If English Were Hebrew

Sam: Hello students!

I’m super excited because today we are going to learn about English gender! Yay! So, as you well know, every noun in English is either masculine or feminine. What’s more, verbs, pronouns and adverbs are also gender oriented – how fun is that, right?!

So, let’s start with the nouns – these are easy… can anyone tell me the gender of “chair”?

Penny: it’s masculine.

Sam: that’s right Penny! And “table”?

Penny: masculine. Piece of cake!

Sam: that’s feminine…

Penny: table?

Sam: no, cake. What about cup?

Penny: we got it Sam, all the kitchen stuff is masculine..


Sam: oh, no – cup is feminine. But maybe you can tell me about “pot”?

Penny: sounds feminine to me…

Sam: errm, no, that one is actually masculine. But so is fork!

Penny: oh, ok, so spoon and teaspoon are also masculine – right?

Sam: wrong. These happen to be feminine.


Penny: I’m confused – so how can I tell?

Sam: it's easy – you can’t.

Penny: excuse me?

Sam: you just need to memorize the gender of each and every object on Earth.

Penny: I don’t think that’s possible…

Sam: of course it is! All English speakers do it, though most of them get it wrong. But that’s just the way it is….[singing]…things will never be the same…

Penny: Sam, please, don’t…

Sam: quite right, so… where were we? Yes, let’s try out some pronouns. These are great because pronouns are conjugated by the gender of the noun – it’s as easy as that. For example, we would say big chair, because chair is masculine but we would say biga cup, because cup is feminine. Who wants to try?

Penny: I’ll give it a go. So, smalla teaspoon and prettya spoon – right?

Sam: that’s excellent Penny! You see – you can do this! Now, you need to remember that the plural form also changes with the gender: we add a –im for masculine plural and –ot for feminine plural. So we would say knife and knifeim, but spoon and spoonot because spoon is feminine.

Penny: that's not too bad…

Sam: yes, and I should mention that pronouns also have a plural gender form:

single short knife and many bigim bucketim.

For feminine it would be singla shorta spoon and manyot bigot spoonot.

Penny: no, I take that back, this is bad…

Sam: right then? Who wants to try these out – it’s easy!

Penny: ok, ok, I think I got this. Let’s see…

Tastya yellowa banana.

Sam: excellent! Another one!

Penny: I totally got this, ok:

Brown chair and many brownim chairim!

Sam: well, actually… that’s many brownim chairot

Penny: wait, why? Didn’t we just agree that chair is masculine?

Sam: yes, but –

Penny: and we said that the plural form of masculine is –im, correct?

Sam: well, not always, this one is an exception.

Penny: are there many such exceptions??

Sam: quite a few of them.

Penny: mmmm – is there any way to identify these cases, where the singular sounds like masculine but the plural like feminine?

Sam: it's easy! Well, actually no. You kinda need to –

Penny: memorize every known object? I really don’t like this…

Sam: while we’re at it, some objects can be both male and female: the wind blows and the wind blowsa are both ok as are sharp knife and sharpa knife. Just so you know.

The wind of change is also of all genders
The wind of change is also of all genders

Penny: are we done?

Sam: not even close!

Now let me tell you about the best part: gender and counting! You see, the way you count depends on the gender of the object you count. Oh… it’s so romantic. ..

Penny: get to the point Sam..

Sam: well, for feminine objects it would be one, two, three, four…ten. And counting masculine objects would proceed: ona, twoa, threea, foura,…tena.

Penny: wait a minute, wait a minute! You’ve got it backwards Sam, the –a ending is a feminine ending! Right? Right??

Sam: that’s the best part Penny, although the –a ending is a singular feminine ending, in counting it’s reversed! Yes, exactly the opposite of that you would think.

Penny: wait… but why?

Sam: I have no idea.

Penny: you’re kidding me, right?

Sam: no, no, not at all. That’s just the way it is [singing]… things will never be the same…

Penny: Sam – for Heaven’s sake! Stop it!

Sam: sorry. Want to give counting a try?

Penny: no I don’t…

ok, one last time:

Ona big chair

Twoa bigim autoim

Threea prettyim carim

Sam: ah, no, not quite, it should be three prettyot carot because, “car” is feminine.

female car mal car

Penny: but I thought that auto was masculine.

Sam: it is.

Penny: so auto is masculine but car is feminine??? What possible method lies at the heart of this madness?

Sam: none.

Penny: I want to die.

Sam: I wanta to die… because you are a female.


Sam: Right! Let’s carry on. Adverbs – these are fantastic. Each verb has a gender, for example, a run is feminine whereas a climb is masculine. So you would say fasta run, fastot runot, high climb, highim climbim.

Penny: I dare not ask – is there a-

Sam: nope.

Penny: I will have no part of this. I quit.

Sam: well, the good news is that English is only spoken by about 7 million people world-wide. You can just major in a more popular language like Quechua – an indigenous South American relic of the pre-Inca era.

Penny: which I intend to do promptly, first thing tomorrow!

Sam: oh, my, we’re running out of time. So, to sum this up, I posted here one full passage with the correct gender grammar. I want you all to read it at home and learn it well:

Every day James sat staring out of the window waiting for Sarah to comea over and play, and every day Sarah woulda showa up at 4, happya and cheerfula as always.

James would count the minutesot until it was time for her to goa, savoring every lasta second of the play-date. Sara woulda pusha around the trainsot, three or even four carsot at a time. James would play with the whiteim and yellowim planeim, carrying them through the air whilst making soundsot of engineim and crashesot. James knew and Sara knewa that it was time to part, so they saidu their goodbyes, James cried and Sarah crieda, even though they knewu they wouldu playu again tomorrow.

The end.

2 תגובות בנושא “If English Were Hebrew

  1. This is really only partially true. About the conjugations – completely true. But you don't have to memorize the gender of each noun in Hebrew, not at all. The gender of a noun in Hebrew is not determined by the meaning of the word, true, but it IS largely determined (up to very few exceptions) by the structure/pattern (משקל) of the word.
    מקדח, מחבט, מתנד, מפתח, מכתש are all masculine and this is evidenced by their משקל, whereas משאלה, משתלה, מעברה, מזרקה are all feminine – not because they end with "a" but because of their entire משקל. To this there are very few exceptions, so it's really not as bad as that. This is unlike French where you DO have to memorize each noun's gender and there's absolutely no system to it. Still, they get by, so maybe our mind is capable of dealing with this information by memorization and that's how it's stored in our Hebrew-speaking brain (though I'd be surprised and I have reasons for my doubts).
    Very nice post!

    1. Good point! I wonder if we really just memorize or remember by patterns. I think we probably do both because although there are patterns that are always feminine/masculine, many are not so:
      כוס (הינשוף)/כוס לשתיה
      And also some that just sound the same:

      It could be a nice subject for a study, though you would really need an ingenious way to distinguish between the two.

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