top of page
  • Writer's pictureGaila Cohen Morrison

Dear Gaila - The Concept of "Is"

Dear Gaila,

I have a weekly remedial teaching session with a weak Hebrew speaker. I use Reading Rocks! (which is excellent, by the way). However, every time we come across the "is" word my student gets confused. How can I explain the concept of "is"?

Thank you,


What is "is"?

Dear Miriam,

There are two parts to my answer. First of all, you have to explain the concept to your student. This is hard because there is no direct translation for "is" in Hebrew. What I do is to use the past tense. In the Hebrew past tense the sentence "It was a dog" translates to "הוא היה כלב". The היה, I tell them, is the past tense of "is". When I say "It is a dog", it is as if I say: "הוא הווה כלב" - which makes no sense obviously, as we drop that part in Hebrew.

Now that your student understands the concept, I would go on to drilling the grammar. Use vocabulary that your students already has. (By the way, this is a basic teaching tool - when teaching something new, use what they have already learned, in this case acquired vocabulary). For example, at the beginning of each lesson have them say: "It is a pen", "It is a table", "Is it a pen?", "Is this a table?".

Hopefully this will ease the confusion for your student. Enough drill might even internalize the verb so that he will read and understand it, and perhaps even use it quite naturally.


Gaila has almost 40 year of experience teaching and runs A.H.A.V.A., a non-profit to promote English literacy. Would you like to ask Gaila a question? Email us at or send us a message. Look out for more Dear Gaila columns

bottom of page