AbstractThe background for the project is the elusive character of the classical Hebrew verbal system. In most languages the time in which an action is located is shown in the form of the verb. Such a system is known as tense, in which there is a consistent relation between verbal form and temporal reference. In classical Hebrew this relation is not consistent, and therefore it cannot be explained on the basis of tense. More than one millennium of Hebrew studies has not been able to explain satisfactorily the nature of the verbal forms. One of the reasons for this is a number of assumptions on which most theories have been based. One common assumption is that all languages have tenses. The atemporal behaviour of the Hebrew “tenses” has been attempted explained in various ways by those who defend a tense theory. My analysis uncovers the weaknesses associated with the tense view, and why it should be abandoned. However, most scholars today see the forms as aspects, i.e., as different ways of portraying an action. Most of these theories have serious weaknesses as well. Their meaning has evaded most of those searching for it, much because their functions have been interpreted as their meaning. Other reasons are e.g., the confusion between aspect on one side and tense and Aktionsart on the other. Another assumption is that narrative text is the best place to look for the meaning of the forms. The results of my analysis suggests that this is not the case, and as a result I find that verbs in direct quotation in texts, or direct speech, is a better place to find their meaning. This is because I see direct speech as a more neutral way of expression, not bound by narrative conventions uncovered by my analysis. Using verbs in direct speech in the analysis, I present my own view of the nature of the forms. As many others, I propose an aspectual basis for the classical Hebrew verbal system. The most serious obstacle to a solution of the problem is the misguided interpretation of the so-called consecutive forms. My aspectual theory provides somewhat new definitions of the aspectual values perfective and imperfective, which explain the use of both the free-standing forms as well as the consecutive ones. I propose that the meanings of the latter forms are the opposite of what is usually claimed. The aspectual values, according to my theory, are those of subjective viewpoints, independent of the objective notions of tense and Aktionsart. The consecutive imperfect, usually claimed to be a perfective narrative form, is used to express temporal succession in narrative, not because of its perfectivity, but because of the inceptive value of the imperfective. The consecutive perfect is not, as is claimed, an imperfective form, but a perfective one, motivating its most common use, i.e., that of logical succession.