Essential Arabic Grammar – Feminine and Masculine Nouns

All nouns in Modern Standard Arabic are either masculine or feminine. As adjectives must follow the nouns they modify in terms of gender, they can be great clues in identifying gender. When there is no adjective present, it is still possible to make an educated guess about a noun’s gender. The following rules should help:

Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

زَهرَةٌ

“Flower” Zahratun

مَدينَةٌ

“City” Madeenatun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

يَدٌ

“Hand” Yadun

عَينٌ

“Eye” ‘Aynun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

والِدَةٌ

“Mother” Waalidatun

أُختٌ

“Sister” Ukhtun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

مِصرُ

“Egypt” Misru

دِمَشقُ

“Damascus” Dimashqu
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

صَديقٌ

“Male friend” Sadeequn

مَطبَخٌ

“Kitchen” Matbakhun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

شَمسٌ

“Sun” Shamsun

أَرضٌ

“Earth, Ground” ’Ardun

For nouns referring to humans, Modern Standard Arabic commonly adds /at/ ة to the masculine noun to create the feminine form:

Masculine Noun Feminine Noun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

زَوجٌ

“Husband” Zawjun

زَوجَةٌ

“Wife” Zawjatun

طالِبٌ

“Student, m.” Taalibun

طالِبَةٌ

“Student, f.” Taalibatun

 

The Definite Article in Modern Standard Arabic

A noun is made definite in Modern Standard Arabic by:

Indefinite Noun Definite Noun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

كِتابٌ

“Book” Kitaabun

الكِتابُ

“The book” Al-kitaabu

بَيتٌ

“House” Baytun

البَيتُ

“The house” Al-baytu
Indefinite Noun Definite Noun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

كِتابُطَالِبةٍ

“A student’s book, f.” Ketaabu talibatin

كِتابُ الطَالِبةِ

“The student’s book, f.” Ketaabu altalibati

كِتابٌ

“A book” Ketaabun

كِتابُ سَارةَ

“Sara’s book” Ketaabu Sarata
Indefinite Noun Definite Noun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

رَجُل

“Man”

Rajulunٌ

هذا الرَجُل

“This man” Hatha al rajulu
Indefinite Noun Definite Noun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

وَصَلَ رَجُل

“A man arrived” Wasala rajulun

الرَجُلُ الَّذي وَصَل

“The man who arrived” Al rajulu allathi wasalaَ

Sun and Moon Letters

Due to their phonetic properties, Modern Standard Arabic consonants are divided into two classes: sun letters and moon letters. When the definite article /al/ ال precedes a sun letter, the /l/ ل takes the sound of the letter. In linguistics, this phenomenon is called assimilation:

 

Indefinite Noun Definite Noun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

رِسَالَةٌ

“Letter” Risaalatun

الرِّسالَةُ

“The letter” Ar-risaalatu

شَمسٌ

“Sun” Shamsun

الدَّفتَرُ

“The sun” Ash-shamsu

دَفتَرٌ

“Notebook” Daftarun

الدَّفتَرُ

“The notebook” Ad-daftaru

طَاوِلَةٌ

“Table” Taawilatun

الطَّاوِلَةُ

“The table” At-taawilatu

There are 14 sun letters:

ص ض ط ظ ل ن ت ث د ذ ر ز س ش

In contrast, when the definite article precedes a moon letter, the /l/ ل of the definite article is not assimilated:

Indefinite Noun Definite Noun
Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation Phrase in Arabic Phrase in English Pronunciation

جَريدَةٌ

“Newspaper” Jareedatun

الجَريدَةُ

“The newspaper” Al-jareedatu

كَلِمَةٌ

“Word” Kalimatun

الكَلِمَةُ

“The word” Al-kalimatu

غُرفَةٌ

“Room” Ghurfatun

الغُرفَةُ

“The room” Al-ghurfatu

قَلَمٌ

“Pen” Qalamu

القَلَمُ

“The pen” Al-qalamu

There are 14 moon letters:

أ ب ج ح خ ع غ ف ق ك م ه و ي