Basic Arabic Words: The Noun and Its Forms For Number and Gender

Dina Sarayra 4/5/2020
Arabic Grammar

At Kaleela, we like to cover everything to make sure you have EVERYTHING you need when it comes to learning Arabic. Today is all about nouns in Arabic. Don’t worry though, Arabic grammar for that part of speech is so straightforward, you will be shocked from how fast you will learn. Arabic noun patterns and basics on nouns are categorized according to following classifications. 

Definite vs. Indefinite

Similar to the word “the”, Arabic grammar uses “ال” /al/ to turn an indefinite noun, which is referred to as “نكرة” / nakira into a definite noun, which is referred to as “معرفة” /ma’rifa. Although there are different ways of turning a noun from indefinite into a definite, the most common way is through the article “ال” /al/.

Let’s take a look at the following examples.

/nakira/: Girl – بنت – bint

/ma’rifa/: The girl – البنت – al bint

Sun vs. Moon Letters

We are not talking about the literal sun and moon, but their Arabic words. In Arabic, the word sun is “الشمس” /ashams/ and the word moon is “القمر” /alqamar /. Although both words use the definite article /al/, “الشمس” eliminates the /l/ sound and keeps the /a/ sound of the /al/. However, “القمر” doesn’t do this and simply keeps the /al/ as it is, pronouncing the word with the article normally. Threfore, through this, some letters of the Arabic alphabet are considered “sun letters” and others “moon letters” based on their reaction with the /al / article.

The article “ال” /al / plays a pivotal role here. This definite article is only pronounced when followed by moon letters, which distinguishes one noun from another as in the following cases.

Sun Letter: “ص” /sa/

Example: The morning – الصبح – asobh

Moon Letter: “ق” /qa/

Example: The cat – القط – al qit

The Numbers: Singular, Dual, and Plural

The numbers start with one, two, and three, right? That is exactly what singular, dual, and plural nouns refer to. Singular nouns, referred to as “مفرد” /mufrad/, identify one person or entity. A dual, on the other hand, and as the name suggests, refers to two people or entities. Duals in Arabic are called “مثنى” /muthana/. Finally, for three people or more, “جمع” /jami’/ is used for identification.

With duals, the singular form of the noun is taken with the suffix “ـان” at the end of the word, regardless of its type. Meanwhile, “الجمع” has two classifications of its own: the sound plural “الجمع السالم” /al jam’ al salim/, which in itself can be categorized into feminine or masculine, and the broken plural “جمع التكسير” /jam’ al takseer/.

The feminine sound plural, referred to as “جمع المؤنث السالم” /jam’ al mo’anath al salim/, will add the “ـات” at the end of the word. The masculine, however, adds “ـون”, and is referred to as “جمع المذكر السالم” /jam’ al mothakar al salim/. The broken is exactly as its name suggests: it follows no particular rule. 

Example 1:

Singular: Boy “ولد” /walad/

Dual: Two Boys “ولدان” /waladan/

Plural: Boys “أولاد” /awlad/

Note that the plural form is /takseer/. 

Example 2:

Singular: Girl “بنت” /bint/

Dual: Two Girls “بنتان” /bintan/

Plural: Girls “بنات” /banat/

Note that the plural form is /jam’ al mo’anath al salim/

Feminine vs. Masculine

Arabic nouns use a specific ending or suffix for a word to identify as feminine. The general feminine indicator is the closed “ت” /ta/ called “التاء المربوطة”/at-ta al marboota/. This applies to any noun, inanimate or not.

Let’s take the word “student” and use it for both a male and female.

Student (for a male) is “طالب” /talib/

Student (for a female) is “طالبة” /taliba/

Notice /at-ta al marboota/ is only evident in the feminine noun.

In conclusion

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