second and third person feminine plural future tense

Discussion in 'עברית (Hebrew)' started by dukaine, Apr 15, 2012.

  1. dukaine Senior Member

    Richmond, VA
    English - American
    Do natives use this conjugation often? My verbs book says it's not common, but my learning program gives me both the masculine and feminine conjugations. Is it worth me spending time learning it?
  2. origumi Senior Member

    The masculine is usually preferred in modern language. Well, therefore it's not masculine any more but masculine + feminine. Instead of אתן תלכנה most people say אתן תלכו. Instead of הן תלכנה there's הן ילכו.
  3. dukaine Senior Member

    Richmond, VA
    English - American
    Thanks so much!!
  4. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    Something rings awfully bad about "אתן תלכו", even though "תלכנה" isn't something I'd expect to hear. Maybe it's because the "אתן" would usually be omitted all together when speaking in second person.
  5. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    It's amazing that the 2/3fp forms became obsolete in four decades... (these forms were taught in the FSI Hebrew basic course which was published in 1965!) I'm also just curious... if a fictional character used this form what would the connotation be?

    According to some sources/Wiktionary the 2fp form in the past tense (-ten) is also rare in colloquial Hebrew. Is that true?
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2012
  6. ashmash Member

    In my opinion, hearing תלכנה doesn't sound weird. At most, the connotation is of someone using a higher register.

    As for the feminine 2fp past tense, I don't think it's rare. True, some would mistakenly (until the academy will revise the rules) say -tem rather than -ten. Yet, you would hear -ten quite often.

    As I am typing I have developed a little theory of my own. As Masculine is the default form in Hebrew, thus a group of 100 girls and a boy is being referred to in masculine (I think nowadays it can also go with the majority, but usually it sounds unnaturally forced), people are more familiar with this form and are also forgiven for using the masculine where the feminine is required for a group. It works fine for the plural forms, but would be a problem in the singular form.
  7. Tararam Senior Member

    Indeed, 2/3p feminine plural is not used often. You'd still hear it and see it but it's mostly formal now.
    However, I consider saying "atem/hem" instead of "aten/hen" absolutely incorrect, and in my opinion, shouldn't be used.
    People would even say "atem holchim" to a group of ladies which is quite dumb if you think of it.

    To sum up, not using 2nd/3rd feminine plural "na" conjugation in the future tense is fine. Using the masculine conjugations (and even the pronoun itself) when referring to women, is highly inadvisable.

    when addressing a group of women:
    אתן עשיתן = correct
    אתם עשיתן = incorrect (this is the most common form in my opinion)
    אתם עשיתם = ridiculously incorrect and should never be used (unfortunately, it is)
  8. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    In my opinion the third option is better than the second. If you're gonna mistake the gender, might as well be consistent about it.
  9. ashmash Member

    I also think that אתם עשיתם when addressing a group of women is better than אתם עשיתן. The former is at least consistent whereas the latter simply sounds bad. Bear in mind that the masculine is a default in Hebrew, so אתם עשיתם can be seen as an act of carefulness and not a mistake at all.

    About a month ago there was an interesting discussion about the word "guys" being used to address both sexes in contemporary English in Johnson, The Economist's linguistic blog. Although it has nothing to do with Hebrew, I find it relevant to this thread.
  10. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    Googled and saw some people say אתם\הם עושות in the present tense, when the antecedent is clearly fp.

    By the way the loss of fp pronouns is what already happened in most Arabic dialects and even MSA to some extent. It may be that the only reason that fp pronouns exist in Hebrew is that it was a revived language, like reviving a fossil.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2012
  11. tFighterPilot Senior Member

    Israel - Hebrew
    I remember my linguistics professor saying that "you guys" is the third person plural pronoun in American English. As I see it, if the third person singular pronoun doesn't distinguish genders, it's only natural that the plural won't either.
  12. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    Do the -na forms happen to have any sexist connotations (any more than feminine plural already does) when used of people?
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012
  13. amikama

    amikama sordomodo

    No. It's just old-fashioned.
  14. arielipi Senior Member

    Its actually how youre supposed to say it, תלכנה is the right form for plural female; not old-fashioned.
  15. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    Using masculine plural for feminine plural subjects has biblical (2nd temple) and Mishnaic precedent (I don't know how consistent they were though).

    (Another reason for the erosion of the feminine plural forms may be their irregularities in certain paradigms. (A lot of the biblical irregularities had been leveled out in modern Hebrew; see the Biblical Hebrew verb charts in the lecture slides at, especially the hollow/geminate verbs section))
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012
  16. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    Feminine plural is used in math, for example:
    תהיינה f ו-g שתי פונקציות...
    (By the way this form is really a jussive. This particular construction is a calque from European usage, like "Seien f und g zwei Funktionen".)
    Is that how formal the feminine plural is?
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2012
  17. Tararam Senior Member

    Could you write the sentence in its entirety?
    It sounds a bit off...
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  18. arielipi Senior Member

    No it doesnt...
    תהיינה אף וג'י שתי פונקציות איזומורפיות אחת לשניה
    בתור סטודנט למדעי המחשב, אנחנו כל הזמן כותבים בניסוחים מתמטים בלשון נקבה משלב גבוה.
  19. C_J Member

    Just to sum it up: forms ending with "נה" are optional, but not redundant (many universities insist on their use, however).
    All the other forms are obligatory. No matter what you may hear, all future forms must use their correct אית"ן prefixes, and you always have to use the corrext pronouns.
    Thus, if you don't use the "נה" form, you have to use the אתם/הם conjugation, but the אתן/הן pronouns.

    In Hebrew, the masculine is the default form - when you talk about people/animals of unknown gender, you use "הוא" as the gender neutral "it"/"one" in English. Feminine forms are restricted specifically for feminine-only use (btw, in Arabic it's the other way around).
    It has nothing to do with sexism. When you adress a mixed group of people you use the masculine form not because there's X number of males, but because this group is not all-female.

    Now that I think of it, it is sexist! Why do women get their own unique form, while men have to use the default "neuter" one? Why do I always have to be referred as "it (but just maybe this "it" is male, let's have a closer look...)" while women get to be referres as "she", without doubting her gender? If I'm in a mixed group, and some one asks "מישהי רוצה שוקולד?" why am I being excluded? This is so unfair!
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  20. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    C_J: In gender-neutral English you use s/he, he/she, she/he, they, random choice from he or she, etc. different people prefer different usage. And you NEVER NEVER EVER use "it", because "it" is not for people.
    As for Arabic, really? Modern Arabic (standard and dialects) completely eliminated feminine plural pronouns. I think the thing you are talking about has to do with the fact that plurals for non-humans are feminine singular. Can you give examples?
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  21. C_J Member

    I don't get it. What is your point?
    I meant that in English, when you don't know the gender of an animal, you will refer to it as "it", and when talking about people of unknown/unspecified gender you use "one" and the likes of it.
    "Look at that dog! Where is it going? Is it hungry?" "Every one of us knows, that one does not simply walk into Mordor" "Why isn't anyone ever listening?"
    In Hebrew you use "masculine" pronouns, and conjugations (unless you're talking about females specifically): הכלב הזה, הוא, הולך, רעב, כל אחד יודע, אף אחד לא מקשיב
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2012
  22. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    Hebrew though does have one usage of feminine for neutral thing : זאת.And one thing I never really understood, is why in the accusative, זה is את זה, but זאת remains זאת ?
    למה עשית את זה vs. למה עשית זאת ?
  23. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    According to one theory I've heard zot wasn't originally feminine. And zot doesn't take et, as a remnant of the fact that et wasn't consistently used for definite direct objects in biblical Hebrew (for example הַלְּלוּ-יָהּ), and was more common for more animate direct objects. Originally et had a meaning of approximately "this very X", which survives in oto/ota/otam/otan "the same...". At this point I'd better remind everyone including myself to continue further discussion on zot/et on separate threads.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2012
  24. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    For number 2, did you mean : אתן עשיתם ?
    Like for future, אתן תעשו ?

    By the way, what about אתן תכתובנה but הן יכתובנה ? On the model of אתם תכתבו but הם יכתבו ?
    That's at least how Arabic proceeds, which is more "logical" (still, none says היא יכתי, logic doesn't have it's place here :) ).
    Which means, as early as Biblical Hebrew did 3fp get fused into 2fp. Modern Hebrew then fused 23fp into 23mp. In 200 years it'll be like English :D.
  25. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    Or could be the other way around - maybe Arabic analogized the 3fp with the 3rd person prefix y-.
    BTW most of Modern Arabic (in most popular dialects and MSA) doesn't use fp pronouns/verbs at all. (I think this also has to do with the fact that in Arabic nonhuman plurals are feminine singular so only a group of women can be feminine plural, in addition to the inherent volatility of feminine plural)

    By the way why does feminine plural do just fine in European languages?

    and LOL some people already write אני יכתוב
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2012
  26. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    Books' MSA still does though... And I have a Palestinian friend for whom it always sounds awfully bad to his ears to say הן יעשו, plural feminine are quite vivacious in his Arabic.
  27. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    For spoken/colloquial MSA I have an example of mp/fp merger but unfortunately it's a youtube video...
    Have you asked whether hen taasena or hen yaasu sounds worse?
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2012
  28. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    Yiqtolna is found three times in the bible, and Western Aramaic, Ethiopic and Assyrian also preserved it.
    I've looked at one book I have on Arabic dialects, looks like the global picture is not so straight forward. Basically, Bedouin and rural dialects tend to preserve more classical feature than urban Arabic.
  29. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    The feminine plural ending was -ā or -ān in other Semitic languages, and interestingly Hebrew and classical Arabic are the only ones to have -na.

    Does a distinct past 3fp form ever occur in the Bible (something like Arabic qatalna)? Probably not or I'd've heard about it...
  30. trigel Senior Member

    English - US, Korean
    When did the Academy approve the masculine plural forms for feminine plural subjects? When did the masculine plural officially become common plural? It's got to be some time after the 1960s.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012

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