Gender is not marked in nouns without the definite article. The gender of nouns does not follow any particular rule and is not always obvious, although it can often be guessed at phonetically.
Nouns form their plural in several ways, including reduplication. Many nouns exhibit gender polarity, whereby they change gender in the plural form, e.g. buug-ga (= the book) is masculine in the singular, but buugag-ta (= the books) is feminine in the plural.
The basic form of a Somali noun is in absolutive case. In this case, the article maintains the vowel -a.
The subject of a sentence takes nominative case. In this case, the article takes the ending -u. If the subject of the sentence includes multiple nouns, only the last takes the nominative ending for the article.
If there is no article, a tonal change signifies nominative case, although this is not represented in the orthography.
Feminine nouns which do not take modifiers and end in a consonant take the suffix -i in nominative case without an article.
Genitive case is generally indicated through a tonal change.
Some feminine nouns take an ending, -eed, -aad or -od depending on the final consonant of the root word.
Vocative case is indicated either through a tonal change or with the suffixes -ow (m. sg.), -ohow (m. pl.), -eey/-aay/-ooy (f. sg.) or -yahay (f. pl.).