Menu
Search

The Gender of Arabic Nouns (1) Posted by on Jul 17, 2018 in Grammar, Vocabulary

The gender الجِنْس of noun الاِسْم in Arabic is either masculine مُذَكَّر or feminine مُؤَّنَّث. The masculine المُذَكَّر is the basic form; therefore, it does not require a marker عَلاَمَة. The feminine المُؤَنَّث is derived from the masculine; it requires a feminine marker عَلَامَة تَأنِيْث. There are two types of masculine: real masculine and unreal masculine. Likewise, the feminine has three types: real, unreal, and marked. This post explains the masculine and feminine forms of nouns in Arabic.

Real Masculine المُذَكَّر الحَقِيْقِي:

The real masculine noun is the noun that refers to a human or animal male, such as رَجُل ‘man’, وَلَد ‘boy’, مُحَمَّد ‘Mohammed’, طَبِيْب ‘male physician’, مُهَنْدِس ‘male engineer’, تَاجِر ‘businessman’, أَسَد ‘lion’, حِمَار ‘donkey’, كَلْب ‘dog’, جَمَل ‘male camel’, عُصْفُور ‘male sparrow’ and so forth.

Real Feminine المُؤَنَّث الحَقِيْقِي:

The real feminine noun is the nouns that refers to a human or animal female, such as اِمْرَأَة ‘woman’, فَتَاة ‘girl’, فَاطِمَة ‘Fatimah’, طَبِيْبَة ‘female physician’, مُمَرِّضَة ‘nurse’, مُهَنْدِسَة ‘female engineer’, تَاجِرَة ‘business women’, لَبْوَة ‘lioness’, أَتَان ‘female donkey’, كَلْبَة ‘bitch’, نَاقَة ‘female camel’, عُصْفُورَة ‘female sparrow’ زَيْنَب ‘Zainab’ and so forth.

Unreal Masculine المُذَكَّر المَجَازِي / غَيْر الحَقِيْقِي:

The unreal masculine noun is the noun that is treat as a male human or animal, but it is not one, such as كِتَاب ‘book’, نَهْر ‘river’, قَلَم ‘pen’, بَحْر ‘sea’ قَمَر ‘moon’, بَاب ‘door’ سَيْف ‘sword’, هَاتِف ‘phone’, حَمَّام ‘bathroom’ and so on. Most learners of Arabic assume that these nouns are masculine forms since they don’t have a final feminine suffix marker (see below), but that is not always the case, as there are nouns that don’t have the feminine marker, but they are feminine, as seen below.

Unreal Feminine المُؤَنَّث المَجَازِي / غَيْر الحَقِيْقِي:

The unreal feminine noun is the noun that is treat as a female human or animal, but it is not one, such as صُوْرَة ‘picture’, سَيَّارَة ‘car’, شَمْس ‘sun’, صَحْرَاء ‘desert’, نَار ‘fire’, أُذْن ‘ear’, رِجْل ‘leg’, عَيْن ‘eye’, طَاوِلَة ‘table’, دَار ‘house’ and so forth. Although some of these nouns don’t have the feminine marker, but they are still treated as feminine.

While it is easy for a native speaker to tell whether the noun is masculine or feminine (given their intuition), learners of Arabic should learn the gender of these words as they come across them. This is the best learning strategy.

Marked Feminine المُؤَنَّث اللَّفْظِي:

While masculine nouns are not marked for masculinity, feminine nouns are. The marked feminine المُؤَنَّث اللَّفْظِي, which literally means verbally marked feminine, but in reality it is not feminine, is the noun that has the feminine marker but it refers to a masculine noun. This is especially common in the case of proper nouns, such as حَمْزَة ‘Hamzah’, مُعَاوِيَة ‘Mu’awiyah’, أُسَامَة ‘Osama’, زَكَرِيَّاء ‘Zakaria’, عَلَاء ‘Ala’a’ and alike. These nouns end in ـة taa marbuTah and alif and hamzah, which are feminine markers, but they are masculine.

Feminine Marker Suffixes عَلَامَات التَّأْنِيْث:

Apart from the unreal feminine nouns, there are three main markers from which we can tell that a noun is feminine. These are: ـة / ة called التَّاء المَرْبُوطَة at-taa’ al-marbuTah, ـى called أَلِف التَّأنِيْث المَقْصُورَة alif at-ta’niith al-maqSuurah, and اء / ـاء called أَلِف التَّأْنِيْث المَمْدُوْدَة alif at-ta’niith al-mamduudah.

التَّاء المَرْبُوْطَة at-taa’ al-marbuTah: ـة / ة

It is the most common feminine marker in Arabic. Its addition to the end of nouns is accounted for as follows:

(1) It is intrinsically part of a nouns that refer to female entity, as in these examples:

عَائِشَــة ‘Aisha’ حَدِيْقَــة ‘garden’ سَيَّارَة ‘car’ نَافِذَة ‘window’
دَوْلَــة ‘country’ وَزَارَة ‘ministry’ شَجَرَة ‘tree’ سَارَة ‘Sarah’

(2) It is added to adjective / nouns to derive the feminine form from the masculine, as in these examples below. By dropping the ـة / ة, we get the masculine form.

أُسْتَاذَة ‘female teacher’ طَبِيْبَــة ‘female doctor’ عَامِلَــة ‘female worker’
عَالِمَــة ‘female scientist’ جَمِيْلَــة ‘beautiful – fem. form’ مُسْلِمَــة ‘female Muslim’
اِبْنَــة ‘daughter’ إِنْسَانَــة ‘female human’ طَبَّاخَــة ‘female chef’

However, there are adjectives to which we cannot add ـة / ة as a feminine marker because the same form of these adjective is used for both masculine and feminine forms. The most common adjective of these is weighed (in the Morphological Measure) as فَعُول and فَعِيْل, as in these examples:

صَبُور ‘tolerant’ حَقُوْد ‘malicious’ غَفُوْر ‘forgiving’ غَيُور ‘zealous’
جَرِيْح ‘wounded’ قَتِيْل ‘killed’ عَقِيْم ‘sterile’ عَلِيْل ‘sick’

In the following phrases, you can see that the same form of these adjective is used with masculine and feminine nouns:

اِمْرَأَة حَقُوْد ‘a malicious woman’

رَجُل حَقُوْد ‘a malicious man’

زَوْجَة عَقِيْم ‘a sterile wife’

زَوْج عَقِيْم ‘a sterile husband’

(3) There are nouns the masculine of which refers to the type name. Adding the ـة / ة to the end of these nouns is indicates a one of these types, as in these examples:

تُفَاح ‘the fruit of apple’ تُفَّاحَــة ‘an apple’
رُمَّان ‘the fruit of pomegranate’ رُمَّانَــة ‘one pomegranate’
حَجَر ‘stone in general’ حَجَرَة ‘one stone’
بَقَر ‘cows in general’ بَقَرَة ‘one cow’

أَلِف التَّأنِيْث المَقْصُورَة alif at-ta’niith al-maqSuurah: ـى

It is a feminine marker in the following cases:

(1) The masculine form of adjectives that are weighed (in the Morphological Measure) as فَعْلَان is weighed as فَعْلَى in the feminine (i.e. ending in alif maqSuurah), as in these examples:

Masculine form Feminine form
عَطْشَان ‘thirsty’ عَطْشَــى
كَسْلَان ‘lazy’ كَسْلَــى
جَوْعَان ‘hungry’ جَوْعَــى

(2) The masculine form of a comparative noun (adjective) that is weighed as أَفْعَل is weighed as فُعْلَى in the feminine, as in these examples:

Masculine form Feminine form
أَكْبَر ‘bigger than’ كُبْرَى
أَعْظَم ‘greater’ عُظْمَــى
أَصْغَر ‘smaller’ صُغْرَى

(3) All the verbal nouns that end in ـى alif maqSuurah, as in these examples:

دَعْوَى  ‘lawsuit’

فَتْوَى ‘fatwa, legal opinion’

بُشْرَى ‘good news’

ذِكْرَى ‘memory of’

(4) Feminine nouns and adjectives that naturally end ـى alif maqSuurah, as in these examples:

حُبْلَــى ‘pregnant’

سَلْمَــى ‘Salma – name’

سَلْوَى ‘Salwa – name’

أَفْعَــى ‘snake’

ثَكْلَــى ‘bereaved of a child’

أَلِف التَّأْنِيْث المَمْدُوْدَة alif at-ta’niith al-mamduudah: اء / ـاء

It is a feminine marker in the following cases:

(1) The masculine adjectives that are weighed as أَفْعَل are weighed as فَعْلَاء in the feminine, as in these examples:

Masculine form Feminine form
أَحْمَر ‘red’ حَمْرَاء
أَعْمَى ‘blind’ عَمْيَــاء
أَحْوَل ‘cross-eyed’ حَوْلَـاء

(2) Feminine nouns and adjectives that naturally end اء / ـاء alif mamduudah, as in these examples:

صَحْرَاء  ‘desert’

حِربَــاء ‘chameleon’

حَسْنَــاء ‘beautiful’

سَمَــاء ‘sky’

In the next post, you will learn about some irregularities of masculine and feminine forms of nouns. You will also see and read example sentences in which these forms are used contextually.

Tags: , , , , ,
Keep learning Arabic with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Ibnulyemen اِبْنُ اليَمَن

Marhaban! I am from Yemen. I am a language teacher. I teach English and Arabic. In this blog, I will be leading you through Arabic language learning in a sequential fashion. I will focus on Modern Standard Arabic. To learn more, you can also visit my website Ibnulyemen Arabic or my facebook page.