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mishehu vs. mitbach

Mishehu is written with a yud, while mitbach is written without yud. To me the " y" int he words sounds the same, I cannot distinguish the two sounds. Everytime I have to write the word I make a quick lottery in my head and I am wrong 50% of the times. Either I write mitbach with a yud (and with tet), or I write mishehu without the yud.

Is there a way to recognize where we must place the yud and where we must not?

P.S. I have the same problems with tet and tav (writing "tov" and " pasta" with tav, " telefon" with tet). Again, same problem with alef and ayin. And same problem with chet and kaf. Finally, samech and shin.

But this post is mainly for the yud: when to write it and when not.

August 4, 2016



Mishehu is an unusual case where a word is actually constructed of two words: Mi ("who"), and SheHu ("that is"), together meaning "someone". Mi is originally spelled with a Yod, and so in this case you must use Yod in the joint word. In almost all other cases it is more proper to NOT use a Yod, but it is not wrong to use it. Colloquially it has become more common to use a Yod, so I wouldn't worry about getting it wrong. BTW, I believe that it is equally correct to write the letter itself Yod or Yud.


Regarding your other questions: Tet/Tav - it is absolutely the same sound, no way to distinguish this way (used to be possible in ancient times). You just have to memorize the words. If you do not know, a safer bet is to use Tav because it is more common. Also, Tet is typically used in words that are not originally Hebrew, such as Telephone and Pasta. Alef/Ayin - here the sound is different if you speak properly. Ayin is more "throaty" than Alef. Colloquially it is becoming almost impossible to distinguish between the two just by the sounds. In any case, Alef is much more common. Chet/Kaf and Samech/Shin - unfortunately you just have to memorize the words.


Oh no! I am so bad in just memorizing stuff when I cannot find a pattern. maybe this means that I will never be able to write this language properly, ever. I will always write like a retard. : (

I think I'm going to order a vodka on the rock from the Duolingo cafe that does not exist yet. Ani atzuva meod : ( : ( : (


Hi there, thanks. Does this mean that if I write "Ivrit" with yud I am not that wrong? I always make the same mistake, as I spell the word while writing, I speak out "Y" (for Ivrit) and write Ayin - Yud-Bet..... Suppose I do it all the time for all words, is that more or less okay, or totally wrong?

Regarding Mishehu, what you say makes sense, but why do i not retain the " hey" in writing Mashehu? That word is also combined from Mah and Shehu?

Yesterday I wrote 4 (masculine) with Alef - Resh - Hey -Hey. of course it was 50% wrong (again). My question is, is the double hey acceptable? I knew the word had to end with hey, and I remembered vaguely that arba (feminine) ends with a silent letter which I guessed to be hey, so there I ended up with two hey's.

I wrote Eser with Alef, Samech and Resh. This word was 2/3 wrong, so 33% correct only (only the Resh). Then I decided that all numbers have Ayins as silent letter. Next question I was asked had a 1, and I wrote Achad with Ayin, wrong again!

Is there a shadow of a rule or what? I can't believe Israeli people memorize the spelling of each and every word!


There is a distinction between few things - the official way to write is עִבְרִית, but this is only when using the Nikud - the small symbols below the letters representing the vowels.

Most people don't use them, counting on others just knowing the words. So you have 3 different ways to write words - Ktiv menukad כתיב מנוקד - which is the one used before for example: שֻׁלְחָן - table.

Ktiv Haser כתיב חסר - which is exactly the same letters, just without the Nikud -same example: שלחן

Ktiv Malee (Full) כתיב מלא - which is the Ktiv Haser, just with additional letters, for easier reading -same example: שולחן

As for rules - your mostly have to remember how the world are written, because it's very uncomfortable to go but the rules, as they are tied to the Nikud symbols, which Israelis rarely use.

Source: http://www.language-editing.co.il/mevulbalim - the source for the 3 different ways to write words. http://www.language-editing.co.il/tavla1 - table to understand some of the rules about when not to write additional letters in Ktiv male. Specifically about עברית it's the first rule:

"בלי יו"ד אחרי חיריק ולפני שווא נח: בִּלְבול, עִבְרית, בִּזְבוז, אִרְגון, שִׂמְלה, דִמְיון וכדומה"

Translation: Without Yud after Hirik symbol (Nikud), and after Shva nah symbol (Nikud). Hirik is the small dot that you pronounce "i" (like i in Hirik) Shva Nah is the two small dots one below the other that requires a small pause between the letters (Notice that there is difference between Shva Nah and Shva Na )

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niqqud - Apparently I spelled Niqqud wrong. Oh well.


Thank you! This is very informative and also giving a rule to follow, a great help for me. Todah rabah.


Regarding Mishehu - I guess that if Mashehu wasn't a word, we might be writing Mishehu without Yud, but since משהו is a different word, we use the Yud. Also, as I said in the previous comment, I guess there is a real rule for it, but it's probably too hard to follow if people don't use Niqqud.

About two hey - words like גבוהה which is feminine for high גבוה, are perfectly OK with two heys. ארבע is masculine form, and ארבעה is feminine form. Since רבע is a root from the Hebrew Bible, it's hard to say (at least for me, maybe there is a linguistic reason) why they are using ע, so it's just something to remember.

I guess an easy way for you to remember is that אחד is the first number with one digit, so you use the first letter of the alphabet. Everything else is ע. Don't forget that 11 is אחד עשרה because it comes from אחד so the first number with two digits, then 21, 31 etc derived from 1. 100 is the first number with 3 digits - מאה, and 200, 300 derived from 100 - מאתיים, שלוש מאות, ארבע מאות. Then 1000 - אלף.


You are GREAT! Thanks a lot!!!!!!!!! Take all my lingots and make something nice with it. Gee, what a peculiar language choice you have. Seeing those two flags side by side makes me nervous, you not? Well youmay say the same for my flags, but at least the bolsheviks did not build industiralized systems if you know what I mean.


I'm native Hebrew and Russian speaker. Just doing Hebrew to report mistakes. Russian is next. But yea - now that you say it it is kinda funny.

Thanks a lot for the lingots, I'm rich now :)


You are clearly in a complot to secure all the lingots from Duolingo for yourself and leave all others without language progress test. Pffffff.


There isn't entirely a hard and fast rule about hebrew spelling. Some letters have the same sound in the modern language but did not historically and the modern language just retains the spelling despite not sounding any different. Same goes for when to write a yud and when to not. It's just like some spelling in english it just had to be memorized. Though what I remember from my hebrew classes is that some words may be written with or without a yud, but I can't remember an example off the top of my head.


I agree with you, but in English the exceptions that you have to memorize are a few, like GH in night, right, or KN in knock, or ING in singing. For the rest of the spelling there a few are straightforward rules that apply n all circumstances.

And then come languages such as italian, where if you just learn the alphabet you can spell absolutely all the words in the dictionary. Just learn 2 rules.


About the yod, there is a rule of thumb that I find helpful: when you break the word into syllables, the syllable with the sound "i" is either a closed syllable - that ends with a consonant - or an open one, that ends in a vowel. For example, מטבח is mit-bach, the syllable ends in a consonant. Usually, that means no "yod", מטבח. On the other hand, mi-she-hu, opened syllable, put it the yod. This usually works.

Another thing to keep in mind is that loan words from English or Romance languages have pretty strict rules: t becomes ט and th becomes ת with almost no exceptions. Thus פסטה, טלפון, מתמטיקה. When the word is not a loan word there is no rule that can help. Same with א, ע - no rule, but loan words from European languages are not expected to have ע :-)

Chaf never comes at the beginning of a word because it will always be kaf and pronounced "k". You can try to differentiate it from ק by thinking of other forms of the root: כתב has the form לכתוב which sounds like "lichtov", so it can't be a ק.

These are some things that may help sometimes, use what works for you. Other than that, just practice until you get it right. :-)


Bedanken!! Your answer is so useful, both for the Yod and for the Tav! I am going to give you a big reward. Yesterday I failed -among others- on the word Menu': תַפרִיט TafriT, starts with Tet and ends with Tav, but it's the same sound to me. Is the word maybe imported from Arabic or any other language and follows a similar trasnliteration rule as for the words imported from Eurpe? Does your yod rule work here too?: Ta-Fri-T? Is this the corrct syllable breakage? I never studied how to break the words in syllables in Hebrew, but from what I know from other languages the syllables should be: Ta-Frit? Thanks anyway, your rule of thumb will decrease my spelling faults anyway by a great deal.


Thanks! It's taf-rit, and my rule doesn't apply. Admittedly, it doesn't always apply, it is meant to be used where other patterns don't exist. You can still learn to recognise other patterns, it is not easy because there are many patterns, but it still helps. Hebrew words are generally made of root letters (usually three, sometimes four), that are placed in a pattern. To demonstrate, in תפריט, the root letters are פרט, the ת and the י are a part of the pattern. Other words of this pattern are תקליט, תמליל, תכתיב, תהליך, תרגיל. This can also help with the ת/ט confusion because ת is a letter that makes patterns, and ט isn't. So if you correctly recognise the pattern (which isn't always obvious), you can guess the ת at least.

But I'm afraid almost every rule that I will give here will have many exceptions and in the end, you have to memorise. The good news is once you memorise enough, it will become easier to guess new ones. I totally hear you on how difficult that is, I also like it better when there are rules to follow.


Now I understand why someone thought to invent Esperanto! Just make 1 rule and keep it simple and straight. No exceptions, no fancy stuff and oh so refreshing for the learners!


Actually many loaned words you can write using different letters - For example both טורקיה and תורכיה are acceptable.


As far as I know, this is the only example, and in fact the spelling תורכיה is more accepted today - although it is contrary to the general rule. Also אלכסנדר/אלכסנדרה/אלכסנדריה are spelled contrary to the general rule, and that's about it. Or am I missing something?


Well upon further investigation - you are right - most words have strict rules.

If somebody interested ( the text is in Hebrew ):


You are also right about the th vs t: http://hebrew-academy.org.il/2014/01/22/%D7%98-%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%91%D7%9E%D7%99%D7%9C%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%9C%D7%95%D7%A2%D7%96%D7%99%D7%95%D7%AA/

But it seems that טורקיה is actually the right way today, although תורכיה is also accepted: https://www.safa-ivrit.org/spelling/foreign.php

I've learned a few new things today so catch a few lingots :)

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