A sheva is a vowel in Hebrew (although not a full vowel).  It looks like an English colon and always stands beneath a letter as here:


There are three kinds of shevas:  video

A vocal sheva which looks like a colon : and is preceded by a long vowel (or is under the first letter of the word).

A silent sheva which also looks like a colon but is preceded by a short vowel.

A composite sheva which is a sheva joined with one of the other vowels.

More here.  For practice in distinguishing the two, watch this and this and this.


More Info:

A sheva is also vocal when:

  1. it begins a word;
  2. it is the second of two in a row (when two shevas go walking, the second does the talking);
  3. it is under a letter with a dagesh-forte in it.


  1. Gutturals will never take a vocal sheva; it will shift to a composite sheva.  They will take a silent sheva.
  2. Letters with a sheva for the vowel will often lose their dagesh (assuming they had one); see here.
  3. “A silent sheva is usually placed in a final kaf in order to distinguish the latter from a final nun, e.g. הָלַךְ.”  Christo Van der Merwe et al., A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, 38.


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