Arabic Grammar – 33 (from old website)

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Number of Nouns (continued)

Sound Masculine Plural

The sound masculine plural جَمْعُ الْمُذَكَّرِ الْسَّاْلِمُ is used to pluralize adjectives that refer to more than two male humans or to groups of male and female humans. It is formed by adding the ending –ȗna to the singular stem. This ending inflects for two cases and two states as follows:

Sound masculine plural ending
Case Indefinite & definite states Construct state
Subject (Rafʕ)
–ȗna –ȗ
Object (Naṣb & Ǵarr)
–ȋna –ȋ

The final short vowel of the non-construct ending is not pronounced at pause.

Example, click on the Arabic word to hear it:

Stem: muʕallim– مُعَلِّم “teacher”
One male teacher muʕallimuṋ مُعَلِّمٌ
More than 2 male teachers (subject) muʕallimȗna مُعَلِّمُوْنَ
More than 2 male teachers (object) muʕallimȋna مُعَلِّمِيْنَ


The case inflection of the sound masculine plural (and sound feminine plural) ending is similar to that of the dual ending in that it involves only two cases because the naṣb and ǵarr marking is identical.

Stem: muʕallim– مُعَلِّم “teacher”

Rafʕ (subject)

E.g. The male teachers are here.

muʕallimȗna مُعَلِّمُوْنَ

Naṣb (object)

E.g. I saw the male teachers.

muʕallimȋna مُعَلِّمِيْنَ

Ǵarr (possession, object of preposition)

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

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

muʕallimȋna مُعَلِّمِيْنَ


However, sound masculine plural nouns, like dual and sound feminine plural nouns, are not nomina diptota because they have nunation and they are inflected for two cases in all the three states.

Usage of the sound masculine plural

Originally sound pluralization was used for masculine nouns as well as adjectives, e.g. the Qurʔȃn has ʕȃlamȗna عَالَمُونَ “worlds” as a sound plural of ʕȃlamuṋ عَالَمٌ “a world.” However, already in the Qurʔȃn the sound masculine plural is largely restricted to masculine adjectives, while masculine nouns normally have broken plurals.

Thus, masculine nouns such as ʔabuṋ أَبٌ “a father,” ʔaxuṋ أَخٌ “a brother” and baʕluṋ بَعْلٌ “a husband” do not normally form sound plurals, even if they refer to humans.

In principle, any masculine adjective forms a sound plural, but this kind of pluralization is associated especially with adjectives denoting actions (e.g. “a walking baby,” “a flying carpet,” a “talking robot”). Adjectives that denote states (e.g. “a happy man”) or qualities (e.g. “a tall woman”) sometimes form broken plurals.


Adjectives denoting actions are usually derived from verbs. A class of adjectives that are automatically formed from verbs is called the “participles.” In English the active-voice participles are formed with a suffix –ing, and the passive-voice participles are formed in several different ways (e.g. they can have the suffix –ed, like in “needed help,” or the suffix –en, like in “eaten food”).

Arabic has two adjective classes corresponding to the English two types of participles:

  • The agent noun اِسْمُ الْفَاعِلِ
  • The patient noun اِسْمُ الْمَفْعُولِ

In addition, adjectives of the following two classes can also be derived from verbs:

  • Intensive agent noun مبالغة اسم الفاعل
  • Adjectives similar to the agent and patient noun الصفات المشبهة باسم الفاعل والمفعول

The “intensive agent nouns” are always formed from verbs.

For example, the adjectives wȃqifuṋ وَاقِفٌ “a standing” and rȃħiluṋ رَاحِلٌ “a leaving” form only sound plurals because they denote actions, but the non-action-denoting adjectives mȃhiruṋ مَاهِرٌ “a skillful” and ʕȃqiluṋ عَاقِلٌ “a sane” can form broken plurals (mahara·tuṋ مَهَرةٌ and ʕuqalȃʔu عُقَلاءُ) besides the sound plurals (mȃhirȗna مَاهِرُونَ and ʕȃqilȗna عَاقِلُونَ).

A few non-action-denoting adjectives can form only broken plurals but not sound plurals. This is especially true for adjectives of the forms faʕȃluṋ and fuʕȃluṋ (which are originally noun forms), e.g. ǵabȃnuṋ جَبَانٌ “a coward” and šuǵȃʕuṋ شُجَاعٌ “a brave” have only the broken plurals ǵubanȃʔu جُبَنَاءُ and šuǵʕȃnuṋ شُجْعَانٌ .

The plural form of an action-denoting adjective usually changes if that adjective is used as a simple noun. For example, the adjectives kȃtibuṋ كَاتِبٌ “a writing” and šȃhiduṋ شَاهِدٌ “a witnessing” normally have the sound plurals kȃtibȗna كَاتِبُونَ and šȃhidȗna شَاهِدُونَ , but when they are used as nouns meaning “a writer” and “a witness,” they have the broken plurals kuttȃbuṋ كُتَّابٌ , kataba·tuṋ كَتَبةٌ and šuhȗduṋ شُهُودٌ .


Mȋmic & reduplicated verbal adjectives

The above-discussed differntiation between action-denoting and non-action-denoting adjectives does not concern the “mȋmic” verbal adjectives, that is, adjectives derived from verbs with a mu– or ma– prefix, such as muwȃṣiluṋ مُوَاصِلٌ “continuing” and masmȗʕuṋ مَسْمُوْعٌ “heard.” Such adjectives can only form sound plurals, even when they are used as nouns, as in the following examples.

Singular Plural

an asked (masc.)

→ an official

مَسْؤُوْلٌ masʔȗlȗna مَسْؤُوْلُوْنَ

a teaching (masc.)

→ a teacher

مُدَرِّسٌ mudarrisȗna مُدَرِّسُوْنَ

a surrendering (masc.)

→ a Muslim

مُسْلِمٌ muslimȗna مُسْلِمُوْنَ

a warring (masc.)

→ a warrior

مُحَاْرِبٌ muħȃribȗna مُحَاْرِبُوْنَ

an exploring (masc.)

→ an explorer

مُسْتَكْشِفٌ mustakšifȗna مُسْتَكْشِفُوْنَ


Similarly, adjectives with a reduplicated radical only form sound plurals, even when they are used as nouns, e.g. bannȃʔuṋ بَنَّاءٌ “a builder” and ħaffȃruṋ حَفّارٌ “a digger” have only sound plurals.

Note, however, that mȋmic & reduplicated adjectives can occasionaly form broken plurals by the addition of the augmentative suffix –a·t. Thus, for example, baħħȃra·tuṋ بَحَّارةٌ is the plural of baħħȃruṋ بَحَّارٌ “a seaman.”


Irregular nouns

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


I. Shortened nouns

A shortened noun is a noun whose singular stem ends with a shortened ʔalif (–ȃ/a·y– ـَـا/ ــَى).

Shortened nouns that can take the sound masculine plural ending are masculine singulars, so the terminal weak letter will almost always be part of the root and never a suffix.

When attaching the sound masculine plural ending to a shortened noun, the final weak letter will be deleted and the ending changed to –wna (object –yna).

Endings of shortened nouns
Singular Sound masculine plural
Subject Object
ȃ ـَـاْ -awna ــَـوْنَ -ayna ـَـيْنَ
a·y ـَىْ


Example, the plural of Riḍȃ رِضَاْ “male personal name”:

  • *Riḍaw-ȗna رِضَوُونَ* > Riḍawna رِضَوْنَ
  • *Riḍaw-ȋna رِضَوِينَ* > Riḍayna رِضَيْنَ

Example, the plural of ʔaʕla·y أَعْلَى “higer (masc.)”:

  • *ʔaʕlay-ȗna أَعْليُونَ* > ʔaʕlawna أَعْلَوْنَ
  • *ʔaʕlay-ȋna أَعْليِينَ* > ʔaʕlayna أَعْلَيْنَ

II. Extended nouns
An extended noun is a noun whose singular stem ends with an extended ʔalif (–ȃʔ ــَــاء).

Extended nouns that can take the sound masculine plural ending are masculine singulars, so the terminal weak letter will almost always be part of the root and never a suffix.

When attaching the masculine plural ending, the terminal ʔ ء of the stem will be changed back to its origin (w or y) if the ʔ ء itself is not original.

Endings of extended nouns
Singular Sound masculine plural
Subject Object
-ȃʔ ـَـاْء ʔȗna ـَاْؤُوْنَ ʔȋna ـَاْئِيْنَ
-ȃʔ ـَـاْء wȗna ـَاْوُوْنَ wȋna ـَاْوِيْنَ
-ȃʔ ـَـاْء yȗna ـَاْيُوْنَ yȋna ـَاْيِيْنَ

*The figures ئـ & ؤ are just alternative joining figures of the hamza·t (see joining figures for hamza·t).


Plural Singular
qarrȃʔȗna قَرَّاْؤُوْنَ qarrȃʔuṋ

reciter (masc.)

qarrȃʔȋna قَرَّاْئِيْنَ
bannȃyȗna بَنَّاْيُوْنَ bannȃʔuṋ

builder (masc.)

bannȃyȋna بَنَّاْيِيْنَ
miʕṭȃwȗna مِعْطَاْوُوْنَ miʕṭȃʔuṋ

giving, generous (masc./fem.)

miʕṭȃwȋna مِعْطَاْوِيْنَ

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


III. Defective Nouns

A defective noun is a noun whose singular stem ends with -iy ـِــيْ .

When attaching the sound masculine plural ending to a defective noun, the final -iy ـِـيْ will be deleted all together.

Endings of defective nouns
Singular Masculine Plural
Subject Object
-iy ـِــيْ –ȗna ـُـوْنَ –ȋna ـِـيْنَ



Plural Singular
qȃḍȗna قَاْضُوْنَ qȃḍiṋ

a judging (masc.)

qȃḍȋna قَاْضِيْنِ
rȃʕȗna رَاْعُوْنَ rȃʕiṋ

a sponsoring (masc.)

rȃʕȋna رَاْعِيْنِ
muħȃmȗna مُحَاْمُوْنَ muħȃmiṋ

a defending (masc.)

→ an attorney

muħȃmȋna مُحَاْمِيْنَ



Annexed Sound masculine plurals

The annexed sound masculine plurals مُلْحَقَاْتُ جَمْعِ الْمُذَكَّرِ الْسَّاْلِمِ are either sound masculine plurals to which there are no singulars, or sound masculine plurals formed irregularly from non-adjectival singulars or feminine singulars. With the exception of the “decade words,” these are generally Classical words not commonly used in the modern language. Following are some important examples.

Annexed masculine plurals
Meaning Plural Singular
Sons banȗna بَنُوْنَ ʔibnuṋ

a son (masc.)

banȋna بَنِيْنَ
Years sinȗna سِنُوْنَ sana·tuṋ

a year (fem.)

sinȋna سِنِيْنَ
Households ʔahlȗna أَهْلُوْنَ ʔahluṋ

a household


original sense:

a tent

ʔahlȋna أَهْلِيْنَ
Worlds ʕȃlamȗna عَاْلَمُوْنَ ʕȃlamuṋ

a world (masc.)

ʕȃlamȋna عَاْلَمِيْنَ
Lands ʔarḍȗna أَرْضُوْنَ ʔarḍuṋ

a land (fem.)

ʔarḍȋna أَرْضِيْنَ
Hundreds miʔȗna مِئُوْنَ miʔa·tuṋ

a hundred (fem.)

miʔȋna مِئِيْنَ
Name of a place in Paradise ʕilliyyȗna عِلِّيُّوْنَ
ʕilliyyȋna عِلِّيِّيْنَ
Possessors (of) ʔulȗ أُوْلُوْا*
ʔulȋ أُوْلِيْ

*The final ا is silent.

The last word ʔulȗ/ʔulȋ lacks its final –na because it exists only in the construct state that is used to form genitive constructions.

The most commonly used annexed masculine plural nouns are the “decade words” أَلْفَاْظُ الْعُقُوْدِ .

Annexed masculine plurals

“Decade words”

Meaning Object case Subject case
Twenty ʕišrȋna عِشْرِيْنَ ʕišrȗna عِشْرُوْنَ
Thirty θalȃθȋna ثَلاثِيْنَ θalȃθȗna ثَلاثُوْنَ
Forty ʔarbaʕȋna أَرْبَعِيْنَ ʔarbaʕȗna أَرْبَعُوْنَ
Fifty khamsȋna خَمْسِيْنَ khamsȗna خَمْسُوْنَ
Sixty sittȋna سِتِّيْنَ sittȗna سِتُّوْنَ
Seventy sabʕȋna سَبْعِيْنَ sabʕȗna سَبْعُوْنَ
Eighty θamȃnȋna ثَمَاْنِيْنَ θamȃnȗna ثَمَاْنُوْنَ
Ninety tisʕȋna تِسْعِيْنَ tisʕȗna تِسْعُوْنَ


Extra: Modern Variations

In the modern spoken vernaculars, the sound masculine plural is used similarly to Classical Arabic, but the ending has a single fixed form which does not change according to case or state. The usual form of the ending is –īn.

Examples from Aleppo Arabic:

  • bayyāʕ “seller (masc.)”
  • bayyāʕīn “sellers (masc.)”
  • bayyāʕīn ʔ⋅əl-falȃfel “[the] sellers [of] falafel”

The modern vernaculars sometimes have syncretic plural forms made by the addition of a sound plural ending to a broken plural.

Examples from Aleppo Arabic:

  • walad “a child, a boy”
  • wlād “children, boys” (c.f. standard ʔawlȃduṋ أَوْلادٌ)
  • *wlādīn > wlēdīn “children, boys”
  • ṣāħeb “a friend (masc.)”
  • ṣħāb “friends” (c.f. standard ʔaṣħȃbuṋ أَصْحابٌ)
  • ṣħābīn “friends”

The syncretic forms could have been created first by non-native speakers who were confused by the complicated system of the broken plurals. In the case of Aleppo those could have been Aramaic (Syriac) speakers, in whose native language the masculine plural is regularly formed by the addition of –īn.

Exercise 1

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



Stronger (adj.)

Upset (adj.) مُسْتَاْء

Proper name







Exercise 2

Can you change the following masculine plural nouns to singular nouns?




Smarter (adj.)


Proper name


(root: rʔy)








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