Arabic Nouns

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A Gender

1 Masculine Form

2 Feminine Form

B Number

1 Singular

2 Dual

3 Plural

Sound Masculine Plural

Sound Feminine Plural

Broken Plural

C Collective

A. Gender:

Every noun in Arabic must be either masculine or feminine. There is no neuter. There are, however, a few nouns which may be considered either masculine or feminine.

1. Masculine Form: All nouns are considered masculine unless they have a feminine ending. There are very few nouns which are feminine, but do not have a feminine ending.

2. Feminine Form: The most common feminine form is the تاء مَرْبُوطَة , ة [taa’ marbooTa] (tied or attached “t”) form, which is the usual feminine ending. The
تاء مَرْبُوطَة [taa’ marbooTa] is added to masculine nouns and adjectives to make them feminine.

The less common feminine forms are ألِف مَقْصُورَة , ى [alif maqSoora] and
ألِف هَمْزَة , اء [alif hamza]. However, in determining the gender of a word of such forms, it is advisable to consult the dictionary because of the frequency of exceptions.

There are certain words which are considered feminine by convention. Such words, generally, fall in the following categories:

a. Geographical names, that is towns, villages, countries, etc.

b. Parts of the human body that occur in pairs such as يَد [yad] “hand” and عَيْن [a3yn] “eye”.

c. Certain nouns for no apparent reason such as شَمْس [shams] “sun”, نَفْس [nafs] “soul” or “self”, اَرْض [arD] “earth”, نار [naar] “fire”, and دار [daar] house”.

In this category, there are a few words which may be either feminine or masculine such as طَريق [Tareeq] “road”, سِكّين [sikkeen] “knife”, or سوق [sooq] “market”.

B. Number:

1. Singular: The singular noun is the form listed in the dictionaries. It has no special morphological characteristics.

2. Dual: In Arabic, the dual is indicated by two endings:

a. انِ [aani] for nominative case, or

b. َينِ [ayni] for both the accusative and genitive cases.

These endings are used to indicate the dual only among nouns (including adjectives).

When attaching either of these two endings to a noun, the last consonant of that noun will always take the َ , فَتْحة [fatHa] vowel. The ياء , ي [yaa’] of the ending َينِ [ayni] is always unvowelled – indicated in script by ْ, سُكون [sukoon]. Thus a diphthong is developed in pronouncing this ending with the last consonant.

Examples:

two books

كِتابانِ [kitaabaani] nominative

كِتابَينِ [kitaabayni] accusative/genitive

The “تاء مَرْبُوطَة” [taa’ marbooTa] of the feminine nouns is pronounced with the فَتْحة [fatHa] vowel when joined with either of the dual endings.

Examples:

two rooms

غُرفَتانِ [ghurfataani] nominative

غُرفَتينِ [ghurfatayni] accusative/genitive

The use of the definite article with a noun in the dual number does not affect the endings.

Examples:

the two books

الكِتابانِ [kitaabaani] nominative

الكِتابَينِ [kitaabayni] accusative/genitive

the two rooms

الغُرفَتانِ [al-ghurfataani] nominative

الغُرفَتينِ [al-ghurfatayni] accusative/genitive

3. Plural: The Arabic plural forms are usually treated under two large headings with a number of irregularities under each, i.e., “sound” (or external) plurals and “broken” (or internal) plurals. In the sound plural, the basic word remains intact, but an ending is added. In the broken plural the changes are primarily internal, The trilateral root (as ك ت ب [k t b] in كِتاب [kitaab]) remains unchanged, but the vocalizing in the plural may follow any of thirty or more patterns (كُتُب [kutub] books), of which about ten are very frequent. In English we might borrow the Arabic terminology and call boy/boys, a sound or external plural, and man/men, mouse/mice, goose/geese, a broken plural. Child/children would be quite irregular by any standard since there is internal change from “long” to short “I” and an absolutely unique “ren” as external ending.

a. Sound Masculine Plural: This plural is used only when referring to rational male beings. Hence these nouns and adjectives may be called “rational masculine المَذْكورالعاقِل [al-madhkoor al-3aaqil]”. It is not necessary, however, that all nouns or adjectives referring to rational male beings take this sound or external masculine plural.

The sound masculine plural is formed by prefixing ونَ [oona]” to the singular in the nominative case, or ينَ [eena]” when the singular noun is in the accusative or genitive case.

Examples:

teachers (singular مُعَلِّمٌ [mu3allimun])

مُعَلِّمونَ [mu3allimoona] nominative

مُعَلِّمينَ [mu3allimeena] accusative/genitive

the teachers

المُعَلِّمونَ [al-mu3allimoona] nominative

المُعَلِّمينَ [al-mu3allimeena] accusative/genitive

b. Sound Feminine Plural: This is the basic form of the plural for feminine nouns and adjectives whether referring to rational or irrational, animate or inanimate beings or objects. It may be regarded as the regular feminine plural. It is also considered an externally formed plural because the singular form remains unchanged; the omission of تاءمَرْبُوطَة ة [taa’ marbooTa] is not considered as breaking the form.

The sound feminine plural is formed by adding ات [aat] to the singular. The تاء مَرْبُوطَة ة [taa’ marbooTa] sign of the feminine when present, is dropped.

Examples:

girls

بِنْتٌ [bintun] sgl. => بَناتٌ [banaatun] pl.

the girls

البِنْتُ [al-bintu] sgl. => البَناتُ [al-banaatu] pl.

teachers

مُعَلِّمةٌ [mu3allimatun] sgl. => مُعَلِّماتٌ [mu3allimaatun] pl.

the teachers

المُعَلِّمةُ [al-mu3allimatu] sgl. => المُعَلِّماتُ [al-mu3allimaatu] pl.

arrangements

تَرتيبٌ [tarteebun] sgl. => تَرتيباتٌ [tarteebaatun] pl.

meetings, sessions

جَلَسةٌ [djalasatun] sgl. => جَلَساتٌ [djalasaatun] pl.

The Sound Feminine Plural will take a /Damma/ (u) for the nominative case, and a /kasra/ (i) for the accusative and genitive cases.

c. Broken or Internal Plural: Basically, this type of plural is used for irrational beings and inanimate objects غَير العاقِل [ghayr al-3aaqil]. However, a considerable number of nouns and adjectives referring to rational beings, male or female, from their plural in this way.

There are many different patterns for the formation of the broken plurals. All of them fall into three types mainly:

(1) internal change<

(2) elimination of letters

(3) addition of letters

The combination of any two of these types is also common.

Examples:

Plural Singular
(1)internal change: lions أُسُد [usud] أَسَد [asad]
houses دوَر [duwar] دار [daar]
(2) elimination: books كُتُب [kutub] كِتاب [kitaab]
cities مُدُن [mudun] مَدينة [madeena]
(3) additional: streets شَوارِع [shawaari3] شارِع [shaari3]
rivers أنْهُر [anhur] نَهْر [nahr]
(4) combination: dictionaries قَواميس [qawaamees] قاموس [qaamoos]
ambassadors سُفَراء [sufaraa’] سَفير [safeer]

The plural, whether external or internal, should be learned with each new noun. Virtually all dictionaries give the plural or plurals of all entries.

C. Collective:

There are certain nouns which render the meaning of plurality. Such nouns are known in the Arabic grammar as “إسْم الجَمْع [ism djam3] noun of plural” or “collective noun”. However, with regards to the sentence structure, these nouns are treated like any singular masculine noun.

Examples:

These (this) apples are (is) of good quality.

هذا التُفّاحُ مِن النََّوعِ الجَيِّدِ [haadha al-tuffaaH min al-naw3 al-djayyid]

For how much do you sell (this) the grapes?

بِكَم تَبيعُ هذا العِنَبَ [bikam tabee3 haadha al-3inab]

The singular form is, generally, derived from such nouns by adding

تاء مَرْبُوطَة ة [taa’ marbooTa]” as a suffix. Thus:

an apple تُفّاحَة [tuffaaHa] apples تُفّاح [tuffaaH]

an orange بُرْتُقالَة [burtuqaala] oranges بُرْتُقال [burtuqaal]

a grape عِنَبة [x3inaba] grapes عِنَب [x3inab]

a fish سَمَكة [samaka] fish سَمَك [samak]

5 thoughts on “Arabic Nouns

  1. This lesson is excellent. It covers lots of topics that I have not found elsewhere. Keep up the good work!

  2. I have been looking for this. If tuffah( without taa) means apples, but I have read and seen people saying tuffah for only an apple. Same with burtuqal, can it be used only for an orange? For inab I have come across it’s plural al’aanab, so do the both words mean grapes?
    Is the word “tin”(figs) also a collective noun meaning fig or figs?
    Thanks

  3. If it is possible, could someone please give me the name of the person who wrote this and the date that it was published? I am trying to reference this and do not want to do it wrong.

    Are there any academic articles that explain what is above?
    I would really appreciate it

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