I'm aware that the vowels of the Tetragrammaton are unknown and i'm not asking what they are.

I see a lot of variation in the vowels placed or not placed, on the Tetragrammaton.

Sometimes a hataph patach on the first letter, sometimes a shva, sometimes a hataph segol.

Sometimes a holam on the second letter, sometimes no vowel.

Sometimes a kamatz on the third letter, sometimes a hiriq on the third letter.

I'm interested to know what reasons there are for when it's written with some vowels and not other vowels.. I see a pattern where it is spelt with a yud under the vav, every time it follows aleph,dalet,nun,yud. So it seems maybe there are some rules or conventions.

Examples below

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The Mechon Mamre site for that verse has the word with just the two vowels, and the yud with the shva. http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt26e4.htm

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I see in bibleworks the cholam

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I see it seems maybe every case of aleph,daled,nun,yud followed by yud,heh,vav,heh there is a chirik under the third letter of yud,heh,vav,heh


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and in that Kings example a vav with a cholam

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3 Answers 3


The divine name YHVH is always an instance of Qere and Ketiv. The convention used for representing Qere and Ketiv is to give the consonants of the written word but point the consonants with the vowels of the word that is to be read instead of it.

The default choice for what to read for YHVH is Adonay, so most often YHVH is pointed with the vowels of Adonay. If, however, YHVH follows an actual written instance of Adonay, then the default is inappropriate, so Elohim is used instead, and the consonants of YHVH are pointed with the vowels of Elohim.

  • Please see the op's question in the comment to my answer, maybe you can help
    – hazoriz
    Nov 2, 2016 at 21:43
  • @hazoriz, I posted a separate question to try to get answers for that point: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/78070/…
    – paquda
    Dec 8, 2016 at 16:40
  • If you can make the point in your answer about the difference in regards to Sheva and the difference in regards to absence and presence of Cholam, and if you change the phrase "vowels of", in "vowels of Adonay" "vowels of Elohim" to vowels 'like' to be clear that it's not exactly like, then I can accept your answer
    – barlop
    Jan 9, 2019 at 17:44

There are kabolistic ideas in different nekudot of the Name see this.
(See second line from the bottom (and footnote 25) here)

But the way I was tought all the examples you bring are just ways to hint to us how to read it

Most of them are hinting (having very similar nekudot) to Adonoy
in the the last 3 examples they are hinting (having very similar nekudot) to Elokim

Not always are they exact:

The shva is a hint to the hataph patach and to hataph segol, depending on the rest of the nekudot.
The holam is sometimes skipped

Since the nekuda on the 3rd letter is enough for the hint

There is mishnah Berurah that when you imagine the name before you at all times it should be with the nekudot of the word fear
Source mishna Berurah 1.4

another reason of the 2 versions when it is pronounced Adonoy

shulchan aruch harav 5.2

When, however, [the name] is written as י‑ה‑ו‑ה, there are those who pronounce the alef with a shva, for this is the vowel of [the corresponding initial letter which is] the yud of the name י‑ה‑ו‑ה. Others pronounce the alef with a chataf patach, using the same vowel as the alef of the name A-donai.

  • Could you elaborate on "The sva is a hint to the hataph patach and to hataph segol, depending on the rest of the nekudot." So, Why is the shva used as a hint? And how does it depend?
    – barlop
    Nov 2, 2016 at 11:46
  • @barlop Thank you,. The word Elohim and the word Adonoy have each have 3 nekudot, if you skip first one it will not be a good hint, but if you change the first nekida a little (make a hint to what it needs to be) by putting a sheva instead of a hataph parach it is still hint to the correct way of reading it
    – hazoriz
    Nov 2, 2016 at 12:56
  • what i'm asking is why would a shva hint to a hataph patach / hataph vowel? Is it just because hataph vowels involve a shva.. or is there some other reason e.g. like i've heard something along the lines of that some letters like Chet cannot take a vocal shva, but can take a composite shva(hataph vowel), or a silent shva.
    – barlop
    Nov 2, 2016 at 21:34
  • also how do we know that shva is just a hint and not the real vowel under the yud? there are many names like yuh hoshua yud with shva.
    – barlop
    Nov 2, 2016 at 21:41
  • @barlop my guess is your first idea, but there might be another reason, I just am not an expert in this subject
    – hazoriz
    Nov 2, 2016 at 21:42

No doubt paquda is correct in saying that it's a case of ktiv and keri, but it will rarely have vowels exactly of elohim or exactly of adonai. Every case the vowels are either like elohim or like adonai. But rarely exactly like.

A) When it(YHVH) has vowels like Adonai, the difference is that there is usually a simple shva under the Yud rather than a composite shva. (at least looking at the WLC)

B) When it(YHVH) has vowels like Elohim, the difference is that in most cases there is a simple shva under the yud of YHVH.

C) Usually there is no cholam on the vav of YHVH(funnily enough mechon mamre's text never puts the cholam on there, and bible.ort.org's text has the cholam on all of them. The WLC has a mixture, where thousands of cases don't have the vav and around 50-90 do)

And interestingly, in WLC, for Judges 16:28 you get a composite shva under the yud, and a vav over the first heh, so the vowels (hataph segol, cholam, chirik), are exactly the vowels of elohim, in that instance. (I don't think there is any case in the WLC, of YHVH matching the vowels of adonai or elohim exactly, other than that one where it matches elohim exactly).

The reason for the composite shva(on the aleph of elohim and of adonai), changed to a simple shva(on the yud of YHVH), is likely because(or at least something to do with the fact that), yud is allowed a simple vocal shva. (unlike aleph, which is in adonai and elohim, an aleph's vocal shva has to be composite).

i.e. grammatically a gutteral e.g. Aleph, isn't meant to take a simple vocal shva but can take a composite shva, so adonai and elohim take a composite shva. So it's normal for a letter that would normally take a simple vocal shva, to take a composite shva if the letter is gutteral. (Note that there are cases of non-gutteral letters in tanach taking composite shva too) Yud doesn't have that restriction that aleph has of not being able to take a simple vocal shva.

The answerer, Pekuda, does explain when YHVH has the vowels like Adonai and when it has the vowels like Elohim. (I say like adonai and like elohim, rather than 'of' adonai and elohim, because see points A,B,C).

His answer does leave open the question of why is it that sometimes the cholam is in there, (i.e. the cholam of elohim and adonai), leaving all the vowels in there, and sometimes not. And indeed sometimes with the vowels like in the WLC, elohim(1 Kings 2:26, Psalms 140:8, Isaiah 50:4), and sometimes with the vowels like adonai(Gen 3:14, Gen 9:26).

Note- if you have a text editor with regex search and the tanach loaded in, you can use the regex [\u05D9][\u0500-\u05AF\u05BC-05CF]*[\u05B0-\u05BB][\u0500-\u05AF\u05BC-05CF]*[\u05D4][\u0500-\u05AF\u05BC-05CF]*[\u05B0-\u05BB][\u0500-\u05AF\u05BC-05CF]*[\u05D5][\u0500-\u05AF\u05BC-05CF]*[\u05B0-\u05BB][\u0500-\u05AF\u05BC-05CF]*[\u05D4] to search for e.g. YHWH with cholam.

Note- It may be a bit flawed to look to the WLC for something as fine as this, (As the leningrad is thought to be a bit sloppy and doesn't even correspond with its own mesora notes in its markings), perhaps the Aleppo Codex sheds more light, though it isn't in digital text form and may just be in pdf or jpg which makes it harder to check).

  • 1
    barlop if you think paquda got the answer right (which I happen to agree), then you should accept it instead of accepting hazoriz garbled answer.
    – Bach
    Jan 9, 2019 at 14:29
  • @Bach paquda wasn't entirely correct. Paquda said for example "often YHVH is pointed with the vowels of Adonay" And that's not correct. YHVH doesn't ever have exactly the vowels of adonai because adonai has a hataph patach, and on the first letter, and the Yud/first letter of YHVH doesn't have a hataph patach under it (and so isn't even pronounced at all the same , given current pronunciations of those vowels, and any pronunciation since it is a different vowel or half vowel ).
    – barlop
    Jan 9, 2019 at 16:18
  • @Bach also, Hazorzis said this in comment, "if you change the first nekida a little (make a hint to what it needs to be) by putting a sheva instead of a hataph parach it is still hint to the correct way of reading it " , which switched a light bulb on in my head. That adonai has a composite shva, and YHVH has a simple shva. So while not the same vowel, they are very similar vowels (And I was aware of the rule re gutterals not taking a vocal shva). Pequda's answer, completely glossed over the problem and in his answer he presented it like the vowels were the same when they weren't. .
    – barlop
    Jan 9, 2019 at 16:21
  • @Bach Pequda did later comment on his answer regarding the shva , linking to a question he later asked, but there's no clarity in his answer or even in the words of his comment, of there even being a question on the first letter. There is a comment from him with link that asks re that shva, but that was posted long after Hazorzis already made his comment to me about the shva.
    – barlop
    Jan 9, 2019 at 16:26
  • @barlop slight correction to myself, it looks like YHVH does sometimes have a hataph patach under the yud.
    – barlop
    Jan 9, 2019 at 16:35

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