Plurals in Arabic, Al-jam'
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
Another basic topic in Arabic grammar is about plurals, or "al-jam'" الجمع. We have discussed in a previous post, in detail, about "the dual" or "al-muthanna" المثنى. In Arabic language, dual is used for referring to any two things or people (2), while plural form is used for three or more (3+).
Just as in dual, the typical rule implies that you can change a noun from singular to plural form, simply by adding a suffix at the end. For the masculine words, you add ـون or ـين ("Uon" or "Een"), while for the feminine, you simply add ـات ("aat"), removing the "Taa marbouta" ة. This is called "sound masculine plurals" جمع مذكّر سالم ("jam' mozakkar saalim") and "sound feminine plurals" جمع مؤنّث سالم ("jam' mo'annath saalim"). However, there is a third category of words that does not follow these typical two, and thus is called "broken plurals" جمع تكسير ("jam' takseer"). The best suggested way to know these broken plurals, is simply by memory.
Let's look at the following example for the word "teacher" is Arabic:
معلّم (mo’allim) + ـون = معلّمون (mo’allimoon)
(masculine, nominative case)
معلّم (mo’allim) + ـين = معلّمين (mo’allimeen)
(masculine, accusative and genetive cases)
معلّمة (mo’allima) + ـات = معلّمات (mo’allimaat)
تلميذ (tilmeez) = تلاميذ (talaameez)
I'm sure you're wondering when to use "Oon" ـون and when to use "Een" ـين.
"Oon" ـون is used in the nominative case, or when it is used as a subject or a predicate of nominal sentences. On the other hand, "Een" ـين is used in the accusative case when the noun is used as an object; and also in the genitive case, when the noun is used after a preposition or after the first word of "idafa construction".
أكل المعلّمون الطَّعام.
Akala al-mo'allimoon at-ta'aam.
The teachers ate the food.
Here, we used the suffix "Oon" ـون, because "al-mo'allimoon" or "the teachers" are the subject of the sentence. (Nominative Case)
Now, consider this sentence:
استقبل المدير المعلمين.
Istakbala al-modeero al-mo'allimeen.
The manager received the teachers.
In this case we used the suffix "Een" ـين, because "al-mo'allimeen" or "the teachers" are the object of the sentence. (Accusative case)
رحّب المدير بالمعلمين.
Rahhaba al-modeero bi-al-mo'allimeen.
The manager welcomed the teachers.
In this sentence the suffix "Een" ـين, because "al-mo'allimeen" or "the teachers" comes after the particle "bi" بـ (particle of "jar", which adds meaning to the word attached to it, حرف جر "harf jarr"). (Genetive case)
صفُّ المعلمين كبير.
Saffo al-mo'allimeena kabeer.
The teachers' classroom is big.
In this sentence the suffix "Een" ـين is used, because the plural noun "al-mo'allimeen" or "the teachers" comes after the construction of an idafa.
(Idafa is the construction or addition of two nouns; usually, the first in an indefinite case, and the second in a definitive case, marked by "al-": the classroom of the teachers: saffo al-mo'allimeen.)
The following flashcard will assist you in retaining the information:
(Note: Personal and educational use. Kindly, no selling or altering of material/ pictures allowed or relisting on another website without written permission.)
When it comes to subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, and they) in English) and using the plurals in Arabic:
1st Person Pronoun: "Nahno" نحن is used for we (for both masculine and feminine, or mix of both).
2nd Person Pronouns: "Antom" أنتم is used for you (masculine, 3 persons and more, with a minimum of one male, for example: one male and two females; as masculinity overpowers femininity).
"Antonna" أنتنّ is used for you (feminine).
3rd Person Pronouns: "Hom" هم is used for they (masculine, 3 persons and more, with a minimum of one male, for example: one male and two females; as masculinity overpowers femininity).
"Honna" ّهن is used for they (feminine, 3 females or more).
نحن أفضل المعلّمين.
Nahno afdalo al-mo'allimeen.
We are teachers.
We are the best teachers.
You are teachers.
You are teachers (feminine).
They are teachers.
They are teachers (feminine).
If you are confident with the above information, you may proceed to:
Further information (demonstratives "Asmaa' Al-ishaara" أسْماءُ الإشارَة / we will cover it in detail in another topic, so you may chose to focus only on the previous information for now):
these = هؤلاء ha'olaa' (plural/ both feminine and masculine)
those = أولئِك 'uolaa'ik (plural/ both feminine and masculine)
(Note: Ha in هؤلاء ha'olaa' ه "Haa' at-tanbeeh" هاء التنبيه is to draw attention/ vocative particle)
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