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Arabic grammar ( or قواعد اللغة العربية ) is the grammar of the Classical and Modern Standard Arabic. Arabic is a Semitic language and its grammar has many similarities with the grammar of other Semitic languages.


The identity of the oldest Arabic grammarian is disputed with some sources saying Ibn Abi Ishaq and medieval sources saying Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali, the oldest known Arabic grammarian, established diacritical marks and vowels for Arabic in the mid-600s. The schools of Basramarker, Kufamarker, Sibawaih further developed grammatical rules in the late 700s.

Due to the rapid expansion of Islam in the 8th century, many people learned Arabic as a lingua franca. For this reason, the earliest grammatical treatises on Arabic are often written by non-native speakers.The earliest grammarian who is known is (died AD 735/6, AH 117).The efforts of three generations of grammarians culminated in the book of the Persian scholar (ca. 760–793).


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


Classical Arabic has 28 consonantal phonemes, including two semi-vowels, which comprise 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 written language, although they may be indicated with diacritics.

(همزة الوصل), 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 vocal, if a word is preceding it. This word will then produce an ending vocal, "helping vocal" to facilitate pronunciation. This short vocal may be, depending on the preceding vowel, ـَ a (فتحة) /a/ , ـِ a (كسرة) /i/ or ـُ a (ضمة) /u/. If the preceding word ends in a (سكون) (i.e. not followed by a short vowel), the assumes a /i/. Symbol ـّ (شدة) indicates a gemination or consonant doubling. See more in Tashkīl.




Nouns (and their modifying adjectives) are either definite or indefinite (there is an article for the definite state only). A noun is definite if it has the definite article prefix (الـ ), if it has a suffixed pronoun (كلبها الكبير "her big dog"), if it is inherently definite by being a proper noun (مصر القديمة , "Ancient Egypt"), or if it is in a genitive construction ( , status constructus) with a definite noun or nouns (بنت الملك , "the daughter of the king").


The article (أداة التعريف ) الـ is indeclinable and expresses definite state of a noun of any gender and number. It is also prefixed to each of that noun's modifying adjectives. The initial vowel ( ), is volatile in the sense that it disappears in sandhi, the article becoming mere (although the is retained in orthography in any case as it is based on pausal pronunciation).

Also, the is assimilated to a number of consonants (dentals and sibilants), so that in these cases, the article in pronunciation is expressed only by geminating the initial consonant of the noun (while in orthography, the writing الـ is retained, and the gemination may be expressed by putting on the following letter).

The consonants causing assimilation (trivially including ل ( )) are: ت ( ), ث ( ), د ( ), ذ ( ), ر ( ), ز ( ), س ( ), ش ( ), ص ( ), ض ( ), ط ( ), ظ ( ), ل ( ), ن ( ). These 14 letters are called 'solar letters' (حروف الشمسيه ), while the remaining 14 are called 'lunar letters' or 'moon letters' (حروف القمرية ). The solar letters all have in common that they are dental, alveolar and postalveolar consonants (all coronals) in the classical language, and the lunar consonants are not. (ج is pronounced postalveolar in most varieties of Arabic today, but was actually a palatalized voiced velar plosive in the classical language, and is thus considered a lunar letter; nevertheless, in colloquial Arabic, the ج is often spoken as if solar.)

Inflection (case)


Arabic has three grammatical cases (حالات ) roughly corresponding to: nominative, genitive and accusative. Normally, singular nouns take the ending in the nominative, in the genitive and in the accusative. Some exceptional nouns, known as diptotes (الممنوع من الصرف ), never take the final n, and have the suffix in the genitive except when the diptotic noun is in the definite state (preceded by al- or is in the construct state). When speaking or reading aloud, articulating the case ending is optional, but rarely used except in religious situations. Technically, every noun has such an ending, although at the end of a sentence, no inflection is pronounced, even in formal speech, because of the rules of 'pause' (الوقف ).

Case is not shown in standard orthography, with the exception of indefinite accusative nouns ending in any letter but ة or ء , where the "sits" upon an added to the end of the word (the still shows up in unvowelled texts). Cases, however, are marked in the , children's books, primers and to remove ambiguous situations. If marked, it is shown at the end of the noun.

Nominative case


  • Subjects of a verbal sentence.
  • Subjects and predicates of an equational (non-verbal) sentence, with some notable exceptions.
  • Certain adverbs retain the nominative marker.
  • The citation form of words is (if noted at all) in the nominative case.

For singular nouns and broken plurals, it is marked as a (-u) for the definite or + nunation ( ) for the indefinite. The dual and regular masculine plural are formed by adding and respectively ( and in the construct state). The regular feminine plural is formed by adding in the definite and in the indefinite.

Accusative case


  • The subject of an equational (non-verbal) sentence, if it is initiated with , or one of her sisters.
  • The predicate of "be" and its sisters. Hence, البنت جميلة "the girl is beautiful" but البنت كانت جميلة "the girl was beautiful" (spelling جميلة is not affected here (letter ة) in the unvocalised Arabic). The ending in brackets may not be pronounced in pausa or in informal Arabic.
  • Both the subject and the predicate of and its sisters in an equational clause.
  • The object of a transitive verb
  • Most adverbs.
  • Internal object/cognate accusative structure
  • The accusative of specification/purpose/circumstantial.

For singular nouns and broken plurals, it is marked as a ( ) for the definite or + nunation ( ) for the indefinite. For the indefinite accusative, the + nunation is added to an e.g. ـًا, which is added to the ending of all nouns (e.g. كان تعباناً "he was tired") not ending with a or . The dual and regular masculine plural are formed by adding and (both spelled ـين in Arabic) respectively ( and in the construct state, both spelled ـي in Arabic). The regular feminine plural is formed by adding in the definite and in the indefinite, both spelled ـات in Arabic.

Genitive case


  • Objects of prepositions.
  • All, but not necessarily the first member (the first nomen regens), of an (genitive construction) .
  • The object of a locative adverb.
  • Semi-prepositions if preceded by another (true or semi) preposition
  • Objects of كم "how much/many" and أي "any".
  • Elative (comparative/superlative) adjectives behave similarly: أطول ولد " " "the tallest boy".

For singular nouns and broken plurals, it is marked as a ( ) for the definite or + nunation ( ) for the indefinite. The dual and regular masculine plural are formed by adding and respectively (both spelled ـين in Arabic) ( and in the construct state, both spelled ـي in Arabic). The regular feminine plural is formed by adding in the definite and in the indefinite, both spelled ـات in Arabic.

Note: diptotic nouns receive a ( ) in the genitive, indefinite and are never nunated.
Note: there is no dative case; instead, the preposition لـ " " is used.



Arabic distinguishes between nouns based on quantity. All nouns are either singular (مفرد ) when there is one, dual (مثنى ) when there are two, and plural (جمع ) if there are three or more.

The dual is formed by adding ـان to the noun stem in the nominative and ـين in the accusative and genitive. The final vowel " " is not pronounced in pausa and more colloquial forms of Arabic (not affecting the Arabic unvocalised spelling). The final ending ـن " " is dropped in the construct form (Status constructus), resulting in ـا and in the nominative and ـي in the accusative and genitive (affects the spelling as well).

The plurals are formed in two ways. The "sound plurals" are formed by the addition of a suffix. Masculine sound plurals take the forms ـون " " in the nominative and ـين " " in the genitive and accusative. These do not change whether the noun is definite or indefinite. Note that in written Arabic (without vocalisation) dual and sound plural forms are spelled identically but pronounced differently. The final " " is not pronounced in pausa and in less formal Arabic.

Feminine indefinite sound plurals take ـات " " in the nominative and ـات " " in the accusative and genitive. Feminine definite sound plurals take ـات " " in the nominative and ـات " " in the accusative and genitive. The broken plurals are formed by altering the vowel structure according to one of about five established patterns. Some nouns have two or more plural forms, usually to distinguish between different meanings. All these feminine forms are spelled identically in Arabic, the endings in brackets are not pronounced in pausa and in less formal Arabic.



Arabic has two genders, expressed by pronominal, verbal and adjectival agreement. Agreement with numerals shows a peculiar 'polarity', c.f. the section on numerals. The genders are usually referred to as masculine (مذكر ) and feminine (مؤنث ), but the situation is more complicated than that. The 'feminine' singular forms are also used to express 'singulatives', which are singulars of collective nouns meaning irrationals of both grammatical genders.

The marker for the feminine gender is a ـة (always follows a , hence the short vowel /a/) suffix, e.g. جامعة "University" but some nouns without this marker also take feminine agreement (e.g. أم 'mother', أرض 'earth'). Already in Classical Arabic, the marker was not pronounced in pausa. It is written with a special letter ة (Arabic: تاء مربوطة ) indicating that a sound is to be pronounced in sandhi, but not in pausa. Strictly speaking, Classical Arabic requires this letter to be pronounced in pausa (hence its form, a with the two dots of a ), but even in Modern Standard Arabic the letter is most often ignored altogether, so مدينة "city", "town" is simply pronounced as in less formal Arabic (all cases). Words ending in ـا are usually also feminine and are indeclinable.

Ending ـة never takes an alif marker in the accusative indefinite but the ending " " may be still pronounced in non-pausal, formal Arabic.

Adjective and apposition

In Arabic, adjectives and appositions follow the noun and agree with the preceding noun in state, gender and case. For example:
  • Adjective (نعت ):
    • (البيت الكبير) "the big house"
    • (رأيت صورة جميلة) "I saw a nice picture"
  • Apposition:
    • (الرسول محمد) "the prophet Muhammad"


The Nisba (النسبة ) is a common suffix to form adjectives of relation or pertinence. The suffix is ـي for masculine and ـية for feminine gender (in other words, it is and is inserted before the gender marker). E. g. لبنان "Lebanon", لبناني "Lebanese (singular masculine)", لبنانية "Lebanese (singular feminine)", لبنانيون "Lebanese (plural masculine)" لبنانيات "Lebanese (plural feminine)".

A construct noun and -adjective is often equivalent to nominal composition in English and other languages (solar cell is equivalent to sun cell).

The Arabic has affected some English adjectives of Arabic or related origin: Iraqi, Kuwaiti, etc.



Adverbials are expressed using adjectives in the indefinite accusative, often written with the ending ـًا (e.g. أيصاً "also") but pronounced " " even if it's not written (see accusative), e.g.: قرأ الكتاب قراءة بطيئة , literally: "he read the book a slow reading", i.e., "He read the book slowly". This type of construction is known as the "absolute accusative" (cf. absolute ablative in Latin grammar).

Adverbs can be formed from adjectives, ordinal numerals: كثيراً frequently, a lot, often, نادراً rarely, أولاً firstly or from nouns: عادةً usually, جداً very.

The second method to form adverbs is to use a preposition and a noun, e. g. بـ , e.g. بسرعة fast, "with speed", بالضبط exactly



A pronominal paradigm consists of 12 forms: In singular and plural, the 2nd and 3rd persons differentiate gender, 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 order 3rd, 2nd, 1st.

Personal pronouns

Person Singular Dual Plural
1st (أنا) (نحن)
2nd masculine (أنت)}} (أنتما) (أنتم)
feminine (أنت) (أنتنّ)
3rd masculine (هو) (هما) (هم)
feminine (هي) (هنّ)

Note: " " is shortened to " " in pausa,
     " " is shortened to " " in pausa,
     " " is shortened to " " in pausa,
     " " is shortened to " " in pausa,
     " " is shortened to " " in pausa,
     " " is shortened to " " in pausa,
     " " is shortened to " " in pausa.

Dual forms: أنتما and هما, plural feminine أنتنّ and هنّ are only used in very formal Arabic.

Enclitic pronouns

Enclitic forms of the pronoun (الضمائر المتصلة ) may be affixed to nouns (representing genitive case, i. e. possession) and to verbs (representing accusative, i. e. a direct object). Most of them are clearly related to the full personal pronouns. They are identical in form in both cases, except for the 1st person singular, which is after nouns (genitive) and after verbs (accusative).
Person Singular Dual Plural
1st ـي ـنا
2nd masculine ـك ـكما ـكم
feminine ـك ـكن
3rd masculine ـه ـهما ـهم
feminine ـها ـهن

In a less formal Arabic, like in many spoken dialects, and are pronounced as , and in all case endings, thus, the case endings ( , and ) are often ignored.


There are two demonstratives (أسماء الإشارة ), near-deictic ('this') and far-deictic ('that'):
  • هذا , f. هذه , pl. هؤلاء 'this, these'
  • ذلك , f. تلك , pl. أولئك 'that, those'
Plural forms of non-human nouns are treated as feminine singular.

Very formal Arabic also presents dual forms:
  • (nom./acc.,gen.) هذان‎ - ‎هذين, f. ‎هتان‎ - ‎هتين 'these two'
  • (nom./acc.,gen.) ذانك - ‎ذينك, f. ‎تانك‎ - ‎تينك 'those two'

Some of the demonstratives ( and should be pronounced with a long " ", although the unvocalised script doesn't contain an alif (ا). They have letter ـٰ "dagger " (ألف خنجرية‎‎ ), which doesn't exist on Arabic keyboards and is seldom written, even in the vocalised Arabic.


Cardinal numerals

Cardinal numerals (الأعداد الأصليّة ) from 1-10 (0 (٠) zero is صفر , from which the English words "cipher" and "zero" are ultimately derived)
  • 1 (واحدٌ)
  • 2 (إثنانِ)
  • 3 (ثلاثةٌ)
  • 4 (أربعةٌ)
  • 5 (خمسةٌ)
  • 6 (ستّةٌ)
  • 7 (سبعةٌ)
  • 8 (ثمانيّةٌ)
  • 9 (تسعةٌ)
  • 10 (عشرةٌ)

The Arabic numerals are written as follows: ٠ - zero, ١ - one, ٢ - two, ٣ - three, ٤ - four, ٥ - five, ٦ - six, ٧ - seven, ٨ - eight, ٩ - nine.

The endings in brackets are dropped in less formal Arabic and in pausa. Note that ة ( ) is pronounced as simple /a/ in this cases. There are cases when in ة must be pronounced but not the rest of the ending.

إثنان ( ) is changed to إثنين ( ) 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. (ثلاثُ فتياتٍ) 'three girls'. The noun counted takes indefinite genitive plural (as the attribute in a genitive construct.)

Numerals 11-19 are indeclinable, perpetually in the indefinite accusative. Numbers 11 and 12 show gender agreement in the ones, and 13-19 show polarity in the ones. The gender of عشر in numbers 11-19 agrees with the counted noun (unlike the standalone numeral 10 which shows polarity). The counted noun takes indefinite accusative singular.
  • 11 (أحدَ عشر)
  • 12 (إثنا عشر)
  • 13 (ثلاثةَ عشر)

The numerals 20-99 are followed by a noun in the indefinite accusative singular as well. There is agreement in gender with the numerals 1 and 2, and polarity for numerals 3-9.
  • 20 (عشرون) (dual of '10')
  • 21 (واحد وعشرون)
  • 22 (إثنان وعشرون)
  • 23 (ثلاثة وعشرون)
  • 30 (ثلاتون)
  • 40 (أربعون)

Whole hundreds, thousands etc. appear as first terms of genitive constructions, e.g. (1001 nights) ألف ليلة وليلة
  • 100 (مئة) , can also be spelled مائة (same pronunciation)
  • 1000 (ألف)

Fractions of a whole smaller than "half" are expressed by the structure sg. (فعل) , pl. (أفعال) .
  • (نصف) "half"
  • (ثلث) "one third"
  • (ثلثان) "two thirds"
  • (ربع) "one quarter"
  • (ثلاثة أرباع) "three quarters"

Ordinal numerals

Ordinal numerals (الأعداد الترتيبية ) higher than "second" are formed using the structure , :
  • m. أول , f. أولى "first"
  • m. ثانٍ (definite form: الثاني ), f. ثانية "second"
  • m. ثالث , f. ثالثة "third"
  • m. رابع , f. رابعة "fourth"
  • m. خامس , f. خامسة "fifth"
  • m. سادس , f. سادسة "sixth"
  • m. سابع , f. سابعة "seventh"
  • m. ثامن , f. ثامنة "eighth"
  • m. تاسع , f. تاسعة "ninth"
  • m. عاشر , f. عاشرة "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.



As in many other Semitic languages, Arabic verb formation is based on a (usually) triconsonantal root (جذر ثلاثي, ), which is not a word in itself but contains the semantic core. The consonants كـتـب , for example, indicate 'write', قـرـء (e.g. قرأ) indicate 'read', ءـكـل (e.g. أكل) indicate 'eat' etc.; Words are formed by supplying the root with a vowel structure and with affixes. Traditionally, Arabic grammarians have used the root فـعـل 'do' as a template to discuss word formation. The personal forms a verb can take correspond to the forms of the pronouns, except that in the 3rd person dual, gender is differentiated, yielding paradigms of 13 forms.

Conjugation - prefixes and suffixes


In Arabic the grammatical person and number as well as the mood is designated by a variety of prefixes and suffixes. Most Arabic verbs are regular and follow the pattern detailed below.

NOTE: The Arabic example below is the Arabic verb (كتب), "to write". Only the prefixes and suffixes of the verb have been vocalised, the vocalisation of the stems (كَتَب for the past and كْتُب for the present) has been omitted for reasons of legibility.
Prefixes and suffixes of the Arabic verb
Perfective Imperfective Subjunctive and Jussive
1st STEM STEM no written change
كتبْتُ أكتب
2nd masculine STEM STEM no written change
كتبْتَ تَكتب
كتبْتِ تَكتبِينَ تَكتبِي
3rd masculine STEM( ) STEM no written change
كتبَ يَكتب
feminine STEM STEM no written change
كتبَتْ تَكتب
2nd masculine
& feminine
كتبْتُمَا تَكتبَانِ تَكتبَا
3rd masculine STEM STEM STEM
كتبَا يَكتبَانِ يَكتبَا
كتبَتَا تَكتبَانِ تَكتبَا
1st STEM STEM no written change
كتبْنَا نَكتب
2nd masculine STEM STEM STEM
كتبْتُم تَكتبُونَ تَكتبُوا
feminine STEM STEM no written change
كتبْتُنَّ تَكتبْنَ
3rd masculine STEM STEM STEM
كتبُوا يَكتبُونَ يَكتبُوا
feminine STEM STEM no written change
كتبْنَ يَكتبْنَ

In unvocalised Arabic, كتبْت - , , and are all written the same. Forms and and even can be abbreviated to " " in spoken Arabic and in pausa, making them also sound the same.

" " can be abbreviated to " " in spoken Arabic and in pausa.

Dual verb and feminine plural forms are only used in very formal Arabic.

ا ( ) in final ـوا ( ) is silent.

Perfective/perfect (past tense)


In the perfective (occasionally called 'perfect') form, the perfective stem is affixed with a personal ending, e. g. 'he wrote', 'he read'. The perfective expresses a completed action, i.e. mostly past tense. The second vowel is /a/ in most verbs, but /i/ in some verbs (especially intransitive) and /u/ in a few (especially verbs whose meaning is "be X" or "become X" where X is an adjective, usually naming a permanent or semi-permanent quality, e.g. 'he became big, he grew up').

Person Singular Plural Dual
1st (فعلتُ) (فعلنا)
2nd masculine (فعلتَ) (فعلتم) (فعلتما)
feminine (فعلتِ) (فعلتنَّ)
(فعل) (فعلوا) (فعلا)
feminine (فعلتْ) (فعلنَ) (فعلتا)

Imperfective (present tense)


The imperfective expresses an action in progress, or incompleted, i.e. mostly present tense. There are several vowel patterns ( , , ) the root can take. The root takes a prefix as well as a suffix to build the verb form. E. g. يكتب 'he is writing'. Note the co-incidence of 3rd f. sg. and 2nd m. sg. To explain the future tense, it is possible to use the prefix سـ in front of the imperfective forms (or fully written سوف ), e.g. سيكتب or سوف يكتب "he will write".

Person Singular Plural Dual
2nd masculine
3rd masculine



Modal forms can be derived from the imperfective stem: the subjunctive (منصوب ) by (roughly speaking) replacing the final vowel by , the jussive (مجزوم ) by dropping this of the subjunctive. In a less formal Arabic and in spoken dialects, verbs in the indicative mood (مرفوع ) have shortened endings, identical to subjunctive and jussive.

The imperative (صيغة الأمر ) (positive, only 2nd person masculine) is formed by dropping the verbal prefix from the imperfective jussive stem, e.g. قدم "present!". If the result starts with two consonants followed by a vowel (" " or " "), an elidible is added to the beginning of the word, usually pronounced as " ", e.g. اغسل "wash!" or افعل "do!" if the present form vowel is " ", then the alif is also pronounced as " ", e.g. اكتب "write!". Negative imperatives are formed from jussive.

Note: the exception to the above rule is the form (or stem) IV verbs. In these verbs a non-elidible alif pronounced as " " is always prefixed to the imperfect jussive form, e.g. أرسل "send!", أضف "add!".

The subjunctive is used in subordinate clauses after certain conjunctions. The jussive is used in negation, in negative imperatives, and in the hortative +jussive. For example: 2. sg. m.:
  • imperfect indicative 'you are doing'
  • subjunctive 'that you do'
  • jussive 'do not!'
  • energic
  • imperative 'do!'.



Arabic has two verbal voices, active (صيغة المعلوم ) and passive (صيغة المجهول ). The passive voice is expressed by a change in vocalization and is normally not expressed in unvocalized writing. For example:
  • active فعل 'he did', يفعل 'he is doing' فَعَلَ
  • passive فعل 'it was done', يفعل 'it is being done' فُعِلَ

Notice that active and passive forms are spelled identically in Arabic.

Weak roots

Roots containing one or two of the radicals ( ), ( ) or ( ) often lead to verbs with special phonological rules because these radicals can be influenced by their surroundings. Such verbs are called 'weak' (verba infirma, 'weak verbs') and their paradigms must be given special attention. In the case of , these peculiarities are mainly orthographical, since is not subject to elision (the orthography of and is unsystematic due to confusion in early Islamic times). According to the position of the weak radical in the root, the root can be classified into four classes: first weak, second weak, third weak and doubled, where both the second and third radicals are identical. Some roots fall into more than one category at once.

Formation of derived stems ("forms")

Arabic verb morphology includes augmentations of the root. Some augmentations are lexical derivations (they result in "new words"), but others are inflectional: they are part of the verb's conjugation. Western scholars have assigned Roman numerals to the various patterns of derivation, which are called "forms". Also, the root is designated "Form I". A particular form does not have a consistent meaning across verbs, although, it has a "usual" meaning. In addition, no verb root has all the derivations. The forms numbered beyond Roman numeral X are rare and obsolescent, for which reason many elementary grammars omit them.

In the following chart, a boldfaced transliteration indicates a word that would actually exist in an Arabic lexicon for this particular root (ف - ع - ل) ( - right-to-left).

Verbs Derived nouns
Active voice Passive voice Active participle Passive participle
Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) Past (3rd sg. masc.) Present (3rd sg. masc.) Sg. masc. nom.
I Many
VII n/a
IX n/a n/a
The middle vocal in form I active voice can be a, i or u, depending on the root applied in form I. The exact vocalization depends on the word form. Forms XI ( ), XIII ( ), XIV ( ), and XV ( ) are very rare.

Common uses of those stems include:
  • is often used to make an intransitive verb transitive. Eg: is "be noble" but is "make (someone) to be noble", or, more idiomatically, to "honor".
  • gives a passive meaning. Eg: "break" and "be broken".
  • is used only to render stative verbs meaning "to be or become X" where X is a color or physical defect, eg: "turn red, blush" or "go deaf".

A more complete list of meanings is found at Wiktionary's appendix on Arabic verb forms.


Every verb has a corresponding active participle, and most have passive participles. E.g. 'teacher' is the active participle to stem II. of the root ('know').
  • The active participle to Stem I is , and the passive participle is .
  • Stems II-X take prefix and nominal endings for both the participles, active and passive. The difference between the two participles is only in the vowel between the last two root letters, which is for active and for passive (e.g. II. active , and passive ').

Verbal noun ( )

In addition to a participle, there is a verbal noun (in Arabic, مصدر , literally meaning "source") sometimes called a gerund, which is similar to English gerunds and verb-derived nouns of various sorts (e.g. 'running' and 'a run' from 'to run'; 'objection' from 'to object'). As shown by the English examples, its meaning refers both to the act of doing something and (by frequent semantic extension) to its result. One of its syntactic functions is as a verbal complement of another verb, and this usage it corresponds to the English gerund or infinitive (He prevented me from 'running or He began 'to run).
  • verbal noun formation to stem I is irregular.
  • the verbal noun to stem II is . For example: 'date, history' is the verbal noun to stem II. of ('date').
  • stem III often forms its verbal noun with the feminine form of the passive participle, so for , "he helped", produces the verbal noun . There are also some verbal noun of the form : , "he strove", yields (a struggle for a cause or purpose).


Genitive construction ( )

A noun may be defined more closely by a subsequent noun in the genitive (إضافة , literally "an addition"). The relation is hierarchical; the first term ( ) governs the second term ( ). E. g. بيت رجل 'the house of a man', 'a man's house'. The construction as a whole represents a nominal phrase, the state of which is inherited from the state of the second term. The first term must "be in construct state", namely, it cannot carry the definite article nor the tanween. Genitive constructions of multiple terms are possible. In this case, all but the final term take construct state, and all but the first member take the genitive case.

This construction is typical for a Semitic language. In many cases the two members become a fixed coined phrase, the being used as the equivalent of nominal composition in some Indo-European languages (which does not exist in Semitic). بيت الطلبة thus may mean either 'house of the (certain, known) students' or 'the student hostel'.

Note: ة ( ) of the first term must always have a pronounced (after /a/). This applies to spoken Arabic as well.

Word order

Classical Arabic tends to prefer the word order VSO (verb before subject) rather than SVO (subject before verb). However, the word order is fairly flexible, since words are tagged by case endings. Subject pronouns are normally omitted except for emphasis or when using a participle as a verb (participles are not marked for person). Auxiliary verbs precede main verbs, and prepositions precede their objects.

Adjectives follow the noun they are modifying, and agree with the noun in case, gender, number, and state: For example, بنت جميلة " " "a beautiful girl" but البنت الجميلة " " "the beautiful girl". (Compare البنت جميلة " " "the girl is beautiful".) Elative adjectives, however, precede their modifying noun, do not agree with it, and require that the noun be in the genitive case (see below).

Note that case endings are dropped in pausal forms, in colloquial Arabic and in less formal MSA ("Formal Spoken Arabic"), hence SVO is more common in spoken Arabic.

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 إن ~"indeed". Examples are إنك أنت جميل " " "You are beautiful indeed" or إن السماء زرقاء " " "The sky is blue indeed". (In older texts, " " was translated "verily".)

" ", along with its "sister" terms أن " " ("that", as in "I think that ..."), " " ("that" after قال/يقول "say"), ولكن " " "but" and كأن " " "as if" require that they be immediately followed by a noun in the accusative case, or an attached pronominal suffix.


Numbers behave in a quite complicated fashion. " " "one" and " " "two" are adjectives, following the noun and agreeing with it. " " "three" through " " "ten" require a following noun in the genitive plural, but agree with the noun in gender, while taking the case required by the surrounding syntax. " " "eleven" through " " "nineteen" require a following noun in the accusative singular, agree with the noun in gender, and are invariable for case, except for " " "twelve". Numbers above this behave entirely as nouns, showing case agreement as required by the surrounding syntax, no gender agreement, and a following noun in a fixed case. " " "twenty" through " " "ninety" require the accusative singular; " " "hundred" and up require the genitive singular. The numbers themselves decline in various fashions; for example, " " "twenty" through " " "ninety" decline as masculine plural nouns, while " " "hundred" declines as a feminine singular noun and " " "thousand" as a masculine singular noun. " " "hundred" and " " "thousand" can themselves be modified by numbers (to form numbers such as 200 or 5,000) and will be declined appropriately. (" " and "200" " " "2,000" with dual endings; " " "3,000" with " " in the plural genitive, but " " "300" since " " appears to have no plural.) In compound numbers, the last number dictates the declension of the associated noun. Large compound numbers can be extremely complicated, e.g.:

  • " " "1,909 years"
  • " " "after 1,909 years"
  • " " "94,863 years"
  • " " "after 94,863 years"
  • " " "12,222 years"
  • " " "after 12,222 years"
  • " " "12,202 years"
  • " " "after 12,202 years"


Object pronouns are clitics and are attached to the verb, e.g. "I see her". Possessive pronouns are likewise attached to the noun they modify, e.g. " " "his book". The definite article " " is a clitic, as are the prepositions " " "to" and " " "in/with" and the conjunctions " " "as" and " " "thus, so".

See also


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