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October 9, 2015 / 26 Tishri, 5776
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In Hebrew: ‘To Wonder’

A daily dose of Hebrew.
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August was Baby Boom month in Israel.


The Hebrew word for to wonder is לִתְהוֹת. In English, we use the verb to wonder to express not only genuine wonder, but also to make a polite request, such as I was wondering whether you’d be able to pick me up on the way to work. Such an expression in Hebrew might replace the wondering with I wanted to know:

רָצִיתִי לָדַעַת אִם תּוּכַל לֶאֱסוֹף אֹתִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ לַעֲבוֹדָה. I wanted to know whether you’d be able to pick me up on the way to work.

The Hebrew word לתהות is generally used literally, as in:

תָּהִיתִי מַדּוּעַ הֵם עוֹד לֹא הִגִּיעוּ. I was wondering why they hadn’t arrived yet.

The root of לתהות is ת.ה.ה (t.h.h) and is an active-simple פָּעַל verb.

To wonder, in Hebrew, is different from a wonder. The word for that is פֶּלֶא.

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

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