Gender in Hebrew

Schrute Farmer

New Member
English (Learning Persian & Hebrew)
Is there any pattern or is it mostly random? I see words that end in 'a' but are masculine. Is there any easy way to recognize feminine and masculine in Hebrew?
 
  • Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    Is there any easy way to recognize feminine and masculine in Hebrew?
    easy, I don't know.
    There is the obvious he/she distinction (for a female, the verb will be feminine).
    For nouns, it depends.
    Shanah (year) is feminine (shanah tovah), but shavuah (week) is masculine (shavuah tov), but the plural of shanah is shanim (masc.)whereas the plural of shavuah is shvuot (fem.).
    Food for thought only, because I don't see any rule here (but there may be).
     

    RaLo18

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    It is very difficult to recognize feminine and masculine nouns in Hebrew. There is no one-rule-fits-all and even natives sometimes make mistakes.
    If you know the plural form of the noun, in most cases (I daresay ~90%) you can tell by the suffix: the ים- suffix is for masculine nouns and the ות- suffix is for feminine nouns. But, as Aoyama mentioned, there are nouns with "wrong" suffixes. שנה is feminine, but it gets the masculine ים- suffix (the plural noun is still feminine, though) and שבוע, which is masculine, gets a feminine ות- suffix (again, the plural noun is still masculine).
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    there are nouns with "wrong" suffixes. שנה is feminine, but it gets the masculine ים- suffix (the plural noun is still feminine, though) and שבוע, which is masculine, gets a feminine ות- suffix (again, the plural noun is still masculine).
    so you see, it's still a long way to go ... don't ask why and don't give up ...;)
     

    Schrute Farmer

    New Member
    English (Learning Persian & Hebrew)
    It seems impossible to detect a pattern for a beginner like me. Anything ending in -cha is masculine, but many words ending in -a are feminine. Mind fark.
     

    hadronic

    Senior Member
    French - France
    I see words that end in 'a' but are masculine

    At the very remarkable exception of לילה, all words ending by ה -ah are feminine.
    Words like שבוע shavùa is not what we could call "words ending in -a", as this "a" sound is only the way ע gets pronounced when final in a word, and is easily distinguished from the regular final ה -ah (not stressed, without any consonant sound before it).
    Another group of words ending in -a are inflected words or grammatical terms that can easily be considered apart :
    - from the second person masc singular like ata, -kha (e.g. bekha, aleykha, avodatkha,...), -ta (e.g. amarta,...)
    - from the third person fem singular, -ah (e.g. avodata), -ah (e.g. amra) ...
     

    hadronic

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Shanah (year) is feminine (shanah tovah), but shavuah (week) is masculine (shavuah tov), but the plural of shanah is shanim (masc.)whereas the plural of shavuah is shvuot (fem.).

    Be careful. These words take the opposite gender marks, but stays in the same grammatical gender, ex: שנים ארוכות shanim arukkot "years are long".

    And, the plural of shavùa is not shvu'ot but shavu'ot. The qamatz do not lenify (לא כדין...) .
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    the plural of shavùa is not shvu'ot but shavu'ot. The qamatz do not lenify (לא כדין...)
    you're right about this, but I think that shvu'ot is also used (could be wrong).
    You are also right about the difference between the he ending and the ayin ending (though pronounciation is almost the same -shouldn't be but only Sepharadim with some knowledge of Arabic really make the difference, ayin being more guttural).
    But that may be part of the problem (that difference is forgotten somewhere).

    For
    שנים ארוכות shanim arukkot "years are long".
    of course, it follows the same pattern as "shanah tovah"
    At the very remarkable exception of לילה, all words ending by ה -ah are feminine.
    is there really ONE exception ? Maybe ...
     

    hadronic

    Senior Member
    French - France
    And moreover, לילה is stressed in the mil`el way (làyla), that points out to a non-feminine ending (this ending is normally always stressed, maybe except for new words like matematika and alike).
    In Genesius §90.f, there's a whole paragraph on that matter. It lists some other words behaving the same (מאומה), but there are very few. Hypotheses are numerous : old accusative ? old locative (like הביתה habàyta) ? emphasis suffix ? duplicative ?...
     

    Schrute Farmer

    New Member
    English (Learning Persian & Hebrew)
    At the very remarkable exception of לילה, all words ending by ה -ah are feminine.
    Words like שבוע shavùa is not what we could call "words ending in -a", as this "a" sound is only the way ע gets pronounced when final in a word, and is easily distinguished from the regular final ה -ah (not stressed, without any consonant sound before it).
    Another group of words ending in -a are inflected words or grammatical terms that can easily be considered apart :
    - from the second person masc singular like ata, -kha (e.g. bekha, aleykha, avodatkha,...), -ta (e.g. amarta,...)
    - from the third person fem singular, -ah (e.g. avodata), -ah (e.g. amra) ...
    I think you answered my question. The issue I had was when I saw MaShlomkha for example, my assumption was that it would be feminine. But I think what you are saying is that there's a difference in pronunciation when saying that word and a feminine word that ends in -ah. Also I think you are saying that MaShlomkha (or ata) does not end in -ah but rather in -a. If so that clears things up a lot.
     

    hadronic

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Be careful, shlomkha is not "one" word, it's rather shalom + kha = peace + you.
    The kha part has nothing to do with shalom being feminine or masculine.
    Actually, shalom is a masculine noun, and kha is the masculine singular "you" person, i.e. your peace (when addressing a man).

    And regarding the -ah/-a distinction : my bad, I should have transcribe אתה as atah. But keep in mind that this is just a scribal difference, and there's no difference in pronounciation, as opposed to the -a of shavùa שבוע.
    In some texts, amarta has been written אמרתה, giving the parallel forms אתה אמרתה / את אמרת atah amartah / at amart. But for some reason, the ה has been dropped in the verb, but not in the pronoun...
     

    Aoyama

    Senior Member
    français Clodoaldien
    Be careful, shlomkha is not "one" word, it's rather shalom + kha = peace + you.
    The kha part has nothing to do with shalom being feminine or masculine.
    Actually, shalom is a masculine noun, and kha is the masculine singular "you" person, i.e. your peace (when addressing a man).
    absolutely right.
    Cf. MaShlomekh when adressing a woman .
     

    aruquon

    New Member
    English - US
    Is there any pattern or is it mostly random? I see words that end in 'a' but are masculine. Is there any easy way to recognize feminine and masculine in Hebrew?

    There are broad patterns with exceptions. Others have mentioned a lot of them. In general, words ending in -a when spelled ה and words ending in -t when spelled ת and not part of the root are feminine. Unfortunately, I doubt a beginner will have an easy time telling whether a final ת is part of the root, though most final ת are a feminine ending and not part of the root. If -a is spelled א or ע ore -t is spelled ט then it is not a feminine ending.

    There are also broad classes of words that are feminine, without regard to what their form is. Words that refer to females, of course, are always feminine. I once learned as a rule that natural phenomena are generally feminine, such as אש, רוח, שמש, ארץ, but thinking about it now it seems to me that there are at least as many exceptions to this "rule" as there are cases that follow it.

    All countries and cities are feminine singular, even if they have a form that suggests otherwise. For example, United States is ארצות הברית, which looks like it should be feminine plural but in fact agrees as feminine singular like all countries.
     

    aruquon

    New Member
    English - US
    רוח and שמש can be either masculine or feminine, at least in biblical Hebrew.

    That's the rule that's always cited, but in Israeli Hebrew if they take masculine agreement it's in a highly marked literary context. They are almost always feminine.
     

    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    So, לילה is a masculine word, and the only reason it has what appears to be the feminine ending is because it's in the accusative case. The reason it's in the accusative case is that it's an adverb of time. Am I correct?
     

    Drink

    Senior Member
    English - New England, Russian - Moscow
    It's not in the accusative case. Hebrew has no accusative case. Rather, the ending is (likely) a relic of the long-lost accusative case. As such, it may originally have been restricted to adverbial usage, but later it came to be used as a regular noun as well.
     
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