Hindi nouns have two grammatical genders: masculine and feminine. There is no neuter gender in Hindi.
Grammatical genders are simply classes of nouns which follow certain patterns of inflection. They are not necessarily related to natural gender (male or female sex), although they often do coincide. It is important to know a word’s gender in order to decline the noun and to modify other words which are grammatically related to the noun within a sentence.
Masculine nouns have two patterns of inflection: Type-I masculine nouns (“marked”), and Type-II masculine nouns (“unmarked”).
Masculine Type-I Nouns (Marked)
Type-I, or marked masculine nouns end with the vowel आ in the singular and ए in the plural:
Most nouns which end in आ are masculine nouns, yet some may be feminine nouns. For instance, the word भाषा (“language”) is a feminine noun, yet ends in आ.
Type-II Masculine Nouns (Unmarked)
Type-II, or unmarked masculine nouns are masculine nouns which have the same singular and plural form. Their number is determined by context. Type-II masculine nouns include all masculine nouns which do not end in आ.
A few masculine nouns which do end in आ are Type-II nouns, but these are mostly relationship terms:
|चाचा||“(Paternal) uncle”||चाचा||“(Paternal) uncles”|
|दादा||“(Paternal) grandfather”||दादा||“(Paternal) grandfathers”|
|मामा||“(Maternal) uncle”||मामा||“(Maternal) uncles”|
Likewise, feminine nouns are also of two types which correspond to the two type of masculine nouns.
Type-I Feminine Nouns (Marked)
Type-I, or marked feminine nouns are feminine nouns which typically end in ई in the singular number and इयाँ in the plural number:
|मिठाई||“Sweet” (as in a candy)||मिठाइयाँ||“Sweets”|
|साड़ी||“Sari (Indian dress)”||साड़ियाँ||“Saris”|
Note the spellings: the plural form ends in इयाँ.
Type-I feminine nouns may also end in इया, although ई is the most common ending:
|प्रति||“Copy (of a book)”||प्रतियाँ||“Copies”|
|बुढ़िया||“Old Woman”||बुढ़ियाँ||“Old Women”|
Not all nouns which end in ई are feminine; for instance, आदमी (“man”) and पानी (“water”) both end in ई, yet are masculine.
Type-II Feminine Nouns (Unmarked)
Type-II, or unmarked feminine nouns are feminine nouns which form their plural by suffixing एँ.
Nouns in Both Genders
Some nouns can be used for either males or females. Thus, the grammatical gender of these words is dependent upon the context.
The –ता suffix generally abstracts a word, e.g., converts an adjective to a noun, or a concrete noun to an abstract noun, etc. Usually, words ending in –ता are feminine, such as सफलता, सहायता, क्षमता, सदस्यता, राष्ट्रीयता, योग्यता, सुन्दरता, आवश्यकता, मित्रता, एकता.
English Words and Hindi Gender
English words are very commonly used in colloquial Hindi. Although English words do not have any associated grammatical gender, Hindi speakers do assign a grammatical gender to English words in order for the words to function grammatically within Hindi sentences. This association is somewhat arbitrary, but often words that sound like marked Hindi feminine nouns (i.e. words that have a final “i” vowel) are treated as feminine nouns.
For instance, the English word “movie” is considered feminine: ;अच्छी movie – “good movie”.