In Hebrew, as in other Afro-Asiatic languages, verbs are formed by applying one of several patterns or binyanim (בניינים / בִּנְיָנִים (binyaním, “buildings”)) to an underlying root (שׁוֹרֶשׁ (shóresh, “root”)). For example, the verbs הִסְפִּיק (hispík, “to be enough, to suffice”), סיפק / סִפֵּק (sipék, “to supply, to satisfy”), and הִסְתַּפֵּק (histapék, “to have enough, to be satisfied”) are all formed from the root ס־פ־ק (s-p-k), which forms words (among others) with meanings related to "enough". Verbs formed from the same root usually have meanings that are related, often in systematic ways.
Traditionally, the form of a verb that is listed in dictionaries — the lemma form — is the third-person masculine singular past-tense form, and this dictionary follows that tradition. For example, it is mentioned above that the verb הִסְפִּיק (hispík) means “to be enough”. That specific verb form, however, actually means “(he/it) was enough”. The verb form that specifically means “to be enough” is the infinitive form, לְהַסְפִּיק (l'haspík).
As noted above, there are several different patterns or binyanim according to which a verb may be formed. In the traditional reckoning, there are seven binyanim, known as: pa'ál or kál; nif'ál; pi'él; pu'ál; hif'íl; huf'ál; and hitpa'él. With the exception of the name kál, each name is the lemma form (explained above) of a verb formed with that binyan from the root פ־ע־ל (p-'-l), which forms words related to action. The name kál, which is another name for pa'ál, is the Hebrew word for “light (not heavy)”, and refers to the fact that kál verbs do not have any prefix in the present tense.
pa'al or kal
Pa'ál or kál is the most common binyan. Pa'al verbs are in the active voice, and can be either transitive or intransitive. This means that they may or may not take direct objects. Pa'al verbs are never formed from four-letter roots.
Verbs in binyan nif'al are always intransitive, but beyond that there is little restriction on their range of meanings. The nif'al is the passive-voice counterpart of pa'al. In principle, any transitive pa'al verb can be rendered passive by taking its root and casting it into nif'al. Nonetheless, this is not nif'al's main use, as the passive voice is fairly rare in ordinary Modern Hebrew.
Binyan pi'el, like binyan pa'al, consists of transitive and intransitive verbs in the active voice, though there is perhaps a greater tendency for pi'el verbs to be transitive.
Binyan pu'al is the passive-voice counterpart of binyan pi'el. Unlike binyan nif'al, it is used only for the passive voice. It is therefore not very commonly used in ordinary speech, except that the present participles of a number of pu'al verbs are used as ordinary adjectives.
Binyan hif'il is another active binyan. Hif'il verbs are often causative counterparts of verbs in other binyanim.
Binyan huf'al is much like binyan pu'al, except that it corresponds to hif'il instead of to pi'el. Like pu'al, it is not commonly used in ordinary speech, except in present participles that have become adjectives.
Binyan hitpa'el is rather like binyan nif'al, in that all hitpa'el verbs are intransitive, and most have a reflexive sense. Indeed, many hitpa'el verbs are reflexive counterparts to other verbs with the same root.