So far, English has been the only language I've learned which does not have noun genders. I'm sure there are others, but thus far I've been focused on romance languages (which have 2 genders), and slavic languages (which have 3).

What is gender


Like all romance languages, Italian has two genders: masculine and feminine, and these genders are reflected in both singular and plural forms. So this means that every noun is either masculine or feminine; either he or she. There is no "it".

For English speakers, noun gender can be a confusing concept at first. Why is cat masculine? Why is a lamp feminine? Who decided to make a room feminine and a bed masculine?

The confusion is in the word "gender". In language, gender doesn't mean sexual alignment; it's just a division. The terms masculine and feminine just refer to the two poles of the alignment.

And here's the best part: the only thing that determines gender in most cases is simply the ending of the noun, nothing more!

Is it really that simple?


Yes. Beginners have an incredible ability to overthink things and allow them to become frustrating. There's really no need for that. Look at how easy the genders are in Italian:

word ends in -o, it is masculine
word ends in -a, it is feminine
word ends in -i, it is masculine plural
word ends in -e, it is feminine plural

Of course there are exceptions, as in every language. Borrowed words like "computer", for instance, don't end in -a or -o, so you have to remember its gender. But that's not hard if you're learning the articles along with the nouns. If you learn that "computer" is il computer, you can tell by the article that it's masculine.

Italian also has what I like to think of as the "missing neuter gender", in that there are also a number of nouns which end in -e in the singular form. Gender must be memorized with these nouns, but they always get the -i ending in plural. Once again, learn that "dog" is il cane. If you learn the article along with the word, your memory won't be a problem.

 

 

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