"A monkey is an animal."
Translation:קוף זה חיה.
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In another exercise with "a mouse is an animal" the Hebrew had the same construction. A native Hebrew speaker explained that זה is used in these situations because it defines the mouse and the monkey as an animal. הוא would be used if you were talking about a feature of the animal. Example: "a mouse is white". עכבר הוא לבן
In this case it is more correct to use הוא as copula, meaning that קוף הוא חיה is the best solution. However, colloquially, people often use זה regardless of gender or number. So, הוא is not used just when talking about a feature, but it is used as a copula in any situation when there is a masculine noun.
So, copula is used when you are linking two nouns or a noun and an adjective. First example would be קוף הוא חיה - both monkey and animal are nouns and also קוף זה חיה is correct. However, when you link a noun and an adjective זה can't be used, just like the example you used עכבר הוא לבן "a mouse is white".
That's not quite correct. Every single noun in Hebrew, even animals and inanimate objects have grammatical gender - either masculine or feminine. There is no neutral gender. זה is not neutral, as you might think. It's actually masculine (זאת is its feminine counterpart), which is used either as a demonstrative pronoun (then it's translated as "this" or "that") or a copula (then it's pronounced as "is"). But it is used for masculine nouns.
Correct answer here should be קוף הוא חיה, but using זה colloquially is acceptable here, because it is a general statement.