B: The Dual of Nouns, Adjectives, Pronouns, and Verbs

Plurals in Arabic always refer to three or more things. Arabic has special forms to deal with two things. Americans hate the dual. However, unlike the plural business, which I admit is difficult, the dual is very easy. We will begin with nouns.


Nouns are made dual by the addition of the suffix ان to the noun. Thus, “two books” is rendered كتابان. The ان ending is for the nominative case. For the genitive and accusative we would have كتابين This is pronounced “kitabayni.” The ending of the dual will not usually be vowelled, so the genitive and accusative dual ending will appear like this – ين – and will thus look like a sound plural but it will sound differently. When you are reading, context will tell you whether you are reading the dual or the plural.


For feminine words we add the same endings onto the ة which will be written as a regular ت. For example, two students (f) is written as طالبتانِ orطالبتين depending on the necessary case.


There are no irregular words in the dual. There is no such thing as a broken dual. All words are made dual in the same way.

A dual word is modified by a dual adjective. Thus, “two Egyptian (m) students” is طالبان مصريان “Two Egyptian (f) students” is طالبتان مصريتان. Isn’t this easy?

If a dual word is in an idaafa, or has a pronoun suffix attached, the v of the dual will disappear just as it does for masculine sound plurals. Look at the sentences below.


1. The two university students are present in the library.

١. طالبا الجامعة موجودان في المكتبة.

2. I saw the two university students in the library.

٢. شاهدت طالبي الجامعة في المكتبة.

3. I saw his two students in the library.

٣. شاهدت طالبيهِ في المكتبة


In sentence 1 we have طالبا without the ن due to the idaafa. In sentence 2 طالبا becomes طالبي since it is now in the accusative case. In sentence 2 the word appears without the vowels. Thus it could be read as “my student” or “the students (of the university).” The knowledgeable reader will immediately rule out both of these erroneous and horrendous readings. The first reading makes no sense. The second reading is wrong because the plural of طالب is طلبة ) طلاب is also a frequently used plural of طالب).
Context is what tells you the meaning and SO DOES THE GRAMMAR.


The third sentence has the same word and again in the accusative case. The ن is dropped this time because the possessive pronoun هُ is attached. Notice that هُ is written هِ as it always is after a kasra or a ي



Now we come to the dual pronouns. أنْتُما is the second person dual personal pronoun for both masculine and feminine. The corresponding pronoun suffix is كما , which is also used for both genders.


هما the dual third person personal pronoun for both genders. The pronoun suffix corresponding to it is also هما. The suffix هما will have its dhamma change to a kasra whenever it is immediately preceded by a kasra or a ي just like its three counterparts هم, هن , and هُ


There is no dual for the first person singular. Personally, I wish there were.


Now we come to the verbs. In this lesson we are dealing only with the past tense and are using very basic verbs. In future lessons we will cover the dual of the imperfect tense and its moods.


Although هُما means “they” dual for both masculine and feminine, there is a separate verb conjugation for the two genders. The suffix for the masculine is just an alif. Thus هما درسا means “They (masc. dual) studied.” “They (fem. dual) studied” is هما دَرَسَتا What we have done in both conjugations is add an alif to the third person singular conjugation for each gender so that دَرَسَ becomes درسا. and دَرَسَتْ becomes دَرَسَتا



For انتما the conjugation is the same for both masculine and feminine. We acid an alif to the second person masculine plural suffix. Thus “You studied (dual, masc. and fem.)” is انتما درستا.


Now remember this. When a verb comes first in a sentence and the subject follows, the verb is always singular. Thus “The two students went to the library” is ذهب الطالبان الى المدرسة If the dual subject comes first, then the verb will be conjugated in the dual.


One last note. هذا and هذه have dual forms. For هذا the dual forms are هذانِ for the nominative and هذَيْنِ for the accusative and genitive. For هذه the dual forms are هاتان for the nominative and هاتينِ for
the genitive and accusative.

One absolutely last note. Remember all the business you learned above about non-human plurals and feminine singular agreement? None of that stuff applies to the dual. Any noun that is dual will have dual agreement for the gender of that noun.

The dual in MSA is important and is used often. You must know the dual forms and become comfortable with them. Otherwise you will misunderstand what you are reading or hearing. It is not very hard.

11 responses to “B: The Dual of Nouns, Adjectives, Pronouns, and Verbs”

  1. Gwenn Avatar

    I think there might be a mistake here:

    “For انتما the conjugation is the same for both masculine and feminine. We acid an alif to the second person masculine plural suffix. Thus “You studied (dual, masc. and fem.)” is انتما درستا.”
    Shouldn’t it be انتما دَرَسْتُمَا ?

    Apart from that, thank you so much for having put this website together. I have yet to find something out there that reaches the same level of precision and straightforwardness!

  2. Sajad Avatar

    السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته.

    I confused after reading your page about ‘dual’

    You gave 3 sentence examples and the first two you say are erroneous and horrendously incorrect, because the words are plural. But you mentioned in the English they are ‘two’ ✌ students. So we would not use طلاب but rather طالبان

    Correct? Please clarify. I’m confused.

    1. Deema Avatar

      “Thus it could be read as “my student” or “the students (of the university).” The knowledgeable reader will immediately rule out both of these erroneous and horrendous readings.”

      The sentences are all correct, he was just saying that the readings of them would be incorrect if the reader did not understand what a dual looked or sounded like in an idaafa.

  3. Rg Free Avatar
    Rg Free

    What about the dual of nouns ending with hamza, yia, uwu and alef?

  4. Thomas Cheatham Avatar
    Thomas Cheatham

    Google translate does not recognize the accusative or genetive for teeth. Is the genetive and accusative case used with teeth. I.e. Do we really use اسنين ever?

  5. shanice Avatar

    hi , this is just a question… how can know what to but after the verb if the sentence starts with a dual word …. like what letters do you add to the following words .

  6. Amoeba Avatar

    What happens to a verb in the dual form of its past tense when I add a suffix pronoun to it? Does it drop the alif? For example, how would you say ‘they (two) killed her’? Thanks in advance

  7. Maria Avatar

    Hi there. In my student book It says: عينان بنيتان and يدان صغيرتان, and I cannot quite figure out why is that, since hand and eye are masculine? Then, shouldnt the dual adjectives also agree in gender with them?
    Tænk you in Advance.

    1. Karima Avatar

      Although most nouns in Arabic are clearly marked for gender by the presence or absence of ة, there are some notable exceptions. حرب for instance looks masculine, but is in fact feminine. Many body parts are the same way. يد and عين are both feminine words.

  8. Khalid Avatar

    Suppose I teach two university students and two college students and I see my two university students in the library. What would I say?

  9. Calcraft Avatar

    Mourid Barghouti wrote a poem in which I came across the word كَفّاي. This I believe is the dual of كَفّة, which he seems to be using the mean “palm of the hand”. The word thus means “my two palms”, but what it reminds me of, is that نِ – drops from the dual when a possessive pronoun attaches, or if the noun is part of an iDaafa. This fact should be emphasized in any discussion of the dual.

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