B: Diptotes

The term “diptote” is composed of “di” meaning “two” (and sometimes a “princess”) and “tote” which I believe is a kind of umbrella. Diptotes have long posed a problem for the student whose teacher insists on correct vocalization of every word in a text. The problem arises both because diptotes only show two cases when they are indefinite and because students do not know how to spot a diptote. (See note 1 below)

Here is everything you will ever need to know about them.

When a diptote is indefinite it will not have nunation. مَصادرُ “sources” is a diptote. It will only have one dhamma even when indefinite. If the word is accusative it will have one fatha as in مصادرَ If the word is genitive it will not have a kasra. It will still take a FATHA. For example منْ مصادرَ “from sources.” Do you like this? It gets better.

If a diptote is made definite, it will show all three cases in a regular way: المصادرَ , المصادرِ, المصادرُ. So a diptote is regular when it is definite. (That is, it becomes a triptote – I am not kidding.)

In addition, when a diptote is any term except the last term of any idaafa it will always have regular case endings. It does not matter whether or not the idaafa is definite or indefinite. For example مكاتبُ, is a diptote meaning “offices.” Look at its case in the two sentences below.

 1. We were in the offices of the big shots.
 ١. كنا في مكاتبِ الموظفين الكبار.
 2. We were in offices of big shots.
 ٢. كنا في مكاتبِ موظفين كبار.



In both sentences مكاتب has a kasra since it is in an idaafa but it is not the last term of the idaafa.

If the diptote is the last term in the idaafa it will have regular case endings if it is definite. What “regular case endings” means is that the diptote will have a kasra, since the only case for the last term of an idaafa is the genitive. For example, قائمةُ المصادرِ “the list of sources.”

However, if the diptote is the last term of an indefinite idaafa then it will behave just as it does when it is indefinite and not in an idaafa – it will have one fatha to show that it is in the genitive case. For example قائمةُ مصادرَ “a list of sources.”

Here is the run down once more:

1. Whenever a diptote is definite, it takes regular case endings.

2. When a diptote is in a definite or indefinite idaafa, but is not the last term of the idaafa, it takes regular case endings.

3. When a diptote is the last term of idaafa, it will be regular if it is definite (it will take a kasra), but it will take a fatha if it is indefinite.

4. When a diptote is indefinite and not in an idaafa, it never has nunation. It takes one dhamma for nominative and one fatha for both the accusative and genitive cases.

The next issue you must face with respect to these words is: Would you know a diptote if it walked up and introduced itself? The answer is no. So how do you know a diptote when you see one? There are a number of categories of words which are diptotes. I will talk about the major ones here.

Broken Plurals

There are certain patterns of broken plurals which are diptotic patterns. The chief one is the plural pattern for place nouns. متحفٌ , مكتبٌ and even مدرسةٌ are place nouns. Their plurals are متاحفُ , مكاتبُ and مدارسُ. All place-noun plurals are diptotes.

Another pattern which is diptotic is represented by the plural of عاملٌ (“factor”). The plural is عَوامِلُ. Here you have the long vowel alif before the second radical and a kasra on the second radical (just as you do with place noun plurals). Usually this pattern of alif before the second radical and a kasra underneath the second radical gives a diptote.

The plural of فريضة (“obligation”) is فرائضُ . Here a hamza is inserted between the alif and the last radical. When this happens you have a diptote.

اسابيعُ ,the plural of أُسبوعٌ is a diptote. Here we have a pattern of alif, second radical, and a yaa’ (instead of a kasra). This pattern is also diptotic.

Another diptotic pattern occurs when an alif and a hamza are added to the end of the plural form. For example, the plural of رئيس is رُؤَساء Here the alif comes after the last radical of the word and is followed by a hamza with no seat. Note that neither the alif nor the final hamza represent one of the radicals of the word رئيس When this happens you have a diptote.

On the other hand, the singular noun بناءٌ is not a diptote. The alif represents the weak final radical. The plurals أَسماءٌ and أبْناءٌ are also not diptotes. The alif at the end of these two plural words represents a i fnal weak radical in the root of each word.

The masculine plural of the elative is also a diptote. The pattern is أفاعِلُ . For example, the plural of أكبرُ is أكابِرُ. Note that the plural has the pattern of alif , second radical, and kasra.

These are the most common broken plural patterns which result in diptotes.

Singular Nouns and Adjectives

The most common diptotic pattern for singular words in the elative pattern – أكْرَمُ , أكْبَرُ etc. Of course, since the elative often occurs at the beginning of an idaafa, you will often see it taking regular case endings.

Some adjectives end in ان as in عَطْشانُ (“thirsty”) and غَضْبانٌ (“angry”) . These words are diptotes.

Proper Nouns

All feminine,personal names are diptotes. Therefore even if a woman’s name is كريمةُ the word will be a diptote. If كريمةٌ is used as a regular adjective, it will take are regular case endings.

All place names are diptotes unless they have the definite article or end in the feminine sound plural اتٌ. Thus مصرُ and دمشقُ are diptotes. However, الاردنُ It and السودانُ will take case endings the way any definite word does.

Masculine personal names are usually diptotes. However, if the name happens to be a regular noun or adjective it will be regular with respect to case (unlike the situation for feminine names). For example, فَريدٌ is a common man’s name. It is also a regular adjectival pattern. Therefore, it takes normal case endings. (Note that the rule here is the opposite from the rule for feminine personal names, since all feminine personal names are diptotes no matter what.)

Masculine personal names with only three letters and which have a sukuun on the second letter take regular case endings. Thus زَيْدٌ and نوحُ are regular nouns with respect to case. However, إبراهيمُ , آدّمُ and يوسُّفُ are diptotes.

Many teachers do not lay stress on the case endings for proper names due to the difficulty of remembering all the rules regarding them. Personally, I agree with that policy. However, you should be aware of the rules regarding common nouns and adjectives which are diptotes.

Note 1 – Throughout this chapter, I am relying on the definitions of terms such as “diptote” and “indeclinable” as they are used in EMSA, volumes I and II. EMSA’s definition of these terms is not always standard, but it does impress me as the most accessible. To see a more classical based set of definitions and descriptions of these terms, see Chapter 44 of Haywood/Nahmad, entitled “Declension of the Noun.”

16 responses to “B: Diptotes”

  1. Ceciy Avatar

    What about country names? They are diptote, yes. When it comes to verbs and adjectives, are they female or masculine? For example, Russia, Germany or Asia?

    1. Saad Avatar

      Country names are mostly feminine, although there are some masculine ones. The few countries that are masculine need to just be memorized…. the masculine few include countries like Iraq, Jordan, Sudan, and Yemen.

  2. Oscar Avatar

    Didn’t you mean “we were in the offices of the employees of the big shots” in the translation on this page?


    1. Ali Avatar

      Actually, the الموظفين الكبار and موظفين كبار literally could mean “the senior employees” and “senior employees” respectively. كبار is not المضاف اليه, or the second term of the إضافة. It is simply the adjective of موظفين.

  3. mo Avatar

    yeah…it’s everything I need to know ABOUT the diptote, except WHAT the diptote actually IS.

    1. layla Avatar

      What do you mean? What are the mistakes?

  4. layla Avatar

    What about the name Muhammadun? It is a male name, it does not consists of 3 consonants, and yet it is NOT a diptote.

    1. Jacob Avatar

      Yes, but it comes from an adjective (specifically إسم مفعول للوزن الثاني) and that’s why it’s a triptote.

    2. Arif Avatar

      All prophets name are diptote, except- Muhammad, Lut, Hud, Salah, Shoab, Nuh.

  5. Linguini Avatar

    Diptote derives from Greek δίπτωτο: di – δι (double) and ptoto – πτωτο (coming from πτώση – case). This refers to a transitive verb that is syntactically formed with a direct and an indirect object, which might be formed in different or the same case (accusative and genitive).
    A close example in English would be: I give the book to Mary. The verb ‘to give’ cannot be used in a phrase with only one object (I give the book or I give to Mary) but requires both the direct (the book) and indirect (Mary) objects. ‘The book’ is the accusative case and ‘to Mary’ is in the accusative case introduced by a preposition.

  6. Abdul-Hakeem Avatar

    Is there any way to tell when a words are diptote, or do you just have to learn/memorize them on an individual basis when you come across them?

  7. Ryan Avatar

    When you say a diptote is “definite”, do you actually mean when it has alif-lam attached? Because proper nouns are already definite, but I don’t think you meant to include them.

  8. akhi Avatar

    Basically an easier way to understand this is to understand what a diptote is and know that it will never take a kasra in the genetive case. The only exception to this is
    · when the noun is مضاف
    · when the noun is prefixed with ال

  9. Sébastien Avatar

    Hi, on this Egyptian textbook about the Arab conquest of Egypt (url below), on page 5 Iine 6-7, I see : إلى فتحِ مصرَ

    To me that looks like a diptote (مصر), last term of an idafa, definite, taking a fatha instead of a kasra.
    According to the lesson above, it should take a kasra since it is definite, but that’s clearly not the case.

    Who is mistaken : me, the writers of the textbooks or All the Arabic […] ?


  10. Talibe Ilm Avatar
    Talibe Ilm

    Is there any example of singular diptote? Do such diptote exist? And if yes how a singular diptote changes to dual and plural?

  11. Caleb Avatar

    I suppose you could say it is “All the Arabic” that is wrong. It is not a question of “definiteness” for الممنوع من الصرف (diptotes) but rather one of whether or not there is ال. Otherwise محمد would never get nunation, but it does. Here, مصر IS the last term of the idaafa and so acts as a diptote. But, to make things more exciting, مصر can actually be either a diptote or not, just depending on the author. If I remember correctly that is!

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