Arabic Grammar – 32 (from old website)

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Number of Nouns (continued)

Plural Nouns

Plural nouns الْجَمْعُ are nouns that refer to more than two things or persons.

There are two types of plural nouns in Arabic:

  • Sound or regular plural (formed with a suffix, grammatically plural)
  • Broken or irregular plural (formed from a different stem, grammatically singular)

The sound plural is similar to the dual. It is formed by adding a suffix to the noun stem.

The broken plural, on the other hand, is nasty. This kind of plural is formed by taking the root letters or radicals of the singular stem and applying them into a totally different stem structure. It is called “broken plural” because it does not preserve the singular stem. There are many broken plural stems as this kind of plural is common in Arabic, unfortunately.

The sound plural is two kinds:

  • Sound masculine plural جَمْعُ الْمُذَكَّر السَّالِم
  • Sound feminine plural جَمْعُ الْمُؤَنَّث السَّالِم

Each one of these is inflected for two cases, the nominative (rafʕ, subject case) and the oblique (naṣb & ǵarr, object case), which is similar to the dual inflection. However, whereas the sound masculine plural retains nunation in the definite state (like the dual), the sound feminine plural does not.

An important fact to know is that, for many nouns, the same singular noun has multiple plural words of more than one type.

Sound masculine plural nouns are always of the masculine gender and they have only masculine singulars. Sound feminine plural and broken plural nouns are always of the feminine gender, but they can have both masculine and feminine singulars. Broken plurals can be masculine when they refer to male humans.


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