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How to use the Dual form الْمُثَنَّى in Arabic? Part one Posted by on Jan 23, 2019 in Arabic Language, Grammar, Language

Learning Arabic plurals is not easy, I’ll admit, but… we cannot forget the dual form in Arabic الْمُثَنَّى which is a separate form for talking about two people, things, or actions. It’s important to know how to use the dual in Arabic because we cannot simply use the plural form instead. The dual form can be used for nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs. In this post, we’ll focus on nouns and pronouns.

Let’s pretend you went to a library and you wanted to borrow two books, how would you say, “two books”? Would you say إثنين/إثنان كِتاب or إثنين/إثنان كُتب? Do either of these sound right?

Photo of two books

                                   Image via Pixabay

Let’s first look at nouns: There are two separate dual endings for nouns: (aan) ان used for the nominative case (for the subject of a sentence),

e.g. .هَذَان كِتَابَان    These are two books. (notice how “هذا” can also be in the dual form)

And (ayn) يَن used for the genitive case (after prepositions), and accusative case (for the object of a verb),

e.g.: .أنَا أقرَأُ كِتَابيْن    I am reading two books.

 

If the noun is feminine ending with a ة, then we first change the ة to a ت then add either ان or يَن.

e.g.: شَجَرَةٌ tree becomes شَجَرَتانِ or شَجَرَتَينِ two trees

.الشجرتان كبيرتان    The two trees are big.

 

Pronouns: We can only apply the dual to two pronouns: “you plural” أنتُم, and “they” هُم. By adding an “alif” to the end you get the dual form.

أنتُم becomes أنْتُما (used for both genders) e.g.: .أنتما تعبانان    You two are tired.

هُم becomes هُما (used for both genders)  e.g.: .هما مشهوران    They (two) are famous.

We’ll talk more about the dual form for adjectives and verbs in the next post.

How often have you come across dual forms in your Arabic studies? Do you think the dual form is useful? And for those of you learning a dialect, what does the dual form look like in spoken Arabic, is it the same as MSA?

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About the Author: yasmine

MarHaba! I am half Jordanian of Circassian descent and half American. I have a Master's in Second Language Teaching and I teach Arabic as a foreign language here in the US, both MSA and Levantine Arabic. I hope to help you become more familiar and interested in the Arabic language and culture.


Comments:

  1. Boris:

    Is there a dual form fo “us/we”? For example “both of us like ice-cream”?

    • yasmine:

      @Boris !مرحبا بوريس
      There is no dual form for pronouns “us” and “we”, they translate into “نحنُ”, but if you want to say “both of us” or “we both” in Arabic is: نحن الإثنان or كلا منا or كلانا
      so “Both of us like ice-cream.” would be: .كلانا نحب البوظة