Skip to content

Understanding gender in Arabic: the Taa Mabuta ة

Isolated form
ة
Letter name
taa marbooTa = تاء مربوطة
Pronunciation
'a' or 'eh' or 't'
Connector
Yes

The ة has the same shape a ه which we saw already, but it is only found at the end of words in Arabic, and only has two possible shapes.

To simplify, most Arabic words that end ﺔ are feminine. If they do not end in then they are probably masculine.

Final
Connected only to the letter before it.
مَدْرَسَة
school

Medial
-
-
-
Initial
-
-
-
Isolated
Written alone or after a non-connecting letter.
ة
حَياة
life

ة has two pronuciations, with 1. and 2. from the table below being the most common:

Example
Pronunciation
جْدِيدِة
new (feminine)

1. ‘eh’ like elephant
سِيَّارَة
car (feminine)

2. ‘a’ like racket
مَدِينِةْ بَارِيس
city (feminine) of Paris

3. ‘t’ like mat

This is summarised in the video below:

Grammar aid: Why would a word and not a person have a ‘grammatical’ gender?

If you are familiar with grammatical gender skip this section.

As speaker of a language like English, the idea that every noun in Arabic is masculine or feminine may seem bizarre. But it’s common; most European languages, like French, Spanish, and German have grammatical gender. In French for example, le monde (the world) is masculine, and la lune (the moon) is feminine.

These classifications don’t necessarily refer to real world gender: in German, das Mädchen (a female child) is grammatically ‘neutral’!

Grammatical gender also explains why foreigners, Arabs included, endearingly refer to objects in English as ‘he’, or ‘she’, rather than ‘it’.

Prounucation/languguage note: How do I know which pronunciation to use for ة ?

This is an optional explainer…

1. in the table above: the ‘eh’  pronunciation  of ة usually comes after consonants produced in the front of the mouth like — ي ,و ن ,م ,ل ,ك ,ف ,ش ,س ,ز ,ذ ,د ,ج ,ث ,ت ,ب) — with the exception of ر .

2. In the table above: the ‘a’ pronunciation of ة usually comes after consonants produced in the throat of back of the mouth —  هـ ,ق ,غ ,ع ,ظ ,ط ,ض , ص ,خ ,ح ,ء.

3. in the table above: the ‘t’ pronunciation of ة often comes after alif — ا. Or it comes when two words are joined in a possessive construction – but don’t worry about that yet!

Memory Aid

Looking for suggestions…

Exercise 1: Picking out letters from words

Please copy the text below and paste it into a word processor or note-taking app.

Then bold the examples of the letter ة

Alternatively, print out the text and circle them with a pen a paper.

You will not understand most of the text, the skill is just to pick out letters from words!

If your on your mobile you may want to skip this one.

If this is unclear see the opening of the answer video below [Coming soon!].  

حسين: مرحبا !

أنا اسمي حسين وأنا من سوريا من حلب

بس هلق أنا ساكن ب لبنان ب طرابلس

عمري تنين وتلاتين سنة ومتزوج ومرتي من بريطانيا

درست المعلوماتية الإدارية وكمان درست دبلومة ب الجامعة الإمريطيا ب التعليم

بحكي انجليزي وبحكي عربي

بشتغل أستاذ لغة العربية وأحياناً بشتغل مترجم مع صحفيين

بالتوفيق !