Back to Basics: Singular, Dual, and Plural nouns in Arabic

In the last post we briefly touched upon the three categories of speech; the noun, verb, and particle along with some examples of each. Now we are going to begin the long journey of going into the noun. It will take several posts to cover this and to be honest with you I may not do it justice but I ask my reward to be with Allah. May He also grant our scholars a high place in paradise for the treasures they left us to benefit from. With that said let us begin, Allah willing.

The noun is divided into three categories; singular مفرد, dual مثنى, and plural جمع.

One: The singular noun refers to one object and it can be a person طالب, a place القاهرة, a thing كتاب, a name of a man أحمد or a woman عائشة, or it can be a man رجل or a woman إمرأة.

In Arabic there is what is called the الإسم الصحيح “authentic noun” which is a noun wherein all of its letters are not from the weak letters; Alif, Waaw, and Yaa. Examples are words such as pen قلم, wall حائط, and the name Ahmad أحمد. So if you see the vowel sign on the end of the last letter, you know it is an “authentic noun”.

In the realm of the science of an-Nahw, we know the “authentic noun” is in the state of Raf’ by the Dhammah sign on the last letter. We know the “authentic noun” is in the state of Nasb by the Fathah sign on the last letter. We also know that the “authentic noun” is in the state of Jarr by the Kasrah sign on the last letter. Later, Allah willing, we are going to cover why a noun will never be in the state of Jazm or take the Sukoon over it. If you already know why then you’re at a very excellent level in Arabic.

Two: The dual consists of two things, it can be two people, masculine or feminine, or two places, or two non-living objects. You will know it is dual (fancy way of saying two things) by the Alif and Noon attached to the noun.

So as an example the word for man in Arabic is رَجُلٌ. To make it “two men” just add the Alif and Noon and you get رَجُلاَنِ! This is in the state of Raf’ but in the state of Nasb and Jarr the Alif is dropped and a Yaa is attached to the Noon like this رَجُلَيْنِ.

That was for the masculine, for the feminine as in the word woman إمْرَأة you would add the Alif and Noon as we did in the last example, which would mean two women إمْرَأَتَانِ. This is in the state of Raf’ but in the states of Nasb and Jarr the Alif is dropped and a Yaa is attached to the Noon similar to the masculine إمْرَأَتَيْنِ.

Here are some examples:

كِتَابٌ – كِتَابَانِ
مُسْلِمٌ – مُسْلِمَانِ
مُسْلِمَة – مُسْلِمَتَانِ
طَالِبٌ – طَالِبَانِ
طَالِبَة – طَالِبَتَانِ

In the next post we are going to take a look at the plural separately since it has a little more detail to it. In the meantime keep in mind that the plural is more than two objects, persons, places, etc. The chart below will outline what we have covered so far, Allah willing.

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