Persian Grammar
Learn About Persian Language

In Middle Persian and early New Persian, nouns were pluralized with the suffix -ân. However, it has now given its place to the suffix -hâ. Due to its historical role, -ân has introduced special cases that will be discussed in this article.

Animate Plural Form

The plural suffix -ân can be used to designate human beings and create a distinction between being animate or inanimate. Compare these plural pairs:

SingularInanimate PluralAnimate Plural
سر
sar
head
سرها
sarhâ
heads (part of body)
سران
sarân
heads (chiefs, leaders)
گذشته
gozashte
past
گذشته‌ها
gozashtehâ
times past
گذشتگان
gozashtegân
people of the past
بسته
baste
closed; package, parcel
بسته‌ها
bastehâ
packages, parcels
بستگان
bastegân
close relatives

Consonant Change

As mentioned in the introductory article about plural suffixes, the suffix -ân changes to -gân after the vowel e and to -yân after other vowels. In Persian, when a word ends in a vowel and it receives a suffix that begins with a vowel, always a consonant sits between them. This consonant is technically called واج میانجی (intermediary phoneme). It is often the consonant -y-:

SingularPlural
دانا
dânâ
wise
دانایان
dânâ-y-ân
the wise
ایران
Irâni
Iranian
ایرانیان
Irâni-y-ân
Iranians
دانشجو
dâneshju
student
دانشجویان
dâneshju-y-ân
students

In transition from Middle Persian to New Persian, words that ended in -ag, lost their final -g. The plural form of these nouns ends in -agân and since -g is not at word final, it has been preserved in New Persian:

Middle PersianNew PersianMeaning
sitâragsitârastar
sitâragânsitâragânstars

Therefore, the consonant -g- is not an intermediary phoneme. It belongs to the older form of the word.

New Persian has further evolved during its long history. In modern dialect of Iran, final -a has become short -e. In addition, short i has become short e (see this page for vowel changes in New Persian).

ستاره - ستارگان
Middle
Persian
Classic
New Persian
Modern
New Persian
Meaning
sitâragsitârasetârestar
sitâragânsitâragânsetâregânstars