In Hebrew, nouns also have gender. This means that all nouns are either masculine or feminine. The gender is simply there for grammatical purposes: adding suffixes, agreeing with adjectives, etc. Sometimes this is clear:
אח , ACH, brother is a masculine noun, since your brother is a male person. So the natural gender is the same as the grammatical gender.
But, עץ, EYTZ, tree, is not clearly male or female. There is no particular way to identify masculine nouns either by meaning of the word or spelling.
HOWEVER, feminine nouns usually end in either hey ה or tav ת.
בת, baht, daughter is an example of the tav ending, and it is a feminine noun.
משפחה, MishpaCHA, family, is also feminine and has the hey ending.
However, עיר, EAR, city, is also feminine, but has no hey or tav ending.
TIP: body parts, animals and places are usually feminine. The best thing to do is to learn the gender of each noun when you learn them as vocabulary.
Okay, let's go on to MAKING HEBREW NOUNS PLURAL
Masculine nouns are made plural by adding a chireq-yod and mem sofeet to the end of the word: ים-
אח , ACH, brother, becomes אחים, *ACHIM, brothers. The important part is the chireq under the chet, followed by the yod and then the mem sofeet.
Feminine nouns are made plural by removing the qamets-hey, if it is present on the feminine noun, and placing a cholem-vav and tav at the end. ות-
בהמה , b'heyMAH, animal, becomes בהמות, b'heyMOT.
(If you do not yet know the names of vowels, niqqudot, please see my other blog posts that not only will teach you the names, but give you fun tips and tricks for remembering their sounds!!!)
More complicated explanation:
There is also a form called "dual" that is utilized with things occurring in pairs, usually body parts like hands. Good news is: both feminine and masculine are the SAME!
Dual nouns adds a patach (under the final letter), followed by yod (with a chireq), then mem sofeet. This is VERY similar to the masculine plural ending. The difference is the patach-yod combination which actually creates a diphthong. (pronounced like the "ai" in the English word: aisle) Also, the emphasis will be on the next to last syllable. (with the patach) יםX Here are a few examples:
יד, yahd, hand. ידים, yah-DAH-yeem is hands (page 71)1
רגל, REH-gel, foot (or legs), רגלים rahg-LAH-yeem is legs (page 180)
עין, AH-yeen, eye, but עינים ey-NAH-yeem is eyes. (page 82)
Furthermore, you may know there are three special Hebrew words that are always in dual form: שמים sha-MAH-yeem, heavens, מצרים mitz-RAH-yeem, Egypt, and מים, MAH-yeem, water. Unfortunately, dual forms are one of the grammatical forms that our text, The First Hebrew Primer, chooses to ignore. Knowing this form, however, can clear up so many misunderstandings later. In FHP, they are simply presented as an irregular plural form, which isn't entirely accurate. I have included the page numbers for your reference and so you can see the niqqud.
Even more complicated explanation:
Speaking of irregular forms: When a plural is formed with the simple -EEM or -OHT endings, this is called regular. However, Hebrew, like English, has many irregular forms, and they are some of the most common nouns! In English, more than one man is men, not “mans”, right? So Hebrew also has irregular plural endings. You will have to study these and learn them by heart as they occur.
WATCH FOR MY IRREGULAR PLURAL MNEMONICS COMING SOON!
Morah Ivrit, Keren
*אחים The qametz under the alef shortens to patach in the plural, but that does not affect pronunciation, as you may or may not know. While I'm bringing it up, niqqudot changes are quite common when making nouns plural, and often involve a shortening of the first vowel, since the emphasis is shifted to the last syllable. A very common one used with segholate nouns, for example is this: sheva, qamets, chireq-yod.
Example: מלך, MEH-lech (king) becomes מלכים m'-lah-KHIM (kings) (page 43 for all)
mem with sheva, lamed with qamets, chireq-yod under khaf
Just remember gutterals cannot take a vocal sheva, so usually chateph patach is used. You can see an example of this with עבדים, servants.
1 page numbers for the First Hebrew Primer by Simon, Resnikoff, et. al.
The First Hebrew Primer by Simon, Resnikoff, et. al. Is available through my website: www.makeHebrewfun.com. Just look under the “resources” link along the top, which will bring you right to some of my favorite Hebrew learning resources!