Dual number

We already know three forms in which a noun can appear: singular, plural and partitive plural. Quenya however still has a fourth form: the dual.
The dual number is used to denote two things naturally forming a pair, such as the two feet of one person. When using a dual form, there is no need to add a special word for “two”; a dual word like “talu” means “two feet” all by itself.
The expressions “both”, “a couple of” and “a pair of” also correspond to Quenya duals.

Forming the dual

Quenya has two dual markers: -t and –u

* Words that don’t have a “t” or “d” somewhere in them form their duals by adding “-t”
Example: aiwë (“bird”) > aiwet (“a pair of birds”)
Notice: If the word ends in a consonant, an “e” is inserted before the “t” to avoid a strange combination of consonants.
Example: macilut (“a pair of swords”)
– Nouns with a possessive ending always use the t-dual: sambelyat (“your couple of rooms”)
– Nouns that end in –u (u-stem nouns or ordinary nouns in –u, see lesson 17) always have t-duals: i cundut (“both princes”)

* Words that do have a “t”or “d” in them add “-u” instead. If the word ends in a vowel, that vowel is replaced with the “u”.
Example: Alda (tree) > Aldu (“the Two Trees of Valinor”)
Notice: Body parts form their duals with “-u”, even if the word does not contain a “t” or “d”. Example: péu (“lips”, the pair of lips of one person)
– Words with a stem form that contains a “t” or “d” also use the u-dual. Example: i cardu (“both houses”)

The dual and case endings

The u-duals very likely use the ordinary endings we know from the singular. The t-duals have endings of their own.

The genitive case
The genitive singular ending -o is added to the dual form of the noun.
car (singular) > cardu (dual) > carduo (genitive dual)
hína (singular > hínat (dual) > hínato (genitive dual)

The possessive case
It is not known what the possessive case ending for duals would be, but possible forms are ”carduva” (adding –va to a dual form in -u) and ”hínatwa” (adding –twa to a dual form in –t).

The dative case
The t-dual ending for the dative case is -nt.
Example: “i tanont” (to/for the twin smiths), cardun (“to/for both houses”)
Notice: these are the only Quenya words that end in a consonant cluster.

The allative case
The t-dual ending for the allative case is “-nta”.
Example: “i ostonta” (to the twin towns), cardunna (“to both houses”)

The ablative case
The t-dual ending for the ablative case is “-lto”.
Example: “i ostolto” (from the twin towns), cardullo (“from both houses”)

The locative case
The t-dual ending for the locative case is “-tsë”.
Example: “i ostotsë” (in the twin towns), cardussë (“in both houses”)

The instrumental case
The t-dual ending is “-nten”.
Example: “rocconten” (by a pair of horses), hendunen (“with both eyes”)

Other duals

The main dual ending of the verb is –mmë. Example: matimmë (“we both eat, we two eat”). And the corresponding possessive ending is –mma. Example: roccomma (“both our horse, the horse of us two”).

To express “you and I” (“yours and mine”) there also exist less frequently used endings –engwë and –engwa.

Quenya also has two dual personal pronouns:

  • met “both of us, we two” (exclusive, talking to a third person)
  • vet “you and I” (inclusive, talking to you)

Their cases are formed as follows: dative ment, vent; ablative melto, velto; allative menta, venta; locative metsë,  vetsë; instrumental menten, venten.

As usual we only use their nominatives when they are stressed.

Adjectives don’t have special dual forms. So, just as with the partitive plural, they take the ordinary plural form when they accompany a noun. Example: ninqui roccoryat (“both his/her white horses”).

If they are used as a noun then of course a dual form is possible. Example: ninquit (“a couple white ones, a white pair”).

Verbs also don’t have a special form when their subject is in the dual. They use the normal plural ending –r (again the same as with the partitive plural).

Quenya also has another word for “and”: yo. It is used to denote pairs that closely belong together. Example: aurë yo lómë (“day and night”).


Vocabulary list 22

hwan (hwand-) “sponge”
laupë “shirt”
carma “helmet”
cén (cem-) “soil, earth”
hlas (hlar-) “ear”
fion (fiond-) “hawk”
hyapa “shoe”
salquë “grass”
nac- “bite”
miril (mirill-) “jewel”
ríë “crown”
Anar “Sun” (never has the article “i”)
Isil “Moon” (never has the article “i”)
cal- “shine”
cala “light”
menel “sky”
poita- “cleanse”
poica “clean”
vára “dirty”