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Nahw – Let us count in Arabic – and get a headache!

August 5, 2007

Remember your kindergarten class and learning to count: One, Two, Three. Easy, wasn’t it? Not the case in Arabic counting system 🙂 . Before I even try to begin explaining the numbers and counting system in Arabic I would like to come up with a short disclaimer: if you get a headache after reading this post please do not leave inflammatory messages on my blog. I am but a poor student trying to learn counting in Arabic 🙂 .

Well, jokes aside, the Numbers in Arabic systems have complex rules regarding their usage and can be learned only if one memorizes these rules. Most of the stuff for this post will come from Alan Jones’ book Arabic Through the Quran with notes from the Toronto Shariah Program class, of course. I will try to make it as easy as possible, Insha Allah, to learn the numbering system in the Arabic Language.

In English we say I saw three boys or I saw three girls. Notice how three remains the same in both the structures. In Arabic, however, the gender is also associated with numbers (with some exceptions), thus we say ﺛﹷﻼﹶﺛﺔﹸ ﺃﻳﳲﺎﻡﹴ (Three days) and ﺗﹻﺴﹿﻊﹸ ﺁﻳﹷﺎﺕﹴ (Seven verses) where we use the masculine form of the number in the first example and the feminine in the second. To make things more complicated, we also have to consider which grammatical state each part of the number goes in.

Let us try to make some sense out of this. We start our discussion by listing the counting in Arabic.

Number with Masculine Noun with Feminine Noun
One ﺃﺣﹷﺪﹲ ﺇﹺﺣﺪﹶﻯ
Two ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﺎﻥﹺ ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﺘﺎﻥﹺ
Three ﺛﹷﻼﺛﹷﺔﹲ ﺛﹷﻼﹶﺙﹲ
Four ﺃﹶﺭﹾﺑﹷﻌﹷﺔﹲ ﺃﹶﺭﹾﺑﹷﻊﹲ
Five ﺧﹷﻤﹿﺴﹷﺔﹲ ﺧﹷﻤﹿﺲﹲ
Six ﺳﹻﺘﳲﺔﹲ ﺳﹻﺖﱞ
Seven ﺳﹷﺒﹿﻌﹷﺔﹲ ﺳﹷﺒﹿﻊﹲ
Eight ﺛﹷﻤﹷﺎﻧﹻﻴﹷﺔﹲ ﺛﹷﻤﹷﺎﻥﹴ
Nine ﺗﹻﺴﹿﻌﹷﺔﹲ ﺗﹻﺴﹿﻊﹲ
Ten ﻋﹷﺸﹷﺮﹶﺓﹲ ﻋﹷﺸﹿﺮﹲ
Eleven ﺃﺣﹷﺪﹶ ﻋﹷﺸﹷﺮﹶ ﺇﹺﺣﺪﹶﻯ ﻋﹷﺸﹿﺮﹶﺓﹶ
Twelve ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﺎ ﻋﹷﺸﹷﺮﹶ ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﺘﺎ ﻋﹷﺸﹿﺮﹶﺓﹶ
Thirteen ﺛﹷﻼﺛﹷﺔﹶ ﻋﹷﺸﹷﺮﹶ ﺛﹷﻼﹶﺙﹶ ﻋﹷﺸﹿﺮﹶﺓﹶ

Since 1 and 2 are straightforward to handle we start at number 3 and divide the numbers in ranges for easier handling

3-10 : From 3 until 10 the gender of the number will be opposite to what is being counted (i.e. the noun). Also, the noun being counted will be in the state of ﺟﺮ. Examples: ﺳﹷﺒﹿﻊﹸ ﺳﹷﻤٰﻮﺍﺕﹴ (seven heavens) or ﺃﺭﺑﹷﻌﹷﺔﹸ ﺷﹹﻬﹷﺪﹶﺃﹶ (four witnesses)

11 : The noun and number will both match in gender and are ﻣﹷﺒﹿﻨﻲ on ﻓﹷﺘﹿﺤﺔ. For example: ﺇﹺﺣﺪﹶﻯ ﻋﹷﺸﹿﺮﹶﺓﹶ ﻣﹷﺪﹺﻳﻨﹷﺔﹰ(eleven cities) or ﺃﺣﹷﺪﹶ ﻋﹷﺸﹷﺮﹶ ﻛﹷﻮﹾﻛﹷﺒﹷﺎﹰ(eleven stars)

12 : For 12 the unit part is ﻣﹹﻌﹿﺮﹶﺏ but the ten is not ; it is ﻣﹷﺒﹿﻨﻲ on ﻓﹷﺘﹿﺤﺔ and both numerals agree in gender with the noun, thus:ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﺎ ﻋﹷﺸﹷﺮﹶ ﺷﹷﻬﹿﺮﺍﹰ (twelve months) or ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﺘﺎ ﻋﹷﺸﹿﺮﹶﺓﹶ ﻋﹷﻴﹿﻨﺎﹰ (twelve springs) and ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﻲﹾ ﻋﹷﺸﹷﺮﹶ ﻧﹷﻘﹻﻴﺒﴼ (twelve chiefs) and ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﺘﻲﹾ ﻋﹷﺸﹿﺮﹶﺓﹶ ﻣﹷﺪﹺﻳﻨﹷﺔﹰ (twelve cities). Note that the ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﺎ / ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﺘﺎ form is the ﺭﻓﻊ form whereas the ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﻲﹾ / ﺍﹺﺛﹿﻨﹷﺘﻲﹾ form is the ﻧﺼﺐ / ﺟﺮ form. These 4 forms occur only for the number 12.

13-19 : For this range the unit part goes into the opposite gender to that of the noun whereas the ten part matches it. Both the parts are ﻣﹷﺒﹿﻨﻲ on ﻓﹷﺘﹿﺤﺔ . For Example: ﺛﹷﻼﺛﹷﺔﹶ ﻋﹷﺸﹷﺮﹶ ﺭﹶﺟﹹﻞﹰ (thirteen men) or ﺛﹷﻼﹶﺙﹶ ﻋﹷﺸﹿﺮﹶﺓﹶ ﺇﹺﻣﹿﺮﹶﺍﺓﹰ (thirteen women)

Note the use of ﻋﹷﺸﹷﺮﹶ for masculine and ﻋﹷﺸﹿﺮﹶﺓﹶ for feminine nouns.

20-90 : These do not have a gender attached to them and follow the إعراب rule for the Sound Masculine Plural. For example: ﺛﹷﻤﹷﺎﻧﹻﻴﻦﹶ ﺟﹷﻠﹿﺪﹶﺓﹰ (eighty lashes) or ﺍﹶﺭﹾﺑﹷﻌﹻﻴﻦﹶ ﺳﹷﻨﹷﺔﹰ (forty years) or ﺛﹷﻠٰﺜﹹﻮﻥﹶ ﺷﹷﻬﹿﺮﹰﺍ (thirty months)

100, 200 / 1000, 2000 etc: The noun in this case is singular ﻣﹷﺠﹿﺮﹸﻭﺭ and there is no gender associated with the noun. For example: ﻣﹻﺎﺋﹷﺔﹸ ﻋﹷﺎﻡﹴ (one hundred years) or ﺃﹶﻟﹿﻒﹸ ﺳﹷﻨﹷﺔﹴ (one thousand years).

I hope this introduction to Arabic numbers will make it easier for beginners to learn this complex topic, Insha Allah. So read this post and let me know your feedback!

  1. get a headache? lol..!

  2. Tom permalink

    Randomly, it’s quite funny that the Arabic Through the Quran book is written by someone called Alan Jones, since there’s an Australian radio broadcaster of the same name who is infamous for making vilifying comments about middle-easterners on his show, which incited some riots against them!

    I suppose it’s a common name though…

  3. Aishah permalink

    SubahanAllah, you’ve explained this pretty well and i finally got a clearer picture .. jazakallahu khair..

  4. Aishah,
    I am glad that you found this material useful. Hopefully others will also make use of this effort and improve upon it.

    Jazak Allah!

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