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Hebrew Grammar: Feminine Nouns Posted by on Apr 2, 2018 in Grammar

Nouns in Hebrew – any noun – has gender: feminine or masculine. A noun’s gender is quite important because it can impact an entire sentence.

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The gender of the noun doesn’t only affect the pronoun, changing it to she or he. It also affects most of the words in the sentence. In Hebrew, adjectives and verbs are conjugated according to the noun’s gender as well. So, in order to pronounce the verb and the adjective correctly, one must know the gender of the noun, even if the noun is an object. Because in Hebrew every word – a person, an object, or an idea – has a gender, and corresponding to it the all sentence all be conjugated.

There are two genders in Hebrew: feminine and masculine. (There is no “it” gender in Hebrew). It’s easier to identify the feminine nouns than the masculine, because most of the Hebrew feminine nouns end with the letter ה or the letter ת. While masculine nouns end with variety of consonants, it’s easier to recognize the feminine nouns at first sight. Note, for example, the variety of different endings for these masculine pronouns, compared to the repetitive endings of their matching feminine conjugations:

  Male Female
Infant תִּינוֹק תִּינֹוקֶת
Boy/girl יֶלֶד יַלְדָּה
Youngster נַעַר נַעֲרָה
Young man/lady בָּחוּר בַּחוּרָה
Man/woman אִישׁ אִישָׁה
Singer זַמָּר זַמֶּרֶת
Judge שׁוֹפֵט שׁוֹפֶטֶת
Reporter כַּתָּב כַּתֶּבֶת
Doctor רוֹפֵא רוֺפְאָה
King/queen מֶלֶךְ מַלְכָּה
Prince/princess נָסִיךְ נְסִיכָה
Emperor/empress קֵיסָר קֵיסָרִית
Dog כֶּלֶב כַּלְבָּה
Cat חָתוּל חֲתוּלָה
Horse/mare סוּס סוּסָה

 

I counted 10 different endings for the masculine nouns in the chart above (the letters ק, ד, ר, ש, ט, ב, א, ך, ל, ס) But only two endings for the feminine nouns (the letters ה, ת). And one simple noun affects the entire sentence. For example:

דָּנָה, הַיַּלְדָּה הָחֲמוּדָה, שׂׅיחֲקָה בַּבּוּבָּה הָחֲדָשָׁה שֶׁלָהּ.

The cute girl Dana played with her new doll.

Every word in this sentence – name, noun, adjective, or verb – is feminine and ends with the syllable ָה . If the subject in the sentence above was the cute boy Dan, the sentence wouldn’t be so symmetric:

דָּן, הַיֶּלֶד הֶחָמוּד, שׂׅיחֵק בַּבּוּבָּה הָחֲדָשָׁה שֶׁלוֺ.

The cute boy Dan played with his new doll.

 

But problems begin when not all the words act according to the rule. There are many exceptions, and they are divided to two groups:

1) The first group is feminine nouns that end with other letters than ה or ת. Unfortunately, there is no way to recognize them as feminine without memorizing them. Here is a list of some of those exceptions:

Animals Frog צְפַרְדֵּעַ
A female donkey אָתוֹן
Goat עֵז
Bird צִפּוֹר
Ewe (an archaic use) רָחֵל
Family members Mother אֵם
Mum אִמָּא
Grandmother סָבְתָא
Body parts Face * פָּנִים
Eye עַיִן
Ear אֹוזֶן
Cheek לֶחִי
Tongue לָשׁוֹן
Tooth שֵׁן
Shoulder כָּתֵף
Arm זְרוֹעַ
Hand יָד
Palm כַּף
Finger אֶצְבַּע
Nail צִפֹּורֶן
Stomach בֶּטֶן
Leg רֶגֶל
Knee בֶּרֶךְ
Wing כָּנָף
Horn קֶרֶן
Soul נֶפֶשׁ
Objects Fence גָּדֵר
Sword חֶרֶב
Door דֶּלֶת
Cup כּוֹס
Knife * סַכִּין
Shoe נַעַל
Ink * דְּיוֹ
Spoon כַּף
Needle מַחַט
Coin * מַטְבֵּעַ
Stake * יָתֵד
Loaf of bread כִּיכָּר
Settlement Land אֶרֶץ
City עִיר
Road דֶּרֶךְ
Garden חָצֵר
Well בְּאֵר
Roundabout כִּיכָּר
Nature Abyss תְּהוֹם
Fire אֵשׁ
Grapevine גֶּפֶן
Wind * רוּחַ
Sun שֶׁמֶשׁ
Stone אֶבֶן

*These words can be referred to as masculine and feminine alike. They are exceptions, because different periods in the history of Hebrew treat them differently, as we’ve learned in this post.

In an old children’s textbook, I found this short rhyme. Can you recognize the feminine nouns in it?

צְפַרְדֵּעַ גְּדוֺלָה וּמְכוֺעֶרֶת,

קָפְצָה מׅכּוֹס מְלֵאָה מׅיץ

וְרָצָה לַכִּיכָּר הַמְרְכָּזׅית

בּׅמְיוּחָד כְּדֵי לְהַשְׁוׅויץ.

בַּדֶּרֶךְ הׅתְנַגְשָׁה הׅיא בְּעֵז

עֲנוֺגָה, אֲצׅילׅית וּצְחוֺרָה,

שֶׁאֶל גָּדֵר עֲקוּמָה,

הָיְיתָה הׅיא בְּחֶבֶל קְשׁוּרָה.

 

2) The second exceptional group is masculine nouns that end with the letters ה and ת. They are actually not exceptions of any rule, but they are rare and makes it harder for us to identify them as masculine. Here is a list of some of those nouns:

Objects Steering wheel הֶגֶה
Dustpan יָעֶה
House בַּיִת
Railing מַעֲקֶה
Rifle רוֹבֶה
Nature Field שָׂדֶה
Olive זַיִת
Night לַיְלָה
Strawberry תּוּת
Animals Lion אַרְיֵה
Lamb טָלֶה
Others Edge קָצֶה
Guise מַסְוֶה
Team צֶוֶות
Intersection צֹומֶת
Wonder מוֹפֵת
Service שֵׁרוּת

 

The grammatical gender of the Hebrew language confuses almost everyone. Even native speakers sometimes make mistakes with noun gender. So, don’t go hard on yourself and definitely don’t let it prevent you from speaking. Keep practicing and eventually you will master the Hebrew grammar.

To practice the new vocabulary and its correct gender use these exercises:

1) Fill in adjectives:

1) הַיֶּלֶד הׅסְתָּתֵר מֵאֲחוֹרֵי הַגָּדֵר הַ______, כּׅי פָּחַד מֵהַכֶּלֶב הַ______.

2) הַשֵּׁרוּת בַּמּׅסְעָדָה הַזּוֺ הוּא ______, פַּעַם הַבָּאָה נֺאכַל בַּבַּיִת הַ______ שֶׁלָנוּ.

3) בְּאֶמְצָע הַדֶּרֶךְ הַ______ יֵשׁ בְּאֵר ______.

4) בְּגַן הָחַיּוֺת גָּרׅים אַרְיֵה ______, אָתוֹן ______, טָלֶה ______ וְעֵז ______.

5) לַיְלָה ______ יָרַד עַל הָעׅיר הַ______.

6) הַצֶּוֶות שֶׁלְךָ עָבַד יָפֶה מְאוֺד בַּשָּׂדֶה הַ______. בְּהֶחְלֵט צֶוֶות ______.

7) רוּחַ ______ נַשְׁבָה וְכׅיבְּתָה אֶת הָאֵשׁ הַ______.

8) שָׁתַלְתּׅי בָּחָצֵר הַ______ עֵץ זַיׅת ______.

2) Connect the right adjective to its noun:

לָשׁוֹן                                                    מְסוּכָּן

מַעֲקֶה                                                  עֲדׅינָה

תְּהוֹם                                                  עַתּׅיק

בֶּטֶן                                                     גָּבֹוהַּ

שֶׁמֶשׁ                                                   מוּכְשָׁר

צֹומֶת                                                 יוֺקֶדֶת

רוֹפֵא                                                  רָחָב

רוֹבֶה                                                 עֲמוּקָה

בַּיִת                                                   וְרוּדָה

בַּחוּרָה                                               שְׁטוּחָה

3) Choose the feminine noun out of these trios:

חָתוּל          עֵז             סוּס

צֶוֶות          דֶּלֶת          צֹומֶת

אַרְיֵה        כַּלְבָּה         טָלֶה

יֶלֶד           רוֹפֵא          סָבְתָא

מַטְבֵּעַ       מַסְוֶה       מַעֲקֶה

בָּחוּר        בֶּטֶן          בַּיִת

 

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Comments:

  1. Richard Evans:

    I just love the challenge of learning Hebrew.
    I am slow thus I try and find the freebies.

    • Ayana:

      @Richard Evans You know what they say: slowly but surely (לאט אבל בטוח). Enjoying the challenge is the key for progressing 🙂

      • Ayana:

        @Ayana It’s never too late to learn Hebrew 🙂 But remember: no pain no gain. It’s important to practice everyday and to stay motivated. Visit us on Facebook, check out our Hebrew word of the day, and feel free to ask any questions. Good luck!