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Hebrew nouns, adjectives, and personal pronouns all undergo declension (noun-paradigm inflection); and, due to the peculiar way that personal pronouns decline, prepositions do as well.
Each noun and pronoun has a specific gender, either masculine or feminine, and each adjective has two sets of forms, one for modifying masculine nouns and pronouns one for modifying feminine ones.
Nouns referring to humans and certain kinds of animals generally come in pairs, one masculine noun for referring to males and one feminine noun for referring to females.
Hebrew generally has two grammatical numbers, singular (used with a single referent) and plural (used with multiple referents). Additionally, nouns have a dual number, which is a special case of the plural that is used with two referents; but most nouns' dual-number forms are exceedingly rare. Also, while a singular or plural form can be used with a cardinal number (for example, פעם אחת (pá'am akhát) "time-SINGULAR one-FEMININE", i.e. "once"; שלוש פעמים (shalósh p'amím) "three-FEMININE time-PLURAL", i.e. "three times"), a dual form cannot be; it is equivalent to the plural with the cardinal number "two" (so, for example, פעמיים (pa'amáyim) "time-DUAL", i.e. "twice", is exactly synonymous with שתי פעמים (sh'téi p'amím) "time-PLURAL two-FEMININE", i.e. "two times"). One major exception is that for some nouns, mostly nouns referring to various body parts, what is structurally (and was presumably originally) their dual form is used as their ordinary plural form, eliminating the dual–plural distinction in these nouns.
Hebrew adjectives and verbs agree with their subjects, and personal pronouns with their antecedents, in number, but these only distinguish between singular and plural; nouns in the dual form require plural agreement.
Hebrew common nouns have three "states": indefinite, analogous to English a/an plus a noun; definite, analogous to English the plus a noun; and construct, somewhat analogous to English 's plus a following noun, but is followed rather than preceded by its possessor. For example, consider the noun בַּיִת (báyit) "house". Its singular indefinite form בַּיִת (báyit) means "a house"; its singular definite form הַבַּיִת (habáyit) means "the house"; and its singular construct form בֵּית (béit) means "a house of" or "the house of". (Definiteness of a construct noun is often marked on the following noun; for example, בֵּית סֵפֶר (béit), literally "house-CONSTRUCT book-INDEFINITE", means "school", while בֵּית הַסֵּפֶר (béit), literally "house-CONSTRUCT book-DEFINITE" means "the school". This is not always possible, however; בני (b'ní) "son-CONSTRUCT me", i.e. "my son", can mean either "one of my sons" or "my only son".) A definite form is formed very regularly from the corresponding indefinite form by using the clitic ה- (ha-) "the"; construct forms are less consistent, however, sometimes being identical to the corresponding indefinite forms and other times showing changes in vowels, endings, or both.
Hebrew adjectives have only two states, indefinite and definite, with definite forms being formed from the corresponding indefinite forms by using the clitic ה- (ha-) "the"; hence, in Hebrew, "the big house" would be הבית הגדול (habáyit hagadól), literally "house-DEFINITE big-DEFINITE". The definiteness of an adjective can be determined separately from that of the noun it modifies; that is, a semantically definite noun that is not itself marked for definiteness (say, because it is a proper noun, and hence inherently definite) will nonetheless be modified by adjectives in the definite form.
This dictionary follows the longstanding tradition of using the following forms as lemmata (citation forms):
- for common nouns: the singular indefinite form
- for adjectives: the masculine singular indefinite form
- for pronouns: the standalone (subject) form
- for prepositions: the non-pronoun-including form
That is, these are the forms for which full definitions are provided; other forms are described by reference to a lemma, such as "Feminine plural construct form of אִישָּׁה (ishá)." (for נָשׁוֹת (nashót)). For instructions on controlling the appearance of such descriptions, see Category:Form of templates.