2.2 Grammar: Nominal sentences, possessives and plural

In this section

  • You will learn about the use of the verb “to have” with family members.
  • You will know about plural nouns and verbs and practice them in flash cards and self-check quizzes.
  • You will learn how to ask and answer questions about quantity using “how many”.

Grammar (1)

The use of verb “to have” 

In Arabic there is no verb that specifically expresses the concept “to have. Instead, you take a preposition عند or لـ and attach a possessive pronoun to it. Learn two ways to express the verb “to have” :

To talk about family members that you have using the phrase عندي or لي, you may need to use singular, dual, or plural nouns. To formulate dual, you need to add ان or ين as a suffix to the noun. Read and practice the following sentences about family members:

Plural Dual Singular
لي / عندي 3 إخوة لي / عندي أخوان لي / عندي أخ واحد
لي / عندي 3 أخوات لي / عندي أختان لي / عندي أخت واحدة
لي / عندي 3 أعمام لي / عندي عمّان لي / عندي عم واحد
لي / عندي 3 عمّات لي / عندي عمّتان لي / عندي عمة واحدة
لي / عندي 3 أخوال لي / عندي خالان لي / عندي خال واحد
لي / عندي 3 خالات لي / عندي خالتان لي / عندي خالة واحدة
لي / عندي 3 أولاد لي / عندي ولدان لي / عندي ولد واحد
لي / عندي 3 بنات لي / عندي بنتان لي / عندي بنت واحدة

Negating nominal sentences

The particle ليس is used to negate nominal sentences and it takes different conjugations according to pronouns. Learn the forms of ليس below:

In some cases, you do not need to change the form of ليس. One example is before  عند and لـ . In this case, ليس remains the same as عند and لـ block its conjugation. Remember that ليس only negates nouns, adjectives or noun phrases while present tense verbs are negated with لا.

Test yourself 

Activity (5): Determine how to negate each of the following statements.


Activity (6): In class. With your classmates, ask and answer these questions and report your findings in complete sentences. 


with a female classmate with a male classmate
هل عائلتكِ كبيرة؟ هل عائلتكَ كبيرة؟
هل أنتِ مُتزوّجة؟ هل أنتَ مُتزوّج؟
هل أنتِ البنت الوحيدة في الأسرة؟ هل أنتَ الولد الوحيد في الأسرة؟
هل أنتِ مشغولة دائماً؟ هل أنتَ مشغول دائماً؟
هل تعملين في الليل؟ هل تعمل في الليل؟
هل تدرسين في النهار؟ هل تدرس في النهار؟

Grammar (2)

Possessive pronouns

Possessives are formed by suffixes attached to the end of nouns. When the noun ends with (taa marbuta), we open the (taa) before attaching the possessive marker. Study the following two examples:

possessive noun + pronoun possessive noun + pronoun
سيارتي سيارة + أنا كتابي كتاب + أنا
سيارتكَ سيارة + أنتِ كتابكَ كتاب + أنتَ
سيارتكِ سيارة + أنتِ كتابكِ كتاب + أنتِ
سيارته سيارة + هو كتابُه كتاب + هو
سيارتها سيارة + هي كتابُها كتاب + هي
سيارتنا سيارة + نحن كتابُنا كتاب + نحن
سيارتكم سيارة + أنتم كتابُكم كتاب + أنتم
سيارتكم سيارة + هم كتابهم كتاب + هم

Test yourself

Activity (7): Complete these self-check modules on possessive pronouns.


Grammar (3)

Plural nouns and verbs

Before we discuss plural types, we start by looking at plurals in verbs and how they are formed. Study the following chart for the verb “to study” with all pronouns.

English Arabic
I study at the university أنا أدرُس في الجامعة
you (m.) study at the university? أنتَ تدرُس في الجامعة؟
you (f.) study at the university أنتِ تدرسين في الجامعة؟
he studies at the university هو يدرس في الجامعة
she studies at the university هي تدرس في الجامعة
we study at the university نحن ندرس في الجامعة
you (pl.) study at the university? أنتم تدرسون في الجامعة؟
they study at the university هم يدرسون في الجامعة

Activity (8): Practice your verb knowledge in the following slides.


Types of plural

  1. Masculine plural: It applies to some nouns that are masculine. It does not include all masculine nouns, though. A helping tip would be that most nouns that fall in this type are adjectives or professions for humans. This plural is formed by adding: ون or ين to the noun.
  2. Feminine plural: This applies to most feminine nouns with few exceptions with some feminine nouns that do not follow the rule. This plural is formed by adding: ات to the singular noun.
  3. Broken plural: From its name, this plural is considered irregular. It is formed by breaking the stem of the word into certain patterns. So, most of these will be learned word-by-word. This category includes both masculine and feminine nouns that do not fit in the previous two types of plural. Most nouns in this category are masculine.

Learn these flash cards that include examples of each type of plural with recordings.

Test yourself

Activity (9): Fill in the blanks using the appropriate plural word in each of the following sentences.


Activity (10): Use the word bank to fill in plural words in each sentence below then record your responses. 

Non-human plural

While it is a general rule in Arabic that adjectives agree with nouns in gender and number, some exception occurs with non-human plurals. Non-human plurals take feminine singular adjectives. The following example shows how adjectives work with human vs. non-human plural nouns :

Arabic كُتُب ممتازة طالبات ممتازات طلاب ممتازون
English excellent books excellent students (f.pl) excellent students(m.pl)

Asking about quantity and number
  • To ask about the quantity and number you use the question word كم.
  • When you ask with كم you always ask using the singular word and answer using the plural.
  • After كم, the word appears with a case marking of (mansuub) as in كم درساً how many lessons, and  كم فصلاً how many classes.
  • In counting, any number more than 10 is followed by the singular noun.

Activity (14): In class. With your classmates, ask and answer questions using كم guided by the following prompts.


three brown cats

three brown dogs

illustration of five cars in street

four girls in a classroom making hand signs to the board





1 – كم قطة في الصورة؟    هناك __________________

2 – ________________   هناك __________________

3- __________________ هناك _________________

4- __________________ هناك _________________

Test yourself

Activity (15): Choose either the singular or plural.


Plural warp-up

Activity (16): Translate the following sentences into Arabic using your knowledge of vocabulary and structure. 

1. The American students study with their friends in the library.
2. My friends speak three languages
3. In my room 4 chairs and 3 tables.
4. We work at day and night and we are always busy.
5. They are married and have three beautiful girls.
6. We do not have cats or dogs in our house.
7. The houses in this area are big and new.
8. The translators work in small offices and speak Arabic and English.

Key Takeaways

  • You are now aware of all plural types in Arabic and you can use them in context.
  • You know that non-human plurals take feminine singular adjectives.
  • When asking about quantity, you ask in the singular using كم.
  • When you count in Arabic, numbers between 3-9 take the plural noun while after 10, they take the singular noun.


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Elementary Arabic II Copyright © 2021 by Ayman Mohamed and Sadam Issa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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