Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Idit here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Hebrew questions.
The question for this lesson is…
What is the construct state Smikhut and what are its rules?
The Smikhut construct is very confusing, since it can alter the forms of words and change all kinds of grammatical rules. Let’s try to make it clearer.
So what is Smikhut anyway? Basically, it’s a way of expressing "of" in Hebrew, and it consists of two words side by side that create a noun.
Let’s go through some examples so you can learn how to use Smikhut correctly.
Let’s look at a simple example -- the compound “water bottle.” A water bottle is a bottle of water; in this compound, the main noun is the second word, the bottle, and the first word describes the noun. In Hebrew it’ll be pretty much the same – except that the first word will be the main noun, and the second will be the description. So, in Hebrew “water bottle” would be בקבוק מים (bakbuk maim) - בקבוק (bakbuk) meaning “bottle,” and מים (maim) meaning “water.”
Some compounds combine two nouns to create a completely different noun. For example, the word for “weather” in Hebrew is the compound מזג אוויר (mezeg avir). The word מזג (mezeg) means “temper,” and אוויר (avir) means “air.” So literally, this compound means “air temper.”
In some cases, the singular form of a compound can include a plural noun. For example, the compound “dog trainer” in Hebrew will be מאלף כלבים (me’alef klavim). The word for “trainer," מאלף (me’alef), will be singular, but the word for “dog," כלב (kelev), will take the plural form - כלבים (klavim). This is to indicate that the trainer trains more than one specific dog. In the same way, a “window cleaner” will be
מנקה חלונות
(mena’ke ħalonot)
and not
מנקה חלון
(mena’ke ħalon)
So far it’s not so bad, right? Well, now it’s starting to get complicated. If the main noun is feminine, singular and ends in the letter ה (he), then the ה (he) becomes ת (tav), like in this example of the compound “cheesecake”--
עוּגָה (ooga) + גבינה (gvina)
עוּגָת גבינה (oogat gvina)
Another issue is the plural form of these compounds. Like in English, when multiplying the compound, only one of the nouns takes the plural form – the main one. Therefore, if we want to say “cheesecakes," we will not say
עוגות גבינות
(oogot gvinot)
But rather,
עוגות גבינה
(oogot gvina)
If the main noun is masculine and plural, the plural masculine ending ים (im) becomes “י ֵ” (ei) (Notice that the Nikkud appears on the letter just before the Yud). We’ll use our first example again-- if we want to say “water bottles," the plural form of bakbuk - bakbukim - will turn into bakbukei, like so--
בקבוקים (bakbukim) + מים (maim)
בקבוקֵי מים (bakbukei maim)
Another rule the Smikhut is altering is the prefix ה (ha), which means “the." As you may know, when turning an indefinite noun into definite, we add the prefix ה (ha) to the noun itself and also to any adjective it has. For example, “the big bottle” will be
הבקבוק הגדול
(ha-bakbuk ha-gadol)
However, in Smikhut compounds, only the describing noun gets the prefix ה (ha), like so--
בקבוק המים
(bakbuk ha-maim)
“the water bottle”
Lastly, there is one more issue, perhaps the most confusing one-- sometimes the vowels of the first noun change, like in these examples--
חֶדֶר (ħeder) + אוכל (okhel)
חֲדַר אוכל (ħadar okhel)
“dining room”
בַּית (bait) + כלא (kele)
בֵּית כלא (bet kele)
“jail house”
Most Hebrew speakers don’t know the complicated rules for this unique construct – they simply learnt how to use it when acquiring the language growing up. For Hebrew learners it’s definitely harder to learn these exceptions, but the more Hebrew you hear and speak, the more natural it’ll become.
How was this lesson? Pretty interesting right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!


Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

HebrewPod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
Pinned Comment
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

What Hebrew learning question do you have?

HebrewPod101.com Verified
Sunday at 06:21 PM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Audrey,

Thanks for commenting and posting your questions!

1. Unfortunately, there is no rule for this. This becomes more and more intuitive the wider one's vocabulary becomes... often, Hebrew requires a great deal of intuition, and this is one of those cases... 😄 Generally speaking, the change of the first word turns "large" vowels to "smaller" and shorter vowels or diphthongs (two consecutive vowels - i.e. "ba'it" - בית) are simplified (ba'it + sefer -> beyt - sefer) in order to simplify the pronunciation.

I hope this answer will be helpful in spite of not being what you wished for, sometimes languages are just too complex to follow any easily recognizable patterns 😉



Team HebrewPod101.com

Tuesday at 12:19 PM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

1. Since the smikhut rule states the vowels of the first noun in the compound change only "sometimes," how do I know when and which vowels to change to what?

2. In the dining room example, the segols (the eh sound) changed to a short eh sound and a standard ah sound (patah) respectively. Is this a consistent change pattern? Are there other change patterns, for example, can a hiriq change to a shuruk in the first noun?

Friday at 10:41 PM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Joshua Chiang,

Thanks for commenting and for sharing your thought.

I see your point, but possession is a big topic in Hebrew grammar, therefore we address it in other lessons that are dedicated for this entirely...



Team HebrewPod101.com

Joshua Chiang
Monday at 08:01 AM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

can this be use to show possessions

HebrewPod101.com Verified
Sunday at 03:06 AM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Johnny,

Thanks for posting your question!

Let me explain. The Smichut is happening when adding an indicating word to another word. In this case, "cheese" is added to "cake" in order to specify its kind.

Therefore, from "Uga" (עוגה), it will become "Ugat-Gvina" (עוגת-גבינה).

Hope it's clearer now :)



Team HebrewPod101.com

Wednesday at 01:39 AM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

שלם ידית! יש לי שאלה...

You say that with feminine singular nouns in smikhut, the main noun changes hey to tav. Is this in the plural only? So the singular of cheesecake would be

עוּגָה גבינה

Like you would expect?

Sorry if I mangled your name in my Hebrew sentence above...

תודה רבה!

Shelley Goldenberg
Wednesday at 07:47 AM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Lol Enjoy your play on words! ok-was not sure the expression would fit. Glad I succeeded.

Hebrewpod101.com Verified
Wednesday at 06:05 AM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Hi Shelley,

Well done indeed!



Team Hebrewpod101.com

Shelley Goldenberg
Monday at 09:35 AM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Well done briefly. כל הכבוד על רגל אחת