The Arabic plurals
By Feras Trayfi
Anyone learning the German language also learns about the many difficulties and peculiarities of the language. But you also get to know your own language better. One learns that one’s own language can be difficult and complex as well. An example of this is the plural in German and Arabic. While the plural in German is rather easy to learn, there are many forms in Arabic that you need to know. Here is an explanation:
The plural in the Arabic language is initially simply a noun, which is given a new form by adding or changing letters. There are two different types: the “healthy”, i.e. regular, and the so-called “broken” plural.
- The healthy plural can be recognized by the fact that its shape is regular and nothing else is added. In the male form, for example, the ending “-uuna” or “-ina” is simply added, depending on the case (i.e. nominative and dative/accusative).
al-kaatib (the author) – al-kaatibuun (the authors)
In healthy feminine plural, the female singular ending “-ah” is removed first and then the ending “-aat” is added.
al-katibah (the female author) – al-katibaat (the female authors)
- The other kind of plural is the broken plural. It expresses a number of more than two masculine or feminine singulars. It is formed by rebuilding the structure of the singular, either by adding or omitting several letters or by restructuring the complete word. This type of plural is so called because it “breaks” the word and changes its original form. There are no fixed rules for this. Therefore, there is a great variety of different forms.
al-maktab (the office) – al-makaatib (the offices)
al-faa’idah (the advantage) – al-fawaa’id (the advantages)
al-la’ab (the game) – al-al’aab (the games)
al-insaan (the human/man) – al-naas (the humans/mankind)
If you are a native speaker, then you know these forms of course. But when you learn Arabic, it must be very difficult, because there is no simple rule. So it’s not only in German that there are difficulties with grammar. Every language has its easy and difficult aspects.