I recently corrected someone's use of beit hamidrash to beit-midrash, explaining that it is a smichut pair like the similar pairs, beit-knesset and beit-sefer, and that the added hei is only appropriate if it refers to a specific beit-midrash and is therefore a proper noun.

I then compared it to the use in Genesis 1 and 2 of yom hashishi and yom hash'vii, contrasting them with the same word pairs but without the hei. I suggested that without the hei, they refer to days of the week, but in Genesis 1 and 2 they are days 6 & 7 of a specific week - the week of creation - and are therefore like a proper noun, hence the hei. The trouble with that explanation is that, if so, why is there no hei for the earlier days (at least days 2 to 5)? Ibn Ezra on Gen 1:31 gives two examples of word-pairs in smichut with a hei prefixed to the second word, but I think both examples could be proper nouns. So I ask:

  1. Am I right in saying that a hei should only be prefixed to the second word of a smichut pair if it is a proper noun? and
  2. Why the difference in Genesis 1 between yom-sheini and yom hashishi? (I note the midrashic explanation cited by Rashi, but I am wondering if there is a grammatical explanation.)
  • I believe you mean 'definite noun' rather than 'proper noun'. The letter hei is a mark of definiteness.
    – Joel K
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 7:50
  • 2
    Further, the problem with your analysis of Genesis is that yom shishi does not appear to be a semichut pair at all - it is a noun + adjective. So we would have yom sheni = lit. a second day, and hayom hashelishi = lit. the third day. Grammatically, yom hashishi (with the article on only the second word) is unexpected, but Ibn Ezra points out that there are other examples of noun + adjective with the article only on the adjective, as opposed to on both words as would be expected.
    – Joel K
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 7:51
  • In English grammar a person's name is a "proper noun", but so is "the Mountain" if it refers to a previously named, specific mountain and therefore takes a capital M.
    – Moongazer
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 7:55
  • I believe that at least the example given by Ibn Ezra of rekiah hashamayim is a smichut pair because of the Sheva under the reish, otherwise it would be rAkia hashamayim.
    – Moongazer
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 8:00
  • @Moongazer Consider the sentences: "From the train window I noticed a mountain. The mountain was tall and covered in snow." In this case "the mountain" is definite, but not proper, and would still be marked in Hebrew with a heh.
    – Joel K
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 8:19

1 Answer 1


As stated in the comments:

  • Noun [of] noun -> noun [of] the noun.
  • Noun adjective -> The noun, the adjective.

Ordinals are adjectives, thus "the third son" -- "Ha-ben Ha-Shlishi."

(Rashi, and Chazal, are bothered by the definite article in "haShishi" precisely because the grammatical trend is better without it. Yom shlishi, "a third day." [There had never been one before.])

Vs. "oath-of-curse", shvuas allah; the oath-of-curse, shvuas ha-allah.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .