Hebrew Vowels -

Introduction to the Sheva

The sheva is a mark placed under a letter that does not have a vowel. The sheva directly affects how to divide a Hebrew word into syllables.

The Sheva


  • The Sheva may be vocal or silent:
    • The vocal sheva (sheva na, or moving sheva) represents the sound of a letter without a vowel. When it opens a syllable it sounds almost as if you were trying to pronounce the letter by itself. Usually we will transliterate a vocal sheva with an "e" (or sometimes with an apostrophe).
    • The silent sheva is used to provide a stop to a syllable. We will not transliterate the silent sheva (sheva nach, or resting sheva) at all.
  • The Hebrew guttural letters cannot take a vocal sheva but use chateph forms instead (the Chateph forms are really a combination of the sheva with one of the other vowel signs). Hebrew gutturals can take a silent Sheva.
  • A sheva at the end of a word is always considered silent.
The Sheva

The Vocal Sheva

There are four cases when the Sheva is vocal:

Vocal Sheva Cases

Note:  When a Sheva is not vocal, it is silent.


Case 1: At the beginning of a word

Sheva Reading

Case 2: Second of two in a row:

Sheva Reading

Case 3: Under a Dagesh Forte letter:

Sheva Reading

Case 4: When following a long vowel:

Sheva Reading

The Sheva is also vocal when it is the first of two of the same sounding letters, such as in the word "hallelujah" (hal-le-lu-yah).

Exercise 1

Each word below has one or more sheva. For each word, identify the type of sheva (vocal or silent) and provide a transliteration. The first two words are done for you.

Identify the Sheva

Exercise 2

Read the following words aloud until you can do so fluently:

Reading Exercise

Return to Unit Two Contents


Hebrew for Christians
Copyright John J. Parsons
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