Why are some feminine words conjugated as masculine?

As I was teaching we came across this sentence which bothered many students:

ذُكِرَ فِيْهِ آيَاتٌ كَثِيْرَةُ – Many verses [of the Quran] were mentioned within it (a book we were reading).


Let’s first breakdown the grammar of this sentence.

ذُكِرَ – a passive verb (مبني للمجهول) conjugated for singular masculine

فِيْهِ – a conjunction with a حرف الجر و اسم مجرور

آيَاتٌ – this is the passive doer (نائب الفاعل) for the verb ذُكِرَ

كَثِيْرَةُ – this is the adjective (صفة) for آيَاتٌ

There are two main issues they had:

  1. Why is the verb singular when the doer is plural?
    Anytime there is a non-human plural (i.e. books, tables, trees, etc.) we treat it as singular feminine.If the verb comes with a clear doer after it then it will either be masculine or feminine singular depending on the gender b/c of two rules

    • The doer must come after the verb
    • There can only be one doer per verb
      • How do we say the students went?
        They went = ذَهَبُوْا
        Students = الطلاب
        So the answer should be ذَهَبُوْا الطُلَّاب
        The issue with this is that we have two doers (The first is the و in ذهبوا and the second is الطلاب)
        In order to avoid this issue we conjugate the verb as singular and drop the وا
  2. ذُكِرَ is singular, but why isn’t it feminine! Isn’t آيَاتٌ feminine because it ends with ات?
    There are two types of feminine words in Arabic:

    • مؤنث حقيقية – Real feminine, anything that gives birth or lays an egg
      They must be conugated as feminine
    • مؤنث مجازية – Metaphorical feminine, anything that does not give birth or lays an egg
      They can be conjugated as feminine or masculineSo when we look at the word آيَاتٌ, it is clearly something that does not give birth or lays an egg, for that reason we can conjugate it as either.

I hope this helps inshAllah.


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