Gender and number

Arabic nouns have gender (feminine and masculine) and number (singular, dual and plural). Luckily, Arabic grammar is very systematic. Therefore, it is quite easy to recognize the gender and number of an Arabic word.

We start by looking at the Arabic word for parent:

parent (m)
waalid
وَالِد

This word is in singular and masculine. In other words, one parent that is a man. In other words: a father.

Feminine

If we want to talk about a mother, we change the gender to feminine.

parent (f)
waalida
وَالِدَة

The only differnce is that the word is pronunced with a in the end. This is done with the short vowel a and the letter ta marbuta:

ـَة

Ta marbuta is only used in the end of words. It looks like the letter h, but with two dots above.

Many Arabic word in feminine singular ends with a.

Feminine plural

If we want to talk about many mothers, we use the feminine plural form.

parents (f)
waalidaat
وَالِدَات

The words ends with the short vowel a, the letter alef and the letter t.

ـَات

The short vowel a plus alif equals long vowel aa. The pronounciation is therefore pronounced "aat".

This ending is called regular plural feminine. A lot of words has this ending.

Regular plural feminine ends with "aat".

Masculine plural

If we want to talk about many fathers, or a group of both mothers and fathers, we use the masculine plural form.

parents (m)
waaliduun
وَالِدُون

The words ends with the short vowel u, the letter waw and the letter n.

ـُون

The short vowel u plus waw equals long vowel uu. The pronounciation is therefore pronounced "uun".

This ending is called regular plural masculine.

Regular plural masculine ends with "uun".

Challenge

Here is the Arabic word for beautiful:

beautiful (m)
jamiil
جَمِيل

It is the masculine singular form of beautiful. If you want to say that a man is beautiful, this is the form you use.

If you want to say that a woman is beautiful, you need the feminine singular form. What is the word beautiful in feminine singular?

A clue

Many words in feminine singular ends with a.

See the answer
beautiful (f)
jamiila
جَلِيلَة

If you want to say that many women are beautiful, you need the feminine plural form. What is the word beautiful in feminine plural?

A clue

Many words in feminine plural ends with aat.

See the answer
beautiful (f) (plural)
jamiilaat
جَلِيلَات

If you want to say that many men are beautiful, or that a group of mean and women are beautiful, you need the masculine plural form. What is the word beautiful in masculine plural?

A clue

Many words in masculine plural ends with uun.

See the answer
beautiful (m) (plural)
jamiiluun
جَلِيلُون

Uses of regular plural

The words we just looked at has regular plural ending. The feminine plural ends with "aat", and the masculine plural ends with "uun".
This is common for words that can be used to describe people.

The ending "uun" is only used for masculine plural. But the ending "aat" is used for both feminine and masculine plural.
There are three typical uses for the ending "aat":

Broken plural

A lot of words have regular plural endings, especially words that can be used to describe people. But there are also a lot of words with broken plural.

We know that many Arabic words follow patterns. Most broken plural forms also follow patterns. Since there are a lot of patterns, some are used as both word pattern and a plural pattern.

And example of a word with broken plural is the Arabic word for mountain.

mountain
jabal
جَبَل
mountain (plural)
jibaal
جِبَال

The plural pattern is: first root letter + short vowel i + second root letter + long vowel aa + third root letter. We can call it 1i2aa3.

Challenge

Here is the Arabic word for dog:

dog
kalb
كَلب

It has the same broken plural pattern as the Arabic word for mountain. How do you say dogs?

See the answer
dog (plural)
kilaab
كِلَاب