Hebrew Time #10 - The Hebrew Nouns, Adjectives, Dual and Plural Forms
Welcome to Hebrew Time #10! For those of us who are joining now – Hebrew Time is a series of weekly posts about the Hebrew language, Israel, and the Jewish people.
You can see the previous post here
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Today we are going to talk about the Hebrew nouns, adjectives, dual and plural forms.
In Hebrew there are two genders: masculine and feminine.
Each verb in Hebrew has its own gender, even though some nouns have both masculine and feminine forms.
Basically, there are no guidelines which helps us know what is the noun’s gender - but we can figure it out through the adjective (we will get back to this later).
Examples for masculine verbs:
Examples for feminine verbs:
Nouns that have both masculine and feminine forms
These nouns are usually animals.
In order to make a masculine animal noun into a feminine animal noun, we just add the letter “ה”.
Beware that some animals have their special nouns for masculine and feminine and some have only feminine or masculine form.
We’ll give some examples for the rule we explained:
Dual and Plural
The plural form in Hebrew not like in other languages, as it depends on the noun’s gender.
There are two possible situations when making a singular noun into plural noun:
When making a masculine singular noun into plural noun, we add “יִם”(im) to the end of the noun(note: if the noun ends in the letter “ה”, we omit it).
- House - בַּיִת
->Houses - בָּתִּים
- Apple -תָפוּח
->Apples - תַּפּוּחִים
- Man - גֶבֶר
-> Men - גְּבָרִים
When making a feminine singular noun into plural noun, we add “וֹת”(ot) to the end of the noun(note: if the noun ends in the letter “ה”, we omit it).
Note: There are some nouns which their plural form goes by the opposite gender (masculine plural form for singular feminine noun and the opposite). There is no way of knowing, you just have to learn these exceptions.
The dual form doesn’t exist in English, and in the modern Hebrew it exists only in very specific nouns.
The source of this form is in the biblical Hebrew where each noun had singular, dual and plural form.
In modern Hebrew, this form is only exist in words related to time. Some useful dual forms nouns:
For the noun Day -
For the noun Year-
For the noun Month-
For the noun Hour:
The following dual form has no similar forms:
- Two days ago - שִׁלְשׁוֹם
The following dual form is derived from the word Tomorrow:
In Hebrew, in contrast to English, the nouns changes depends on the noun’s gender and number.
In addition, the adjective comes after the noun.
The adjective’s gender goes only by the noun’s singular gender (original gender) - as we said before, there are situations when masculine plural form changes to singular feminine noun and the opposite.
We will use the adjective “גָּדוֹל” (big) for example.
In the masculine singular form we use the basic form of the adjective.
In the masculine plural form we(always) add “יִם” to the adjective.
In the feminine singular form we(always) add “ה” to the end of the adjective.
In the feminine plural we(always) add “וֹת” (ot) to the end of the adjective.
That’s it! You now know how to use nouns and adjectives in Hebrew!
We can't finish without telling you:
See you later!
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Erev Tov! (Good Evening!)
Seeing the words אישה ו גבר has reminded me of something that confuses me and which I would love to know the answer to!
I've seen איש and גבר both used to mean man/a man, but I've only seen the plural - so far as I remember! - as גברים. OTOH, I don't remember seeing woman as anything but איש, but the plural as נשים (which I may have misspelled...). There might very probably be other ones I'm not aware of, because I am still only a beginner, but I wondered if there was logic here I'm missing or if I have just totally misunderstood or... I iz confusled!
Thanks for all you guys' hard work, which is hugely appreciated :D תודה רבה
Right - איש is man, and woman is אישה. The plurals of both are irregular - the plural of אישה is נשים, and the plural of איש is אנשים - BUT, in true patriarchal style, אנשים actually means "people" (even though איש always means "man") . If you want to expressly say "men", you can use the word גבר, which means something more like "bloke", and then use its plural גברים - blokes.
Thanks again for all the wonderful work you guys are doing. I just wanted to say that I learnt the rule for determining the gender of a noun differently from the way you presented it. I was taught that gender is determined from the singular form of the noun. Words ending in "ah" and "taf" are feminine, with everything else being masculine, and there is a limited list of exceptions to this rule (like לילה, אבן and so on). (I have the list somewhere and will try to look it up). On the other hand, whilst there are rules on forming the plural of nouns, there are so many exceptions, it's best to learn each one individually.