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In the second brakhah of the amidah, מחיה is vocalized with a segol under the yud in some siddurim--making it a present-tense verb (1); and with a tzere in other siddurim--making it a noun in construct state (2). The choice between noun and verb is also relevant to the the other predicates applied to God in the paragraph (and in the other brakhot of the amidah, and in most brakhot in general), even if they happen to be words for which the two forms are identical. What are the reasons for choosing to take these words as verbs and what are the reasons for choosing to take them as nouns and what sources have discussed the issue?

(1) See the table of גִּזְרַת נָחֵי ל"ה verbs, specifically בניין פִּעֵל in the tense הווה, showing that the second root letter is vocalized segol.

(2) See Gesenius ¶89 2 (c): "Nouns in ־ֶה‎ from verbs ל״ה‎ form their constr. st. in ־ֵה‎...."

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1 Answer 1

     The word מחיה is the male singular present participle of the piel form of the verb חיה. In the context of the second blessing of the Amidah, it means "he who gives life," or "he who causes to live." The normal vocalization of piel participles uses the tzere vowel, e.g. מְגַדֵּל, "he who makes great." However, the verb חיה ends with the letter he, and so the vowel should be segol instead, i.e. מְחיֶּה. Your observation of both vowels is not surprising since they are very similar phonetically.

     Besides differences in vocalizations of words in the Amidah, there are actually differences in the wording of the 19 blessings themselves. For example, the Ashkenazi and Sephardic versions of the Amidah differ for 15 of the 19 blessings. It should then come as no surprise that there are other differences in vocalizations. In the sixth blessing, the Ashkenazi version vocalizes "forgive" as מְחַל, while the Sephardic version uses מְחוֹל. These are two different ways of vocalizing the same imperative.

    There is a noun מִחְיָה which appears as an entry in Jastrow's dictionary. However, it means "provision." In addition, the vowel pointing is different from the word we see in the Amidah, so it does not appear that our word is a noun (although a participle is a sort of verbal noun).

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Noun in the sense of 'person or thing that does something', so the question is whether the word means 'enlivener' (noun) or 'enlivens' (present tense verb). The issue cuts across Ashkenazi vs Sepharadi- editors within each rite have made different choices. The change of segol to tsere is caused by 'smikhut', construct state, not the fact that the word ends with the letter heh: mehayyeh with a segol is the correct base form, see e.g. Nehemiah 9:6. Smikhut/construct state applies to nouns not verbs, hence the issue of different meanings. –  paquda Jun 23 '13 at 18:42
    
To the best of my knowledge, מחיה is neither a noun or a verb, but rather it is a participle. I do not see the distinction in meaning between 'enlivener' and 'enlivens' (the latter as in 'one who enlivens'). Both are correct and similar translations of the piel participle. –  Tim Biegeleisen Jun 24 '13 at 13:54
    
'enlivener' plays the role of a noun in a sentence, 'enlivens' plays the role of a verb. To use another verb-- היא מזכירת החברה means: she is the secretary of the company. היא מזכירה החברה means: she mentions the company. --one is a noun the other is a present tense verb. –  paquda Jun 24 '13 at 19:28

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