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Are there examples of words where pronouncing a sh'va as a tzeirei or a segol (or pronouncing a tzeirei as a sh'va or a segol or a segol as a sh'va or a tzeire) creates a different meaning? I'm looking for examples where mispronunciation results in a very different meaning (e.g., past vs. future tense -- basically something that a gabbai should correct in laining if the ba'al korei makes such a mistake) or even an entirely different word. Multiple examples would be appreciated.

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  • judaism.stackexchange.com/a/73238/759 Neder vs Neider. Or Mishte vs Mishtei. Those could easily be correctable (Mishtei Nashim is a party for women, while Mishte Nashim is where they drink women). I'm not sure why you'd think these don't exist that you have to ask.
    – Double AA
    Apr 16, 2017 at 1:52
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    @DoubleAA The problem is that mishte nashim is just grammatically incorrect (you must use the construct state in that case; you can't have two normal nouns in a row); I'm looking for something that means something else when pronounced differently; i.e. that changes the meaning but isn't just an error. (Like putting the emphasis on different parts of "vihotzeiti"; both are possible yet the two result in very different meanings.)
    – Gabriel
    Apr 16, 2017 at 5:52
  • I don't know what you mean by two nouns can't come in a row. Changing smichut can change the meaning. Just when it's not smichut one is viewed as an object or a list or an adjective or something. Like is מטה אחר the staff of another guy or another staff
    – Double AA
    Apr 16, 2017 at 10:51
  • @DoubleAA I accept your example of smichut changing the meaning (although two normal nouns not in the construct state still can't come in a row...in the case of another staff acher is an adjective); I'm still looking for other examples because another staff vs staff of another are still very similar in meaning and I'm curious if there are more drastic differences.
    – Gabriel
    Apr 16, 2017 at 13:52
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    Any word that ends with "-ennu" vs "-einu". Like Tishallechennu vs Teshallecheinu תשלחנו. The former is he will send it, the letter is he will send us. See kaf hachayim 142:9. There are scores of examples of these.
    – Double AA
    Apr 16, 2017 at 22:08

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Pronouncing segol as tzeirei/ vice versa:

One very drastic example of this is the word אל. With a tzeirei, this means 'Almighty' (depending on translation; but basically usually G-d). With a segol, this means 'to' [there may be some exceptions, but this is generally true].

Another example of this are the words אוכל and צורך. With a tzeirei, they mean 'eating' and 'consuming', respectively. With a segol they mean 'food and 'a need', respectively. I tried figuring out if this is a general rule by verbs of this sort (meaning, present tense binyan kal, and the relevant noun) but it doesn't seem to be. [Note that these words also include a change in enunciation - from mil'el to mil'ra.] Edit: I found one more like this, קובץ. There are presumably others.

There is also the example @DoubleAA gave in the comments, which is the word ישלחנו (along with any other future tense binyan pi'el, with the suffix נו), where if the letter before the נ has a segol, it would mean "he should/ will X him", whereas if it were with a tzeirei, it would be "he should/ will X us" (in our example, ישלחֶנו means he should send him, and ישלחֵנו means you should send us).

Pronouncing tzeirei as sh'va na/ vice versa:

In verbs which are binyan pi'el, a מ at the beginning either shows that the word is present tense, or means 'from the X of', depending on whether it uses a sh'va or tzeirei. For example מבשל with a sh'va would mean "cooking", whereas with a tzeirei it would mean "from the cooking of".

A practical (and drastic) example is in the song כל מקדש שביעי, where it says:

כל שומר שבת כדת מחללו

When pronounced with a tzeirei, this means

"All who keep Shabbos religiously, from its desecration" (i.e. those who make sure not to desecrate shabbos)

Whereas with a sh'va it means

"All who keep Shabbos religiously, desecrate it" - exactly the opposite!

Another example is שמע. With a tzeirei this means 'a rumor' (literally, 'a heard', I think). With a sh'va, this means 'hear!', as a command. [Though this also changes the enunciation from mil'el to mil'ra.]

Pronouncing sh'va na as segol and vice versa:

One example of where this would change the meaning is the word קרע, where when pronounced with a sh'va, means "rip!", and with a segol it means "a tear (rip)" [though just like שמע, this changes the enunciation]. Similar words include: בלע (which actually changes meaning slightly more than other words), מנע (which won't coem up as often, because in its segol form it's only used as the secknd word in smichut; at least in modern Hebrew) שפע, פצע, פתח, מתח, and seemingly any shoresh that ends in ע or ח in binyan kal (besides for שמע, which I've already mentioned).

One word worth mentioning separately (even though it's included above) because it completely changes the meaning: קרח with a sh'va means "bald!" (I.e. a command to pull out hair), whereas with a segol it means "ice". There are probably others like this as well.


There are many, many more individual and groups of words that will change in any of these three ways, so please comment if you know of another! (Or leave a separate answer, if you prefer)

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  • No not Kal. Piel. Like וַיְשַׁלְּחֵ֥נוּ יְהוָ֖ה לְשַׁחֲתָֽהּ vs לַחָפְשִׁ֥י יְשַׁלְּחֶ֖נּוּ תַּ֥חַת עֵינֽוֹ
    – Double AA
    Dec 1, 2023 at 1:05
  • My mistake, I was thinking of יִשְלָחֶנוּ. I've edited to address that, but I think leaving the pessukim in the comments will be useful for others @DoubleAA
    – Lo ani
    Dec 1, 2023 at 1:45

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