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In Hebrew: ‘To Like’

A daily dose of Hebrew.

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לֶאֱהוֹב, לְחַבֵּב, לִמְצוֹא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי…

In English, there’s to like something (or someone), and then there’s to love something (or someone). Hebrew uses the word לֶאֱהוֹב (an active-simple פָּעַל verb) for both like and love, so that you’ll find people saying:

הִיא אוֹהֶבֶת בְּרוֹקוֹלִי.
She likes broccoli.

just as easily as

הִיא אוֹהֶבֶת אֶת הַיְלָדִים שֶׁלִּהּ.
She loves her children.

Almost no one loves broccoli – rather, the context is what determines whether לאהוב means like or love. When context isn’t enough to distinguish between liking and loving, Israelis will bring in another couple of expressions.

There’s לְחַבֵּב, an active-intensive פִּעֵל verb from the root ח.ב.ב (kh.b.b) meaning fondness.

For example:

דָּוִד: אַתָּה אוֹהֵב את מִירִי? שְׁלֹמֹה: אֲנִי מְחַבֵּב אֹתָהּ…
David: Do you love Miri? Shlomo (Solomon): I like her…

There’s …לִמְצוֹא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי . Literally, to find favor in the eyes of… So that if Shlomo were to express his liking for Miri with more confidence, the interaction might be:

דָּוִד: אַתָּה אוֹהֵב אֶת מִירִי? שְׁלֹמֹה: הִיא מוֹצֵאת חֵן בְּעֵינָי.
David: Do you love Miri? Shlomo: I like her (literally, she finds favor in my eyes)

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Ami Steinberger

About the Author: Ami Steinberger is founder and director of Ulpan La-Inyan.

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