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In Hebrew: ‘Two States for Two Peoples’

A daily dose of Hebrew.
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שְׁתֵּי מְדִינוֹת לִשְׁנֵי עַמִּים The other day, I introduced the Hebrew term that means, in English, for a change. I mentioned that the root of that word is שׁ.נ.ה (sh.n.h) and that its core concept is repetition, but I think it’s also important to point out that the word for two is related as well: something repeated is done for at least the second time.So while we’re on the subject of two, here are the ways to say it in Hebrew:

שְׁנַיִם שְׁתַּיִם שנים refers to two people or objects that are grammatically masculine, or a pair in which one is masculine and the other is feminine.

שתים refers to two people or objects that are grammatically feminine.

For example:

כַּמָּה אֲנָשִׁים יֵשׁ פֹּה? שנים. How many people are here? Two. (People can be either two males or a male and a female).

כַּמָּה נָשִׁים יֵשׁ פֹּה? שתים. How many women are here? Two. (Women can only be female).  Wait, there’s more… In Modern Hebrew, שנים and שתים are used where two is used as a noun, such as in an answer to a question.

But far more commonly in speech, we use two as an adjective. In that case, Hebrew uses a different form, meaning literally, two of

The two forms are:

שְׁנֵיTwo (of)masculine people or objects, or one masculine and the other feminine.

שְׁתֵּי - Two (of)feminine people or objects. For example:

יֵשׁ פֹּה שְׁנֵי אֲנָשִׁים. There are two people here.

יֵשׁ פֹּה שְׁתֵּי נָשִׁים. There are two women here. And with the Israel elections coming up in a week from now, I’ll also throw in as an example that controversial concept…

שְׁתֵּי מְדִינוֹת לִשְׁנֵי עַמִּים two states for two nations We use the feminine שתי in the phrase שתי מדינות, since the word for state -מְדִינָה- is a feminine noun. We use the masculine שני in the phrase לשני עמים, since the word for peopleעַם- is a masculine noun.

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About the Author: Ami Steinberger is founder and director of Ulpan La-Inyan.


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