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Hebrew - Suffixes - plural forms


The dual form is used in the following situations:

The ending is -ayîm, eg

ragh'layîm (two feet)
delâthayîm (a double door)
mel'qâchayîm (a pair of tongs)
shenayîm (two)
shibhe‘âthayîm (sevenfold)


As a rule, -îym denotes a masculine plural, and -ôwth a feminine one, eg

nâbhîy’ (prophet) ... nebhîy’îym (prophets)
nebhîy’âh (prophetess) ... nebhîy’ôth (prophetesses)

but there are a considerable number of irregular words showing a different pattern, eg

’âbhôwth (fathers - masc. word with fem. plural ending)
’ishshâh (woman) ... nâshîym (women - fem. word with plural masc. ending)
’îysh (man) ... ’anâshîym (men - masc. word with fem. plural ending)
qôwl (voice) ... qôwlôwth (voices)
shêm (name) ... shêmôwth (names)

Most words for close family relationships are irregular in one way or another, eg

’âch (brother) ... ’achîym (brothers)
bên (son) ... bânîym (sons)
bath (daughter) ... bânôth (daughters)

Note in all cases that the ending does not determine the gender of the word, nor the ending of any associated adjective, so for example ’âbhôwth would require a masculine plural adjective form.

Bisyllabic words show a predictable sequence of vowel changes when made plural. The stages of this process are:

  1. The accent shifts to the newly created syllable:

    dâbâr -> dâbârîym
    nephesh -> nepheshôth
    ’erets -> ’eretsôth

  2. The open syllable at the start is now two syllables from the tone and must be reduced to a half-vowel. For gutturals this means a, for most letters simple sheva:

    dâbârîym -> debârîym
    nepheshôth -> nepheshôth
    ’eretsôth -> ’aretsôth

  3. The syllable before the tone syllable is now open and unaccented, and hence needs a long vowel. If already long, there is no change, but if short (either e or a) then it is lengthened to â:

    debârîym remains the same
    nepheshôth -> nephâshôth
    aretsôth -> ’arâtsôth

An analogous process occurs with bisyllabic adjectives.
Language formalities