Arabic has two genders, masculine and feminine. There’s a clear difference between masculine and feminine in Arabic. The terminology used for gender is الجِنْس, or al-jins which translates to “sex, race, kind”. Generally speaking, a noun is either masculine, feminine or of uncertain gender (sometimes masculine, sometimes feminine).
Masculine nouns don’t have a special form. On the other hand feminine nouns, have three specific forms ending with:
- The tā marbūṭa (ة): which is the biggest category.
- The alif ى (or ا): for elatives (اِسْم التَفْضِيل) and masculine adjectives in the pattern فَعْلانُ (diptote).
- The alif hamza (اء): for colors and deformities.
The tā marbūṭa (ة)
The letter hā ه …ـه/ when written with two dots above (ة …ـة…) is pronounced as /t/, the same way that ت/ t/ is spoken. This form of writing, which occurs at the end of a word to signify femininity for nouns or adjectives, goes by the name “tā marbūṭa”. It’s an incredibly important component in proper pronunciation and understanding of the language.
The most common way to derive feminine nouns and adjectives is by adding the ending ـةٌ\..َ.ةٌ…َ /atun/ to the masculine form.
|Masculine (المُذَكَّر)||Feminine (المُؤَنَّث)|
|هُوَ مُعَلِّمٌ |
He is a teacher
|هِيَ مُعَلِّمَةٌ |
She is a teacher
|هُوَ أَمِيرٌ |
He is a prince
She is a princess
Note: A few nouns with the feminine ending tā marbūṭa are masculine, because they are used only in reference to males, e.g
Note 2: Nouns ending in tā marbūṭa (ةٌ …َـةٌ…َ) /atun/ do not take the extra final alif ا …in the indefinite accusative form. So the correct form is طالِبةً (not طالِبتًا).
Note 3: At the end of a sentence the final vowel of a word is normally not pronounced. Even tā marbūṭa is usually left unpronounced at the end of a sentence, as in طالِبةٌ ṭāliba for ṭālibatun.
The alif maqṣūra (ى)
The alif ى is used for elatives (اِسْم التَفْضِيل) and masculine adjectives in the pattern فَعْلانُ (diptote).
|Adjectives in فَعْلان|
The alif hamza (اء)
The alif hamza اء is used for colors and deformities.
|Colors (الأَلْوان)||Deformities (العُيُوب)|
Feminine words by nature
- When it comes to most of the body’s paired parts or organs, they tend to be identified as feminine – for example:
- Some words are feminine by nature because they can only relate to women:
- Geographical proper names, including the titles of countries, cities, towns and villages are typically considered feminine:
- A few nouns are feminine by usage:
- Any being or object not endowed with reason is considered feminine singular in Arabic whether the noun is plural or not.
Note: Some words can be considered both feminine and masculine like:
- The names of the letters of the alphabet (even though they are rather feminine).
- Other regular nouns:
- Hyperbolic participles on patterns فَعِيل and فَعول (which we’ll see in the Intermediate part).
- Collective nouns (which we’ll see in the Advanced part).
Note 2: If two nouns of different gender are qualified by the same element, that element will be in the masculine dual.
المَرْأةُ والرَجُلُ فِلِسْطِينِيانِ The man and the woman are Palestinian
Masculine and feminine
Learn about masculine and feminine in Arabic with our comprehensive guide. Discover the rules and exceptions, and improve your understanding of Arabic grammar.
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