In Arabic, words are of three categories with regards to number:
وَاحِدٌ أَوْ مُفْرَدٌ (singular) – indicating one, e.g. رَجُلٌ – one man.
تَثْنِيَّةٌ (dual) – indicating two, e.g. رَجُلَانِ – two men.
جَمْعٌ (plural), indicating more than two, e.g. رِجَالٌ – more than two men.
The dual is formed by adding ( انِ __ ) to ( حالة الرفع ) – the nominative case (this will be discussed further in future lessons) or ( ينِ __ ) to ( حالة النصب و الجر ) – the accusative or genitive cases (this will be discussed further in future lessons).
مَلِكٌ – one king, مَلِكاَنِ or مَلِكَيْنِ – two kings
مَلِكَةٌ – one queen, مَلِكَتاَنِ or مَلِكَتَيْنِ – two queens.
In the prevalent books of Arabic Grammar and Morphology, the terms ( انِ __ ) and ( ينِ __ ) are not written. Instead, these terms are expressed in detail as أَلِفٌ مَا قَبْلَهَا مَفْتُوْحَةٌ وَ نُوْنٌ مَكْسُوْرَةٌ and يَاءٌ مَا قَبْلَهَا مَفْتُوْحَةٌ وَ نُوْنٌ مَكْسُوْرَةٌ . We have chosen the former method for the sake of brevity.
To pronounce ( انِ __ ) and ( ينِ __ ), one can read the fathah with the sound of an alif and say آنِ and اَيْنِ. Such signs will come frequently later on. Pronounce them in this manner wherever one comes across them.
Plurals are of two types:
اَلْجَمْعُ السَّالِمُ – the sound plural
اَلْجَمْعُ اْلمُكَسَّرُ – the broken plural
The sound plural is one in which the singular form of the word remains intact (sound) with some addition at the end. It is of two types:
مُذَكَّرٌ (Masculine) – in which ( ــــُـــونَ ) in ( حالة الرفع ) – the nominative case or ( ـــِــــينَ ) in the accusative and genitive cases are appended, e.g. مُسْلِمٌ – one Muslim, مُسْلِمُوْنَ or مُسْلِمُيْنَ – many Muslims.
مُؤَنَّثٌ (Feminine) – in which ( ـــــَـــ اتٌ ) in the nominative case or ( ـــــَـــ اتٍ ) in the accusative and genitive cases are appended, e.g. مُسْلِمَةٌ – one (female) Muslim, مُسْلِماَتٌ or مُسْلِماَتٍ – many (female) Muslims.
The broken plural is one in which the form of the singular word is broken, that is, changed. It has no fixed rule for making it. Sometimes alphabets are added or deleted and sometimes there is merely a change in the harakat – (the fathah, dammah, and kasrah).
Examples (these words are singular to plural forms, the ones in the left are the singular and the right will be the plural):
خُشُبٌ <— خَشَبٌ ; كُتُبٌ <— كِتَابٌ ; وُزَرَاءُ <— وَزِيْرٌ ; أَنْهَارٌ <— نَهْرٌ ; رِجاَلٌ <— رَجُلٌ
The اَلْجَمْعُ السَّالِمُ – sound plural of some feminine words is like the masculine plurals, e.g. the plural of سَنَةٌ – year, is سُنُوْنَ or سِنِيْنَ and sometimes سَنَوَاتٌ .
The نون that appears at the end of the تثنية – dual form and the اَلْجَمْعُ اْلمُذَكَّرُ السَّالِمُ – sound masculine plural is called نُوْنٌ إِعْرَابِيَّةِ ( since the نون is feminine in Arabic, the adjective should also be feminine, namely إِعْرَابِيَّةِ ).
Some nouns are singular in form but refer to a whole group. There is no singular for them as well because they are not plurals in reality. Such nouns are called اِسْمُ اْلجَمْعِ .
قَوْمٌ – a nation, رَهْطٌ – a group.
These words are generally used like plurals in sentences, e.g. قَوْمٌ صَالِحِوَنَ – a pious nation.
You have learnt in our previous lessons that the adjective corresponds with its noun in اعراب , being definite or indefinite and in gender. Now remember that the adjective has to correspond with its noun in number as well. However, when the noun being described is جَمْعٌ غَيْرِ عَاقِلٍ – the plural of an unintelligent being – intelligent beings are humans, angels and jinn; all other creations fall in the category of unintelligent beings غَيْرِ عَاقِلٍ ), whether masculine or feminine, the adjective is generally singular feminine واحد مؤنث , although it is sometimes plural. One can say أَيَّامٌ مَعْدُوْدَةٌ as well as أَيَّامٌ مَعْدُوْدَاتٌ .
Vocabulary List No. 4