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Arabic plural of month: أَشْهُر or شُهُور – which is correct?

Arabic knows two plural forms depending on the number of things: plural for small numbers (jama al-qilla) and big numbers (jama al-kathra).

Last updated: February 20, 2022

They are both plural-forms of the noun شَهْر which means month.

The original meaning of the word is: the new moon, when it appears. In Arabic, some words have more than one plural, and so doesشَهْر. So, how do we know which form is appropriate?

Well, it depends on the number it is referring to. In our case: on the amount of months.

Two rules for Arabic plurals

  1. Normally, the form فُعُول is used for big numbers and is called جَمْع الْكَثْرة (major plural)
  2. The form أَفْعُل is used for small numbers (3 to 10) and is called جَمْع الْقِلّة (minor plural)

Some examples

translationplural big numbersplural small numberssingular
faceوُجُوهأَوْجُهوِجْه
monthشُهُورأَشْهُرشَهْر
lineسُطُورأَسْطُرسَطْر
starنُجُومأَنْجُمنِجْم

Let us check other examples:

several months عِدّة الشُّهُور   four months أَرْبَعة أَشْهُر

NOTICE that there are several patterns for the جَمْع الْقِلّة (for things that are between 3 and 10 in number). You will find them in the book Arabic for Nerds 1.

Arabic broken plurals – despite their bad reputation – are actually not difficult. It is possible to put all major forms and rules on a single poster!

You can quickly check singular and plural forms and learn about the most important features of each pattern. For each pattern, there is an example. Every word is fully vowelled.

Get this great study tool today!

If you think Arabic grammar is boring, check out these articles:

picture credit: pixabay (question-mark-1872665_1280)

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