March 13, 2013

Lesson 12: Nouns

Welcome to Lesson 12!

In this lesson, you will learn about nouns.

Examples of Hindi Nouns

Here is a noun: लड़का (“boy”).

Here’s another example: लड़के. Can you guess what it means?

It means “boys”. What changed? The ending on the word changed from – to –. When we talk about one boy, we use लड़का. When we talk about more than one boy, we use लड़के. In other words, लड़का is singular, and लड़के is plural.

लड़कालड़के

Here’s another word: लड़की. Can you guess what it means?

It means “girl”. What is different? The ending is – instead of –.

Here’s another word: लड़कियां. Can you guess what this word means?

It means “girls”. What happened this time? The ending changed to –इयां.

लड़कीलड़कियां

Gender of Hindi Nouns

लड़का is a masculine noun and लड़की is a feminine noun. Of course! But, in fact, all nouns are either masculine or feminine.

If you’re not used to grammatical gender, then you might be thinking “how can a word have a gender”? Don’t get confused! Grammatical genders are just categories. If it helps, think of “category A” and “category B” nouns instead of “masculine” and “feminine” nouns.

Then why are they called “masculine” and “feminine”? Well, words that refer to natural gender usually belong to their respective grammatical gender. For instance, राजा (“king”) is a masculine noun, and रानी (“queen”) is a feminine noun. So, words that follow similar patterns are called “masculine” or “feminine”.

However, in general, the grammatical gender is arbitrary. For instance, the word मर्दानगी (“manliness”) is feminine, and the word दाढ़ी (“beard”) is feminine. These examples show that the gender can be arbitrary (i.e. not necessarily related to natural gender).

Fun fact: “Noun” is संज्ञा, “masculine” is पुलिंग, and “feminine” is  स्त्रीलिंग.

More Examples

Here’s another word: बहिन. It is also spelled बहन. Regardless, it is almost always pronounced as “behen”. It means “sister”. It doesn’t end in – like लड़की did. Many feminine nouns end in –, but not all. Well, what if we want to say “sisters”? We say बहिनें. What happened? The ending –एं was added to the end.

बहिनबहिनें / बहनबहनें

Here’s another word: शब्द. It means “word” and it is masculine. What if we want to say “words”? We say “शब्द“. So, its form is the same, whether it is singular or plural.

शब्दशब्द

Here’s another word: आदमी. It means “man” (i.e. “male person”, not “human”). This word ends in –. It’s still a masculine noun, though. This shows that a word isn’t necessarily feminine just because it ends in .

Fun fact: the word आदमी is related to “Adam”, i.e. the first man.

What if we want to say “men”? We say “आदमी“. So it is the same in the singular and plural, just like शब्द.

आदमीआदमी

Here’s another word: माता. It means “mother”. It is feminine. This shows that a word isn’t necessarily masculine just because it ends in –. In fact, a lot of Sanskrit words that are feminine end in –.

Fun fact: the word माता is related to the Latin word “mater” which English words like “maternal” and “maternity” come from.

What if we want to say “mothers”? We say माताएं. So, it has the same pattern as बहिन.

मातामाताएं

Here’s yet another word: चिड़िया. It means “bird”. Its plural form is “चिड़ियां“. So, we see another pattern. Some feminine nouns end in –इया and their plural form ends in –इयां. In other words, they are nasalized. A few feminine nouns end in – too, such as शक्ति (“power”), and their plural form also end in –इयां.

चिड़ियाचिड़ियां, शक्तिशक्तियां

Here’s another example: झाड़ू (“broom”). It’s feminine. Its plural form is झाड़ुएं. Notice how the final  got shortened to . All feminine nouns that end in – shorten the vowel in their plural form.

झाड़ूझाड़ुएं

Some words are used in both genders and the gender depends on the context.

What if we want to talk about a group of both male and female students? The masculine gender is used for mixed groups. This is important when you use adjectives with a mixed noun. But, that’s in a future lesson!

Not every noun has a plural form. This is true in English too. We don’t say “mails”, for instance. We just say “mail”. We’ll talk about this again in another lesson.

Okay, here are some more examples: महिला / महिलाऐं (“lady” / “ladies”),  केला / केले (“banana” / “bananas”), घर / घर (“house” / “houses”), साड़ी / साड़ियां (“sari”, “saris”).

Remember, you can always ask questions!

Review

Now you’ve seen every pattern. Let’s review what you’ve learned:

  • There are two patterns of masculine nouns:
    • Those that end in – in their singular form, and end in – in their plural form.
    • Those that have the same form whether singular or plural
  • There are two patterns of feminine nouns:
    • Those that end in –  in their singular form, and end in –इयां in their plural form
    • Those that can have any ending in their singular form, but add –एं in their plural form
  • Some feminine nouns end in –इया or  and also have the plural form –इयां.
  • All nouns have a gender, either masculine or feminine. Sometimes they are classified for a reason, but usually this is totally arbitrary.
  • You have to learn the gender of every word. If you have to guess, words that end in – are often feminine, and words that end in – are often masculine, but this is not always true.
  • If a feminine noun ends in –, the final vowel shortens to – in the plural form.
  • Some personal nouns like छात्र can be used for either gender.
  • For mixed genders, a noun is considered masculine.

Exercises

Post your answers as a comment below.

What is the plural form of each of these words? The gender is listed beside the word (m. = masculine, f. = feminine).

  1. गाड़ी f. “car/cart”
  2. दिल m. “heart”
  3. कपड़ा m. “cloth” (in plural, “cloths” or “clothes/clothing”)
  4. गधा m. “donkey/ass” (can be used as an insult, as in English)
  5. चींटी f. “ant”
  6. भाषा f. “language”
  7. आशा f. “hope”
  8. ख़ुशी f. “happiness” (“happinesses” is used in Hindi)
  9. हाथ m. “hand”
  10. शक्ति f. “power”
  11. बुढ़िया f. “old woman”
  12. बहू f. “daughter-in-law”
  13. किताब f. “book”
  14. सवाल m. “question”
  15. जवाब m. “answer”
  16. प्रश्न m. “question”
  17. उत्तर m. “answer”
  18. विदेशी m./f. “foreigner”
  19. परीक्षा f. “examination”
  20. कहानी f. “story”
  21. मिठाई f. “sweets / candy”
  22. कुर्सी f. “chair”
  23. चीज़ f. “thing”
  24. बात f. “matter / thing / saying”
  25. वस्तु f. “thing”
  26. जूता m. “shoe”
  27. बेटा m. “son”
  28. बेटी f. “daughter”
  29. सहेली f. “girl’s female friend”
  30. दरवाज़ा m. “door”

Further Reading

I discuss nouns in other lessons too. If you’d like to read some of the grammar articles on this site, you can read the articles about nouns, case, and gender.

  • The colored backgrounds are really fun and intuitive! They would have been so useful to me a year ago, back when I was struggling with plural and oblique forms. 😀

  • Ajay

    Hats off for your knowledge and interest in my language (I am from India but have lived in west for several decades). I am bit confused by the word buri meaning bad. I think its gender is feminine but plural buri. So it does not follow any rule. If it were mas., there would be no problem, but is it masculine? What do you think?

    • Thank you very much! “bura” is an adjective, so its gender depends on the context. It can be either masculine or feminine, for instance “buri baat” (feminine) and “bura aadmi” (masculine). “Marked” adjectives like “bura” follow a definite pattern, but the pattern is slightly different than the pattern of “marked” nouns (i.e. the feminine plural is -i not -iyan). Does that make sense? Thanks for the comment.

  • 6G

    1.gaadi – gaadiyaan
    2.dhil – dhil
    3.kapda – kapde
    4.gadhaa – gadhe
    5.cheenti – cheentiyaan
    6.baasha – baashaayen
    7.aasha – aashayen
    8.kushi – kushiyaan
    9.haath – haath
    10.shakthi – shakthiyaan
    11.budiya – budiyayen
    12.bahu – bahuyen
    13.kithab – kithab
    14.savaal – savaal
    15.javaab – javaab
    16.prashna – prashna
    17.uthar – uthar
    18.vidheshi – vidheshi (m)/ vidheshiyaan (f)
    19.pariksha – parikshayen
    20.kahaani – kahaaniyaan
    21.mittayee – mittayiyaan
    22.kursi – kursiyaan
    23.seej – seejen
    24.bath – bathen
    25.vasthu – vasthuyen
    26.jootha – joothe
    27.beta – bete
    28.beti – betiyaan
    29.chaheli – chaheliyaan
    30.dharvaaja – dharvaaje

    Please correct me wherever I’m wrong. Thanks.

    • Excellent!

      11. The plural is बुढ़ियां; often, when a feminine word end in -iya, the plural form is -iyan (nasalized). For instance, chidiya / chidiyan, etc.
      13. The plural is किताबें
      18. This one is tricky; विदेशी is an adjective (“foreign”), and it is used as a noun (“foreigner”). It is invariable, so its plural form is also विदेशी. Its gender depends on the context; we could say “ek videshi aaya” or “ek videshi aayi”, etc.
      23. “cheez” (not seez), but otherwise you’re right
      29. “saheli”, not “chaheli”, but the pluralization was correct

      Be careful not to write “h” when there is no aspiration (e.g. “dil”=दिल, but “dhil”=ढील, etc.)

      Very good job!

  • Thank you for sharing. I am a Hindi tutor and I enjoy reading your lessons. Dhanyavaad Hindistars

    • Thanks for your kind comment! I’m glad that you enjoyed the lessons.