Persian Lesson 20 – How to Make Plural Nouns

Salam! Khosh amadid!

Before we start today, let me answer to some of your questions first.

1- Which Farsi / Persian are you teaching?

Well, I am teaching Persian/Farsi that is currently spoken in Iran! We may divide Persian/Farsi into Old and Modern Persian. Old Persian is no longer used among the common people in their daily conversations. We can also mention pre-Islam and post-Islam Persian in this category. The pre-Islam Persian was Persian originated, Persian based, and Persian oriented language. Lots of words in that era are considered obsolete in nowadays, as they are no longer used. Even lots of people who graduate from the universities are not able to understand the main part of that language. To understand that language clearly, you need to pass at least a two-year-term related to that particular subject in universities.

After the Arab invaded Iran, lots of things changed. Among them was the language. They imported lots of Arab-based words and structures into Persian language. This lingual invasion was improved by almost all scholars and literary leaders who wrote wonderful masterpieces during this period. From among them is Hafez who knew Quran by heart. Saadi, Rumi and many others are just few examples. Their languages, although closer to our Modern Persian, are difficult to understand as well.

Now, we have our Modern Persian, which is mixed with Arabic, French, English, even Turkish, and some others! It seems impossible to purify a language from imported foreign words at this period. Lots of things are changed. The communication is spreading all over the world. New technologies, new ways of communication, new social and political systems, and new affections towards foreign words, and lots of other things affect the structure of almost every language. We are approaching our world village utopia! Iran can not be an exception! The different kinds of social and political movements support their own way of importing or imposing foreign words such as Arabic, English, French, on Persian. Although a couple of great linguists have been trying hard to Persionize all importing words, little progress has been achieved by now. It has many reasons. One of the most important one, I think, is that they do not install a valid filter around the borders to Persionize the words that are coming into the country. They let people use the same foreign words for a long time and then ask some experts to look for the Persian equivalents for those words, whose main efforts turn into daily jokes among people! There are lots of other reasons which I can not explain due to lack of knowledge, etc.

For more technical explanation about Farsi language, you may read the article called ‘Pahlavi/ Farsi/ Dari’ on ‘Afghanistan Online’ website, which is available on ‘Links’ page.

2- Why do you write /khæva:ndæn/ and pronounce it as /kha:ndæn/? Why don’t you write /kha:ndæn/ instead?

I am not a linguist or a philologist to explain it technically. Philologically/linguistically speaking, words come from certain roots. As time changes, people might change the structure of the words or the way they are used. These changes might happen in either oral or written form, or both. Sometimes, words are changed in oral conversations, but not in writing. That is to say, the pronunciation of a word is changed but its spelling has remained unchanged. A good example here is the word /kha:ndæn/. This word had a slightly different pronunciation in the past. People have changed its pronunciation to make it easier to pronounce, but they haven’t changed its spelling. It has its own reasons. Sometimes, if we change the spelling of a word, we might get a different word which is already exist with a different meaning. And sometimes, this change will create a new word that can not be included or harmonized in the main body of that language. The pronunciation of the old version of /kha:ndæn/ was something like this.

Khandan

It seems a little difficult to pronounce, isn’t it?

Another example is the word ‘sister’, which is written in this way: /kha:hær/. This one has the same explanation as the previous one. The way it was pronounced in the past was something like this.

Khahar

I think you agree with me that the old pronunciations of such words are acceptably difficult!

As far as I remember now, the combination of /va:v/ and /khe/ gives us such a different pronunciation in many words (if not all), not other letters.

3- How do we recognize different /h/ sounds or /z/ sounds in different words? For example, why do we say /bæd æz zohr/ (afternoon) and not / bæd æz zohr/? Or why do we say /hæm.ma:l/ (Porter: A person employed to carry travelers’ bags, luggage, especially at railway stations, airports, etc.), and not /hæm.ma:l/?

I think I just explained it. Some words come from different roots, which refer to that particular action. We cannot write /zohr/ for /zohr/. If we do, we have written a different word with a different pronunciation and meaning. It will be pronounced as /zæhr/ which means ‘poison’.

/hæm.ma:l/ has the same problem. It comes from /hæml/, which means ‘carrying something from one place to another’. We cannot write it like this /hæml/ or /hæm.ma:l/, which do not exist in Persian.

After all, don’t call somebody /hæm.ma:l/ , or he will get really angry with you!! (Even if you are calling a real porter). This is a ‘Taboo!’ word, which is almost removed from normal daily conversations. But, it’s ok if your father gets angry with you and calls you /hæm.ma:l/!! Don’t take it serious!

/sobh/ has the same story. This /sobh/ or this one /sobh/ do not exist in Persian. So, if we simply see /sobh/ with this spelling, we will normally discard the other options.

Let’s look at some English words. Why ‘Telephone’ and not ‘Telefone’? Why ‘Cinema’ and not ‘Sinema’? Why ‘Cat’ and not ‘Kat’? Why ‘Xerox’ and not ‘Zerox’? Why ‘Quantity’ and not ‘Kuantity’? Why ‘Brick’ and not ‘Brik’?, and lots of others.

Sometimes we know the root of the word, and sometimes we have to just memorize it.

All right. I hope the explanations are convincing!

Now let’s go back to our today’s lesson.

Do you know how to say the following words in Persian? Give them a try again.

  • Book
  • Car
  • Table
  • House
  • Television
  • Week
  • Night

Did you do it?

Yes? Great!

No? Try the previous lessons once more!

Now, we want to see how we can say ‘books’ in Persian. Correct! We are going to make plural nouns today.

In making plural nouns, we should add something (maybe we can call it suffix) to the end of each noun. I believe it will become a little confusing if we make a rule for each specific option. Therefore, we will try to learn them one by one.

Look at this: it is /ha:/. If we put /ha:/ at the end of the nouns, we will have plural nouns. This is one of them.

Sometimes, we add /a:n/ to a noun to make it plural.

Sometimes, we add /a:t/ to the end of a noun to make it plural.

And finally, sometimes, we change the appearance of a noun to make it plural!

Frightened?!

You don’t need to learn them all at this stage, it’s just for your information. As I told you, we are not going to learn them through different rules, as these rules will bring some new problems to us by themselves. We will have to know the rules, the words which can be included in each rule and so on and so on. I don’t like it! You too!

Instead, if we practice a bit, we will be able to find the exact suffix for each noun to make it plural.

So, what we are going to do is this: I give you a noun and tell you how to make it plural. Then it will be your turn to try. It’s that easy!

Ready?

/keta:b/ + /ha:/ = /keta:b ha:/.

Ketabha

/ma:shin/ + /ha:/ = /ma:shin ha:/.

Mashinha

Is it easy? Good!

Now you try! Change the following nouns into plural form (currently use /ha:/ only).

  • Table
  • House
  • Television
  • Week
  • Night

Hopefully you have no problems.

Now look at this:

I bought two books.

How do you say this one? I am sure that you don’t know!

You already know the numbers, don’t you? The numbers will solve our problems.

Try this simple rule first:

Whenever we want to add numbers to a plural noun ( like: two books), we should delete the plural suffix (here /ha:/) and put the number before the noun.

Example:

/Keta:b/ + /ha:/ = /keta:b ha:/. Delete /ha:/, and put /do/ in the beginning. You will say: /do keta:b/.

Or this one: Two cars.

/ma:shin/ + /ha:/ = /ma:shin ha:/. Delete /ha:/, and put /do/ before /ma:shin/. You will say: /do ma:shin/.

Clear? Wonderful!

You see how easy it is! No matter what the number is, from two to two billions!, just delete the suffix and put the number at the beginning of the noun.

I hope it is easy to follow.

There is one more thing I have to tell you now.

You already know how to say ‘my book’. Remember? Good! Now, how do you say ‘my books’?

Here, you have two choices, both of which are accepted.

1- Choice 1: You may put the same letters (/æm, æt, æsh, ma:n, ta:n, sha:n/, (which you already know), directly after the plural nouns. This rule is mostly used in daily conversations. Example:

My book = /keta:bæm/.

My books = /keta:b ha:m/.

Ketabham

My car = /ma:shinæm/. My cars = /ma:shin ha:m/.

Mashinham

Our car = /ma:shinema:n/. Our cars = /ma:shin ha:ma:n/.

Mashinhaman

In this rule, there is only one exception. And this exception refers to ‘singular you’. Look at this example:

Your car = /ma:shinæt/. Your cars = /ma:shin ha:t/.

Mashinhat

As you see, we change /æt/ in to /t/. No problems? Good!

2- Choice 2: You may change the same letters /æm, æt, æsh, ma:n, ta:n, sha:n/ into what you see below.

/yæm, yæd, yæsh, yema:n, yeta:n, yesha:n/. Don’t be afraid! It’s really easy. Look at the examples below:

My books = /keta:b ha: yæm/.

Ketabhayam

Your books = /keta:b ha: yæt/.

Ketabhayat

His/ her/books = /keta:b ha: yæsh/.

Ketabhayash

Our books = /keta:b ha: yema:n/.

Ketabhayeman

Your books = /keta:b ha: yeta:n/.

Ketabhayetan

Their books = /keta:b ha: yesha:n/.

Ketabhayeshan

Is it really difficult? Now you try these two choices with the following nouns:

  • Table
  • House
  • Television
  • Week
  • Night

OK! That’s it for today. I just foamed at the mouth!!

Please go to Useful drills page to do your own share.

Let’s write page is waiting for you if you want to see the main stress of the new words.

See you next week!

Lesson 20