A: Arabic Numbers

The following is a review of the number system in Modern Standard Arabic and how it is used grammatically. The discussion below will cover both cardinal and ordinal numbers as well as a few other details. Most of what is below can be found in chapters 15 and 21 of volume one of EMSA but the information is included here for the sake of completeness.

Generally the grammar related to the numbers in Arabic is considered to be the most complicated thing about the language. In fact, it is considered so complicated that many teachers argue that not even Arabs use it correctly, so Americans should not have to learn it properly. This is true. It is also false.

When someone is speaking Modern Standard Arabic and starts to use numbers, there is a tendency for the speaker to slip into colloquial usage and pronunciation. However, in written Arabic only the standard is used. So if you want to be able to read the numbers correctly (and write them correctly), you need to be familiar with the material below. Furthermore, since you may not know any colloquial Arabic, you will need the rules and pronunciation from the standard when you wish to use numbers in speech. Therefore you really do need to know this material.

It is also important to note that the number system, while it does present its difficulties, is in essence not too difficult. A handful of rules will cover virtually everything you will need to know in using the numbers. Once you get used to the rules, you will have little or no difficulty. Getting used to the rules requires about one hour of practice (once you have already learned to count), and an occasional review.

The treatment below will alternate between the cardinal numbers (one, two, three) and the ordinal numbers (first, second, third). For example, I will first discuss the cardinals from 1 to 10 and then give the ordinal version. Try to absorb this entire section bit by bit. If you go step by step, you will not have much trouble.

Cardinal Numbers: 1 – 10

Here are the numbers from 1 to 10 in Arabic. The numbers are written out fully next to the symbol for each number.



First of all, you need to be able to recite these numbers in order without hesitation. Teach them to yourself now before you go on. You also need to be able to recognize the symbols immediately, so teach them to yourself right now too. Then continue.

I said that you must be able to recite the numbers above easily and recognize their symbols. So go back and do it.

Okay – now we will discuss these numbers further. We will start with the number 1. The number 1 in Arabic is واحِد and ١ is its symbol. If you want to say “one book” in Arabic you have two choices. The first is just to say “book,” كتابٌ This means both “a book” and “one book.” However, واحِد can follow the noun for emphasis. Thus “one book” can be rendered كتابٌ واحدٌ. Since واحد is an adjective it will have the same case as the noun it modifies. If the noun is feminine then واحد is made feminine. “One letter” رسالةٌ واحدةٌ

To say “two books” you can either put the noun in the dual by itself, or you also add إثْنان for emphasis. Thus you can say either كتابانِ or كتابان إثنانِ . “I read two books” is قرأتُ كتابينِ اثْنَيْنِ . (The اثْنَيْنِ is optional, of course.)  إثْنان becomes, إثْنَتانِ in the feminine. Therefore to say “two letters” you get رسالتان اثْنَتانِ”  I read two-letters” is قرأتُ رسالتينِ اثْنَتَيْنِ

So remember, numbers 1 and 2 in Arabic follow the noun they modify and agree with it in case and gender.

Now we come to the fun part, the numbers 3-10. Although the numbers are adjectives, 3-10 are always placed in an idaafa with the counted noun following the number. The counted noun will be in the plural. For example, the plural of مدرس is مدرسون. We want to say “three teachers,” so we get ثلاثة مدرسين. Since we have an idaafa, the second term is in the genitive case. Notice that the number is ثلاثة feminine. Here is the fun part. The number is feminine whenever the singular of the counted noun is masculine. Since the singular of مدرسون is مدرس which is a masculine word, any cardinal number from 3 to 10 used with it must be feminine. The principle is known as “reverse agreement.” Some students of Arabic have other names for it.

Now, let’s take the word مُدَرِّسة “a female teacher.” We now want to say “three female teachers.” The singular word is feminine, so we will use the MASCULINE form of the number. The result is ثلاث مدرساتٍ

This principle of reverse agreement hold for all nouns (that means all, not most of, or the majority of, or just about all). It does not matter whether the noun refers to a human or a non-human thing. Just remember, the number has the opposite gender of the singular noun.

This principle holds for the numbers 3 through 10. Here are some more examples of numbers between 1 and 10 used with nouns. Look at the English first and try to predict the Arabic. Then look at the Arabic answers. By the way, the numbers 3-10 are made masculine by just dropping the ة. For عشرة the masculine form not only drops the ة but requires putting a sukuun over the ش, so you get عَشْرٌ

  Four students (masculine)
  أربعةُ طلابٍ
  Four students (feminine)
  ارْبَعُ طالباتٍ
  Ten cars
  عَشْرُ سياراتٍ
  Six fanatics
  ستّةُ متطرّفين
  Two pens
  قلمانِ اثْنانِ
  Eight silly reporters (masculine)
  ثمانيةُ مراسلين سُخفاء
  Eight superb reports (feminine)
  ثماني مراسلاتٍ ممتازاتِ


Pay attention to the word for “eight” in Arabic. It comes from a defective root. When the number is feminine it is regular. However when it is masculine (as is the case for the last example above), it will work like any defective word used in an idaafa or made definite. That is, it will not have any case marker for the nominative or the genitive, but it will show a fatha for the accusative. Thus “I read eight boring articles about numbers” is قرأتٌ ثمانيَ مقالاتٍ مملةٍ عن الارقام .

The numbers 3 through 10 are often used in noun adjective phrases “the three books,” “these four tanks,” etc. The principle of reverse agreement will still apply, but now the number will follow the noun just as any adjective does. “The three books” is الكتبُ الثلاثةُ . “These four tanks” is هذا الدبابات الاربعُ

A rarer usage of numbers with nouns in order to express “the three books” etc. is as follows: الثلاثةُ كتبٍ . Here the number is made definite and shows reverse agreement. However, the counted noun is without the definite article, is genitive, and has nunation. This usage, minus the case endings, is what is commonly done in colloquial Arabic, but is rare in MSA.

You will find that most of the time you use numbers you will be using the numbers 1 through 10. So if you know the material above you know much of what you will be using on a regular basis.

The next section will treat the ordinal numbers 1-10. If you wish to stay with the cardinals, skip the following section and go on to the section after it which treats the cardinal numbers 11-19.

Ordinal Numbers: 1 – 10

The ordinal numbers are adjectives which follow the noun they modify. Since they are usually definite, the list below gives them with the definite article attached. Memorize the list below and then read the comments which follow.

  ألأَوَّلُ (أٌولى feminine)


The ordinal for “first” is not related to واحد but comes from another root. Its feminine is the same pattern as that for the feminine elative; كبْرى from ( أكْبَرُ) is an example.

The ordinal for “second” is a defective adjective. Without the definite article it is ثانٍ. This word has the same characteristics as the defective words you studied in Chapter Two of Part II, words like قاضٍ. When made definite ثانٍ becomes الثاني just like قاضٍ becomes القاضي In the nominative and genitive this word will not show case, but it will have a fatha in the accusative. This is just as is the case for words like القاضي Note also that قاضٍ is an active participle. ثانٍ is also an active participle.

When made feminine ثانٍ becomes ثانية and always will have regular case endings.

To say “the first book” you will get الكتابُ الأَوَّلُ. The, ordinal follows the noun and agrees with it in definiteness, gender, and case. “The first letter” is الرسالةُ الأولى . As you know, words that end in alif maqsuura do not show case, so there is never a case marker أولى .

“The second book” is الكتابُ الثاني (no case on the cardinal because it is defective). “The second letter” is الرسالة الثانية .

The ordinals for 3 through 10 are all active participle patterns. Note that the ordinal for “sixth” is السادِس . This word is the only one of the ordinals from 3-10 which significantly deviates from the cardinal number.

Note also that the ordinal for “eight” is not defective, unlike the cardinal. Therefore the feminine form also will not have the defective ي. The feminine form is الثامنة.

Normally, all of the ordinals follow the noun they modify and agree with it in definiteness, case, and gender. Below are a few examples. Cover up the Arabic and read the English and try to generate the Arabic.

  The fourth building  
  البناءُ الرابِعُ
  The ninth car  
  السيارةُ التاسعةُ
  The tenth day  
  اليوم العاشِرُ
  The sixth page  
  الصفحةُ السادِسةُ


Sometimes these ordinals are placed before the noun in an idaafa construction with the same meaning. Thus “the first book” is أَوَّلُ كتابٍ and “the third time” is ثالث مرةٍ Note that the noun has no definite article but the translation is definite. This is just like the situation using the elative followed by the noun as in أطوَلُ نهر “the longest river.”

These ordinals take sound plurals in noun-adjective phrases. Thus “the first students” is الطلابُ الأولون

The next section will treat the cardinal numbers from 11 to 19. If you wish to continue with just the ordinals, skip the next section and go to the section which follows it. That section will deal with the ordinals from 11 to 19.

Cardinal Numbers: 11 – 19

Below are the cardinal numbers from 11 to 19 along with the Arabic symbols. Memorize them and then read the comments which follow.

Cardinal Number Masculine Feminine Symbol
أحَدَ عَشَرَ
إِحْدى عَشْرةَ
12 Nominative
إثْنا عَشَرَ
إثْنَتا عَشْرةَ
12 Acc./Gen.
إثْنَىْ عَشَرَ
إِثْنَتَيْ عَشْرةَ
ثلاثةَ عَشَرَ
ثلاثَ عَشْرةَ
أَرْبَعةَ عَشَرَ
أرْبعَ عَشْرةَ
خَمْسةَ عَشَرَ
خِمْسَ عَشْرةَ
سِتّةَ عَشَرَ
سِتَّ عَشْرةَ
سَبْعةَ عَشَرَ
سِبْعَ عَشْرةَ
ثَمانيةَ عَشَرَ
ثمانيَ عَشْرةَ
تِسْعةَ عَشَرَ
تِسْعَ عَشْرةَ


First look at the symbols for the numbers. Although Arabic goes from right to left, the numbers are arranged in the same order as in English, the tens column is to the left of the single digits column.

Now for even more fun. We will start with the numbers 11 and 12 since they present the most exciting challenge.

When the number 11 modifies a masculine word both the unit number أحد and the tens number , عَشرَ are masculine. However, they are both IN THE ACCUSATIVE WITHOUT NUNATION just as they are presented in the list above. The counted noun will follow the number and will be SINGULAR AND IN THE ACCUSATIVE CASE WITH NUNATION. For example, “eleven books” is أحدَ عَشَرَ كتاباً .Remember that the noun is always singular, accusative and has nunation.

If the counted noun is feminine then both parts of the number 11 are converted to the feminine. The feminine of أحد is إحدى Since إحدى ends in an alif maqsuura it will not show case. However, the feminine of , عَشرَ will show the accusative case without having nunation. The feminine of عَشرَ is عَشرَة Note that a sukuun is placed over the ش in the feminine. “Eleven letters” is إحدى عَشرَة رسالة . Since رسالة is feminine, both words used in the number are also feminine.

Again, both elements of the number will be in the accusative (except for إحدى which cannot show case) and will not have nunation. Both elements of the number will agree with the counted noun in gender. The counted noun will always be singular, accusative, and will have nunation.

If you think 11 was fun, now we come to 12. Look at the examples below and then see my comments.

  twelve books  
  إثْنا عَشرَ كتاباً
  I read twelve books
  قرأتُ إثْنىْ عَشرَ كتاباً
  twelve letters
  إثْنَتا عشرةَ رسالةً
  I read twelve letters
  قرأتُ إثْنىْ عَشرةَ رسالةَ


Essentially, 12 works just like 11 but with a unique twist. First, the similarities. The counted noun is always singular and accusative with nunation. The two elements of the number twelve both agree with the noun in gender. The second term of the number, عشر or عشرة , is always accusative without nunation.

The difference between 11 and 12 lies in the first element of the number. The first element in 12 is إثْنا for masculine nominative, but is إِثْنَىْ for the accusative and genitive. Thus, the first element does decline for case. The same is true when the first element is feminine. The feminine is إثْنَتا for the nominative and إِثْنَتَيْ for the accusative.

Now we come to the numbers 13-19 and things become much simpler. For 13-19 the rules are as follows:

1. The second element (عشر or عشرة) agrees with the counted noun in gender.

2. The first element ( ثلاثة, اربعة etc.) shows the reverse agreement that we saw for the numbers 3-10.

3. Both elements of the number are always accusative without nunation.

4. The counted noun is singular, accusative, and has nunation.

5. Baseball has too many divisions and should get rid of the wild card.

Below are some examples. Cover up the Arabic and try to produce it by looking at the English. Then look at the Arabic to check yourself. When you do so, review the four rules above one at a time and see how they apply to each example below.

  fifteen professors (masculine)
  خَمْسةَ عَشرَ أستاذاً
  sixteen professors (feminine)
  سِتَّ عَشْرَةَ استاذةً
  nineteen morons (masculine)
  تِسْعةَ عَشرَ بليداً
  eighteen windows
  ثمانيةَ عَشرَ شباكاً
  seventeen airplanes
  سَبْعَ عَشرةَ طائرةً
  fourteen soldiers (masculine)
  اربعةَ عَشرَ جندياً


If you got all of these right, you have mastered most of the grammar associated with Arabic numbers. As always, there is more. Keep smiling.

How would you say “fourteen great students?” “Fourteen students (masc.)” is أربعةَ عشرَ طالبا . The word “great” مُمتاز will be used to modify طالبا. Thus we get اربعة عشرَ طالبا ممتازا. The adjective remains singular and agrees with the noun in case.

How would you say “Fourteen great students went to the library?” If the verb comes first it will be singular, as usual. However, if the fourteen students come before the verb then the verb will be plural. Thus اربعةَ عشرَ طالبا ممتازا ذهبوا الى المكتبة

I love this.

“The fourteen students” is الطلابُ الاربعةَ عَشرَ Now the noun is plural. The unit number shows reverse agreement, is accusative and has the definite article. The tens number shows true agreement, is accusative, and does not have the definite article.

Now we come to the ordinal numbers from 11-19. If you wish to skip them, go to the section which follows.

Ordinal Numbers: 11-19

Below is a list of the ordinal numbers from 11-19. Enjoy them and then read the comments which follow.

  Ordinal Number Masculine Feminine
الحادِيَ عَشَرَ
الحادية عَشْرةَ
الثانيَ عَشَرَ
الثانيةَ عَشْرةَ
الثالثَ عَشَرَ
الثالثةَ عَشْرةَ
الرابعَ عَشَرَ
الرابعةَ عَشْرةَ
الخامِسَ عَشَرَ
الخامسةَ عَشْرةَ
السادِسَ عَشَرَ
السادسةَ عَشْرةَ
السابعَ عَشَرَ
السابعةَ عَشْرةَ
الثامنَ عَشَرَ
الثامنةَ عَشْرةَ
التاسعَ عَشَرَ
التاسعةَ عَشْرةَ


The ordinals from 11 to 19 are always in the accusative case, just as are the cardinals. The ordinals work as regular adjectives in terms of gender agreement. Therefore, if the noun is masculine, both parts of the ordinal will be masculine. If the noun is feminine, both parts will be feminine. Only the first element will take the definite article. The second element never does. Note also that the word for “eleventh” is from a different root that the word for “one” واحد , or the word for “first” أَوَّل .

For “the seventeenth book” you say الكتابُ السابعَ عَشرَ Note that the ordinal is in the accusative while the noun is in the nominative. “The seventeenth letter” is الرسالةُ السابعةَ عَشرَةَ

The ordinals from 1-12 are used for telling time. See the section on telling time in the next chapter.

Now we come to the cardinal numbers from 20-99. If you wish to skip them, go to the next section to continue with the ordinals.

Cardinal Numbers: 20-99

Below are the numbers in Arabic for the tens. Memorize them now.

Cardinal Number Nominative Acc./Gen.


These numbers are easy to memorize as they are essentially the numbers 3 through 10 made plural. These numbers decline for case, just as masculine sound plurals do. The nouns they modify are singular, accusative,” and have nunation. These numbers have no feminine versions. Thus “50 male students” is خَمْسونَ طالبا and 50 female students is خَمْسونَ طالبة

In order to produce numbers such as 21, 22, 23, 98, etc., you use the numbers 1 through 9 along with the tens number. Loot at the examples below.

  واحِدٌ وعِشْرونَ


  إثْنانِ وعِشرْونَ
  سِتّةٌ وثلاثونَ
  ثمانيةٌ وتِسعونَ


Notice that وَ is used to connect the unit number with the tens number. Notice also that the number for 1 can either be .واحد and its feminine counterpart واحدة, or أحد and its feminine counterpart إحْدى .

Now the issue is agreement. The unit numbers for one and two agree with the noun just as they do on their own. For example “twenty one books” is واحدٌ وعشرون كتابا or أحدٌ وعشرون كتابا . “Twenty one letters” is واحدةُ وعشرونَ رسالةً or إحْدى وعِشرونَ رسالة . The same agreement takes place whenever two is combined with one of the tens. The unit element will show regular case endings except for إحدى which, as you know, does not show case. The tens unit shows the cases just as a masculine sound plural would.

For the numbers 3-9, when used in combination with the tens, the principal of reverse agreement applies just as it does when these numbers are used by themselves. The unit numbers will show regular case endings. Thus “forty-three books” is ثلاثةٌ واربعون كتابا.  Forty-three letters” is ثلاث واربعون كتابا

The counted noun for all numbers from 11-19 is always singular, indefinite, and accusative with nunation.

Below are examples using numbers from 1-99 with counted nouns. Look at the English on the left and translate it into Arabic. Then check your work by looking at the Arabic on the right.

seventy-two books  

  إثْنان وسَبْعونَ كتابا

thirty-eight morons  

  ثمانيةٌ وثلاثونَ بليدا

I read twenty-three letters  

  قرأتُ ثلاثا وعشرينَ رسالةً

I saw six teachers 

  شاهدتُ ستَّ مدرساتٍ

nineteen offices  

  تِسْعةَ عَشرَ مكتبا

seventy-two words  

  إثْنتانِ وسبعون كلمةً

forty-eight hours  

  ثمان وأربعون ساعةً* (see note 1 below)

eleven cars  

  إحدى عَشرةَ سيارةً

four days  

  أربعةُ أيامٍ

eight schools  

  ثماني مدارسَ


I hope you got all of these correct. If not, make sure you understand why you made the mistakes you did. There will be more opportunities for you to redeem yourself below.

These compound numbers can also be made definite, as in “the twenty-three books” which is الكتبُ الثلاثُ والعشرون. Both elements are made definite. The first element takes the agreement characteristic of it, regular for 1 and 2, reverse for 3 through 9.

The next section treats the ordinals from 20-99. You may skip it if you wish to remain working with the cardinals.

Ordinal Numbers: 20-99

The ordinal numbers for the even tens are the same as the cardinals with the addition of the definite article. Thus العِشرونَ is “the twentieth” and التِسعونَ is “the ninetieth.” These ordinals will not decline for gender but will decline for case.

The compound ordinals used the same ordinals for the singles digits as you have seen before. Both the singles element and the tens element will have the definite article. The singles element will agree in gender and case. The tens element will agree only in case. Note that for “first,” الحادي is used here just as is the case with “eleventh.” Here are some examples.

  the twenty-first day
  اليومُ الحادي والعِشْرونَ
  the twenty-first hour
  الساعةُ الحاديةُ والعشرون
  the fifty-sixth page
  الصفحةُ السادسةُ والخمسون
  the forty-fifth minute
  الدقيقةُ الخامسةُ والاربعون
  I read the thirty-ninth page
  قرأتُ الصفحةَ التاسعةَ والثلاثين


We will now proceed to the last section on cardinal numbers. The final section on ordinal numbers will immediately follow it.

Cardinal Numbers: From 100 To As Close To Infinity As I Am Willing To Get

The word for “one hundred” is مِئةٌ Sometimes it is spelled differently – مائة. However, both spellings are pronounced “mi’ah.” The word is a noun and is used in an idaafa with the counted noun following in the singular. Thus “one hundred men” is مئة رجل. Since مئة is a noun we don’t have to worry about reverse agreement. It will always be feminine even when followed by a feminine noun. Thus “one hundred women” is مئة امرأةٍ

“Two hundred” is مئتانِ. The dual ending أنِ is simply added to مئة. This word is declined for case like any dual noun and will drop the ن when used in an idaafa. “Two hundred men” is مئتا رجلٍ. In the accusative/genitive it would be مئتيْ رجلٍ

The rest of the hundreds are themselves idaafas consisting of the numbers 3 through 9 written before مئة. Since مئة is a noun, the numbers will be masculine. However, مئة will remain singular. “Three hundred” is ثلاث مئة Often, the numbers 3 through 9 are attached to مئة but you will still have an idaafa. So “three hundred” can also be written ثلاثمئةٍ Note that ثلاث is still inflected for case. This latter way of doing the hundreds seems to be more common. “Three hundred men” is ثلاثمئتِ رجلٍ. Here are all of the hundreds.

  one hundred
مِئة or مائة (both pronounced “mi”ah”)
  two hundred
مئتانِ / مئتين in gen./acc.)
  three hundred
ثلاثُمئةٍ or ثلاثُ مئةٍ
  four hundred
أرْبَعُمئةٍ or أَرْبَعُ مئةٍ
  five hundred
خَمْسُمئةٍ or خَمسُ مئةٍ
  six hundred
سِتُّمئةٍ or سِتُّ مئةٍ
  seven hundred
سَبعُمئةٍ or سَبعُ مئةٍ
  eight hundred
ثَمانيمئةٍ or ثَماني مئةٍ
  nine hundred
تِسْعُمئةٍ or تِسْعُ مئةٍ

Recall that the word for “eight” is defective. Therefore the ي on ثماني will show no case for nominative and genitive, but will show a fatha in the accusative.

To say “one hundred one” you use مئة وواحد (or واحدة for feminine). The same is true for “one hundred two” مئة وإثْنان (or إِثْنتان for feminine). However, if you mention the counted noun you do not use واحد or اثنان. “One hundred one men” is مئة رجلٍ ورجل “One hundred two men” is مئة رجلٍ ورجلان

103-109 all have مئة preceding the singles number. “One hundred five” is مئة وخمسة

For all numbers from 103 to 999, the case and number of the counted noun fol]ow the rules governing the last numeral in the number. Thus “one hundred three men” is مئة ثلاثة رجال but “one hundred fifty three men” is مئةٌ وثلاثةٌ وخَمْسون رجلا In the first example, ثلاثة was the last numeral. Since three through nine are always in an idaafa, show reverse agreement, and are followed by the plural noun, the word رجل is made plural and is in the genitive, while the number ثلاثة is feminine.

In the second example, the word “fifty” is the last numeral. Since خَمْسون is always followed by a singular, indefinite, accusative noun, رجل is written رجلا

Below are more examples. Look at the English on the left and see if you can produce the Arabic on the right. Then look at the Arabic to check yourself.

two hundred five books  

  مئتان وخمسةُ كتبٍ

four hundred forty-four days  

  اربعمئةٍ واربعةٌ وارْبعون يوماً

five hundred seventeen men  

  خمسُمئةٍ وسبعةَ عشرَ رجلا

(eight hundred twenty-one students (masc  

  ثمانيمئةٍ وواحدٌ وعشرونَ طالباً

(six hundred eight teachers (fem  

  ستُمئةٍ وثماني مدرساتٍ


The word for “thousand” is ألْفٌ . Like مئة it is a noun. Unlike مئة it is masculine. When it is preceded by the numbers three through ten, in order to say “three thousand” etc., the number is feminine and the plural of الف , آلاف is used. Thus to say “three thousand men” you produce ثلاثةُ آلافِ رجلٍ.

You can see that what you have is a three-term idaafa.

When ألْف is preceded by a number greater than ten, it remains singular and is put into the accusative, just like any noun. Thus “twenty thousand” is عشرون ألْفاً If ألف is then followed by the counted noun , الف will be in an idaafa with that noun. “Twenty thousand men” is عشرون ألفَ رجلٍ

When ألْف is singular or dual, it works just like مئة. “One thousand nights” is الفُ ليلةٍ. “One thousand one nights” is الفُ ليلة وليلة . “One thousand two nights” is الفُ ليلةٍ وليلتان “Two thousand nights” is الفا ليلةٍ

The word for “million” is مِليون It works exactly as does ألْف . Its plural is ملايين The word for billion is مليار Do not confuse this word with مليون . مليار takes a feminine sound plural, but works in all ways just like الف and مليون . Now, just so that you will not think this has all been too easy – be aware that “billion” is also rendered by بِلْيون which has بَلايين as its plural. It too works like الف and مليون.

“Three million men” is ثلاثةُ ملايين رجلٍ and “three billion men” is ثلاثةُ ملياراتِ رجلٍ or ثلاثةُ بلايين رجلٍ.

Ordinal Numbers From 100 To As Close To Infinity As I Am Willing To Get

The words ملْيار , ملْيون , ألْف , مئة and بلْيون are also used as ordinals. “The one hundredth book” is الكتابُ المئةُ . “The one millionth book” is الكتابُ المليون. These words do not change for the feminine.

“The one thousandth night” is الليلة الألْفُ

If you can do the ordinals from 11-99, you will be able to do the ordinals from 101 to 1 less than infinity. Since مئة , الف , etc., do not change, all you need to remember are the rules for 11-99.

If you will remember, “the thirty-seventh lesson” is الدرس السابع والثلاثون . “The thirty seventh letter” is الرسالة السابعة والثلاثون . To say “the one hundred thirty-seventh book” you say الكتابُ المئة والسابع والثلاثون • For “the letter” you will say الرسالة المئة والسابعة والثلاثون.

The only gender agreement you need to worry about is for the ones unit. The other units agree only in case. If the ordinal you are using contains something in the teens, then you do have to worry about it a bit more since the word عشرة will also agree in gender, but it,won’t take the definite article. For example “the one million seventeenth mistake” is الخطأ المليون والسابعَ عشرَ

Note 1 – Remember that the word for “eight,” ثمانٍ/ثمانية is a defective word. Therefore, the final ي will only appear if the word is in an idaafa, as in the last example above, or is used with the definite article or with a pronoun suffix. (This does not apply to the ordinal “eighth,” الثامن , as I have indicated in a previous section.)

36 responses to “A: Arabic Numbers”

  1. Sabiha Avatar

    Very informative thank you, just one small matter in the first table where it says five students it says Arbaa Taliban instead of khamsa.

    1. Rizwan Khan Avatar
      Rizwan Khan

      Very informative and describe in very good way.

    2. Yusuf Avatar

      “103-109 all have مئة preceding the singles number. “One hundred five” is مئة وخمسة”

      What about 110 مئة وعشرة ?

  2. Barbara Avatar

    Are you sure that there is everything correct in the table: (I read twelve books) and (I read twelve letters). I’m guessing if the verb قرأتُ isn’t missing at the first. The second as I understood from what you wrote is that the first character of 12 should logically concord in gender with رسالة? However in example it is Musc. Acc. followed by feminine عشرة.
    Still thanks for your indepth introduction to arabic and the great humorous, it really helps.
    P.S and yes we do call the Reverse Agreement in not such an academic way 🙂

    1. Arabic Instructor Avatar
      Arabic Instructor

      Thanks Barbara. I added the word قرأتُ to the first one (I read twelve books).

  3. Merfah Avatar

    This is absolutely amazing!
    It is so hard to find such detailed information on arabic grammar.
    Thank you!

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    There is a typo in the paragraph about “one hundred one”: It should say “one hundred and one men” is….

    1. Arabic Instructor Avatar
      Arabic Instructor

      Thanks! I made the correction.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Thank you for the brilliant explanation!
    I have a question about number 2. I have studied it as إثنين from the Al-Kitaab book for MSA spelling and pronunciation.. is that wrong? The Arabic-speaking people didn’t correct me when I pronounced it “ithnayn”..

    1. Patrick Avatar

      “Ithnayn” is correct, but it’s the masculine form in the genitive / accusative case said in pausal form. It also happens to be the form most likely to be heard in a dialect which is why your friends did not correct you — it /is/ correct to them.

      Like most duals, in the nominative case, it ends with ــانِ (-aani) but in the genitive / accusative case, it ends with ـَـيْنِ (-ayni).

      The dialects, when they use duals at all, prefer to use the “-ayn” (no ‘i’ at the end) sound, so two books would be rendered in many dialects as “kitaabayn” (not kitaabaani). Thus, when the number two, which itself is a dual, is spoken, you will usually hear the “-ayn” form: “ithnayn” and not “ithnaani”. It’s also extremely rare to read or hear the feminine form “ithnataani” and “inthnatayni”.

  6. zainul abid Avatar
    zainul abid

    masha allah

  7. Geoff Ryley Avatar
    Geoff Ryley

    On numbers of 21 and above, there was a typo: “Forty-three letters” is ثلاث واربعون كتابا”

  8. Bruno Avatar

    Wow! This is a complete guide to Arabic numerals! Thanks!

    I’d like to put just two questions: in spoken Arabic (let’s say in Egypt, to fix ideas), what rules of these are mantained? I don’t want a shortcut, but I wouldn’t dare to speak this way to a seller in an Arabic market! And, these verbal forms are the same ones in all Arabic countries?

  9. Ali Avatar

    How will I right these words in Arabic?
    Thirty Three Thousand Nine Hundred And Fifteen

  10. Syed Shah Alam Avatar
    Syed Shah Alam

    Thank you, It is very helpful. I have to translate numbers from english to arabic. I have written a macro in excel 2347916.58 “مليونان و ثلاثمائة و سبعة و اربعون الفاً و تسعمائة و ستة عشر ريالاً و ثمانية و خمسون هللة”. But I am not clear when you use الفاً or الف, or ريالاً or ريال or ريالات . If you have any article on this please send me the link.

  11. Arabic student Avatar
    Arabic student


    How do you fully write out “zero” in Classical Arabic ?

    Thank you for your answer.

  12. Tamana Avatar

    I have been searching for hours for the best site to help me with the numbers, this has to be the best one I have come across! You should be very pleased with yourself for producing a great work like this

    Thank you!

    1. Mashallah very handy for my assignments and important exams jazakallah Avatar

      Jazakallah al your hard work preparing these arabic pages are very good alhamdulillah

  13. Tehsid Avatar

    Oh my God….I can’t thank you enough for helping me understand this.

  14. Jameel Avatar

    Hello. Does the reverse agreement also apply to ordinals? I noticed ثالث مرة from your example above. I would have used ثالثة مرة. Or does the reverse agreement always apply in an idhafa structure?

  15. Ma'soom Al Hindi Avatar
    Ma’soom Al Hindi

    Thank you for presenting the most complicated grammatical rules in a easy way.
    Keep it up.
    جزاك الله خير الجزاء أقصى جهودك.

  16. David Avatar

    Hello, please can you help me to count in Arabic.
    As per below, so far I think I understand these 4 ways to count a noun-object.
    However, is my understanding correct ?
    a) Indefinite – `iDaafah “three books”: ثَلاثَةُ كُتُبٍ tha-lA-thah (tu) ku-tub (in)
    b) Indefinite – tam-yiiz “thirteen books”: كِتَاباً عَشَرَ ثَلاثَةَ tha-lA-tha 9a-sha-r(a) ki-tA-b(an)
    c) Definite – number as adjective “The three books”: الثَلاثَةُ الكُتُبُ al ku-tub (u) al tha-lA-thah (u)
    d) Definite – based on `iDaafah “The three books”: ثَلاثَةُ الكُتُبٍ tha-lA-thah (tu) al ku-tub (in)
    Regards, David

  17. kabir Avatar

    please ayyaman maadudatun as it is used in verse 2;203 and 2;184 means what? some of have translated to mean certain numbers of days while others used fixed days and others to mean few days. i have also come across some who says it is only used for nunmbers between 3-10 since the days is in plural form.

  18. kabir Avatar

    please still awaiting response to my comment. thanks

  19. Yusuf Adam Avatar
    Yusuf Adam

    “{“The fourteen students” is الطلابُ الاربعةَ عَشرَ Now the noun is plural. The unit number shows reverse agreement, is accusative and has the definite article. The tens number shows true agreement, is accusative, and does not have the definite article.}”

    This is actually incorrect. The tens number is not accusative but nominative. It has fatha because it is مبني not because it is accusative. Its end never changes in all three states.

  20. Yusuf Adam Avatar
    Yusuf Adam

    Just because something has فتحة doesn’t necessarily make it accusative like it’s mention above الكتابُ السابعَ عشرَ the seventeenth book. If الكتابُ is nominative then so is السابعَ عشرَ because it’s an adjectival phrase.

  21. Tania Avatar

    Hello! This is an amazing resource, thank you so much. However I was wondering, for larger numbers (for example 425,000), as ordinals how often do you use the prefix Al? For the cardinal I believe you simply string as normal (four hundred and five and twenty thousand) but would the prefix only be placed before the first of those for the ordinal, or all?
    Hope I’m not making this too confusing!!

  22. YUSUF Avatar

    “The word for “million” is مِليون It works exactly as does ألْف . Its plural is ملايين The word for billion is مليار Do not confuse this word with مليون . مليار takes a feminine sound plural, but works in all ways just like الف and مليون . Now, just so that you will not think this has all been too easy – be aware that “billion” is also rendered by بِلْيون which has بَلايين as its plural. It too works like الف and مليون.”

    Should be: “Do not confuse this word with مليار . مليون takes a feminine sound plural,”

  23. […] but in the masculine form its on the unit. ie خمسة عشر (m) and خمس عشرة (f). See this webpage for […]

  24. SHAFEEQ Avatar

    Very informative, thanks
    How write the sentence “the book of third girl”

  25. ZR Avatar

    Thank you so much for this lesson. This is the most comprehensive discussion on this that I’ve found so far. I just thought I’d point out 2 mistakes I picked up, although I’m not sure if the second one is actually a mistake.

    1) “Forty-three letters” is ثلاث واربعون كتابا”

    2) This sentence in the section, ‘Cardinal numbers 20-99’
    “The counted noun for all numbers from 11-19 is always singular, indefinite, and accusative with nunation.”

    Thanks, once again, for this.

  26. Moiz Rauf Avatar
    Moiz Rauf

    The feminine for 15 and 17 listed in the table for cardinal numbers 11-19 seem wrong. Should be khamsa not khimsa, and sab3a not sib3a… no?

  27. Juan Avatar

    In the paragraph below the second table, there is a typo in the last sentence:
    …… Thus “I read eight boring articles about numbers” is قرأتٌ ثمانيَ مقالاتٍ مملةٍ عن الارقام .
    There is no tanwin in the verb and should be just damma: قرأتُ

  28. Juan Avatar

    In the section that deals with number 12 there are (I think) two mistakes, one is in the original book and the other one only in this unit.
    In the table providing examples of use of the number 12 we can read:
    I read twelve letters قرأتُ إثْنىْ عَشرةَ رسالةَ
    It should use the feminine إثْنَتىْ instead to read : قرأتُ إثْنتىْ عَشرةَ رسالةً
    ِAlso, the last word رسالةً needs double fatha at the end and not simple fatha.

    1. Dirk Joos Avatar
      Dirk Joos

      Is إثْنَتىْ really correct? Shouldn’t it be إِثْنَتَي ?

  29. Dirk Joos Avatar
    Dirk Joos

    thanks a lot for this page. It helped me a lot. Just one question:
    You wrote in your explanation the following sentence:

    Thus “one hundred men” is مئة رجل.

    Is ٍمِئَةُ رَجُل correct?

    شكراً جزيلاً

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