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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Yana here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher where I’ll answer some of your most common Hebrew questions.
The question for this lesson is…
What's the difference between the niqqud “kamats" and “patakh” and between “tzere” and “segol”?
To understand this, it's important to know that vowels in Hebrew were traditionally of three lengths. Some vowels were long, some short, and some super short.
Kamats and patakh both repressssent an A sound, but kamats is long while patakh is short.
Here's a few examples:
Some words have both Kamatz and Patakh:
כָּתַב, גַּנָּב, מַצָּה
Similarly, tzere is the long version of the E sound, while segol is the short version.
Here are a few examples:
לֵב, עֵץ, מועֵד
מֶלֶךְ, כַּרְמֶל, בַּרְזֶל
In the past, knowing the difference between these sounds was crucial to speaking and understanding proper Hebrew, but in contemporary Hebrew, there's no difference at all.
That's right listeners, they all sound exactly the same.
How do you know, then, which one to use?
Since they have no impact on pronunciation, the only real way to learn the proper spelling and use of the niqqud is simply by memorizing it.
As you study Hebrew, you may start to recognize patterns that make this easier, but on the whole there are no shortcuts.
How was it? Pretty interesting right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll try to answer them!