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What is the correct form of “My Mustafas” in Arabic?

The plural of Mustafa in Arabic is difficult – because there is a weak letter involved. How do you form masculine human plurals with a possessive pronoun?

LAST UPDATED: 5 months ago

I admit that you usually won't use this expression (“My Mustafas”), but nevertheless, the construction is pretty challenging.

Please answer the following question and choose an answer.

  • مُصْطَفُي (Mustafuy)
  • مُصْطَفَيَّ (Mustafayya)
  • مُصْطَفُوني (Mustafuuny)
  • مُصْطَفَوْيّ (Mustafawiy)

We will analyze it step by step.

Background: sound masculine plural

Mustafa (مُصْطَفَى), since we are talking about a human being, forms a sound (جَمْعُ الْمُذَكَّرِ السّالِمُ).

Such plurals have the suffix ونَ attached to them in order to indicate the plural in the nomi­native case. In the genitive and accusative case the ending is ينَ

Note that the final ن is not the marker of the case and does not have any significance in our grammatical analysis. The cases are marked by the و and the ي.

How do we deal with a sound masculine plural when it is the first part of a followed by my (ي) as the second part?

  1. We drop the ن (we always do that in a إِضافة) – example I.
  2. We have to harmonize it with the ي‎ – example II.

For example, مُوَظَّفُونَ is the plural of employee.

I: The employees of the company مُوَظَّفُو الشَّرِكةِ
II: My employees.

Note: Example II is pronounced “muwaththafiyya”. The word looks the same in all three cases.

Now let's return to our example.

مُصْطَفَى is grammatically speak­ing one of the harder ones because it has a at the end. When forming the plural, the weak letter drops, so we get مُصْطَفَونَ (instead of مُصْطَفَيُونَ) and مُصْطَفَيْنَ (instead of مُصْطَفَيِيْنَ).

Now let's continue and add my. I use the word in the nominative case (مَرْفُوعٌ). However, the result would be the same if we took the genitive or accusative form.

Step 1:

We add my to the sound masculine plural: مُصْطَفَونَ+يْ

Step 2:

The ن drops, the ي will get a fixed, ce­mented shape (يَ) because the preceding letter (و) can't take the necessarily needed كَسْرة; so the و will turn into a ي and both ي will merge.

Step 3:

The final result is: مُصْطَفَيَّ, pronounced “Mustafayya”. This form is the same in any case (nominative, genitive, accusative).

Watch out: This leaves us with a question: Why don't we have a كَسْرة under the last root letter? Now, we have a فَتْحة on the letter ف. Why is that?

Well, the فَتْحة re­mains be­cause it points to the existence of an (the ى) which became deleted when forming the plural.

Remark: In the book Arabic for Nerds 2, I deal with stuff like that extensively.

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Remark: Image by GraphicMama-team from Pixabay 

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