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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Idit here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher where I’ll answer some of your most common Hebrew questions.
The question for this lesson is…
What does the particle -אי (i-) mean in Hebrew?
-אי (i-) is a prefix symbolizing negation. It comes from the word אין (en), literally meaning "there is no." When this prefix is joined with certain words, the compound means the opposite of the original word.
As you may know, nouns in Hebrew have gender. So, if you add a prefix to it, how do you know what gender it is? Trick question! Actually the prefix doesn't affect the gender of the word it precedes. Let's look at some examples.
The word הבנה (havana) means "understanding," so אי-הבנה (i-havana) is "misunderstanding," like in this sentence--
אני מתנצלת, זו הייתה אי-הבנה (ani mit’natzelet, zo haita i-havana) - “I apologize, it was a misunderstanding.”
The noun “understanding,” הבנה (havana) is a feminine noun. When adding אי (i-) to it, its gender doesn’t change; This is why we used the feminine form of “it was” זו הייתה (zo haita).
Next, we have the word "justice" which in Hebrew is צדק (tzedek). So, when we combine it with the prefix אי (i-) it becomes אי-צדק (i-tzedek), "injustice." Like in this sentence--
מדיניות הממשלה יוצרת אי-צדק חברתי (mediniyut ha’memshala yotzeret i-tzedek ħevrati) - “The government's policy is creating social injustice.”
The noun “justice," צדק (tzedek), is masculine, and wasn’t changed by the prefix אי (i-). This is why the adjective, “social” - חברתי (ħevrati) takes the masculine form.
Our last tip is about the plural form. Once again, the prefix has no influence on the gender of the word. The word will take its plural form (if it has one) and the prefix will stay where it is. For example, let’s look at the compound from the beginning of this lesson, “misunderstanding." “Understanding” is הבנה (havana), so “misunderstanding” will be אי-הבנה (i-havana). The plural form of “understanding” is הבנות (havanot), so the plural form of “misunderstanding” is אי-הבנות (i-havanot).
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!