April 19, 2012

Gender

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

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 in the singular and in the plural:

Examples of Marked Masculine Nouns
Noun Meaning Plural Meaning
कमरा “Room” कमरे “Rooms”
वादा “Promise” वादे “Promises”
लड़का “Boy” लड़के “Boys”
बेटा “Son” बेटे “Sons”

Most nouns which end in are masculine nouns, yet some may be feminine nouns. For instance, the word भाषा (“language”) is a feminine noun, yet ends in .

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 .

Examples of Unmarked Masculine Nouns
Noun Meaning Plural Meaning
घर “Home” घर “Homes”
आदमी “Man” आदमी “Men”
शहर “City” शहर “Cities”
मकान “House” मकान “Houses”

A few masculine nouns which do end in are Type-II nouns, but these are mostly relationship terms:

Examples of Unmarked Masculine Nouns
Noun Meaning Plural Meaning
पिता “Father” पिता “Fathers”
चाचा “(Paternal) uncle” चाचा “(Paternal) uncles”
दादा “(Paternal) grandfather” दादा “(Paternal) grandfathers”
मामा “(Maternal) uncle” मामा “(Maternal) uncles”
राजा “King” राजा “Kings”

Feminine Nouns

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 in the singular number and इयाँ in the plural number:

Examples of Unmarked Masculine Nouns
Noun Meaning Plural Meaning
मिठाई “Sweet” (as in a candy) मिठाइयाँ “Sweets”
लड़की “Girl” लड़कियां “Girls”
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 is the most common ending:

Examples of Unmarked Masculine Nouns
Noun Meaning Plural Meaning
चिड़िया “Bird” चिड़ियाँ “Birds”
प्रति “Copy (of a book)” प्रतियाँ “Copies”
बुढ़िया “Old Woman” बुढ़ियाँ “Old Women”

Not all nouns which end in are feminine; for instance, आदमी (“man”) and पानी (“water”) both end in , yet are masculine.

Type-II Feminine Nouns (Unmarked)

Type-II, or unmarked feminine nouns are feminine nouns which form their plural by suffixing एँ.

Examples of Unmarked Masculine Nouns
Noun Meaning Plural Meaning
माता “Mother” माताएँ “Mothers”
भाषा “Language” भाषाएँ “Languages”
आशा “Hope” आशाएं “Hopes”
औरत “Woman” औरतें “Women”
किताब “Book” किताबें “Books”
मेज़ “Table” मेजें “Tables”

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.

Common Exceptions

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”.

  • Matthew Chang

    Hi David,

    I looked up the word छात्र in the Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary, which states that the noun is considered masculine. As a general rule, can “occupations and nouns that state what people are” (for lack of a more proper grammatical term – I think antecedent, but not sure) change according to the gender of the subject? For instance, I looked up the word अजनबी in the dictionary, which says it is masculine. However, will we say लड़की बहरी अजनबी है (The girl is a deaf stranger) just as we will say लड़का बहरा अजनबी है (The boy is a deaf stranger)? Or, is अजनबी masculine in all cases, meaning will we say लड़की बहरा अजनबी है and लड़का बहरा अजनबी है, using बहरा to agree with masculine अजनबी in both cases regardless of the subject’s gender? I also know that in some cases, this is not a problem because different words are used for males/females, such as अभिनेता/ अभिनेत्री (actor/actress) so we will say मेरा अभिनेता and मेरी अभिनेत्री but what will happen in such cases as अजनबी?

    • http://hindilanguage.info/ hindilanguage.info

      Great question. I corrected an error on this page. छात्र is masculine (“schoolboy”), छात्रा is feminine (“schoolgirl”). You’re right that many words exist in distinct pairs like this. To refer generically to a student without reference to gender, the word छात्र can be used, since masculine is the default gender. You are correct; for personal nouns such as अजनबी, the gender depends on the referent. If the noun refers to a woman, it is feminine, if the noun refers to a man, it is masculine, etc. It isn’t clear to me if अजनबी is really a proper noun or if it is a substantive adjective (i.e. the adjective अजनबी means “strange”; just as we say “the poor” or “the rich” in English, Hindi uses adjectives as nouns occasionally). Regardless, the gender depends on the referent. If we talk generically about a stranger, without reference to gender, we use the masculine gender.

  • ps

    सधवा लिग बदलो

    • http://hindilanguage.info/ hindilanguage.info

      ‘सधवा’ पुलिंग शब्द है. इसका लिंग नहीं बदला जा सकता. ‘विधवा’ स्त्रीलिंग रूप है.

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  • adeeba zaidi

    i want to know how many types of clause in hindi language ,,please give details

    • http://hindilanguage.info/ hindilanguage.info

      Hi, Adeeba – there are many kinds of clauses, such as subordinate clauses, relative clauses, etc. You can read the article http://hindilanguage.info/hindi-grammar/verbs/mood/subjunctive-mood/ to learn about subjunctive clauses, for instance. However, what, specifically, would you like to know? Maybe you can give me an example or explain a bit more, and I can help you.