Rule in arabic

Rule in arabic DEFAULT

Translation of rule – English–Arabic dictionary

Thinking about language has become symbolic, with clear and non-ambiguous symbols highly suitable for producing symbolic and rule-like reasoning.

From the Cambridge English Corpus

The rules that were removed, were simply those with the smallest probability (irrespective of the nonterminals they contained).

From the Cambridge English Corpus

The advice is a genuine rule for the players who give it extra weight, but not for the ones who do not.

From the Cambridge English Corpus

We developed a diagnostic decision rule for the indication of a lumbar puncture and empirical treatment for bacterial meningitis (9;10).

From the Cambridge English Corpus

When a rule is universally applied, the differentiation of the characteristics is purely through the curve modification rules.

From the Cambridge English Corpus

We apply a reduction rule by using a maximal reduction context for the term that should be reduced.

From the Cambridge English Corpus

In particular, we will consider rewrite rules whose 'algebraicability' is independent from systems and contexts.

From the Cambridge English Corpus

He refuses to give his experiences over to the historian and let him examine them according to the rules of scientific discourse.

From the Cambridge English Corpus

These examples are from corpora and from sources on the web. Any opinions in the examples do not represent the opinion of the Cambridge Dictionary editors or of Cambridge University Press or its licensors.


Arabic grammar

Grammar of the Arabic language

Arabic grammar or Arabic language sciences (Arabic: النحو العربي‎ an-naḥw al-‘arabī or Arabic: عُلُوم اللغَة العَرَبِيَّة‎ ulūm al-lughah al-‘arabīyah) is the grammar of the Arabic language. Arabic is a Semitic language and its grammar has many similarities with the grammar of other Semitic languages.

The article focuses both on the grammar of Literary Arabic (i.e. Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic, which have largely the same grammar) and of the colloquial spoken varieties of Arabic. The grammar of the two types is largely similar in its particulars. Generally, the grammar of Classical Arabic is described first, followed by the areas in which the colloquial variants tend to differ (note that not all colloquial variants have the same grammar).

The largest differences between the classical/standard and the colloquial Arabic are the loss of morphological markings of grammatical case; changes in word order, an overall shift towards a more analytic morphosyntax, the loss of the previous system of grammatical mood, along with the evolution of a new system; the loss of the inflected passive voice, except in a few relic varieties; restriction in the use of the dual number and (for most varieties) the loss of the feminine plural. Many Arabic dialects, Maghrebi Arabic in particular also have significant vowel shifts and unusual consonant clusters. Unlike other dialects, in Maghrebi Arabic first person singular verbs begin with a n- (ن).


The identity of the oldest Arabic grammarian is disputed; some sources state that it was Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali, who established diacritical marks and vowels for Arabic in the mid-600s,[1] Others have said that the earliest grammarian would have been Ibn Abi Ishaq (died AD 735/6, AH 117).[2]

The schools of Basra and Kufa further developed grammatical rules in the late 8th century with the rapid rise of Islam.[3][4] From the school of Basra, generally regarded as being founded by Abu Amr ibn al-Ala,[5] two representatives laid important foundations for the field: Al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi authored the first Arabic dictionary and book of Arabic prosody, and his student Sibawayh authored the first book on theories of Arabic grammar.[1] From the school of Kufa, Al-Ru'asi is universally acknowledged as the founder, though his own writings are considered lost,[6][7] with most of the school's development undertaken by later authors. The efforts of al-Farahidi and Sibawayh consolidated Basra's reputation as the analytic school of grammar, while the Kufan school was regarded as the guardian of Arabic poetry and Arab culture.[2] The differences were polarizing in some cases, with early Muslim scholar Muhammad ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi favoring the Kufan school due to its concern with poetry as a primary source.[8]

Early Arabic grammars were more or less lists of rules, without the detailed explanations which would be added in later centuries. The earliest schools were different not only in some of their views on grammatical disputes, but also their emphasis. The school of Kufa excelled in Arabic poetry and exegesis of the Qur'an, in addition to Islamic law and Arab genealogy. The more rationalist school of Basra, on the other hand, focused more on the formal study of grammar.[9]


For classical Arabic grammarians, the grammatical sciences are divided into five branches:

  • al-lughahاَللُّغَة (language/lexicon) concerned with collecting and explaining vocabulary.
  • at-taṣrīfاَلتَّصْرِيف (morphology) determining the form of the individual words.
  • an-naḥwاَلنَّحْو (syntax) primarily concerned with inflection (i‘rāb).
  • al-ishtiqāqاَلاشْتِقَاق (derivation) examining the origin of the words.
  • al-balāghahاَلْبَلَاغَة (rhetoric) which elucidates stylistic quality, or eloquence.

The grammar or grammars of contemporary varieties of Arabic are a different question. Said M. Badawi, an expert on Arabic grammar, divided Arabic grammar into five different types based on the speaker's level of literacy and the degree to which the speaker deviated from Classical Arabic. Badawi's five types of grammar from the most colloquial to the most formal are Illiterate Spoken Arabic (عَامِّيَّة اَلْأُمِّيِّين‘āmmīyat al-ummiyyīn), Semi-literate Spoken Arabic (عَامِّيَّة اَلْمُتَنَوِّرِين‘āmmīyat al-mutanawwirīn), Educated Spoken Arabic (عَامِّيَّة اَلْمُثَقَّفِين‘āmmīyat al-muthaqqafīn), Modern Standard Arabic (فُصْحَى اَلْعَصْرfuṣḥá l-‘aṣr), and Classical Arabic (فُصْحَى اَلتُّرَاثfuṣḥá t-turāth).[10]


Main article: Arabic phonology

Classical Arabic has 28 consonantalphonemes, including two semi-vowels, which constitute the Arabic alphabet.

It also has six vowel phonemes (three short vowels and three long vowels). These appear as various allophones, depending on the preceding consonant. Short vowels are not usually represented in the written language, although they may be indicated with diacritics.

Word stress varies from one Arabic dialect to another. A rough rule for word-stress in Classical Arabic is that it falls on the penultimate syllable of a word if that syllable is closed, and otherwise on the antepenultimate.[11]

Hamzat al-waṣl (هَمْزَة اَلْوَصْل), elidable hamza, is a phonetic object prefixed to the beginning of a word for ease of pronunciation, since Literary Arabic doesn't allow consonant clusters at the beginning of a word. Elidable hamza drops out as a vowel, if a word is preceding it. This word will then produce an ending vowel, "helping vowel" to facilitate pronunciation. This short vowel may be, depending on the preceding vowel, a fatḥah (فَتْحَة‎: ـَ ), pronounced as /a/; a kasrah (كَسْرَة‎: ـِ ), pronounced as /i/; or a ḍammah (ضَمَّة‎: ـُ ), pronounced as /u/. If the preceding word ends in a sukūn (سُكُون), meaning that it is not followed by a short vowel, the hamzat al-waṣl assumes a kasrah/i/. The symbol ـّ (شَدَّة‎ shaddah) indicates gemination or consonant doubling. See more in Tashkīl.

Nouns and adjectives[edit]

Main article: Arabic nouns and adjectives

In Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), nouns and adjectives (‏اِسْمٌ‎ ism) are declined, according to case (i‘rāb), state (definiteness), gender and number. In colloquial or spoken Arabic, there are a number of simplifications such as the loss of certain final vowels and the loss of case. A number of derivational processes exist for forming new nouns and adjectives. Adverbs can be formed from adjectives.


Personal pronouns[edit]

In Arabic, personal pronouns have 12 forms. In singular and plural, the 2nd and 3rd persons have separate masculine and feminine forms, while the 1st person does not. In the dual, there is no 1st person, and only a single form for each 2nd and 3rd person. Traditionally, the pronouns are listed in the order 3rd, 2nd, 1st.

Person Singular Dual Plural
1st ‏أَنَا‎
2nd masculine‏أَنْتَ‎
3rd masculine‏هُوَ‎

Informal Arabic tends to avoid the dual forms antumāأَنْتُمَا and humāهُمَا. The feminine plural forms antunnaأَنْتُنَّ and hunnaهُنَّ are likewise avoided, except by speakers of conservative colloquial varieties that still possess separate feminine plural pronouns.

Enclitic pronouns[edit]

Enclitic forms of personal pronouns (اَلضَّمَائِر الْمُتَّصِلَةaḍ-ḍamā’ir al-muttaṣilah) are affixed to various parts of speech, with varying meanings:

  • To the construct state of nouns, where they have the meaning of possessive demonstratives, e.g. "my, your, his"
  • To verbs, where they have the meaning of direct object pronouns, e.g. "me, you, him"
  • To prepositions, where they have the meaning of objects of the prepositions, e.g. "to me, to you, to him"
  • To conjunctions and particles like أَنَّanna "that ...", لِأَنَّli-anna "because ...", وَ)لٰكِنَّ))(wa)lākinna "but ...", إِنَّinna (topicalizing particle), where they have the meaning of subject pronouns, e.g. "because I ...", "because you ...", "because he ...". (These particles are known in Arabic as akhawāt innaأَخَوَات إِنَّ (lit. "sisters of inna".)
  • If the personal pronoun is added to a word ending in a vowel (e.g. رَأَيْتَraʼayta "you saw"), an extra -n- is added between the word and the enclitic form to avoid a hiatus between the two vowels (رَأَيْتَنِيraʼayta-nī "you saw me").

Most of them are clearly related to the full personal pronouns.

Variant forms[edit]

For all but the first person singular, the same forms are used regardless of the part of speech of the word attached to. In the third person masculine singular, -hu occurs after the vowels u or a (-a, -ā, -u, -ū, -aw), while -hi occurs after i or y (-i, -ī, -ay). The same alternation occurs in the third person dual and plural.

In the first person singular, however, the situation is more complicated. Specifically, -nī "me" is attached to verbs, but -ī/-ya "my" is attached to nouns. In the latter case, -ya is attached to nouns whose construct state ends in a long vowel or diphthong (e.g. in the sound masculine plural and the dual), while is attached to nouns whose construct state ends in a short vowel, in which case that vowel is elided (e.g. in the sound feminine plural, as well as the singular and broken plural of most nouns). Furthermore, of the masculine sound plural is assimilated to before -ya (presumably, -aw of masculine defective -an plurals is similarly assimilated to -ay). Examples:

  • From ‏كِتَاب‎ kitāb "book", pl. كُتُبkutub:كتابيkitāb-ī "my book" (all cases), كتبيkutub-ī "my books" (all cases), كتابايkitābā-ya "my two books (nom.)", كتابيkitābay-ya "my two books (acc./gen.)"
  • From ‏كَلِمَة‎ kalimah "word", pl. كَلِمَاتkalimāt: كَلِمَتِيkalimat-ī "my word" (all cases), كَلِمَاتِيkalimāt-ī "my words" (all cases)
  • From ‏دُنْيَا‎ dunyā "world", pl. دُنْيَيَاتdunyayāt: دُنْيَايَdunyā-ya "my world" (all cases), دُنْيَيَاتِيdunyayāt-ī "my worlds" (all cases)
  • From ‏قَاضٍ‎ qāḍin "judge", pl. قُضَاةquḍāh: قَاضِيَّqāḍiy-ya "my judge" (all cases), قُضَاتِيquḍāt-ī "my judges" (all cases)
  • From ‏مُعَلِّم‎ mu‘allim "teacher", pl. مُعَلِّمُونmu‘allimūn: مُعَلِّمِيmu‘allim-ī "my teacher" (all cases), مُعَلِّمِيَّmu‘allimī-ya "my teachers" (all cases, see above)
  • From ‏أَب‎ ab "father": أَبُويَabū-ya "my father" (nom.), أَبَايَabā-ya "my father" (acc.), أَبِيَّabī-ya "my father" (gen.)

Prepositions use -ī/-ya, even though in this case it has the meaning of "me" (rather than "my"). The "sisters of inna" can use either form (e.g. إِنَّنِيinna-nī or إِنِيinn-ī), but the longer form (e.g. إِنَّنِيinna-nī) is usually preferred.

The second-person masculine plural past tense verb ending -tum changes to the variant form -tumū before enclitic pronouns, e.g. كَتَبْتُمُوهُkatab-tumū-hu "you (masc. pl.) wrote it (masc.)".

Pronouns with prepositions[edit]

Some very common prepositions — including the proclitic preposition li- "to" (also used for indirect objects) — have irregular or unpredictable combining forms when the enclitic pronouns are added to them:

MeaningIndependent formWith "... me"With "... you" (masc. sg.)With "... him"
"to", indirect objectلِـ
"in", "with", "by"بِـ
"on", "about"عَنْ

In the above cases, when there are two combining forms, one is used with "... me" and the other with all other person/number/gender combinations. (More correctly, one occurs before vowel-initial pronouns and the other before consonant-initial pronouns, but in Classical Arabic, only is vowel-initial. This becomes clearer in the spoken varieties, where various vowel-initial enclitic pronouns exist.)

Note in particular:

  • إِلَىilá "to" and عَلَى‘alá "on" have irregular combining forms إِلَيْـilay-, عَلَيْـ‘alay-; but other pronouns with the same base form are regular, e.g. مَعَma‘a "with".
  • لِـli- "to" has an irregular combining form la-, but بِـbi- "in, with, by" is regular.
  • مِنْmin "from" and عَنْ‘an "on" double the final n before .
Less formal pronominal forms[edit]

In a less formal Arabic, as in many spoken dialects, the endings -ka, -ki, and -hu and many others have their final short vowel dropped, for example, كِتابُكَ kitābuka would become كِتابُك kitābuk for ease of pronunciation. This doesn't make a difference to the spelling as the diacritics used to represent short vowels are not usually written.


There are two demonstratives (أَسْمَاء اَلْإِشَارَةasmā’ al-ishārah), near-deictic ('this') and far-deictic ('that'):

Gender Singular Dual Plural
Masculine nominative‏هٰذَا‎
Feminine nominativeهٰذِهِ
Gender Singular Dual Plural
Masculine nominative‏ذٰلِكَ، ذَاكَ‎
dhālika, dhāka
Feminine nominativeتِلْكَ

The dual forms are only used in very formal Arabic.

Some of the demonstratives (hādhā, hādhihi, hādhāni, hādhayni, hā’ulā’i, dhālika, and ulā’ika) should be pronounced with a long ā, although the unvocalised script is not written with alif (ا). Instead of an alif, they have the diacritic ـٰ (dagger alif: أَلِف خَنْجَرِيَّةalif khanjarīyah), which doesn't exist on Arabic keyboards and is seldom written, even in vocalised Arabic.

Qur'anic Arabic has another demonstrative, normally followed by a noun in a genitive construct and meaning 'owner of':

Gender Singular Dual Plural
Masculine nominative‏ذُو‎
ذَوُو، أُولُو
dhawū, ulū
ذَوِي، أُولِي
dhawī, ulī
Feminine nominativeذَاتُ
ذَوَاتُ، أُولَاتُ
dhawātu, ulātu
ذَوَاتِ، أُولَاتِ
dhawāti, ulāti

Note that the demonstrative and relative pronouns were originally built on this word. hādhā, for example, was originally composed from the prefix hā- 'this' and the masculine accusative singular dhā; similarly, dhālika was composed from dhā, an infixed syllable -li-, and the clitic suffix -ka 'you'. These combinations had not yet become completely fixed in Qur'anic Arabic and other combinations sometimes occurred, e.g. dhāka, dhālikum. Similarly, the relative pronoun alladhī was originally composed based on the genitive singular dhī, and the old Arabic grammarians noted the existence of a separate nominative plural form alladhūna in the speech of the Hudhayl tribe in Qur'anic times.

This word also shows up in Hebrew, e.g. masculine זה‎ zeh (cf. dhī), feminine זאת‎ zot (cf. dhāt-), plural אלה‎ eleh (cf. ulī).

Relative pronoun[edit]

The relative pronoun is declined as follows:

Gender Singular Dual Plural
Masculine nominativeاَلَّذِي
Feminine nominativeاَلَّتِي

Note that the relative pronoun agrees in gender, number and case, with the noun it modifies—as opposed to the situation in other inflected languages such as Latin and German, where the gender and number agreement is with the modified noun, but the case marking follows the usage of the relative pronoun in the embedded clause (as in formal English "the man who saw me" vs. "the man whom I saw").

When the relative pronoun serves a function other than the subject of the embedded clause, a resumptive pronoun is required: اَلَّرَجُلُ ٱلَّذِي تَكَلَّمْتُ مَعَهُal-rajul(u) (a)lladhī takallamtu ma‘a-hu, literally "the man who I spoke with him".

The relative pronoun is normally omitted entirely when an indefinite noun is modified by a relative clause: رَجُلٌ تَكَلَّمْتُ مَعَهُrajul(un) takallamtu ma‘a-h(u) "a man that I spoke with", literally "a man I spoke with him".

Colloquial varieties[edit]

The above system is mostly unchanged in the colloquial varieties, other than the loss of the dual forms and (for most varieties) of the feminine plural. Some of the more notable changes:

  • The third-person -hi, -him variants disappear. On the other hand, the first person -nī/-ī/-ya variation is preserved exactly (including the different circumstances in which these variants are used), and new variants appear for many forms. For example, in Egyptian Arabic, the second person feminine singular appears either as -ik or -ki depending on various factors (e.g. the phonology of the preceding word); likewise, the third person masculine singular appears variously as -u, -hu, or - (no ending, but stress is moved onto the preceding vowel, which is lengthened).
  • In many varieties, the indirect object forms, which appear in Classical Arabic as separate words (e.g. "to me", lahu 'to him'), become fused onto the verb, following a direct object. These same varieties generally develop a circumfix/ma-...-ʃ(i)/ for negation (from Classical mā ... shay’ 'not ... a thing', composed of two separate words). This can lead to complicated agglutinative constructs, such as Egyptian Arabic/ma-katab-ha-ˈliː-ʃ/ 'he didn't write it (fem.) to me'. (Egyptian Arabic in particular has many variant pronominal affixes used in different circumstances, and very intricate morphophonemic rules leading to a large number of complex alternations, depending on the particular affixes involved, the way they are put together, and whether the preceding verb ends in a vowel, a single consonant, or two consonants.)
  • Other varieties instead use a separate Classical pseudo-pronoun īyā- for direct objects (but in Hijazi Arabic the resulting construct fuses with a preceding verb).
  • Affixation of dual and sound plural nouns has largely vanished. Instead, all varieties possess a separate preposition with the meaning of "of", which replaces certain uses of the construct genitive (to varying degrees, depending on the particular variety). In Moroccan Arabic, the word is dyal (also d- before a noun), e.g. l-kitab dyal-i "my book", since the construct-state genitive is mostly unproductive. Egyptian Arabic has bitā‘ , which agrees in gender and number with the preceding noun (feminine bitā‘it/bita‘t, plural bitū‘ ). In Egyptian Arabic, the construct-state genitive is still productive, hence either kitāb-i or il-kitāb bitā‘-i can be used for "my book" [the difference between them is simlar to the difference between 'my book' and 'the book is mine'], but only il-mu‘allimūn bitū‘-i "my teachers".
  • The declined relative pronoun has vanished. In its place is an indeclinable particle, usually illi or similar.
  • Various forms of the demonstrative pronouns occur, usually shorter than the Classical forms. For example, Moroccan Arabic uses ha l- "this", dak l-/dik l-/duk l- "that" (masculine/feminine/plural). Egyptian Arabic is unusual in that the demonstrative follows the noun, e.g. il-kitāb da "this book", il-binti di "this girl".
  • Some of the independent pronouns have slightly different forms compared with their Classical forms. For example, usually forms similar to inta, inti "you (masc./fem. sg.)" occur in place of anta, anti, and (n)iḥna "we" occurs in place of naḥnu.


Cardinal numerals[edit]

Numbers behave in a very complicated fashion. wāḥid- "one" and ithnān- "two" are adjectives, following the noun and agreeing with it. thalāthat- "three" through ‘asharat- "ten" require a following noun in the genitive plural, but disagree with the noun in gender, while taking the case required by the surrounding syntax. aḥada ‘asharah "eleven" through tis‘ata ‘asharah "nineteen" require a following noun in the accusative singular, agree with the noun in gender, and are invariable for case, except for ithnā ‘asharah/ithnay ‘ashara "twelve".

The formal system of cardinal numerals, as used in Classical Arabic, is extremely complex. The system of rules is presented below. In reality, however, this system is never used: Large numbers are always written as numerals rather than spelled out, and are pronounced using a simplified system, even in formal contexts.


Formal: أَلْفَانِ وَتِسْعُمِئَةٍ وَٱثْنَتَا عَشْرَةَ سَنَةًalfāni wa-tis‘u mi’atin wa-thnatā ‘asharatan sanah "2,912 years"
Formal: بَعْدَ أَلْفَيْنِ وَتِسْعِمِئَةٍ وَٱثْنَتَيْ عَشْرَةَ سَنَةًba‘da alfayni wa-tis‘i mi’atin wa-thnatay ‘asharatan sanah "after 2,912 years"
Spoken: بعدَ) ألفين وتسعمئة واثنتا عشرة سنة)(ba‘da) alfayn wa-tis‘ mīya wa-ithna‘shar sana "(after) 2,912 years"

Cardinal numerals (اَلْأَعْدَاد اَلْأَصْلِيَّةal-a‘dād al-aṣlīyah) from 0-10. Zero is ṣifr, from which the words "cipher" and "zero" are ultimately derived.

  • 0 ٠ṣifr(un) (‏صِفْرٌ‎)
  • 1 ١wāḥid(un) (‏وَاحِدٌ‎)
  • 2 ٢ithnān(i) (‏اِثْنَانِ‎)
  • 3 ٣thalātha(tun) (‏ثَلَاثَةٌ‎)
  • 4 ٤arba‘a(tun) (‏أَرْبَعَةٌ‎)
  • 5 ٥khamsa(tun) (‏خَمْسَةٌ‎)
  • 6 ٦sitta(tun) (‏سِتّةٌ‎)
  • 7 ٧sab‘a(tun) (‏سَبْعَةٌ‎)
  • 8 ٨thamāniya(tun) (‏ثَمَانِيَةٌ‎)
  • 9 ٩tis‘a(tun) (‏تسعةٌ‎)
  • 10 ١٠‘ashara(tun) (‏عَشَرَةٌ‎) (feminine form ‘ashr(un) ‏عَشْرٌ‎)

The endings in brackets are dropped in less formal Arabic and in pausa. ة (tā’ marbūṭah) is pronounced as simple /a/ in these cases. If a noun ending in ة is the first member of an idafa, the ة is pronounced as /at/, while the rest of the ending is not pronounced.

اِثْنَانِithnān(i) is changed to اِثْنَيْنِithnayn(i) in oblique cases. This form is also commonly used in a less formal Arabic in the nominative case.

The numerals 1 and 2 are adjectives. Thus they follow the noun and agree with gender.

Numerals 3–10 have a peculiar rule of agreement known as polarity: A feminine referrer agrees with a numeral in masculine gender and vice versa, e.g. thalāthu fatayātin (ثَلَاثُ فَتَيَاتٍ) "three girls". The noun counted takes indefinite genitive plural (as the attribute in a genitive construct).

Numerals 11 and 13–19 are indeclinable for case, perpetually in the accusative. Numbers 11 and 12 show gender agreement in the ones, and 13-19 show polarity in the ones. Number 12 also shows case agreement, reminiscent of the dual. The gender of عَشَر in numbers 11-19 agrees with the counted noun (unlike the standalone numeral 10 which shows polarity). The counted noun takes indefinite accusative singular.

11aḥada ‘ashar
أَحَدَ عَشَر
aḥada ‘ashara
أَحَدَ عَشَرَ
iḥdá ‘ashrata
إحْدَى عَشْرةَ
12ithnā ‘ashar
اِثْنَا عَشَر
ithnā ‘ashara
اِثْنَا عَشَرَ
ithnay ‘ashara
اِثْنَيْ عَشَرَ
ithnatā ‘ashrata
اِثْنَتَا عَشْرةَ
ithnatay ‘ashratan
اِثْنَتَيْ عَشْرةَ
13thalāthata ‘ashar
ثَلَاثَةَ عَشَر
thalāthata ‘ashara
ثَلَاثَةَ عَشَرَ
thalātha ‘ashrata
ثَلَاثَ عَشْرةَ

Unitary numbers from 20 on (i.e. 20, 30, ... 90, 100, 1000, 1000000, etc.) behave entirely as nouns, showing the case required by the surrounding syntax, no gender agreement, and a following noun in a fixed case. 20 through 90 require their noun to be in the accusative singular; 100 and up require the genitive singular. The unitary numbers themselves decline in various fashions:

  • ‘ishrūna "20" through tis‘ūna "90" decline as masculine plural nouns
  • mi’at- "100" (‏مِئَة‎ or ‏مِائَة‎) declines as a feminine singular noun
  • alf- "1,000" (‏أَلْف‎) declines as a masculine singular noun

The numbers 20-99 are expressed with the units preceding the tens. There is agreement in gender with the numerals 1 and 2, and polarity for numerals 3–9. The whole construct is followed by the accusative singular indefinite.

  • 20 ‘ishrūna (‏عِشْرُونَ‎) (plural of 10)
  • 21 wāḥidun wa-‘ishrūna (وَاحِدٌ وَعِشْرُونَ)
  • 22 ithnāni wa-‘ishrūna (اثْنَانِ وَعِشْرُونَ)
  • 23 thalāthatu wa-‘ishrūna (ثَلَاثَةُ وَعِشْرُونَ)
  • 30 thalāthūna (‏ثَلَاتُونَ‎)
  • 40 arba‘ūna (‏أَرْبَعُونَ‎)

mi’at- "100" and alf- "1,000" can themselves be modified by numbers (to form numbers such as 200 or 5,000) and will be declined appropriately. For example, mi’atāni "200" and alfāni "2,000" with dual endings; thalāthatu ālāfin "3,000" with alf in the plural genitive, but thalāthu mi’atin "300" since mi’at- appears to have no plural.

In compound numbers, the number formed with the last two digits dictates the declension of the associated noun, e.g. 212, 312, and 54,312 would all behave like 12.

Large compound numbers can have, e.g.:

  • أَلْفٌ وَتِسْعُ مِئَةٍ وَتِسْعُ سِنِينَalfun wa-tis‘u mi’atin wa-tis‘u sinīna "1,909 years"
  • بَعْدَ أَلْفٍ وَتِسْعِ مِئَةٍ وَتِسْعِ سِنِينَba‘da alfin wa-tis‘i mi’atin wa-tis‘i sinīna "after 1,909 years"
  • أَرْبَعَةٌ وَتِسْعُونَ أَلْفًا وَثَمَانِي مِئَةٍ وَثَلَاثٌ وَسِتُّونَ سَنَةًarba‘atun wa-tis‘ūna alfan wa-thamānī mi’atin wa-thalāthun wa-sittūna sanatan "94,863 years"
  • بَعْدَ أَرْبَعَةٍ وَتِسْعِينَ أَلْفًا وَثَمَانِي مِئَةٍ وَثَلَاثٍ وَسِتِّينَ سَنَةًba‘da arba‘atin wa-tis‘īna alfan wa-thamānī mi’atin wa-thalāthin wa-sittīna sanatan "after 94,863 years"
  • اِثْنَا عَشَرَ أَلْفًا وَمِئَتَانِ وَٱثْنَتَانِ وَعِشْرُونَ سَنَةًiṯnā ‘ašara alfan wa-mi’atāni wa-thnatāni wa-‘ishrūna sanatan "12,222 years"
  • بَعْدَ ٱثْنَيْ عَشَرَ أَلْفًا وَمِئَتَيْنِ وَٱثْنَتَيْنِ وَعِشْرينَ سَنَةًba‘da thnay ‘ashara alfan wa-mi’atayni wa-thnatayni wa-‘ishrīna sanatan "after 12,222 years"
  • اِثْنَا عَشَرَ أَلْفًا وَمِئَتَانِ وَسَنَتَانِithnā ‘ashara alfan wa-mi’atāni wa-sanatāni "12,202 years"
  • بَعْدَ ٱثْنَيْ عَشَرَ أَلْفًا وَمِئَتَيْنِ وَسَنَتَيْنِba‘da thnay ‘ashara alfan wa-mi’atayni wa-sanatayni "after 12,202 years"

Note also the special construction when the final number is 1 or 2:

  • alfu laylatin wa-laylatun "1,001 nights"
    أَلْفُ لَيْلَةٍ وَلَيْلَةٌٌ
  • mi’atu kitābin wa-kitābāni "102 books"
    مِائَةُ كِتَابٍ وَكِتَابَانِ


Fractions of a whole smaller than "half" are expressed by the structure fi‘l (فِعْل) in the singular, af‘āl (أَفْعَال) in the plural.

  • half niṣfun (‏نِصْفٌ‎)
  • one-third thulthun (‏ثُلْثٌ‎)
  • two-thirds thulthāni (‏ثُلْثَانِ‎)
  • one-fourth rub‘un (‏رُبْعٌ‎)
  • three-fourths thalāthatu arbā‘in (ثَلَاثَةُ أَرْبَاعٍ)
  • etc.

Ordinal numerals[edit]

Ordinal numerals (الأعداد الترتيبيةal-a‘dād al-tartībīyah) higher than "second" are formed using the structure fā‘ilun, fā‘ilatun, the same as active participles of Form I verbs:

  • m. أَوَّلُawwalu, f. أُولَىūlá "first"
  • m. ثَانٍthānin (definite form: اَلثَّانِيُal-thānī), f. ثَانِيَةٌthāniyatun "second"
  • m. ثَالِثٌthālithun, f. ثَالِثَةٌthālithatun "third"
  • m. رَابِعٌrābi‘un, f. رَابِعَةٌrābi‘atun "fourth"
  • m. خَامِسٌkhāmisun, f. خَامِسَةٌkhāmisatun "fifth"
  • m. سَادِسٌsādisun, f. سَادِسَةٌsādisatun "sixth"
  • m. سَابِعٌsābi‘un, f. سَابِعَةٌsābi‘atun "seventh"
  • m. ثَامِنٌthāminun, f. ثَامِنَةٌthāminatun "eighth"
  • m. تَاسِعٌtāsi‘un, f. تَاسِعَةٌtāsi‘atun "ninth"
  • m. عَاشِرٌ‘āshirun, f. عَاشِرَةٌ‘āshiratun "tenth"

They are adjectives, hence there is agreement in gender with the noun, not polarity as with the cardinal numbers. Note that "sixth" uses a different, older root than the number six.


Main article: Arabic verbs

Arabic verbs (فعلfi‘l), like the verbs in other Semitic languages, are extremely complex. Verbs in Arabic are based on a root made up of three or four consonants (called a triliteral or quadriliteral root, respectively). The set of consonants communicates the basic meaning of a verb, e.g. k-t-b 'write', q-r-’ 'read', ’-k-l 'eat'. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as tense, person and number, in addition to changes in the meaning of the verb that embody grammatical concepts such as mood (e.g. indicative, subjunctive, imperative), voice (active or passive), and functions such as causative, intensive, or reflexive.

Since Arabic lacks an auxiliary verb "to have", constructions using li-, ‘inda, and ma‘a with the pronominal suffixes are used to describe possession. For example: عنده بيت (ʿindahu bayt) - literally: At him (is) a house. → He has a house.

For the negation of Arabic verbs, see Negation in Arabic.


‏بـ‎ bi-with, in, at
‏تـ‎ ta-only used in the expression تٱللهِ tallāhi 'I swear to God'
‏لَـ‎ la-certainly (also used before verbs)
‏لِـ‎ li-to, for
‏كـ‎ ka-like, as
‏فـ‎ fa-[and] then
‏إِلَى‎ ’iláto, towards
‏حَتَّى‎ ḥattáuntil, up to
‏عَلَى‎ ‘aláon, over; against
‏عَن‎ ‘anfrom, about
‏فِي‎ in, at
‏مَعَ‎ ma‘a[a]with, along with
‏مِن‎ minfrom; than
‏مُنْذُ‎ mundhusince
‏مُذْ‎ mudhsince
Semi-prepositions ‏أَمامَ‎ ’amāmain front of
‏بَيْنَ‎ baynabetween, among
‏تَحْتَ‎ taḥtaunder, below
‏حَوْلَ‎ ḥawlaaround
‏خارِجَ‎ khārijaoutside
‏خِلالَ‎ khilāladuring
‏داخِلَ‎ dākhilainside
‏دُونَ‎ dūnawithout
‏ضِدَّ‎ ḍiddaagainst
‏عِنْدَ‎ ‘indaon the part of; at; at the house of; in the possession of
‏فَوْقَ‎ fawqaabove
‏مَعَ‎ ma‘awith
‏مِثْلَ‎ mithlalike
‏وَراءَ‎ warā’abehind

There are two types of prepositions, based on whether they arise from the triconsonantal roots system or not. The 'true prepositions' (حُرُوف اَلْجَرّḥurūf al-jarr) do not stem from the triconsonantal roots. These true prepositions cannot have prepositions preceding them, in contrast to the derived triliteral prepositions. True prepositions can also be used with certain verbs to convey a particular meaning. For example, بَحَثَbaḥatha means "to discuss" as a transitive verb, but can mean "to search for" when followed by the preposition عَنْ‘an, and "to do research about" when followed by فِي.

The prepositions arising from the triliteral root system are called "adverbs of place and time" in the native tradition (ظُرُوف مَكَان وَظُرُوف زَمَانẓurūf makān wa-ẓurūf zamān) and work very much in the same way as the 'true' prepositions.[14]

A noun following a preposition takes the genitive case.[15] However, prepositions can take whole clauses as their object too if succeeded by the conjunctions أَنْ’an or أَنَّ’anna, in which case the subject of the clause is in the nominative or the accusative respectively.


Genitive construction (iḍāfah)[edit]

Main article: iḍāfah

A noun may be defined more precisely by adding another noun immediately afterwards. In Arabic grammar, this is called إِضَافَةiḍāfah ("annexation, addition") and in English is known as the "genitive construct", "construct phrase", or "annexation structure". The first noun must be in the construct form while, when cases are used, the subsequent noun must be in the genitive case. The construction is typically equivalent to the English construction "(noun) of (noun)". This is a very widespread way of forming possessive constructions in Arabic,[16] and is typical of a Semitic language.[17]

Simple examples include:

  • بِنْتُ حَسَنٍbintu Ḥasan "the daughter of Hasan/Hasan's daughter".
  • دَارُ السَّلاَمِdāru‿s-salām "the house of peace".
  • كِيلُو مَوْزٍkīlū mawz "a kilo of bananas".
  • بَيْتُ رَجُلٍbaytu‿rajul "the house of a man/a man's house".
  • بَيْتُ ٱلرَّجُلِbaytu‿r-rajul "the house of the man/the man's house".

The range of relationships between the first and second elements of the idafah construction is very varied, though it usually consists of some relationship of possession or belonging.[18] In the case of words for containers, the idāfah may express what is contained: فِنْجَانُ قَهْوَةٍfinjānu qahwatin "a cup of coffee". The idāfah may indicate the material something is made of: خَاتَمُ خَشَبٍkhātamu khashabin "a wooden ring, ring made of wood". In many cases the two members become a fixed coined phrase, the idafah being used as the equivalent of a compound noun used in some Indo-European languages such as English. Thus بَيْتُ ٱلطَّلَبَةِbaytu al-ṭalabati can mean "house of the (certain, known) students", but is also the normal term for "the student hostel".

Word order[edit]

Classical Arabic tends to prefer the word order VSO (verb before subject before object) rather than SVO (subject before verb). Verb initial word orders like in Classical Arabic are relatively rare across the world's languages, occurring only in a few language families including Celtic, Austronesian, and Mayan. The alternation between VSO and SVO word orders in Arabic results in an agreement asymmetry: the verb shows person, number, and gender agreement with the subject in SVO constructions but only gender (and possibly person) agreement in VSO, to the exclusion of number.[19]

اَلْمُعَلِّمُونَ قَرَؤُوا ٱلْكِتَابَ



al-mu‘allimūna qara’u l-kitāb

the-teachers-M.PL.NOM read.PAST-3.M.PL the-book-ACC

'The (male) teachers read the book.'

اَلْمُعَلِّمَاتُ قَرَأْنَ ٱلْكِتَابَ



al-mu‘allimātu qara’na l-kitāb

the-teachers-F.PL-NOM read.PAST-3.F.PL the-book-ACC

'The (female) teachers read the book.'

قَرَأَ ٱلْمُعَلِّمُونَ ٱلْكِتَابَ



qara’a l-mu‘allimūna l-kitāb

read.PAST-3M.SG the-teacher-M.PL.NOM the-book-ACC

'The (male) teachers read the book.'

قَرَأَتْ ٱلْمُعَلِّمَاتُ ٱلْكِتَابَ



qara’at al-mu‘allimātu l-kitāb

read.PAST-3.F.SG the-teacher-F.PL-NOM the-book-ACC

'The (female) teachers read the book.'

Despite the fact that the subject in the latter two above examples is plural, the verb lacks plural marking and instead surfaces as if it was in the singular form.

Though early accounts of Arabic word order variation argued for a flat, non-configurational grammatical structure,[21][22] more recent work[20] has shown that there is evidence for a VP constituent in Arabic, that is, a closer relationship between verb and object than verb and subject. This suggests a hierarchical grammatical structure, not a flat one. An analysis such as this one can also explain the agreement asymmetries between subjects and verbs in SVO versus VSO sentences, and can provide insight into the syntactic position of pre- and post-verbal subjects, as well as the surface syntactic position of the verb.

In the present tense, there is no overt copula in Arabic. In such clauses, the subject tends to precede the predicate, unless there is a clear demarcating pause between the two, suggesting a marked information structure.[20] It is a matter of debate in Arabic literature whether there is a null present tense copula which syntactically precedes the subject in verbless sentences, or whether there is simply no verb, only a subject and predicate.[23][24][25][26][27][28]

Subject pronouns are normally omitted except for emphasis or when using a participle as a verb (participles are not marked for person). Because the verb agrees with the subject in person, number, and gender, no information is lost when pronouns are omitted. Auxiliary verbs precede main verbs, prepositions precede their objects, and nouns precede their relative clauses.

Adjectives follow the noun they are modifying, and agree with the noun in case, gender, number, and state: For example, فَتَاةٌ جَمِيلَةٌfatātun jamīlatun 'a beautiful girl' but اَلْفَتَاةُ ٱلْجَمِيلَةُal-fatātu al-jamīlatu 'the beautiful girl'. (Compare اَلْفَتَاةُ جَمِيلَةٌal-fatātu jamīlatun 'the girl is beautiful'.) Elative adjectives, however, usually don't agree with the noun they modify, and sometimes even precede their noun while requiring it to be in the genitive case.


The subject of a sentence can be topicalized and emphasized by moving it to the beginning of the sentence and preceding it with the word إِنَّinna 'indeed' (or 'verily' in older translations). An example would be إِنَّ ٱلسَّمَاءَ زَرْقَاءُinna s-samā’a zarqā’(u) 'The sky is blue indeed'.

’Inna, along with its related terms (or ‏أَخَوَات‎ ’akhawāt "sister" terms in the native tradition) ‏أَنَّ‎ anna 'that' (as in "I think that ..."), inna 'that' (after ‏قَالَ‎ qāla 'say'), ‏وَلٰكِنَّ‎ (wa-)lākin(na) 'but' and ‏كَأَنَّ‎ ka-anna 'as if' introduce subjects while requiring that they be immediately followed by a noun in the accusative case, or an attached pronominal suffix.

إِنَّ وَأَخَوَاتُهَا

'inna wa ’akhawātuha

‏إِنَّ‎ 'innaindeed
‏أَنَّ‎ 'annathat (followed by noun clause)
‏كَأَنَّ‎ ka'annaas, as though
‏لكِنَّ‎ lakinnabut
‏لَيْتَ‎ laytato express a wish or desire
‏لَعَلَّ‎ la'allaperhaps
‏لَا‎ there is no, there is not

Definite article[edit]

Main article: al-

As a particle, al- does not inflect for gender, number, person, or grammatical case. The sound of the final -l consonant, however, can vary; when followed by a sun letter such as t, d, r, s, n and a few others, it is replaced by the sound of the initial consonant of the following noun, thus doubling it. For example: for "the Nile", one does not say al-Nīl, but an-Nīl. When followed by a moon letter, like m-, no replacement occurs, as in al-masjid ("the mosque"). This affects only the pronunciation and not the spelling of the article.

Absolute object (al-maf'ūl al-muṭlaq)[edit]

The absolute object (المفعول المطلقal-maf'ūl al-muṭlaq) is an emphatic cognate object construction in which a verbal noun derived from the main verb appears in the accusative (منصوبmanṣūb) case.[29]

Arabic transliteration English
ضحك الولد ضحكاdahaka l-waladu dahikan The boy laughed much.
تدور الأرض حول الشمس في السنة دورة واحدةtaduru l-'ardu hawla sh-shamsi fi s-sanati dawratan wahida The earth revolves around the sun once a year.
أحبك حبا جماuhibbuki hubban jamman I love you so much.

Object of purpose (al-maf'ūl li-'ajlihi)[edit]

The object of purpose [ar] (المفعول لأجلهal-maf'ūl li-'ajlihi) is an adverbial structure used to indicate purpose, motive, or reason for an action.[30] It consists of a verbal noun derived from the main verb that appears in the accusative (منصوبmanṣūb) case.[30] It is followed immediately by a prepositional phrase.

Arabic transliteration English
ترك بلده بحثا عن الرزقtaraka baladahu bahthan an ar-rizq He left his country in search of sustenance.
ذهبت إلى الجامعة طلبا للعلمdhahabat ila l-jāmi'ati talban lil-'ilm She went to the university seeking knowledge.
كتب لحبيبته رسالة عشقا لهاkataba li-habibatih risalatan 'ishqan laha He wrote his beloved a letter out of love for her.

Dynasty or family[edit]

Some people, especially in the region of Arabia, when they are descended from a famous ancestor, start their last name with آل, a noun meaning "family" or "clan", like the dynasty Al Saud (family of Saud) or Al ash-Sheikh (family of the Sheikh). آل is distinct from the definite article ال.


Object pronouns are clitics and are attached to the verb; e.g., أَرَاهَاarā-hā 'I see her'. Possessive pronouns are likewise attached to the noun they modify; e.g., كِتَابُهُkitābu-hu 'his book'. The definite article اَلـal- is a clitic, as are the prepositions لِـli- 'to' and بِـbi- 'in, with' and the conjunctions كَـka- 'as' and فَـfa- 'then, so'.

Reform of the Arabic tradition[edit]

An overhaul of the native systematic categorization of Arabic grammar was first suggested by the medieval philosopher al-Jāḥiẓ, though it was not until two hundred years later when Ibn Maḍāʾ wrote his Refutation of the Grammarians that concrete suggestions regarding word order and linguistic governance were made.[31] In the modern era, Egyptian litterateur Shawqi Daif renewed the call for a reform of the commonly used description of Arabic grammar, suggesting to follow trends in Western linguistics instead.[32]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ abKojiro Nakamura, "Ibn Mada's Criticism of Arab Grammarians." Orient, v. 10, pgs. 89-113. 1974
  2. ^ abMonique Bernards, "Pioneers of Arabic Linguistic Studies." Taken from In the Shadow of Arabic: The Centrality of Language to Arabic Culture, pg. 213. Ed. Bilal Orfali. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2011. ISBN 9789004215375
  3. ^Goodchild, Philip. Difference in Philosophy of Religion, 2003. Page 153.
  4. ^Archibald Sayce, Introduction to the Science of Language. Pg. 28, 1880.
  5. ^al-Aṣmaʿī at the Encyclopædia Britannica Online. ©2013 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. Accessed 10 June 2013.
  6. ^Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. 5, pg. 174, fascicules 81-82. Eds. Clifford Edmund Bosworth, E. van Donzel, Bernard Lewis and Charles Pellat. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1980. ISBN 9789004060562
  7. ^Arik Sadan, The Subjunctive Mood in Arabic Grammatical Thought, pg. 339. Volume 66 of Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2012. ISBN 9789004232952
  8. ^"Sibawayh, His Kitab, and the Schools of Basra and Kufa." Taken from Changing Traditions: Al-Mubarrad's Refutation of Sībawayh and the Subsequent Reception of the Kitāb, pg. 12. Volume 23 of Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics. Ed. Monique Bernards. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1997. ISBN 9789004105959
  9. ^Sir Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb, The Encyclopaedia of Islam, pg. 350. Leiden: Brill Archive, 1954. New edition 1980.
  10. ^Alaa Elgibali and El-Said M. Badawi. Understanding Arabic: Essays in Contemporary Arabic Linguistics in Honor of El-Said M. Badawi, 1996. Page 105.
  11. ^Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Language (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997), p. 90.
  12. ^Wright, William. A Grammar of the Arabic Language. 2 (3rd ed.). Librarie Du Liban. p. 165.
  13. ^Drissner, Gerald (2015). Arabic for Nerds. Berlin, Germany: createspace. p. 65. ISBN .
  14. ^Ryding, Karin C. (2005). A reference grammar of Modern Standard Arabic (6th printing ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University press. p. 366. ISBN .
  15. ^Fischer, Wolfdietrich (2002). A Grammar of Classical Arabic. Translated by Rodger, Jonathan (3rd ed.). Yale University Press. p. 153.
  16. ^Karin C. Ryding, A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 205-24 [§8.1].
  17. ^Adam Pospíšil, 'The Idafa construction in Arabic and its morphosyntactic behaviour' (unpublished BA thesis, Univerzita Karlova v Praze, 2015), §7.1.
  18. ^Karin C. Ryding, A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 206-11 [§8.1.1].
  19. ^Benmamoun, Elabbas 1992. “Structural conditions on agreement.” Proceedings of NELS (North-Eastern Linguistic Society) 22: 17-32.
  20. ^ abcBenmamoun, Elabbas. 2015. Verb-initial orders, with a special emphasis on Arabic. Syncom, 2 edition
  21. ^Bakir, Murtadha. 1980. Aspects of clause structure in Arabic. Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University, Bloomington.
  22. ^Fassi Fehri, Abdelkader. 1982. Linguistique Arabe: Forme et Interprétation. Rabat, Morocco, Publications de la Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines.
  23. ^Jelinek, Eloise. 1981. On Defining Categories: Aux and Predicate in Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Doctoral dissertation. University of Arizona, Tucson.
  24. ^Fassi Fehri, Abdelkader. 1993. Issues in the Structure of Arabic Clauses and Words. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
  25. ^Shlonsky, Ur 1997. Clause Structure and Word order in Hebrew and Arabic: An Essay in Comparative Semitic Syntax. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  26. ^Heggie, Lorie. 1988. The Syntax of Copular Structures. Doctoral dissertation. USC, Los Angeles.
  27. ^Benmamoun, Elabbas. 2000. The Feature Structure of Functional Categories: A Comparative Study of Arabic Dialects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  28. ^Aoun, Joseph, Elabbas Benmamoun, and Lina Choueiri. 2010. The Syntax of Arabic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  29. ^"Quranic Grammar - Cognate Accusatives". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  30. ^ ab"Quranic Grammar - The Accusative of Purpose". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  31. ^Shawqi Daif, Introduction to Ibn Mada's Refutation of the Grammarians (Cairo, 1947), p. 48.
  32. ^"The Emergency of Modern Standard Arabic," by Kees Versteegh. Taken from The Arabic Language by permission of the Edinburgh University Press. 1997.

External links[edit]

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Arabic Grammar

About Arabic Grammar

The science of the Arabic language known as نحو – basically translated as Arabic grammar and Arabic syntax – is a topic through which we learn to correctly convey meaning in Arabic, form coherent sentences, and protect ourselves from verbal error. Where Lexicology and Arabic Morphology are concerned with being able to work with the internals of words, Arabic grammar is concerned with being able to work with the endings of words in order to read and comprehend in a sentential milieu.

Arabic grammar (نحو‎ /naḥw/) is centered around a single topic; grammatical inflection. Anything studied in the language is studied only because it relates to this issue. It is a feat of staggering genius on the part of medieval grammarians that almost all aspects of the Arabic language are covered just by concentrating on the issue of grammatical inflection. In studying the rules of Arabic grammar, we start with this topic, and it branches out to cover the entire language.

How we Study Arabic Grammar

The following is a breakdown of how we approach and study Arabic grammar here at Learn Arabic Online. This approach allows us to cover all the core issues.

1.       some basics

a.       Arabic words – a look at the different types of words in the language and how they’re divided and categorized

b.      Arabic phrases – a close look at some of the more common phrasal structures, serving to introduce some key concepts and terminology

c.       Arabic sentences – a look at the different types of sentences as preparation for more advanced Arabic grammar rules

2.       grammatical inflection – the study of what grammatical inflection is, how it works, and the different grammatical states

3.       inflection in Arabic words – a deep look at those words in the language that inflect and those that do not

4.       reflection and diptotes – the study of how grammatical states are represented on different types of words that do inflect

5.       the grammatical states – the study of each grammatical state and when it is used

a.       nominal sentences – this topic covers about 30% of the grammatical states

b.      verbal sentences and Arabic adverbs – this topic covers about 20% of the grammatical states

c.       other verbal associates (circumstantial adverb, exclusion, Tamyiz) – this topic covers about 10% of the grammatical states

d.      the genitive states – this topic covers about 5% of the grammatical states

e.      grammatical states of verbs – this topic covers about 30% of the grammatical states

f.        grammatical extension – this topic concludes the discussion on grammatical states

6.       side topics and advanced Arabic grammar rules

a.       definiteness

b.      gender in Arabic

c.       plurality in Arabic

d.      Arabic numbers

The rest of this tutorial gives some introductory data dealing with the different types of words, phrases, and sentences in the language. This paves the way for the study of further grammar topics and helps put further tutorials into perspective. But one must realize that an essential part of learning the grammar of any language is practicing through reading. In order to learn Arabic grammar correctly, theory must be supplemented by reading texts with and without vowels in front of a teacher. This can only be achieved through Arabic courses such as the Shariah Program.

If you’d like a video intro on these Arabic grammar topics, click the image below and fill the short form for free instant access:

Map of the Language











غَيْر مُفِيْدَة




Any sound released from the mouth of a human is termed by the Arabs as ‘utterance’ (لفظ) /lafz/. Now utterance may be sensible or it may not be. Sensible utterance is that which makes sense to the Arabs, and it is termed ‘coined utterance’ (موضوع) /maudhoo3/. Non-sensible utterance is that which does not carry any meaning for the Arabs. This includes things like foreign speech, awkward sounds, and so forth, and it is termed ‘unpointed utterance’ (مهمل) /muhmal/.

Coined utterance is then either realized as single words (كلمة) /kalima/, or as multiple words (كلام) /kalam/. If these multiple words have a copula (a link between the subject and predicate) then the speech is termed a ‘sentence’ (جملة) /jumla/. Otherwise, the speech is known as a phrase (كلام غير مفيد)/kalam ghayr mufeed/. Examples of sentences are “he is back” and “I ate the apple”, where “is” is the copula in the first sentence and the copula in the second sentence is abstract. Examples of phrases include “the old woman across the street”. Within these words there is no copula, hence the speech is a phrase.

Words in Arabic Grammar









Words are divided into three categories which are mutually exclusive and cover all words in the language. The first category is called ‘noun’ (اسم) /ism/ and it includes what we know in English as nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. The second category is that of verbs (فعل) /fe’l/. And finally, the third category is that of particles (حرف) /harf/ which include English prepositions, articles, conjunctions, and particles. Note that particle is a catch-all term that includes things like interjections and other words that are not well-categorized.












particles (such as most interjections)

Practice: Under which of the three categories in Arabic would the following English words fits?

·         boy

·         cheap

·         within

·         an

·         lifted

·         brownies

·         silently

·         Oh no!

·         our

Phrases in Arabic Grammar

There are many types of phrases in the language. Most of them are introduced at calculated points in time, but two are of very special interest due to their productiveness and pedagogical benefits. These are covered below under the heading Arabic Phrases.

Sentences in Arabic Grammar







There are two main types of sentences; nominal and verbal. The former is that sentence which effectively begins with a noun, and the latter is that which effectively begins with a verb. There are actually other ways in which we can categorize different types of sentences, but this method is by far the most productive and by far the most relevant. Other methods of categorization will be introduced in subsequent tutorials as needed.

Having now introduced the 3 parts of speech in Arabic by comparing them to the English parts of speech (nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc.), we’ll now proceed to develop them further.

Defining and Categorizing the Parts of Speech in Arabic

As mentioned in the introduction above, words in Arabic are divided into three categories. The following is a more detailed treatment of this.

·         اسم pl. أسماء (noun): This category is defined as those words that impart a single meaning on their own  and do not afford a tense. Roughly speaking, this is equivalent to what we know in English as nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs.

·         فعل pl. أفعال (verb): This category is defined as those words that impart a single meaning on their own  and afford a tense. This is exactly what we in English know as verbs.

·         حرف pl. حروف (particle): This category is defined as those words that do not impart a meaning on their own . Roughly speaking, this is equivalent to what we know in English as prepositions, conjunctions, articles, and other particles.

Particles don’t impart a meaning on their own. This means that they are only understood when other words are mentioned along with them. In fact, their very purpose is to expose certain attributes in the words around them. For example, the word “and” cannot be understood fully unless it has something to its right and left, as in “you and I”. The purpose of “and” in this example is to expose the attribute of conjunction in the words “you” and “I”. Another example is the word “from”. On its own, it doesn’t give a clear meaning and it needs to have something after it, as in “from Basra”. In the example, the word “from” exposes the attribute within Basra of being an origin. Without “from”, this attribute would not have otherwise been apparent.

Hence any word that does not impart a meaning of its own accord, rather it helps expose attributes of other words, is a particle. If this is not the case, then the word is either a noun or a verb.

Now, nouns do not afford a tense whereas verbs do. Consider the word “yesterday”. This is either a noun or a verb since it imparts a single meaning on its own. But which of the two is it? The word “yesterday”, although its meaning has something to do with time, does not afford a tense. Hence it is a noun. On the other hand, a word such as “go” does afford a tense (the future in this case). Hence it is a verb.

These three categories cover all of the words in the Arabic language and they are mutually exclusive. That is to say, any given word must fit into one, and only one, of the above.


Nouns are categorized in many ways. Here is a short lesson on the types of noun in Arabic grammar. It gives you a list of all the useful ways in which a noun can be classified. This includes based on gender (masculine vs. feminine), based on plurality (singular, dual, and plural), based on grammatical reflection (those that reflect and show their grammatical case and those that do not), definiteness, gender and other considerations.

·         gender: all nouns are either

o   masculine or

o   feminine

·         plurality: all nouns are either

o   singular,

o   dual, or

o   plural

·         derivation: all nouns are either

o   not derived and nothing is derived from them,

o   a source of derivation (also known as a gerund), or

o   derived from a gerund

·         definiteness: all nouns are either

o   indefinite or

o   definite

·         grammatical reflection

o   many sub-categories


Arabic morphology has its own way of classifying and dealing with verbs. The main topic of grammar, however, is grammatical inflection. In light of this concept, grammar divides verbs into the following categories.

·         ماضي (perfect): the past tense verb

·         مضارع (imperfect): this includes the present, future, prohibition and all variations

·         أمر حاضر معروف (imperative): this includes only the active, second-person conjugations of the command verb

The Grammatical Inflection tutorial discusses which of the above types of verbs inflect for grammatical case, and the Grammatical Reflection tutorial discusses how that inflection is reflected on the verb.


There are less than 80 particles in the entire language. Due to the number being so small, it is possible to categorize them based on their meanings and their effects, explaining the meaning of each particle one by one.

Particles are divided into the following 15 categories.

1.       حروف الجر: genitival particles

2.       الحروف المشبهة بالفعل: the particles that resemble verbs

3.       الحروف العاطفة: conjunctions (e.g. “and”)

4.       حروف التنبيه: particles used for alerting (e.g. “Hey!”)

5.       حروف النداء: vocative particles (e.g. “O”)

6.       حروف الإيجاب: particles for affirmative answers (e.g. “yes”)

7.       حروف الردع: particles used for negative answers (e.g. “never”)

8.       الحروف الزائدة: extra

9.       حروف التفسير: particles that introduce an explanatory sentence (e.g. “i.e.”)

10.   حروف المصدر: gerundival particles

11.   حروف التحضيض: particles use for prodding

12.   حروف القرب: particles used to indicate nearness in time or certainty (e.g. “has/had”)

13.   حروف الإستفهام: interrogative particles

14.   حروف الشرط: conditional particles

15.   Miscellaneous

Since there are so many categories, they will not be discussed at this point.

Having now developed the 3 parts of speech to some extent, let’s now speak about the phrase in Arabic grammar. The rest of this tutorial will deal with the most common phrase structures in Arabic grammar.

Intro to Phrases in Arabic Grammar

When we talk about speech in Arabic grammar, we typically divide it into three categories:

·         words

·         phrases

·         sentences

There are many types of phrases in the language – over a dozen, in fact. Each of these are introduced slowly and gradually as a student studies sentences and grammatical structures. They are studied as needed and as encountered.

Two types of phrases, however, are of fundamental importance and they are very productive in the language. These are:

·         the adjectival phrase (a noun and an adjective describing it)

·         the possessive phrase (two nouns, one “belonging” to the other)

The Adjectival Phrase

What is the English Equivalent?

Examples of this type of phrase in English include “the ferocious lion”, “the slow children”, “an unfortunate accident”.

Notice that we have two words – the first is an adjective and the second is the noun that it describes or qualifies. And needless to say, the adjective will always stay the same while the noun that it describes can be of any gender, plurality, or definiteness. For example, we can say

·         Gender: “the ferocious lion” and “the ferocious lioness

·         Plurality: “the ferocious lion” and “the ferocious lions

·         Definiteness: “the ferocious lion” and “a ferocious lion”

How is this Done in Arabic?

So let’s take a look at how this adjectival phrase works in Arabic. In order to do this, consider the example below.

الأَسَدُ الضَارِيْ
the ferocious lion

The first thing to notice is that, in Arabic, the noun comes first and the adjective follows it (reading from right to left, of course). In the example, the word “الأسد” is the noun and it is called مَوْصُوْف (one being described) and “الضاري” is the adjective and it is termed صِفَة (description).



the one being described; must come first


the description; must come second

A single noun may have many successive adjectives, as in the following example.

الأَطْفَالُ البِطَاءُ السِمَانُ

the slow, fat children

Arabic Grammar Rules

Unlike in English, where the adjective stays the same and the noun inflects for gender, plurality, and definiteness, both parts in Arabic must match. And the aspects in which they match are four:

1.       gender – masculine or feminine

2.       plurality – singular, dual, or plural

3.       definiteness – definite or indefinite

4.       grammatical case – nominative, accusative, or genitive

That is to say, if the noun being described is masculine, then the adjective(s) will also be masculine. If it is feminine, then the adjective(s) will also be feminine. And similarly, the adjective(s) will follow the noun in being singular, dual, plural, definite, indefinite, nominative, accusative, and genitive. The grammatical case of the noun will be based on the circumstances of the sentence. But the case of the adjective will have to match.

Grammar Rule

the form of all adjectives of a noun must be chosen to match the noun in gender, plurality, definiteness, and grammatical case

Below are a few examples. Confirm that the noun and its adjective(s) are matching in gender. There are 4 ways in which a noun could be feminine but, usually, words in Arabic are feminine if they end in the round ة, and they are masculine otherwise.



صَبِيَّةٌ زَكِيَّةٌ

a pure (female) baby

طَاوِلَةً مَكْسُوْرَةً

a broken table

زَيْدٌ البَخِيْلُ

Zaid the miserly

البَحْرِ الأَبْيَضِ المُتَوَسِّطِ

the Mediterranean Sea

Below are a few more illustrations of the noun and adjective. Confirm that they match in plurality. If a noun is dual, it will end in either the ـانِ or the ـيْنِ suffix. Plurality is more complicated.



صَيْدَلِيَّانِ عَالِمَانِ

two knowledgeable pharmacists

الوِجْهَةُ العَمَلِيَّةُ

the practical aspect

الأَطْفَالُ الصِغَارُ

the small children

Confirm that the words below match in definiteness. A word can be definite in 7 ways. Some of these include having the الـ prefix, being a proper noun, and being possessive.



كِتَابُهُ المُطَوَّلُ

his long book

زَيْدٌ السَارِقُ

Zaid the thief

حَظٌّ سَعِيْدٌ

good luck

Finally, confirm that the words below match in grammatical case. Grammatical case can be reflected in 9 ways but, usually, a word is said to be nominative if it’s last letter has a ضمة, accusative if it has a فتحة, and genitive if it has a كسرة.



رُعْبٌ شَدِيْدٌ

an extreme fear

بَرْنَامِجٍ مُمِلٍّ

a boring show

الوَاجِبَ الصَعْبَ

the difficult homework

But it is important to understand that all of gender, plurality, definiteness, and grammatical case are non-trivial issues. They have their rulings and their place in Arabic grammar. To get an idea of this, below is a  noun-adjective phrase which does not seemingly match in three of the four mentioned aspects. In reality, the words do match, but this will only become apparent after studying more grammar.



شَوَارِعَ مُزْدَحِمَةٍ

congested streets

The Possessive Phrase

What is the English Equivalent?

The English equivalent of a possessive phrase is, for example, “the pelican’s bill” or one can say “the bill of the pelican”.

Notice that two nouns are used here. With the adjectival phrase, one noun and one adjective was used. Moreover, both nouns will inflect for gender, plurality, and definiteness and each worries about its own inflection. In the adjectival phrase, it was only the noun that inflected for these things and the adjective simply followed suit.

Consider the phrases below for tangible examples of gender, plurality, and definiteness. Read these examples, but do not spend too much effort analyzing them; they are here simply to illustrate a point and are not meant to be the topic of discussion.

·         Gender:

o   both masculine: a man’s son

o   1st masculine and 2nd feminine: a man’s daughter

o   1st feminine and 2nd masculine: a woman’s son

o   both feminine: a woman’s daughter

·         Plurality

o   both singular: the pelican’s bill

o   1st singular and 2nd plural: the pelican’s eyes

o   1st plural and 2nd singular: the pelicans’ home

o   both plural: the pelicans’ bills

·         Definiteness

o   definite: the pelican’s bill

o   indefinite: a pelican’s bill

How is this Done in Arabic?

Consider the example below.

مِنْقَار البَجَعَةِ

the pelican’s bill

Notice that in Arabic, we follow the “X of Y” structure, where the thing being possessed comes first and the one possessing it comes second. In the example, the first noun – the thing possessed – is “منقار” and it is termed the مُضَاف. The second noun – the possessor – is “البجعة” and it is termed the مُضَاف إلَيْه.



the thing possessed; must come first

مُضَاف إلَيْه

the possessor; must come second

A point worth noting here is that this phrase doesn’t always denote possession; it merely establishes a form of association between the two nouns that’s a lot like possession. Compare the translations in the examples below for an idea of what this really means. Sometimes the second noun genuinely doesn’t “possess” the first, and sometimes it’s the translation that distorts the “possession”.



خَاتَم فِضَّةٍ

a ring (made) of silver

بَاب البَيْتِ

the house’s door
(the house doesn’t “own” the door)

صَلٰوة اللَيْلِ

night prayer (prayer of the night)

شَحْمَتَيِ الأُذُنَيْنِ

earlobes (lobes of the ears)

Arabic Grammar Rules

When speaking about the adjectival phrase, recall that we considered four aspects:

·         gender

·         plurality

·         definiteness

·         grammatical case

Gender & Plurality

Both the first and second noun in a possessive phrase worry about their own gender and plurality, just as in English. Consider the examples below.



اِبْن رَجُلٍ

a man’s son

اِبْن مَرْءَةٍ

a woman’s son

بِنْت رَجُلٍ

a man’s daughter

بِنْت مَرْءَةٍ

a woman’s daughter



مِنْقَار البَجَعَةِ

the pelican’s bill

عُيُوْن البَجَعَةِ

the pelican’s eyes

مَحَطّ البَجَعِ

the pelicans’ resting-place

مَنَاقِيْر البَجَعِ

the pelicans’ bills

And etc. for duals


As for definiteness, however, the first noun derives its definiteness from the second. If the second is definite, so too will the first be definite. And  if the second is indefinite, then the first will be indefinite also. This is the same in English. Consider the following.



مِنْقَار البَجَعَةِ

the pelican’s bill

مِنْقَار بَجَعَةٍ

a pelican’s bill

Aside: A small point to note here is that even when the second noun is indefinite, the first noun may be indefinite, but it does have some specificity. For example, in the phrase “a pelican’s bill” the word “bill” may be indefinite, but it’s still slightly specific in the sense that we know it’s a pelican’s bill and not an eagle’s, or a sparrow’s, or any other bird’s.

As a result of this definiteness situation, the first noun in a possessive phrase will never have the definite article الـ, nor will it have nunation (تنوين). Moreover, the نون that is the suffix for duality and masculine sound plurality will also drop.

Grammar Rule

the first noun in a possessive phrase will never have الـ, تنوين, the نون of duality, nor the نون of masculine plurality

Consider the examples below. Notice that the first word does not have any of the four mentioned affixes.


مِنْقَار بَجَعَةٍ

مِنْقَارَا بَجَعَةٍ

مِنْقَارَيْ بَجَعَةٍ

مُسْلِمُوْ مِصْرٍ

مُسْلِمِيْ مِصْرٍ

Grammatical Case

When we talked about the adjectival phrase, we said that the grammatical case of the noun – whatever it may be – will carry over to the adjective. Here however, the first noun – whatever it’s grammatical case may be – will always render the second noun genitive. And this is clear from all the examples above; the first noun will be reflected based on the circumstances of the sentence, and the second noun will be fixed genitive.

Grammar Rule

the grammatical case of the first noun in a possessive phrase will be determined by external factors; the grammatical case of the second noun will always be genitive


الأَسَدُ الضَارِيْ
the ferocious lion

Adjectival Phrase

·         the noun comes first and the adjective(s) follow

·         the adjectives must match the noun in

o   gender

o   plurality

o   definiteness

o   the grammatical case of the noun will be determined by external factors; the case of the adjectives will be determined by the noun (they will match it)

مِنْقَار البَجَعَةِ

the pelican’s bill

Possessive Phrase

·         the thing possessed (a noun) comes first and the owner (also a noun) comes second

·         the meaning of this structure is not always that of possession as it’s generally understood

·         the two nouns worry about their own gender and plurality

·         the definiteness of the first noun is determined by that of the second noun

·         the first noun will never have الـ, تنوين, nor the نون suffix of the dual or sound masculine plural

·         the grammatical case of the first noun will be determined by external factors; the case of the second noun will always be genitive


Below is a list of very common phrases – both adjectival and possessive. Read each one carefully and try your best to verify that the associated Arabic grammar rules are being applied.

Notice that some of the adjectival phrases have multiple adjectives, some of the possessive phrases are compound, and some phrases are a combination of the two types. See if you can confirm that the rules you’ve learned apply in each of these complex cases.


Translation (not necessarily indicative of the Arabic structure)

الأُمَمُ المُتَّحِدَةُ

the United Nations

الوِلاَيَاتُ المُتَّحِدَةُ الأَمْرِكِيَّةُ

the American Unites States
(i.e. the United States of America)

الصَلِيْبُ الأَحْمَرُ

the Red Cross

المَمْلَكَةُ العَرَبِيَّةُ السَعُوْدِيَّةُ

the Saudi Arabian kingdom

(i.e. the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

الحَرْبُ العَالَمِيَّةُ الأُوْلى

the first World War

البَحْرُ الأَبْيَضُ المُتَوَسِّطُ

the white, middle sea
(i.e. the Mediterranean Sea)

صَبَاحَ الخَيْرِ

morning of good
(i.e. good morning)

صَبَاحَ النُوْرِ

response to good morning

حَظٌّ سَعِيْدٌ

good luck

طُورُ سَيْنَاءَ

mountain of Sinai

(i.e. Mount Sinai)

دَارُ الأَمْنِ

place of safety

وَاسِعُ النِطَاقِ

wide of range
(i.e. wide-ranging)

قَدَرُ الإِمْكَانِ

as much as possible

صَانِعُ القَرَارِ

decision-maker (bourgeoisie)

صَاحِبُ الفَضْلِ الأَوَّلِ

deserver of first praise (i.e. most deserving, also first one to do something)

كُلِّيَةُ الطِبِّ

faculty of medicine

جَمْعُ المُذَكَّرِ السَالِمُ

sound plural of the masculine

(i.e. sound masculine plural)

شَبَكَةُ تَعَلُّمِ اللُغَةِ العَرَبِيَّةِ

the website for the learning of the Arabic language

Arabic Rule

Having put on jeans, he went to the House. And I walked around the house through the garden with people standing in the street, entered the gate, as if I was running home. Seeing off went on their own. Expecting a repetition, I did not drink alcohol and, watching him, I realized that he was also ignoring him. Somewhere in a couple of hours when the people were generally drunk, we retired with him in a bathhouse where we got what we wanted from each other with.

Arabic rule in

All of them were united by one desire for money and not a desire for sex. Why are such irresponsible citizens engaged in such an important matter for the population. Believe me, with the exception of a couple of times, everything was so bad that when I left the room I hit myself on. The forehead with my palm and could not understand for a fig I needed it all.

But spermotoxicosis is a merciless thing, and over and over again everything was repeated.


And let's unbutton the top button: No, it's better to open the top two: - Come on, unbutton everything: he did not let. Each time, unbuttoning another button, he kissed me passionately. - You are my hot girl: Soon the fur coat was completely open.

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After that I saw Igor quite often, but he is nothing like that. After a while, the same summer, we played with the boys at a construction site near our houses in some kind. Of children's games. Gradually, the guys went home, there were only three boys, fifth-graders from the neighboring yard and I. They offered to play in, pipiski.

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