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Noun sentences in إعراب (i’raab) – 2

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[This post has been edited after corrections in the comments]

Last time I mentioned some exceptions in creating the مرفوع (marfuu’, nominative). The general rule is that the nominative get “un” for words without “al”, and “un” for words with “al”.

There are however, some exceptions.

Names of women and non Arabic names do not get a تنوين ضمة (tanwiin Damma, “-un”), but get a regular صمة (Damma) instead. So: قاتمةُ (faatimatu), not “faatimatun”. “Klaasu”, not “Klaasun”.

Additionally, in the genitive (which we will deal with later), they do not get كسرة (kasra, “i”), but get a فتحة (fatHa, “a”) instead.

That’s the ones I know – please do inform me if you know more cases…


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January 25, 2008 at 7:12 am

Noun Sentences: A Question Answered

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In the previous I asked myself the question how to say “muHammed is the teacher”. Teach Yourself Arabic contained the answer…

If a definite noun is put with a definite noun or adjective, a separating pronoun must be inserted, to make the meaning clear.

So the anser is…. محمد هو المدرس (muHammad huwa al-mudarris)

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January 21, 2008 at 10:05 am

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Noun Sentences Recap

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In the previous I’ve dealt with noun sentences (nominal sentences) containing either two nouns, or a noun and an adjective. Let’s recap so we’ll be ready for some more forms.

Two Nouns:

محمد مدرس (muHammad mudarris, “moHammad is a teacher”). Two nouns, the first one definite (proper name) and taking the role of subject, the second indefinite and taking the role of the nominal predicate.

Noun and adjective:

بيت كبير (bait kabiir, “a big house”). A noun and an adjective, both indefinite, together forming the subject.

البيت كبير (al-bait kabiir, “the house is big”). A noun and an adjective, the first definite and subject, and the second indefinite and nominal predicate.

البيت الكبير (al-bait al-kabiir, “the big house”). A noun and an adjective, both definite, together forming the subject.

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January 21, 2008 at 9:47 am

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Noun sentences in إعراب (i’raab)

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Having dealt with noun sentences earlier this week, let’s see how these are given their suffixes in i’raab. The general rule here is: noun sentences have everything in the nominative, which means “un” or “u” at the end of each word. To get it right we’ll have to be a bit more precise, though.

In noun sentences, all the words show up in مرفوع (marfuu’, nominative). First of all we will see how the مرفوع changes the word endings. In general, the diacritics ضمة (Damma) or the تنوين ضمة (tanwiin Damma) are used. Remember: these are written above the letter and resemble the letter و (waw). Examples: بُ and بٌ . Their sounds are respectively “u” and “un”.


محمدٌ مدرسٌ (muHammadun mudarrisun, “muHammad is a teacher”)

بيتٌ كبيرٌ (baiitun kabiirun, “a big house”)

The تنوين ضمة (tanwiin Damma) is only used for words not marked with the definite article ال (al-, “the”). If the definite article is present, the correct marker is the regular ضمة (Damma). Example:

البيتُ الكبيرُ (al-baitu al-kabiiru)

Now for some more precise terminology. Consider the following sentence in English: “John is a teacher.”In this sentence, “John” is the subject, and “a teacher” is the nominal predicate. Similarly, in “The school is small “, “The school” is the subject and “small” is the nominal predicate. However, in the phrase “a small school”, all of the phrase is the subject.

As seen in the previous post on noun sentences, there is no equivalent of “is” in Arabic, but subject and nominal predicate should be easily recognisable nonetheless. In أحمد صغير (‘aHmed Saghiir, “aHmed is small”) أحمد is the subject and صغير is the nominal predicate.

In إعراب (i’raab), both the subject and the nominal predicate are in the مَرفوع (marfuu’, nominative). Adjectives take the case of the noun they describe. These two rules together make for the above generalisation that words in noun sentences are simply in the nominative.

I have a couple of open questions left:

  • There is a number of words “not worthy of the Damma”. I’ll have to find out which and report on that.
  • If there is a adjective following a noun marked with “al” – does this mean the adjective gets “u” too? So: “al-baitu kabiiru” or “al-baitu kabiirun”?
  • I’ve read at some places that the تنوين ضمة (tanwiin Damma) is a marker of the indefinite article. Others describe this as a mistake, and simply state that it is an indication of the lack of the definite marker. Which is true? The following quote from Wikipedia goes with this:

Since Arabic has no indefinite article, nouns in a syntactic context unmarked for definiteness are generally indefinite; this has led to the extremely common but inaccurate belief that nunation is a marker for indefiniteness and is analogous to an indefinite article. The lack of a marker for definiteness does not necessarily make a word indefinite; in fact, many definite nouns (proper names) take nunation, as for example in the expression أشهد أن محمدا رسول الله (‘ashhadu ‘anna Muḥammadan rasūlullāh – “I witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.”), in which the name Muhammad, a definite noun, is nunated.

Wikipedia: Nunation

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January 21, 2008 at 9:11 am

Noun Sentences

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Note: I am “learning by teaching” here, so the following is very likely to contain mistakes. I would love it if you pointed these out to me.

There is no equivalent of the verb “to be” in the present tense in Arabic. A simple form of sentence can be made by using only nouns and adjectives, but no verbs. These come in a couple of variations. Let’s start by looking at sentences with only two words.

Firstly, when both words are indefinite: بيت كبير (bait kabiir) meaning “a big house”. The fact that both words are indefinite here can be understood from the lack of the definite article ال (Al, “the”). There is no actual word in Arabic word the indefinite article “a” – it shows up in translation in this particular form of sentence.

Secondly, when the first word is definite and the second is indefinite: البيت كبير (al-bait kabiir) means “the house is big”. That the first word (البيت) is definite can be understood from the definite article ال.

Thirdly, when both words are definite:البيت الطبير (al-bait al-kabiir, “the big house”). Notice that the definite article ال shows up before both words here.

Mathematicians will now wonder about the meaning of a indefinite word, followed by a definitive one. This is (as far as I understand now) not a noun sentence but a genitive construction, and will be dealt with later.

The examples above are based on a noun (in the above, بيت) and an adjective (in the above, كبير). The workings for two-word-sentences with two nouns are similar*:

محمد مدرس (muHammed mudarris) means “muHammed is a teacher”. Note that muHammed is definite, though it’s lacking the definite article. However, we’re not talking about “a muHammed” but about a particular one.

هو طالب (huwa Taalib) means “he’s a student”. “He” is definite too, because we know about which “he” we’re talking.

Open question: can you say “the big muHammad” like this: معمد الكبير ?

Open question: how do you say “muHammed is the teacher”? Answer

*in fact, I can only think of examples where the first word is either a proper noun (e.g. John), or a personal pronoun (e.g. you)

Written by klaasvanschelven

January 16, 2008 at 6:47 am