A word is classified as “both gender” if it contains both a masculine and a feminine form, or if a single form is masculine in some contexts and feminine in other contexts.
Some words appear in both a masculine and a feminine form. Other words have only one form, but that single form can be either grammatically-masculine or grammatically-feminine. These kinds of words are classified as “gender both”, and they are usually nouns or adjectives. Sometimes the context can determine the gender of a particular instance of a “gender both” noun (see examples below for שֶׁמֶשׁ), but sometimes the context is inconclusive (see example below for נֹגַהּ).
A single word with both masculine and feminine forms¶
In the following example, the noun אוֹר (light) is masculine in form and takes grammatically-masculine verbs (יְהִ֣י and וַֽיְהִי).
|וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֖ים יְהִ֣י אֹ֑ור וַֽיְהִי־אֹֽור׃|
|wayyomer ‘elohim yehi ‘owr wayehi-‘owr|
|And-he-said God there-will-be light and-there-was_light.|
|God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.|
In the following example, the noun אוֹרָה (light) is feminine in form and takes a grammatically-feminine verb (הָֽיְתָ֥ה).
|לַיְּהוּדִ֕ים הָֽיְתָ֥ה אֹורָ֖ה|
|layyehudim hayethah ‘owrah|
|To-the-Jews there-was light|
|The Jews had light|
A single form that can be either masculine or feminine¶
In the following example, the noun שֶׁמֶשׁ (sun) is grammatically feminine.
|וַיְהִ֤י הַשֶּׁ֙מֶשׁ֙ בָּ֔אָה|
|wayhi hashemesh ba’ah|
|And-it-happened the-sun it-went|
|When the sun had gone down|
In the following example, the noun שֶׁמֶשׁ (sun) is grammatically masculine.
|הַשֶּׁ֖מֶשׁ יָצָ֣א עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ|
|hashemesh yatsa ‘al-ha’arets|
|The-sun it-went-out over_the-earth|
|The sun had risen upon the earth|
In the following example, the noun נֹגַהּ (brightness) could be either masculine or feminine.
|וְכוֹכָבִ֖ים אָסְפ֥וּ נָגְהָֽם|
|And-stars they-withdraw their-brightness|
|the stars keep back their brightness|