Vocabulary

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Lesson Transcript

Intro

Hi everybody! Nora here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Arabic questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: Are there feminine and masculine inanimate objects in Arabic?
Explanation
Well, I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that unlike French and Spanish, Arabic doesn’t have gender-specific articles, like la and le in French, or la and el in Spanish. YAY. In Arabic, we use the definite article al- for both genders, and there are no indefinite articles at all. Double YAY.
There’s more good news. You can tell what gender a noun is from its structure. If you see a ة (ah) sound commonly known as tāʾ marbūṭah at the end of a word, then it’s definitely feminine and will be conjugated as such. For example,
šaǧarah, شجرة meaning “tree.”
Now for the bad news. There are a lot of nouns that don't end in a tāʾ marbūṭah, but they’re still feminine nouns. However, there aren't a lot of them, and once you know that they’re feminine nouns, you just have to memorize them.
An example of this is
sahraa' صحراء meaning “desert.”
The final part of the noun aa' is an indication that the word is most likely a feminine noun. It could also be a masculine noun, like the word maa' ماء, meaning “water,” which is masculine, so this rule only works with certain structures.
But there isn't always a helpful indication. For instance, the word شمس (šams), meaning "sun," is a feminine word. See a ة? Nope. You have to consciously remember that it’s a feminine noun.
The last thing you need to know about Arabic feminine and masculine nouns is that they change the conjugation of any verb or adjective that describes them.
For example, we’ll look at a Noun-Adjective-Verb sentence for a masculine noun and for a feminine noun.
الفتى الطويل يغني
al fata al tawīlu yuġannī.
“The tall boy is singing.”
الفتاة الطويلة تغني
al fatātu al tawīlatu tuġannī.
“The tall girl is singing.”
See the slight difference in conjugation? Namely the ta’ marbuta in the end of “al-tawilah” and the ta’ in the beginning of “tughanni”. Although this might seem challenging at first, it’ll feel like second nature with practice.

Outro

If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
Bye! إلى اللقاء (ʾilā al-liqaāʾ)

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