Arabic grammar
Learn Arabic Lesson

Arabic Grammar Usage

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Learning Arabic Grammar قواعد العربية للمبتدئين

 

Grammar usage

1- The Verb “to be” in Arabic:

In Arabic, there is no direct translation of “to be” in the present tense. That means that “am & is and are” don’t exist in Arabic sentence. For example:

كَيْفَ الْحَال؟ Kayf al-Haal?

 

How “are” you?
الحَمْدُ لِله. وَأَنْتَ: كَيْفَ الْحَال ؟ al-Hamdu lillah. Wa ‘anta, kayf al-Haal? “I’m” doing well. And you. How” are” you?

 

الحَمْدُ لِله. أَنَا بِخَيْر. شُكْراً. al-Hamdu lillah. ‘anaa bekhayr. shukran Fine. “I’m” doing well. Thanks.

2-Definite and Indefinite articles:

There are no indefinite articles ‘a’ or ‘an’  in Arabic. For example; “SabaaH” means ‘morning’ and ‘a morning’, and “masaa‘” means ‘evening’ and ‘an evening’.

Arabic has a definite article like “the” in English. It is “al“, in Arabic, which added to the beginning of a word by attaching the prefix “al-“. For example; “al-masaa‘” means ‘the evening’, “al-Haal” means ‘the condition’ of someone’s health.

There is one other important rule to keep in mind when it comes to the definite article “al“.

Remember the phrases “as-salaam” and “an-nuur“? both “as” in “as-salaam” and  “an” in “an-nuur” mean “the” as well, But neither are pronounced as “al“.

That’s because we have found few letters (14 of the 28) in Arabic when they come after the definite article “al” so they can cancel the pronunciation of the “l” sound in “al” and that time you will find only the “a” followed by those mentioned letters doubled. Hence “as-salaam” with double “s” and “an-nuur” with double “n“.

Those letters called “sun letters” because the word “shams” in Arabic which means “sun” begins with one of them.

How to know those letters? Simply they are the ones which we use the tip of the tongue to pronounce them:

“t , th , d , dh , r , z , sh , s, l, n”. :

ت، ث، د، ذ، ر، ز، س، ش، ص، ض، ط، ظ، ل، ن

The other 14 letters which don’t force “l” in “al” to be silent are called “moon letters” because the word “moon = qamar” in Arabic begins with one of them. Here is the example for both cases:

SabaaH” = a morning, aS-SabaaH” = the morning. masaa” = an evening, al-masaa’” = the evening. shams” = sun, ash-shams = the sun. “qamar = moon, al-qamar= the moon.

3-Gender:

    Arabic is a language that has gender, like Spanish, French, and Italian. That means every noun is either masculine or feminine.

Nouns in Arabic if they end with the sound (a) – called in Arabic (taa’ marbuuta)- are generally or 90% feminine, and masculine if they end in anything else. Examples:

“rajul“: man (masculine), “mar’a: woman (feminine), “ketaab”: book (masculine), “Taawila: table (feminine), “qalam“: pen (masculine), “say-yaara: car (feminine)

Bear in mind that not all feminine nouns end with this sign.

Examples:

      “bent“: girl (f), “ukht”: sister (f), also some objects like: “shams”: sun (f), “‘arD”: earth (f). But this type of feminine gender is very rare in Arabic.

More Arabic Grammar notes

By now you should be able to recognize many words from the previous lesson. Remember the very common greeting phrase in Arabic “marHaban” and “‘ahlan wa sahlan” these are the friendly phrases that Mahmoud and Adam used.

To ask someone: “What’s your name?” simply say: “maa esmuka?” to a man, or “maa esmuke?” to a woman. Word by word: “maa” means: (what) and (your) is a possessive pronoun, which consists of (you = ‘anta or ‘ante) with adding of “ka or ke” to give the meaning of “esmuka” for a man or “esmuke” for a woman. Remember that Arabic doesn’t express (is, are, or am) and there are two forms of you: “‘anta” to a man and “‘anti” to a woman.

 

The response for this question is: “my (possessive pronoun) + name” which equal in Arabic “esm + ii“.

How to ask: “Where are you from?” simply say “men ‘ayn ‘anta” to a man as we mentioned above or “‘ante” to a woman.

There are other different forms for speaking to two people or to three or more, but do not worry about that for now!

At the end of the dialogue you have learned how to speak friendly to any one and how you can use a useful phrase like “nice to meet you”, which means “furSa saAiida” or “tashar-rafna“.

1- The possessive adjective

Where are you from?

The title refers to a type of adjective formed by adding a suffix (yy) for masculine, or (y-ya) for feminine nouns.

To form these types of adjective from a place or noun, follow these steps;

1- Remove the definite article if the noun has (al) as in the example of (Iraq) above.

2- Remove (alif /taa’ marbuuta) from the end of the noun if it has either.

3- Add the suffix (yy) to make the adjective for male, or (y-ya) to make it for female.  See the following;

  Country Male adjective (nationality) Female adjective (nationality) English
مِصْر

meSr

مِصْريّ

meSryy

مِصْريّة

meSrey-ya

Egyptian
سُورية

suurya

سُوريّ

suuryy

سُوريّة

Suury-ya

Syrian
لُبْنان

lubnaan

لُبْنانيّ

lubnaanyy

لُبْنانِيَّة

lubnaaney-ya

Lebanese
كَنَدا

kanada

كَنَدي

kanadyy

كَنَديّة

kanadey-ya

Canadian
العِراق

alAeraaq

عِراقيّ

Aeraaqyy

عِراقيّة

Aeraaqey-ya

Iraqi
فَرِنْسا

faransaa

فَرَنْسيّ

faransyy

فَرَنْسِيّة

faransey-ya

French
ألمانيا

‘almaanya

ألمانيّ

‘almaanyy

ألمانيّة

‘almaaney-ya

German

 

2-Personal pronouns

 

Arabic is like English. It has two sets of personal pronouns: subject and possessive pronouns. There is some overlap among these sets. However, Arabic has more pronouns than English (Formal Arabic has separate categories for masculine and feminine and dual pronouns for sets of two, these are not used in most varieties of spoken Arabic). Here you will learn the following most commonly used subject pronouns in spoken Arabic:

 

أنا ‘anaa I
نَحْنُ naHnu We
أنْتَ ‘anta You  (for male)
أنْتِ ‘anti You  (for female)
أنتُم ‘antum You  (plural)
هُوَ huwa He / It  (for masculine)
هِيَ heya She /It  (for feminine)
هُم hum They    (plural)

 

3- Question words

To ask a question in Arabic, use one of the below words at the beginning of a sentence:

Arabic Transliteration English
ما؟ maa What? (used before nouns)
ماذا؟ maaThaa What? (used before verbs)
لِمَ / لِماذا؟ lema / lemaaThaa Why?
أَيْن؟ ‘ayn Where?
مَنْ؟ man Who?
مَتى؟ mataa When?
كَيْف؟ kayf How?
هل؟ hal For (Yes/No) question
مِنْ أَين؟ men ‘ayn From where?
مَعَ مَنْ؟ maAa man With whom?
أي؟ ‘ayy Which?

 

Examples:

English Transliteration Arabic
1- What’s your name? maa esmuk? 1- ما اِسْمُك؟
2- What do you do? matha taAmal? 2- ماذا تَعْمَل؟
3- Why are you in Egypt?  lema ‘anta fii meSr? 3- لِمَ أنتَ في مِصْر؟
4- Where’s the University? ‘ayn al-jaameAa ? 4- أَيْن الجامِعَة؟
5- Who is Adam? man ‘adam? 5- مَنْ آدَم؟
6- When is the lesson? mataa ad-dars? 6- مَتى الدّرْس؟.
7- How are things? kayf  al-Haal? 7- كَيْف الحال؟.
8- Are you from France?

9- Where are you from?

10- Which country are you from?

hal ‘anta men Faransaa?

men ‘ayn ‘anta?

men ‘ayy balad ‘anta?

8- هل أَنْتَ مِنْ فَرَنْسا؟

9-من أين أنت؟

10- مِنْ أَي بَلَد أَنتَ ؟

 

Possessive pronouns

 

Possessive pronouns in Arabic are suffixes attached to the nouns. Those you have seen already in previous dialogues:

    my name : esmii اِسْمي    my brother: akhii أخي

your name: esmka / esmke اِسْمكَ / اِسْمكِ

Here are all these suffixes with their subject pronouns, applied on an example:

English Transliteration Arabic
my office maktabii  مَكْتَبــي
our office maktabnaa مَكْتَبـنا
your office (for a male) maktabka  /   ak (spoken) مَكْتَبـكَ
your office (for a female) maktabke /   ek (spoken) مَكْتَبـكِ
your office (for plural) maktabkum مَكْتَبـكُم
his office maktabhu مَكْتَبــهُ
her office maktabhaa مَكْتَبــها
their office maktabhum مَكْتَبُــهُم

Notice that, the possessive pronouns (ka) and (ke) for your are pronounced as (ak) for male and (ek) for female in spoken Arabic.

What’s this?

maa haThaa / haThehe?

ما هَذا / هَذِهِ؟

Demonstratives

The demonstratives “haTha / haThehe” are translated as “this is a/an….” and “this…” and are used to refer to masculine and feminine nouns.

Look at the below examples and learn how to say “this is a” & “this is the”:

1- This is a / an…. (referring to a masculine)

هَذا بَيْت

haTha bayt

This is a house

هَذا كِتاب

haTha Ketaab

This is a book

هَذا قَلَم

haTha qalam

This is a pen

هَذا كُرْسي

haTha kursy

This is a chair

هَذا مَكْتَب

haTha maktab

This is an office / desk

هَذا هَاتِف

haTha haatef

This is a telephone

2- This is a / an….(referring to a feminine)

 

هَذِهِ بِنْت

haThehe bent

This is a girl

 

هَذِهِ غُرْفَة

haThehe ghurfa

This is a room

 

هَذِهِ سَيّارَة

haThehe say-yaara

This is a car

 

هَذِهِ مَكْتَبة

haThehe maktaba

This is a library

 

هَذِهِ ساعَة

haThehe saaAa

This is a watch

 

هَذِهِ صُورَة

haThehe Suura

This is a picture

1- This…. (referring to a masculine)

هَذا البَيْت

haTha al-bayt

This house

هَذا الكِتاب

haTha al-ketaab

This book

 

هَذا القَلَم

haTha al-qalam

This pen

هَذا الكُرْسي

haTha al-kursy

This chair

هَذا المَكْتَب

haTha al-maktab

This office / desk

هَذا الهَاتِف

haTha al-haatef

This telephone

2- This…. (referring to a feminine)

هَذِهِ البِنْت

haThehe el-bent

This girl

 

 

هَذِهِ الغُرْفَة

haThehe el-ghurfa

This room

هَذِهِ السَيّارَة

haThehe es-say-yaara

This car

هَذِهِ الطّاوِلَة

haThehe eT-Taawela

This table

هَذِهِ السّاعَة

haThehe es-saaAa

This watch

هَذِهِ الصُّورَة

haThehe eS-Suura

This picture

 

Building Arabic Sentences

1- Simple Sentences

Many Arabic sentences do not need the verb ‘to be’ (am, is, are) in the present tense, which means that you can have a ‘nominal sentence’ without verbs at all. Look at the following phrases;

أنا أَحْمَد

‘anaa ‘aHmad.

I (am) Ahmad.

أنا مِنْ سوريا

‘anaa men suurya

I (am) from Syria

أنا مُهَنْدِس

‘anaa muhandes

I (am) an engineer

هُوِ حَمْدان

huwa Hamdaan

He (is) Hamdan

هُوَ مِنْ قَطِر

huwa men qatar

He (is) from Qatar

هُوَ مُحاسِب

huwa muHaaseb

He (is) an accountant

نَحْنُ مِن الإمارات

naHnu men al-emaaraat

We (are) from Emirates

أَنْتُم مِن دُبَي

‘antum men dubai

You (are) all from Dubai

هُمْ مِن جَدّة

hum men jad-da

They (are) from Jeddah

البَيْت جَمِيل

al-bayt jamiil

The house (is) beautiful

الجَوّ لَطيف

al-jaww laTiif

The weather  (is) nice

المَدينَة كَبيرَة

al-madiina kabiira

The city (is) big

 

2- Noun-Adjective phrases:

It is simple to form an adjective phrases in Arabic, because (The adjectivefollows the noun), as in the below example.

بَيْت كَبير

bayt kabiir

a big house

البَيْت الكَبير

al-bayt al-kabiir

the big house

 

As you see in the two examples, if the noun has a definite article (al) also the adjective must be with (al), and vice versa.

Remember that, if the first word or the noun is definite or with (al) and the second word is not definite, so; it will be considered a full nominal sentence as in the grammar notice number 1. Example;

البَيْت كَبير

al-bayt kabiir

The house (is) big

 

3- The Plural

al-jamA الجَمْع

Arabic has three types of plurals:

1-جَمْع المُذَكّر jamA el-muThak-kar 1- Masculine Plural
2-جَمْع المُؤنّث jamA el-mu’an-nath 2- Feminine Plural
3-جَمْع التكسير jamA et-taksiir 3- Broken Plural

 

1- Masculine plural

The noun takes one of pair endings (either “uun“- ــــون or “iin“يــــــن) according to grammatical function, which you will learn in the intermediate levels. While in spoken Arabic they use only one of the above suffixes, which is “iin“. For example:

Singular plural English
مِصْري

meSryy

مِصْريون / مصريين

meSryuun / meSryiin

Egyptian/ Egyptians
إماراتي

’emaraatyy

إماراتيون / إماراتيين

’emaraatyuun/ ’emaraatyiin

Emirati / Emiratis 
قَطَري

qataryy

قَطَريون / قَطَريين

qataryuun / qataryiin

Qatari / Qataris
كُويتي

kuwaityy

كويتيون / كويتيين

kuwaityuun / kuwaityiin

Kuwaiti / Kuwaitis
مُدَرّس

mudar-res

مُدَرّسون / مُدَرّسين

mudar-resuun/ mudar-resiin

Teacher / Teachers
مُدير

mudiir

مُديرون / مُديرين

mudiiruun / mudiiriin

Manager / Managers

 

2- Feminine Plural

Most of the nouns which refer to feminine take the ending “aat ا ت

For example:

Singular plural English
مِصْرية

meSry-ya

مِصْريات

meSry-yaat

Egyptian/ Egyptians

(female)

إماراتية

’emaraaty-ya

إماراتيات

’emaraaty-ytaat

Emirati / Emiratis

(female)

كُويتية

kuwaity-ya

كويتيات

kuwaity-yaat

Kuwaiti / Kuwaitis

(female)

مُدَرّسة

mudar-resa

مُدَرّسات

mudar-resaat

Teacher / Teachers

(female)

مُديرة

Mudiira

مُديرات

Mudiiraat

Manager / Managers

(female)

سَيّارة

say-yaara

سَيّارات

say-yaraat

Car / Cars

(Considered feminine)

طاوِلَة

Taawela

طاوِلات

Taawelaat

Table / Tables

(Considered feminine)

 

3- Broken Plural

Arabic has more than ten patterns of the broken plural which you will learn in intermediate level, as in some English words “child / children, man / men, and woman / women”. For example:

Singular plural English
رَجُل  Rajul رِجال  rejaal Man / Men
اِمْرَأَة  ‘emra’aa نِساء  nesaa’ Woman / Women
طِفْل  Tefl أَطْفال ‘aTfaal Child / Children

 

Saying (to have) in Arabic

You have noticed Adam in the dialogue when he said (Aendii muHaaDara)= I have lecture. The pronoun forms which he used with the preposition are basically the same like the possessive pronouns forms which mentioned in the previous lesson. The following table introduces these endings with prepositions indicating the meaning of (to have) in Arabic.

Saying to have: prepositions with possessive suffixes

 

English

لِـ

L

عِنْدَ

Aend

مَعَ

maAa

I have لي lii عِنْدي Aendii مَعي maAii
We have لَنا lanaa عِنْدنا Aendnaa مَعَنا maAanaa
You have (m) لَكَ laka عِنْدك Aendka مَعَك maAaka
You have (f) لَكِ lake عِنْدك Aendke مَعَك maAake
You have (pl) لَكُم lakum عِنْدَكم Aendkum مَعَكم maAakum
He has لَهُ lahu عِنْدَهُ Aendhu مَعَهُ maAahu
She has لَها lahaa عِنْدها Aendhaa مَعَها maAahaa
They have لَهُم lahum عِنْدَهم Aendhum مَعَهُم maAahum

Three of these combinations form (to have) in Arabic. The difference in

how they are used to express possession is:

– (lii) is used when referring to owning people: (lii ‘akh) = I have a brother

– (Aend) is used when referring to owning objects: (Aendii say-yaara) = I have a car

– (maAa) is used for referring to owning something right now: (maAii dollar)= I have a dollar. While some Arabic speakers use (Aend) for all cases.

Negation of (to have)

You can use (laysa(“ليس” to negate (to have) in Arabic, whatever the subject is. See the following examples:

Arabic Transliteration English
ليْسَ مَعي فُلوس Laysa maAii fuluus I don`t have money
ليْسَ عِنْده سَيّارة Laysa Aendahu say-yara He doesn’t have a car
ليْسَ لَهُم أَوْلاد Laysa lahum awlaad They don`t have children