Tilde Schwa.svg
IPAModern Hebrew: /e/ ([]), Ø
Biblical Hebrew: /ɛ̆/ – /ɐ̆/ – /ɔ̆/ – /ĭ/
Transliteratione, ' (apostrophe), nothing
English examplemen, menorah
The word shva in Hebrew. The first vowel (marked with red) is itself a shva .
Other Niqqud
Shva · Hiriq · Tzere · Segol · Patach · Kamatz · Holam · Dagesh · Mappiq · Shuruk · Kubutz · Rafe · Sin/Shin Dot

Shva or, in Biblical Hebrew, shĕwa (Hebrew: שְׁוָא) is a Hebrew niqqud vowel sign written as two vertical dots ( ְ ) beneath a letter. It indicates either the phoneme /ə/ (shva na', mobile shva) or the complete absence of a vowel (Ø) (shva nach, resting shva).

It is transliterated as "e", "ĕ", "ə", "'" (apostrophe), or nothing. Note that usage of "ə" for shva is questionable: transliterating modern Hebrew Shva Nach with ə or ' is misleading, since it is never actually pronounced [ə][ə] does not exist in modern Hebrew – moreover, the vowel [ə] is probably not characteristic of earlier pronunciations either (see Tiberian vocalization → Mobile Shwa = Shwa na').

A shva sign in combination with the vowel diacritics patáẖ, segól and kamáts katán produces a "ẖatáf": a diacritic for a "tnuʿá ẖatufá" (a "fleeting" or "furtive" vowel).

Pronunciation in modern Hebrew

In Modern Hebrew, shva is either pronounced /e/ or is mute (Ø), regardless of its traditional classification as shva nacḥ (שְׁוָא נָח) or shva na (שְׁוָא נָע), see following table for examples. The Israeli standard for its transliteration[1] is /e/ only for a pronounced shva na (i.e., one which is pronounced /e/) and no representation in transliteration if the shva is mute.

In Modern Hebrew, a shva is pronounced /e/ under the following conditions:[2]

Condition for /e/ pronunciation of shva in Israeli Hebrew Examples Examples for silent shva (since condition does not apply)
In Hebrew IPA translation In Hebrew IPA translation
1. When under the first of two letters, both representing the same consonant or consonants with identical place and manner of articulation: שָׁכְחוּ /ʃaχeˈħu/ they forgot מָכְרוּ /maχˈru/ they sold
שָׁדַדְתְּ /ʃaˈdadet/ you (f.) robbed שָׁלַלְתְּ /ʃaˈlalt/ you (feminine) negated
2. When under the first letter of a word, if this letter is י (/j/), ל (/l/), מ (/m/), נ (/n/) or ר (/r/)[*]: נְמָלִים /nemaˈlim/ ants גְּמָלִים /ɡmaˈlim/ camels
מְנִיָּה /meniˈja/ counting בְּנִיָּה /bniˈja/ building
3. When under the first letter of a word, if the second letter is א (/ʔ/), ה (/h/) or ע (/ʕ/ or /ʔ/): תְּאָרִים /teaˈrim/ titles מִתְאָרִים /mitʔaˈrim/ outlines
תְּמָרִים /tmaˈrim/ dates
4. When under the first letter of a word, if this letter represents one of the prefix-morphemes
  1. ב (/be/) = amongst others "in",
  2. ו (/ve/) = "and",
  3. כ (/ke/) = amongst others "as" or "approximately",
  4. ל (/le/) = amongst others "to", dative marker and verb prefix in infinitive,
  5. ת (/te/) as future tense verb prefix:
בְּרֵיחָהּ /berejˈχa/ in her scent בְּרֵיכָה /brejˈχa/ pool
בְּחִישָׁה /beχiˈʃa/ in sensing בְּחִישָׁה /bχiˈʃa/ stirring
וְרוֹדִים /veroˈdim/ and (they) tyrannize וְרוּדִים /vruˈdim/ pink (m.p.)
כְּרָזָה /keraˈza/ as a thin person כְּרָזָה /kraˈza/ poster
לְפָּרִיז /lepaˈriz/ to Paris
תְּבַלּוּ /tevaˈlu/ you (m. p.) will have a good time תְּבַלּוּל /tvaˈlul/ cataract
5. (In non standard language usage) if one of the morphemes mentioned above (ב /be/, ו /ve/, כ /ke/, ל /le/ or ת /te/) or one of the morphemes מ /mi/ ("from") or ש /ʃe/ ("that") is added as a prefix to a word, which without this prefix begins with a letter marked with a shva pronounced /e/ under the above conditions, this shva will retain its /e/-pronunciation also with the prefix: מִצְּעָדִים /mitseaˈdim/ from steps מִצְּמָדִים /mitsmaˈdim/ from pairs
מִצְעָדִים /mitsʔaˈdim/ parades
מִרְוָחִים /mirevaˈχim/ from blanks מִרְוָחִים /mirvaˈχim/ intervals
standard: מֵרְוָחִים –/merevaˈχim/
לַאֲרָיוֹת וְלְנְמֵרִים יֵשׁ פַּרְוָה /learaˈjot velenemerim…/ Lions and tigers have fur
standard: וְלִנְמֵרִים /…velinmeˈrim…/
וְכְּיְלָדִים שִׂחַקְנוּ בַּחוּץ /vekejelaˈdim…/ And as children we played outside
standard: וְכִילָדִים – /veχilaˈdim…/
6. (Usually – see Counterexamples[**]) when under a medial letter, before whose pronunciation a consonant was pronounced: אִשְׁפְּזוּ /iʃpeˈzu/ they hospitalized אִישׁ פְּזוּר דַּעַת /iʃ pzur ˈ an absentminded man


^ One exception to rule 2 seems to be מְלַאי/mlaj/ 'inventory'; the absence of a vowel after the מ (/m/) might be attributable to the high sonority of the subsequent liquid ל (/l/), however compare with מְלִית‎ (/meˈlit/, not /*mlit/) 'filling' (in cuisine). According to the New User-Friendly Hebrew-English Dictionary (Arie Comey, Naomi Tsur; Achiasaf, 2006), the word מְלַאי‎ ('stock') is pronounced with an /e/: [me'lai].

^ Exceptions to rule 6 include פְּסַנְתְּרָן‎ (/psantˈran/, not */psanteˈran/ – 'pianist'), אַנְגְּלִית‎ (/aŋˈɡlit/, not */aŋɡeˈlit/ – 'English'), נַשְׁפְּרִיץ[3] (/naʃˈprit͡s/, not */naʃpeˈrit͡s/ – 'we will sprinkle'), several inflections of quinqueliteral roots – e.g.: סִנְכְּרֵן[4] (/sinˈkren/, not */sinkeˈren/ – "he synchronized"); חִנְטְרֵשׁ[5] (/χinˈtreʃ/, not */χinteˈreʃ/ – 'he did stupid things'); הִתְפְלַרְטֵט[6] (/hitflarˈtet/, not */hitfelartet/ – 'he had a flirt') – as well as other, more recent loanwords, e.g. מַנְטְרַה‎ (/ˈmantra/, not */mantera/ – 'mantra').

In earlier forms of Hebrew, shva na and nach were phonologically and phonetically distinguishable, but the two variants resulting from Modern Hebrew phonology no longer conform to the traditional classification, e.g. while the (first) shva nach in the phrase סִפְרֵי תורה‎ ('books of the Law') is correctly pronounced in Modern Hebrew /sifrei torah/ with the "פ" (or /f/ sound) being mute, the shva na in זְמַן‎ ('time') in Modern Hebrew is often pronounced as a mute Shva (/zman/). In religious contexts, however, scrupulous readers of the prayers and scriptures do still differentiate properly between Shva Nach and Shva Na (e.g. zĕman).

Other Languages
العربية: شوا
español: Sheva
français: Shewa (hébreu)
Gàidhlig: Shva
עברית: שווא
norsk nynorsk: Sjevá
slovenčina: Šva (hebrejčina)