I have always thought that as a general rule, the vav conjunctive prefix is usually a "וְ". But, when the word being "prefixed" either starts with a shva or starts with a "lip-letter" (בומ"פ), the vav changes to a "וּ" (kubutz).

However, I have come across a few of exceptions to the above rule, only one of which I actually remember at the moment. (Other examples are welcome as comments or as part of an answer.)

The exception I can think of right now is Exod. 10:8: "מִי וָמִי הַהֹלְכִים", in which I would think it should be "מִי וּמִי הַהֹלְכִים".

Why is it not "מִי וּמִי"? Is my above rule wrong or missing something, or is this just a particular exception, and if so, why?

  • Migrate to Hebrew.SE?
    – WAF
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 19:28
  • @WAF Unfortunately, probably true, even though I think I've found the answer.... :(
    – HodofHod
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 19:33
  • @HodofHod It's not so bad. They don't quite exist. Answer away!
    – WAF
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 19:38
  • Probably only the vav with a schwa changes to oo
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 19:50
  • 1
    @WAF, Jake, I'm not actually sure, we seem to have closed quite a few purely Hebrew grammar questions before, judaism.stackexchange.com/…. Also, meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/162/…
    – HodofHod
    Commented Mar 24, 2013 at 21:01

1 Answer 1


According to Gesenius, you are mostly right. Usually, a vov will take a shuruk when preceding a labial consonant, as well as when preceding a simple shva. The exception seems to be when the vov is right before the accent, and the word is at the end of a clause, sentence, or group of nouns.

From Wikisource:

(e) Immediately before the tone-syllable [the Waw] frequently takes Qameṣ, like בְּ‎, כְּ‍‎, לְ‎ (see §102f), but in most cases only at the end of a sentence or clause (but cf. also וָכֹא‎ 1 K 2230), e.g. וָמֵ֖ת‎ Ex 2112 (on the other hand, in verse 20 וּמֵ֖תִ‎ is in closer logical connexion with what follows); 2 K 74 וָמַ֣הְנוּ שָׁ֔ם‎, וָמַ֑תָנוּ‎ and וָמָֽתְנוּ‎; Ru 33 וָסַֹכְתְּ‎; [Ps] 1015 וָ֝רָֹע‎; 1 S 94 וָאַ֔יִן‎; 2 S 1326 וָלֹ֔א‎; Ez 479 וָחָ֔י‎; cf. also (with Ṭiphḥa) Gn 3313, 2 S 1512. The very frequent connexion of nouns expressing kindred ideas, by means of וָ‎, is due simply to considerations of rhythm, for even in such cases the Wāw must immediately precede the tone-syllable, which must be marked by a disjunctive accent, e.g. תֹּ֫הוּ וָבֹ֫הוּ‎ Gn 12, יוֹם וָלַ֫יְלָה‎ Gn 822 (see also the previous examples); Gn 1314 (thrice); Ex 253 זָהָב נָכֶ֫סֶף‎; [Ps] 967 כָּבוֹד וָעֹז‎; [Ps] 767 וְרֶ֫כֶב וָסוּס‎; Gn 713 וְשֵׁם־וְחָם וָיֶ֫פֶת‎; נֹחַ‎ 1 K 2110 כֹּה וָכֹה ;אֱלֹהִים וָמֶ֑לֶךְ‎ thus and thus; Est 18 אִישׁ־וָאִֽישׁ‎ at the end of the verse, but in [Ps] 875 אִישׁ וְאִישׁ‎ in spite of the Deḥi with the second אִישׁ‎, because it is closely connected with the following predicate. Also with three words פַּ֫חַד וָפַ֫חַת וָפָ֑ה‎ Is 2417. [...]

  • I don't know if you want to edit the source, but this might be a better online presentation of Gesenius' grammar: davidcox.com.mx/library/G/Gesenius%20-%20Hebrew%20Grammar.pdf
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 1:06
  • @ShimonbM I don't see an appreciable difference there, am I missing something?
    – HodofHod
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 6:45
  • @HodofHod - No, just that the PDF has the whole document in one piece, and you can skip to individual sections without needing to go through it chapter-by-chapter. You can search as well, and I don't know how sophisticated the search feature on Wikisource is. But if they're much of a muchness, I wouldn't worry about it.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 23:54
  • @ShimonbM Ah, takeh, I was upset that Wikibooks had no ability to search in books. Thanks for your addition then! (I think I'll leave mine up too, though, since you don't have to load an entire pdf to view it.)
    – HodofHod
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 0:11
  • HodofHod, you may wish to copy-paste this pretty much verbatim as an answer to judaism.stackexchange.com/q/44381.
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 6:58

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