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Lesson Transcript


Michael: How can a word be masculine or feminine?
Lenny: And how do you determine a noun's gender in Hebrew?
Michael: At HebrewPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Karen is at a flower shop with her friend Hagar. She’d like to buy some flowers and says,
"An anemone and an orchid."
Karen Lee: .כלנית וסחלב (Kalanit ve-sakhlav.)
Karen Lee: .כלנית וסחלב (Kalanit ve-sakhlav.)
Hagar Horowitz: ?רק כלנית וסחלב (Rak kalanit ve-sakhlav?)
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Karen Lee: .כלנית וסחלב
Michael: "An anemone and an orchid."
Hagar Horowitz: ?רק כלנית וסחלב
Michael: "Only an anemone and an orchid?"

Lesson focus

Michael: In this conversation, we hear Karen Lee refer to "An anemone and an orchid."
Lenny: .כלנית וסחלב (Kalanit ve-sakhlav.)
Michael: This is a good example to introduce the grammatical gender in Hebrew. In this lesson, we’ll talk more about what makes a word masculine or feminine in Hebrew.
Michael: In Hebrew, all nouns are assigned a gender. Some of them, such as the words for "man" and "woman," go into the natural classification. Unlike English, nouns that we would think of as neuter are classified into one of these two categories. While there are some exceptions to the rule, the ending of a noun usually dictates the gender of that noun. It’s important to learn the gender of nouns since gender can also dictate other parts of a sentence’s structure. Let’s consider the two words we heard in the dialogue.
Lenny: כלנית (kalanit).
Michael: This word ends with the letters
Lenny: ית (it) or yod plus tav
Michael: which is one of the classical feminine endings in Hebrew.
Lenny: סחלב (sakhlav)
Michael: is masculine.
Michael: In Hebrew, feminine nouns usually end in one of three ways. The first is the letter
Lenny: ה (he)
Michael: This is true when it comes to words like
Lenny: ילדה (yaldah)
Michael: which means "girl,"
Lenny: דודה (dodah)
Michael: which means "aunt," or
Lenny: שימלה (simlah)
Michael: which means "dress." We’ve already seen the second common feminine ending, with the letters
Lenny: ית (it) or yod plus tav.
Michael: This is true when it comes to words like
Lenny: כלנית (kalanit)
Michael: which means "anemone" or
Lenny: מכונית (mekhonit)
Michael: which means "car." Another common feminine ending is the letter
Lenny: ת (tav)
Michael: This is true when it comes to words like
Lenny: בת (bat)
Michael: which means "daughter" or
Lenny: מחברת (makhberet)
Michael: which means "notebook." However, there are always some exceptions. In Hebrew, there’s even a phrase for this:
Lenny: .לכל כלל יש יוצא מן הכלל (Le-khol k’lal yesh yotse min ha-klal.)
Michael: which means "Every rule has its exceptions." Just as it’s possible for masculine words to also include these letter endings, it’s also possible for feminine nouns to include other endings, such as in the case of
Lenny: שמש (shemesh)
Michael: which means "sun" and is feminine even though it doesn’t end with any of the feminine endings:
Lenny: ה (he)
ת (tav)
Michael: Another exception is
Lenny: ארץ (erets)
Michael: which means "country"and is also feminine. These exceptions to the rule simply come down to memorization.
Michael: In all other cases, it can be assumed that the noun is masculine. But you have to watch out for exceptions, for example
Lenny:לילה (laila)
Michael: which means "night," and ends with the letter
Lenny: ה (he) ,
Michael: which corresponds to the sound "a," but is masculine and not feminine.
From these facts, we can deduce that, unless you memorize each noun gender, it's not easy to determine for sure whether a noun is feminine or masculine when it stands on its own, though you can still try to take a guess from its ending. On the other hand, as we'll see in one of the following lessons, if there is context, the gender of a certain noun can be determined by other elements in the sentence, such as the adjective.
Michael: Let's review. Respond to the prompts by speaking aloud. Then, repeat after Lenny focusing on pronunciation.
Do you remember how Karen says "An anemone and an orchid."
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Lenny as Karen Lee: .כלנית וסחלב
Michael: Listen again and repeat.
Lenny as Karen Lee: .כלנית וסחלב
[Beep. Pause 5 seconds.]
Lenny as Karen Lee: .כלנית וסחלב
Michael: An interesting exception affects the words that come in pairs ending with
Lenny: -יים (-im),
Michael: such as
Lenny: רגליים (raglayim)
Michael: which means "legs" or
Lenny: גרביים (garbayim),
Michael: which means "socks." These words can be either feminine or masculine.


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We’re here to answer them!
Lenny: !להתראות (lehitra’ot!)
Michael: See you soon!