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Learning Hindi

Hindi Challenges 4: Gendered Nouns

Hindi isn’t alone in having masculine or feminine genders for words; French, Gaelic, and Spanish also have genders. And as you already know, English words don’t have genders.

For example, in English, the word small doesn’t change whether we’re saying “small boy” or “small girl.” But in Hindi there’s छोटा लड़का and for feminine छोटी लड़की. The adjective takes the gender of the noun it’s describing.

Why is a table masculine and a car feminine in Hindi? No one knows.

So how do you learn word genders in Hindi?

In the end, the only way to learn the genders of words in Hindi is with a bit of guesswork. I found trying to memorise words plus their genders to not work.

A better way is to instead focus on speaking practise even if it’s full of gender mistakes. Gender mistakes are the least of your worries as Hindi speakers will still understand.

Hindi speakers will often correct my gender mistakes, and that’s when I go back and repeat the sentence and fix the gender.

When talking to Hindi speakers, they can’t actually tell you the gender of a word off the top of their head. They have to think of the word with an adjective like “small car” and that gives them the gender of the word. So, this is the approach I’m trying to replicate. You can’t rote memorise genders, just focus on speaking and remembering genders along the way.

After a while, you just know that a car is feminine because छोटी गाड़ी sounds correct to you.

Here are the tips I use to guess the genders of words in Hindi, these are not fool-proof, but they’re generally correct:

Masculine Gender Rules

  1. Nouns ending in आ are usually masculine like पैसा, कमरा, मसाला, and लड़का.
  2. Nouns ending in ना, पन, पा, and न are masculine like गाना, बचपन, मोटापा, and लगान.
  3. Most parts of the body like बाल, कान, मुँह and more.
  4. Other masculine categories: most metals, stones, oceans, mountains, pulses, trees, and liquids.

Feminine Gender Rules

1. Nouns ending in ई are usually feminine like कुर्सी, लकड़ी, and रोटी. One common exception is आदमी.

2. Nouns ending in या, त, स, ख like गुड़िया, रात, प्यास, and भूख.

3. Feminine categories: most rivers, food dishes, and languages.

If my content has helped you, please leave a comment.

By Karl Rock

Karl Rock is a Hindi speaking expat who left his career and life behind in New Zealand to take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India.

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