Hebrew has a gender for anything. Nouns are either masculine or feminine. There are no neuter nouns. Living things such as people and animals are named according to their sex.
In English we have similar differentiation; male ‘dog’ but female ‘bitch’; כֶּלֶב – כַּלְבָּה a ‘lion’ as opposed to a ‘lioness’ אָרְיֶה – לְבִיאָה; a ‘horse’ as opposed to a ‘mare’; סוּס – סוּסָה.
In Hebrew, when it is difficult to determine the sex of an
animal we find that we only assign it ONE gender.
It is difficult to determine the sex of birds, bees, snakes, fish, etc. That is why we only have the word: צִפּוֹר – tzee-pohr but never: צִיפּוֹרָה tzee-poh-rah.
Tzee-pohr has the form of a male noun (per the rules) but it is actually a female word. We say צִיפּוֹר קְטָנָה tzee-pohr k’tah-nah = a little bird. ( קְטָנָה is a feminine adjective).
The plural form of the word ‘bird’ is צִפּוֹרִים – tzee-poh-reem. צִפּוֹרִים is the form of plural male but it is still a feminine word. We say: צִפּוֹרִים קְטָנוֹת. Notice that the adjective IS feminine. We do not care what the form of the plural form is. As long as we know that the word is feminine, then we know that the adjective must be a feminine word.
You ALWAYS determine the gender of a word by its adjective (if it has one).
Bees – דְבוֹרִים – דְּבוֹרָה= only feminine noun.
Snake: נָחָשׁ – נְחָשִׁים = only masculine noun.
Fish: דָּג – דָּגִים = only masculine noun.
SAYING OF THE WEEK:
Speak of the devil:
מְדַבְּרִים עַל הַחָמוֹר
Literally: speaking of the donkey.
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Ruti Yudovich is the author of Speak Hebrew For Real; Learn How to Read Hebrew For Real, Hebrew Binyanim the Easy Way and I Hate to Say Goodbye. She is a native Israeli that has tutored Modern and Biblical Hebrew for four decades.
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