The noun patterns / أَنْماط الأسْماء

Patterns of nouns in Arabic (أَنْماط الأسْماء)

There are different patterns for nouns in Arabic with the most prominent ones being:

  1. The generic noun / اِسْم الجِنْس
  2. The collective noun / اِسْم الجَمْع
  3. The noun of time and place / اسم الزمان واسم المكان
  4. The noun of instrument / اسم الآلة
  5. Diminutive / التصغير
  6. Verbal noun / المَصْدَر
    • The original maṣdar / المصدر الأصلي
    • The mīm maṣdar / المَصْدَر المِيمي
    • The parent maṣdar / اِسْم المصدر 
    • The maṣdar of industry / المَصْدَر الصِناعي
    • The noun of one time / اسم المرة
    • The noun of manner / اسم الهَيْئة

Because the verbal noun (المَصْدَر) has many patterns itself we won’t cover them in this lesson but in the following one, we’ve dedicated to it.

Generic noun / اِسْم الجِنْس

Not all nouns can be linked to an original verbal root, particularly those that we refer to as ‘generic nouns’ أَسْماء الجِنْس. Namely, these generic Arabic nouns don’t follow specific patterns and signify the presence of a current being or multiple objects having something in common and sharing similar attributes.

doorباب
woodخَشَب
hairشَعْر

Note: Biliteral roots also belong to the category.

bloodدَمْ
mouthفَه
handيَد

Collective noun / اِسْمُ الجَمْع

A collective noun اِسْمُ الجَمْعِ is a word that describes a group of individuals, objects, or creatures as one unified entity. They can be singular or plural depending on the context they are used in. Such terms are used when referring to large groups while still describing them all together. 

Types of collective nouns

Collective nouns are divided into three categories:

  • What indicates an entity endowed with reason (عاقِل), i.e. a human being, so the difference between the singular and the plural is only the letter ya’ ي
الجَمْع
Plural
المُفْرَد 
Singular
عَرَب
Arabs
عَرَبِيّ  
Arab
تُرْك
Turks
تُرْكِيّ
Turkish
جُنْد
Soldiers
جُنْدِيّ
Soldier

Note: Those nouns are often considered masculine but can also be occasionally considered feminine as well.

  • What indicates an entity not endowed with reason (جامِد), (i.e. usually animals and plants) so the difference between the singular and the plural is the feminine gender with the ta’ marbūṭa ة:
الجَمْع
Plural
المُفْرَد 
Singular
نَمْل
ants
نَمْلة  
ant
شَجَر
trees
شَجَرة
tree
بَصَل
onions
بَصَلة
onion

Note: Those nouns are often considered masculine but can also be occasionally considered feminine as well.

  • Some collective nouns also do not have a corresponding singular: 
اِسْمُ الجَمْع
Collective Noun
جَمْعُ التَكْسِير
Broken plural
المُفْرَد
Singular
إِبْل 
camels
جِمال 
camels
جَمَل 
camel
غَنَم 
sheep
…شِياه/شواه/أشاوه
ewes
شاة 
ewe
قَوْم 
people
أَقْوام 
peoples
N/A
جَيْش 
army
جُيُوش 
armies
N/A

Collective nouns number agreement 

Certain collective nouns are always treated as singular while others are always as plurals:

  • Words like قَوْم (people) are always treated as plural.
قَوْمٌ جاهِلونَ
Ignorant people (plu.)
  • Some words like شَعْب (people/nation) and أُمّة (community) are always treated as singular.
Believing community أُمّةٌ مُؤْمِنةٌ
Welcoming people شَعْبٌ راحِبٌ
  • Other words like ناس (people) or عَرَب (Arabs) are most of the times considered plural but can also be considered feminine singular.
Worried people ناسٌ قَلِقةٌ = ناسُ قَلِقُونَ
Eloquent Arabsعَرَبٌ فَصِيحةٌ = عَرَبٌ فُصَحاءٌ

Noun of time and place / اِسْمُ الزَمان وَاسْمُ المَكان

It is a noun that denotes the place or time of the action, and they have a common formula, contextual clues help us distinguish between the two values.  They have 3 distinct patterns:

الأَمْثِلة
Examples
الوَزْن
Pattern
وَزْن الفعل
Verbal form





مَقام
entrance





مَصْنَع
factory





مَفْعَل
(plural مَفاعِل)
الثُلاثي المُجَرَّد

– Regular simple triliteral root (form I)
 
– hollow verbs with alif (ا) in past tense and wāw (و) in the present (imperfect) tense

– Defective roots (ناقِص) or enfolding roots (لَفيف)

مَدْرَسة
school

مَكْتَبة
library

مَفْعَلة
(only for nouns of places)
الثُلاثي المُجَرَّد

– simple triliteral root (form I)





مَوْعِد
appointment





مَنْزِل
house





مَفْعِل 
(plural مَفاعِل)
الثُلاثي المُجَرَّد

– simple assimilated triliteral root (form I) starting with واو

– verbs with a kasra in imperfect tense (يَفْعِلُ)
مُفْتَرَق
intersection
مُسْتَشْفى
hospital
وَزْن اسم المفعول
Passive participle pattern
الثُلاثي المُجَرَّد

– augmented triliteral roots

Note: Few verbs with simple assimilated triliteral root (form I) starting with واو can adopt the pattern مِفْعال like وَعَدَ and وَلَدَ

مِيعاد
Fixed moment
مِيلاد
Time of birth

Noun of instrument / اسم الآلة

The “noun of instrument” (اسم الآلة) defines the instrument or tool used to achieve a specific action.

الأَمْثِلة
Examples
الوَزْن
Pattern
مِقَصّ
scissors
مِقْوَد
steering wheel
مِصْعَد
elevator
مِفْعَل
مِنْشار
saw
مِيزان
balance
مِفْتاح
key
مِفْعال
مِلْعَقة
spoon
مِطْرَقة
hammer
مِكْنَسة
broom
مِفْعَلة
رَشّاشة
Machine gun
سَمّاعة
earphones
ثَلّاجة
fridge
فَعّالة

Diminutive / التصغير

Although far less common nowadays, diminutives still exist in modern Arabic. Diminutives are typically limited to certain nouns and adjectives. They are used to suggest a sense of smallness and can be seen as either positive or negative depending on the context. When employed with an affectionate undertone, they indicate flirtation, coquetry, or endearment; conversely, if utilized negatively then contempt and belittlement may ensue. 

الأَمْثِلة
Examples
الوَزْن
Pattern
وَزْن الاسم
Verbal form
قَبْل ← قُبَيْل
little before ← before
بَحْر ← بُحَيْرة
lake ← sea
فُعَيْل

الثُلاثي 
3 letters noun
كِتاب ← كُتَيِّب
booklet ← book
بِنْت ← بُنَيّة
little girl ← girl
فُعَيِّل
فارِق ← فُوَيْرِق
small diff. ← difference
مَنْزِل ← مُنَيْزِل
small house ← house
فُعَيْعِلالرُباعي
4 letters noun
قِنْدِيل ← قُنَيْدِيل
little jelly fish ← jelly fish
مِفْتاح ← مُفَيْتِيح
little key ← key
فُعَيْعِيلالخُماسي
5 letters noun
The noun patterns

Learn about the different noun patterns in Arabic grammar and how they are used to form and modify nouns. Improve your language skills and comprehension with this comprehensive guide.

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