrach "necessarily". Note the pronunciation - even though it's hechreach according to the rules, the variant hechrach|* is almost always used in speech. Note also that these expressions do not necessarily indicate an obligation to someone - they rather indicate logical necessity, like "definitely" and "certainly".
Below are some more examples of how to express in Hebrew the meaning conveyed by the words "necessarily" or "definitely".
"His promises are not necessarily indicating (his) intention."
*!.דבריו אינם בהכרח כרוכים בכוונות
.דבריו לא תמיד מצביעים על כוונות
.לא בטוח שהדברים שלו מצביעים על כוונות (this one is more colloquial)
.לא הכרחי שדבריו פירושם כוונות
"Your proposal will definitely bring success".
.ההצעה שלך תביא בהכרח להצלחה
.ההצעה שלך בוודאי תביא להצלחה
.אין ספק שהצעתך תביא להצלחה
.הצעתך תביא להצלחה בהכרחיות (be-hechrechiyut - necessarily, in certainty)
.ההצעה שלך בטוח תביא להצלחה
"I should definitely go to the store".
.אני חייב ללכת לחנות = אני פשוט חייב ללכת לחנות = אני ממש חייב ללכת לחנות 3.3.3.
אני צריך ללכת לחנות ויהי-מה! The expression וִיהִי-מַה vihi-ma "be as it may", "whatever happens" is literary, but sometimes occurs in speech.
.זה הכרחי שאלך לחנות = זה חיוני שאלך לחנות
Stay tuned for the second part of the article.
Expressing obligation in Hebrew - part 2
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