Arabic Grammar – 31 (from old website)

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Number of Nouns (continued)

Dual Nouns

A dual noun مُثَنًّى is a noun that refers to two persons or things.

Dual nouns are formed by adding the ending –ȃni to the singular stem. This ending inflects for two cases and two states as follows:

Dual ending
Case State
determinate & construct
Rafʕ -ȃni
Naṣb & ǵarr
-ayni -ay

Unlike the singular ending, the dual ending is pronounced at pause except for the final short vowel in the absolute state.

Examples, click on the Arabic word to hear it:

Stem: muʕallim– مُعَلِّم “teacher (masc.)”
One male teacher muʕallimuṋ مُعَلِّمٌ
Two male teachers (subject) muʕallimȃni مُعَلِّمَاْنِ
Two male teachers (object) muʕallimayni مُعَلِّمَيْنِ
Stem: muʕallima·tمُعَلِّمة “teacher (fem.)”
One female teacher muʕallima·tuṋ مُعَلِّمَةٌ
Two female teachers (subject) muʕallimatȃni مُعَلِّمَتَاْنِ
Two female teachers (object) muʕallimatayni مُعَلِّمَتَيْنِ

The case inflection of dual nouns (and sound plural nouns) involves only two cases instead of three (but these nouns are not diptotes because the two cases are for all the states and there is nunation). The naṣb and ǵarr marking of these nouns is identical. This is why these two cases of the dual (and sound plural) may be collectively called the oblique case.

Stem: muʕallim– مُعَلِّم “teacher”

Rafʕ (subject)

E.g. The two male teachers are here.



E.g. The two female teachers are here. muʕallimatȃni مُعَلِّمَتَاْنِ

Naṣb (object)

E.g. I saw the two male teachers.

muʕallimayni مُعَلِّمَيْنِ
E.g. I saw the two female teachers. muʕallimatayni مُعَلِّمَتَيْنِ

Ǵarr (possession/object of preposition)

E.g. This is the two male teachers’ class.

E.g. I gave it to the two male teachers.

muʕallimayni مُعَلِّمَيْنِ

E.g. This is the two female teachers’ class.

E.g. I gave it to the two female teachers.

muʕallimatayni مُعَلِّمَتَيْنِ


Irregular Nouns

For a description of irregular noun types, you may click here


I. Shortened Nouns

Shortened nouns are nouns whose singulars end with a shortened ʔalif (–ȃ ـا a·y– / ـى).


۩ Shortened Nouns With Three Letters

The weak ʔalif of the ending is changed back to its origin (either w or y) when attaching the dual ending. The ʔalif of the form ـا is changed back to w, and the one of the form ـى is changed back to y. The short A vowel preceding the weak ʔalif remains intact.

aa –awdual ending

–a·y ay-dual ending


Endings of Triliteral Shortened Nouns
Singular Dual
Subject Object
-aa ـَاْ -awȃni ـَوَاْنِ -awayni ـَوَيْنِ
–a·y ـَىْ -ayȃni ـَيَاْنِ -ayayni ـَيَيْنِ


۩ Shortened Nouns With More Than Three Letters

The weak ʔalif will be always changed to y when attaching the dual ending, regardless of its origin.

–aa/–a·y –ay-dual ending


Endings of Shortened Nouns With More Than Three Letters
Singular Dual
Subject Object
-aa ـَاْ -ayȃni ـَيَاْنِ -ayayni ـَيَيْنِ
-a·y ـَىْ

A final weak ʔalif of any Arabic word with more than three letters will have this figure ـى regardless of its true origin. This suits well the rules of declension. However, there is one exception, which is when the letter preceding the final weak ʔalif in such words is y. In that case, the ʔalif takes the figure ـا .


Dual Singular
ʕaṣawȃni عَصَوَاْنِ ʕaṣaa

stick/cane (fem.)

ʕaṣawayni عَصَوَيْنِ
fatayȃni فَتَيَاْنِ fata·y

boy (masc.)

fatayayni فَتَيَيْنِ
maqhayȃni مَقْهَيَاْنِ maqha·y

café (masc.)

maqhayayni مَقْهَيَيْنِ
ʕaṭšayȃni عَطْشَيَاْنِ ʕaṭša·y

thirsty (fem.)

ʕaṭšayayni عَطْشَيَيْنِ
dunyayȃni دُنْيَيَاْنِ dunyaa

lowest/nearest (fem.)

dunyayayni دُنْيَيَيْنِ
musatšfayȃni مُسْتَشْفَيَاْنِ mustašfa·y

hospital (masc.)

musatšfayayni مُسْتَشْفَيَيْنِ



II. Extended Nouns
Extended nouns are nouns whose singular stems end with a long A vowel followed by a hamza·t (-ȃʔ ـَاْء ).

۩ Extended Nouns With Four Letters or Fewer

In extended nouns with four letters or fewer, the final hamza·t ء is always an original letter. When attaching the dual ending, the ء will be changed back to its origin (w or y) if the ء itself is not the origin.

ʔ ȃʔdual ending

ʔ ȃwdual ending

ʔ ȃy-dual ending

Endings of Extended Nouns With Four Letters or Fewer
Singular Dual
Subject Object
ʔ ـَاْء ʔȃni ـَاْءَاْنِ ʔayni ـَاْءَيْنِ
ʔ ـَاْء wȃni ـَاْوَاْنِ wayni ـَاْوَيْنِ
ʔ ـَاْء yȃni ـَاْيَاْنِ yayni ـَاْيَيْنِ

Unlike the shortened ʔalif, whose figure denotes its origin, the origin of the hamza·t of an extended ʔalif cannot be told from its written figure.

It is possible, though not ideally correct, to keep the hamza·t of the extended ʔalif always without change when attaching the dual ending. This is typical of Modern Standard Arabic.


Dual Singular
dȃʔȃni دَاْءَاْنِ ʔ

disease (masc.)

ʔayni دَاْءَيْنِ
binȃyȃni بِنَاْيَاْنِ binȃʔ

building (masc.)

binȃʔȃni بِنَاْءَاْنِ
binȃyayni بِنَاْيَيْنِ
binȃʔayni بِنَاْءَيْنِ
samȃwȃni سَمَاْوَاْنِ samȃʔ

heaven (fem.)

samȃʔȃni سَمَاْءَاْنِ
samȃwayni سَمَاْوَيْنِ
samȃʔayni سَمَاْءَيْنِ


۩ Extended Nouns With More Than Four Letters

In extended nouns with more than four letters, there is a chance that the hamza·t ء of the extended ʔalif is an additional letter (i.e. the extended ʔalif is a suffix).

If the hamza·t is an original letter, it will be changed back to its origin (w, y, or kept ʔ ) when adding the dual suffix.

ʔ ȃʔdual ending

ʔ ȃwdual ending

ʔ ȃy-dual ending


However, it is possible to always keep the hamza·t unchanged when attaching the dual ending. This is typical of Modern Standard Arabic.


Dual Singular
ʔinšȃʔȃni إِنْشَاْءَاْنِ ʔinšȃʔ

construction (masc.)

ʔinšȃʔayni إِنْشَاْءَيْنِ
bannȃyȃni بَنَّاْيَاْنِ bannȃʔ

builder (masc.)

bannȃʔȃni بَنَّاْءَاْنِ
bannȃyayni بَنَّاْيَيْنِ
bannȃʔayni بَنَّاْءَيْنِ
miʕṭȃwȃni مِعْطَاْوَاْنِ miʕṭȃʔ

giving, generous (masc./fem.)



miʕṭȃwayni مِعْطَاْوَيْنِ
miʕṭȃʔayni مِعْطَاْءَيْنِ


When the-ȃʔ is a feminine marker, the hamza·t is always turned into w when attaching the dual ending.

ʔ ȃwdual ending


Dual Singular
xaḍrȃwȃni خَضْرَاْوَاْنِ xaḍrȃʔ

green (fem.)

xaḍrȃwayni خَضْرَاْوَيْنِ
samrȃwȃni سَمْرَاْوَاْنِ samrȃʔ

brunette (fem.)

samrȃwayni سَمْرَاْوَيْنِ
mȗmiyȃwȃni مُوْمِيَاْوَاْنِ mȗmiyȃʔ

mummy (fem.)

mȗmiyȃwayni مُوْمِيَاْوَيْنِ



III. Defective Nouns

Defective nouns are nouns that end with a long I vowel (-iy ـِيْ ) whose terminal y belongs to the root.

Defective nouns take the dual ending just as regular nouns.

-iy iydual ending

Endings of Defective Nouns
Singular Dual
Subject Object
-iy ـِيْ -iyȃni ـِيَاْنِ -iyayni ـِيَيْنِ



Dual Singular
qȃḍiyȃni قَاْضِيَاْنِ qȃḍiy

a finalizing/finalizer (masc.)

→ a judge (masc.)

qȃḍiyayni قَاْضِيَيْنِ
dȃʕiyȃni دَاْعِيَاْنِ dȃʕiy

Inviting/inviter (masc.)

dȃʕiyayni دَاْعِيَيْنِ



Annexed Duals

There are five dual nouns for which there are no singulars. These are called the “annexed duals” مُلْحَقَاْتُ الْمُثَنَّىْ .

Annexed Duals
Meaning Object Case Subject Case
Two (masc.) ʔiθnayni اِثْنَيْنِ ʔiθnȃni اِثْنَاْنِ
Two (fem.) ʔiθnatayni اِثْنَتَيْنِ ʔiθnatȃni اِثْنَتَاْنِ
θintayni ثِنْتَيْنِ θintȃni ثِنْتَاْنِ
Both (of) (masc.) kilay كِلَيْ kilȃ كِلا
Both (of) (fem.) kiltay كِلْتَيْ kiltȃ كِلْتَاْ

The last two words lack their final -ni because they exist only in the construct state which is used to form genitive constructions. Dual nouns (as well as the regular masculine plurals) lose their final -ni in the construct state. This will be covered later.


The inflectional dual suffix -ȃni must be distinguished from the derivational suffix -ȃn which is found in verbal nouns and verbal adjectives.

Example Structure
Deprivation حِرْمَاْنٌ fiʕlȃnuṋ

verbal noun

Big loss خُسْرَاْنٌ fuʕlȃnuṋ

verbal noun

Boiling غَلَيَاْنٌ faʕalȃnuṋ

verbal noun

Thirsty عَطْشَاْنُ faʕlȃnu

verbal adjective



The suffix -ȃn also derives nouns from nouns, e.g. ʔinsȃnuṋ إِنْسَاْنٌ “a human being” from ʔinsuṋ إِنْسٌ “a human being.” This suffix is found in some broken plural structures.

Example Structure
Children وِلْدَاْنٌ fiʕlȃnuṋ

broken plural

Herds قُطْعَاْنٌ fuʕlȃnuṋ

broken plural



Proper nouns with the -ȃn suffix are nomina diptota (e.g. عُثْمَاْنُ ، حَمْدَاْنُ ، سَلْمَاْنُ). Faʕlȃnu adjectives are diptota when their feminine form is faʕla·y, which is true for most of them.

Extra Note: Modern Variations

In the modern spoken vernaculars the dual declension is still productive, but the dual ending has only one form for all cases and states.

The most common form of the dual ending in the modern vernaculars is:


Examples from Aleppo Arabic:

yōmēn = two days

ktābēn = two books

telfezyōnēn = two televisions

ktābēn ʔ⋅əl-walad = [the] two books [of] the boy

ktābēn = [the] two books [of] me

A rare form of the ending found in some dialects is -ayn.

Exercise 1

Can you change the following singular nouns to dual nouns in the subject case?


Pen (masc.)


Paper (fem.)


(fulguration) (masc.)


Forum (masc.)

Black (fem.) سَوْدَاْء


(self-sufficiency) (masc.)


Medication (masc.)


Judge (masc.)







Exercise 2

Can you change the following dual nouns to singular nouns?

Two apples


Two bones

Two ranges مَدَيَاْنِ
Two gorgeous (women) حَسْنَاْوَيْنِ

Two afflictings (two afflictions)


Two giftings


Two sponsors






Apple (fem.)


Bone (masc.)

Range (masc.) مَدَىْ
Gorgeous (fem.) حَسْنَاْء

Afflicting (affliction) (masc.)


Gifting (masc.)


Sponsor (fem.)





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