Lesson 1.2: The Conjunction Vav

(IMPORTANT: if you are not yet familiar with how we transcribe Hebrew sounds and words, you can download (or read online) the reference guide.)

Introduction

Words that link two parts of a sentence are called conjunctions. The most common conjunctions are ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘but’. There are three basic types of conjunctions:

  1. Coordinating conjunctions: used to connect two independent clauses
  2. Subordinating conjunctions: used to establish the relationship between the dependent clause and the rest of the sentence
  3. Correlative conjunctions: used to join various sentence elements which are grammatically equal.

What is so nice about Hebrew conjunctions is that you can largely forget about all this stuff. There is one and only one conjunction you’ll need to learn at this stage of your learning.

Listen

Called the conjunction vav, this word is the most common word in the Hebrew Bible and is most often translated as ‘and‘, but is also frequently translated as ‘so‘, ‘then‘, ‘but‘, and ‘now‘. How you choose to translate this word is very context dependent.

The conjunction is vocalized in a number of different ways, but in this course we’ll concentrate on the three most common pronunciations. Here they are:

NOTE: All recordings are read/recited from right to left.

/vuh/ /vah/ /oo/

Despite these different pronunciations (see below), there is one aspect of this word that makes it very easy to recognize while reading – the conjunction is always prefixed to the subsequent word and it is always the first syllable.

To make this clear, let’s imagine that the English conjunction, ‘and‘, was also prefixed to the next word. And, keeping the definite article in mind (it is also prefixed), let’s write an English sentence using conjunctions and the definite article as they are used in Hebrew.

“Theboy andhis girlfriend went to thebeach andmet some friends”

 

Listen to the following two verses. How often do you hear the conjunction vav.


As mentioned previously, sometimes the conjunction vav is pronounced /oo/. Here for example, is a verse in which the /oo/ sound occurs. Including the /oo/ pronunciation, how many occurrences can you detect?

Listen for the /oo/ sound.

And now, here is a very, very difficult exercise. Don’t be discouraged if you do not hear all 8 occurrences. However, you should listen to the recording until you hear both instances of the conjunction pronounced as /oo/.

Spell

The Conjunction vav is spelled with a single Hebrew letter vav,ו (makes the /V/ sound), and appears with three different vowel pointings:

 וּ   וַ   וְ

There are two new vowel pointings introduced here1)you already know the Qamats and the Patach – the Sheva and the Shureq. The Sheva looks like a colon below the letter and the Shureq looks like a period or dot in the middle and to left side of a Vav.

The sound made by the Sheva is represented using the ə character and sounds like the ‘tul’ in subtle. It’s a very, very short /uh/ sound. The Shureq is used to indicate the /oo/ (rhymes with shoe) sound.

In the next exercise you will be asked to identify all of the conjunction Vavs as well as all of the other non-conjunction Vav consonants. Before doing the exercise, study this example below. The conjunctions are colored red and bolded.

וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי־טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ ♦ וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב יְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד

How many of the conjunctions in the text above occur with the Patach? The Sheva? The Shurek?

Answer2)4, 1, 1:

Now, do the same for the following text – read and identify all occurrences of the Vav conjunctions as well as all of the definite articles. It’s tedious, but will get easier as you do more and more of these exercises.

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי־טוֹב וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד

Now, read through the text again, but this time count the number of Sheva and Shureq vowels. For example, in the fifth line there are 5 Sheva and no Shureq vowels.

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