Updated: Aug 4, 2020
This blog post will give you a brief idea about feminine and masculine nouns in Arabic language. There is also a video for beginners about this topic, with lots of practice in the second part to differentiate between masculine and feminine sounds in Arabic, as well as "he does versus she does".
It is important to note that in Arabic, a noun has to be either feminine or masculine, i.e. it cannot be gender neutral.
The most common sign that a noun is feminine in Arabic is the "Taa Marbouta" (the Taa attached to the letter before if) = ـة or "Taa Modawwana" = ة (the Taa detached from the letters before it). Example:
حديقةٌ hadeeqatun garden
سيّارةٌ sayyaaratun car
Also, adding Taa to many words changes them from masculine to feminine, like:
dog (male) kalbon ٌكلب -----> dog (female) kalbaton ٌكلبة
small (male) sagheeron ٌصغير -----> small (female) sagheeraton ٌصغيرة
Another sign that a noun is feminine, is the "Alif Mamdouda" ـاء or the "Alif Maksoura" ى at the end of the word. Example:
سماءٌ sky samaa'un
صغرى sughra smaller
There are also some words that do not follow a distinct rule (assumed Round Taa), i.e. they may look masculine, however, they are feminine. Example:
يدٌ yadun hand
عينٌ aynun eye
شمسٌ shamsun sun
The following flashcards would hopefully be useful to summarize the information:
EXTRA information for Intermediate Learners:
Note: Sometimes the "Taa Marbouta" (the Taa attached to the letter before if) = ـة, can refer to masculine. For example:
رَجُلٌ علّامَة Rajulun ʻAllaamah
[A MAN WHO IS VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE]
The ‘ة’ here was added as a hyperbole for exaggeration, although typically ‘ة’ is for feminine.
Real and Metaphorical Masculine and Feminine words:
(Real or Haqeeqee belongs to humans and animals, because we can truly and definitely tell if feminine or masculine for most. Haqeeqa = truth/reality.)
امرأة woman = feminine
كلب dog = masculine
كلبة female dog = feminine
This cannot be disputed, and usually can be told by determining if male or female, hence: Real or Haqeeqee.
What about non-living things? We cannot determine if they are male or female like living things, and the feminine and male division are concepts chosen by humans, and can also vary from language to another. So, this is what we call metaphorical or majaazi.
بيت (house (metaphorically masculine
ذكاء (intelligence (metaphorically masculine; intangible concepts too, i.e. abstract terms
وردة (flower (metaphorically feminine
Now you also have some words that are literally Feminine; i.e. by pronunciation لفظيّ (or spelling) only, example:طلحة Talha
It is a man's name but has taa marbouta which is a feminine sign. So, it's feminine lafzee.
There is also feminine ma'nawiyy or by meaning معنويّ, which is the opposite; does not have any feminine signs in spelling or the letters, however is considered feminine, for example, the name سعاد.
It does not have ‘اء’ or ‘ة’ or ‘ى’ ending, but it is feminine.
So for non-real / metaphorical / majazee we have to rely on what has been recorded before or passed down to us. That's what they call it "samaaʻiyy" سمعايّ i.e. by listening to what has been told before and passed down. In short, you can be sure man - رجل is masculine, ثعلب - fox is masculine, بقرة is feminine, ثور - masculine, but how can you tell a house or piece of stone or plant is feminine or masculine??? You cannot examine or tell. You are just giving a concept of femininity or masculinity to a non-living thing. This is not even used in other languages like English, but used in Arabic and Sematic languages, also in French:
La lune القمر is feminine in French but masculine in Arabic
Le soleil الشمس is masculine in French but feminine in Arabic.
It's just concepts that humans made up, based on the cultural / social / historical etc. background of the language.. You will learn it by exposure and experience.
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