In Persian, grammatical number is divided into singular form and plural form. The singular form indicates one person or thing. The plural form indicates that there is more than one of that noun. There are languages that have a distinct form, called dual, for referring to two persons or things. For example, Arabic has singular (one), dual (two) and plural (more than two) forms. The formation of plural in Persian, can be divided into three categories:

Plural Suffix -hâ

Nouns are normally pluralized with the suffix -hâ:

Singular Plural
پسر
pesar
boy; son
پسرها
pesarhâ
boys; sons
دختر
dokhtar
girl; daughter
دخترها
dokhtarhâ
girls; daughters
درخت
derakht
tree
درختها
derakhthâ
trees
کتاب
ketâb
book
کتابها
ketâbhâ
books
سیب
sib
apple
سیبها
sibhâ
apples

Plural Suffix -ân

Historically, nouns were pluralized with the suffix “-ân”. In Modern Persian, this plural suffix is mainly used for animate nouns.

Singular Plural
مرد
mard
man
مردان
mardân
men
زن
zan
woman
زنان
zanân
women
پسر
pesar
boy; son
پسران
pesarân
boys; sons
دختر
dokhtar
girl; daughter
دختران
dokhtarân
girls; daughters
درخت
derakht
tree
درختان
derakhtân
trees

The plural Suffix “-ân” is also seen in certain inanimate plurals. This reflects its historical role as a general plural suffix:

Singular Plural
سخن
sokhan
speech, remark
سخنان
sokhanân
speeches, remarks

Epenthesis in Plural Suffix “-ân”

Since the plural suffix “-ân” begins with a vowel sound, there are cases of vowel hiatus and epenthesis when it is added to nouns that end in a vowel sound.

Nouns Ending in -â, -i or -u

When a singular noun ends in the vowels “â”, “i” or “u”, the epenthetic consonant “-y” is added between the singular noun and the plural suffix “-ân”:

Singular Plural
دانا
dânâ
wise
دانایان
dânâyân
the wise
ایرانی
Irâni
Iranian
ایرانیان
Irâniyân
Iranians
دانشجو
dâneshju
student
دانشجویان
dâneshjuyân
students

In a few nouns that end in the vowel “u”, the epenthetic consonant “-v” is added before the plural suffix. Additionally, the “u” changes to “o”, which reflects the older form of the noun:

Singular Plural
بازو
bâzu
arm
بازوان
bâzovân
arms
گیسو
gisu
plait, braid
گیسوان
gisovân
plaits, braids

In a few nouns that end in the vowel “â”, the consonant “k” appears between “â” and the plural suffix. This consonant is not an epenthetic consonant. It belongs to the older form of the noun:

Singular Plural
نیا
niyâ
ancestor
نیاکان
niyâkân
ancestors

Nouns Ending in -ow

When a singular noun ends in the diphthong “ow”, it changes to “av” in the plural form. This is related to the older form of the noun preserved in the plural. The cluster /av/ occurring at word final became the diphthong /aw/ in early New Persian. The diphthong /aw/ has further become /ow/ in Modern Persian. The cluster /av/ in “khosravân” has not transformed because it is not at word final.

Singular Plural
خسرو
khosrow
king
خسروان
khosravân
kings

There is a tendency to pronounce such plurals as -ovân instead of -avân. However, strictly speaking, it is a case of mispronunciation.

Singular Plural
پیرو
peyrow
disciple, follower
پیروان
peyrovân / peyravân
disciples, followers

Nouns Ending in -e

When a singular noun ends in the vowel “e”, the consonant “g” appears before the plural suffix. In many grammar references, this “g” is considered as an epenthetic consonant but this is not the case. The consonant “g” belongs to the older form of the word. The cluster /ag/ occurring at word final became /a/ in early New Persian. The final /a/ has further become /e/ in Modern Persian. Therefore, the singular form of these nouns ends in /e/ but the plural form has preserved the “g” of Middle Persian.

Singular Plural
ستاره
setâre
star
ستارگان
setâregân
stars

The following table shows historical forms of Persian words for “star” and “stars”. The letter “ĭ” denotes short “i”. It has transformed to “e” in Modern Persian.

Middle Persian Classic
New Persian
Modern
New Persian
Singular ستارگ
sĭtârag
ستاره
sĭtâra
ستاره
setâre
Plural ستارگان
sĭtâragân
ستارگان
sĭtâragân
ستارگان
setâregân

As mentioned in the article about Persian’s writing systems, an abjad writing system suits Persian well. Since vowels are not recorded, ستارگان can represent both Middle Persian “sĭtâragân” and Modern Persian “setâregân”.

Arabic Plurals

Many Arabic loanwords brought their plural form into written Persian as well. Nevertheless, the suffix “-hâ” can be used to pluralize every noun. For example, کتاب (ketâb) is an Arabic loanword. Its plural form is کتب (kotob) in Arabic, which is sometimes used in written Persian too. However, کتاب (ketâb) is normally pluralized as کتابها (ketâbhâ). This is comparable, to some extent, to Latin plurals found in English. The plural form of “forum” is “fora” but its usage is decreasing and it is often pluralized as “forums”.

It must be emphasized that Arabic plurals are not used in spoken Persian and can be entirely avoided in written Persian too. The plural suffix -hâ can be used for every noun. Even in written Persian, the use of Arabic plurals has greatly decreased. Arabic plurals that have found an extended meaning are an exception to this general rule. For example, انتخابات means “elections” whereas its singular form انتخاب means “choice” and انتخابها means “choices” rather than “elections”. Another example is شرایط which means “conditions” and its singular form شریطه is not used in Persian.

Arabic Duals

A few Arabic dual forms exist in written Persian, particularly in legal language. The dual suffix is not productive and dual forms can be alternatively expressed with the Persian number دو (“do”, two).

Singular Dual Alternative Forms
طرف
taraf
side
طرفین
tarafeyn
both sides
دو طرف
do taraf
هر دو طرف
har do taraf
زوج
zowj
husband (legal term)
زوجین
zowjeyn
husband and wife
دو زوج
do zowj
هر دو زوج
har do zowj