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Arabic Grammar

An overview of Arabic Grammar

Arabic is not a member of the Indo-European language group. Some grammatical terms are totally new for English speakers. Also, the grammatical terminologies that have common names in English and Arabic, might have different scopes. Like, Arabic adjectives are a subdivision of nouns. We will cover all grammatical topics step by step in the upcoming lessons. The following is the introduction of the basic structure of Arabic grammar. You should skim through the page to have a rough idea of the Arabic grammatical map.

  1. Arabic parts of speech
  2. Arabic phrases and sentences

Arabic parts of speech

The following is just an introduction to the Arabic parts of speech. They will be discussed in detail in subsequent lessons.

Parts of speech in Arabic are the same as in English. However, they are nested in form of a tree structure under a single component "kalima".

Any meaningful word is called Kalimah ( كَلِمَةٌ ) . A kalimah can be any word, i.e. a noun, a preposition, an adjective, a verb, or any other word that has some meanings.
A meaningful word ( كَلِمَةٌ ) can be one of three subtypes.

اِسْمٌ Noun

Arabic noun ( اِسْمٌ ) includes:

  1. Name of any living or nonliving entity
  2. Adjective
  3. Verbal noun (Name of an activity)
  4. Adverb
  5. Interjection
  6. All types of pronouns

All the above parts of speech are just rearrangements of their English counterparts.
A verbal noun is the infinite form of a verb, to do, to eat, etc.

One new concept for English speakers is that Arabic nouns can be singular, dual, and plural. In Arabic, the plurality of a noun starts from three or more numbers of an entity. So, all nouns and verbs decline and inflect accordingly, i.e. we have a sentence structure in between "he/she does" and "they do", that is "they two do".

فِعْلٌ Verb

Arabic verb ( فِعْلٌ ) is a word that shows activity in combination with the time, i.e. a word that indicates activity either in present, past or future.
He is doing. He did.
A word that indicates activity without mentioning time is the verbal noun.

حَرْفٌ Harf

The literal meaning of Harf ( حَرْفٌ ) is an alphabetic letter i.e. ب is a harf. In grammatical terminology or as a part of speech, a "harf" is a "particle" that is used with a noun ( اِسْمٌ ) or a verb ( فِعْلٌ ) to complete the understanding of a sentence or harf is a word that requires a noun or a verb to complete its sense.

Like, the word on itself gives no understandable sense, but "Put it on the table" (using it with a verb and a noun) is an understandable sentence.

Arabic phrases and sentences

Parts of speech combine to make phrases and then sentences. The easier way is to start from phrases and then learn sentences.
The plural of كَلِمَةٌ (meaningful word) is كَلاَمٌ .
كَلاَمٌ includes phrases (compounds) and sentences.

Arabic phrases

The most common Arabic phrases are:

The adjective phrase
اَلْمُرَكْبُ التَّوْصِيْفِيُّ

In the Arabic adjective phrase, one word describes (quality, characteristic, color, etc of) the other word.

The Possessive Phrase
اَلْمُرَكْبُ الْإِضَافِيُّ

A word in the possessive construction shows possession of the other word.

  1. A book of Haamid
    كِتَابُ حَامِدٍ
  2. A fox of a jungle
    ثَعْلَبُ غَابَةٍ
    غَابَةٌ means a jungle. اَلْ is the Arabic definite article. Placing اَلْ at the beginning makes it اَلْغَابَةُ (the jungle).
  3. A fox of the jungle
    ثَعْلَبُ اَلْغَابَةِ

Same definite article اَلْ we see in names of phrases:

اَلْمُرَكْبُ التَّوْصِيْفِيُّ
اَلْمُرَكْبُ اﻟإِضَافِيُّ

Also, double vowel ( تَنْوِيْن ) is not allowed with the word having a definite article ( اَلْ ), that's why ta marbootah ة has single short vowel at the end of اَلْغَابَةُ.

The Demonstrative Phrase
اَلْمُرَكْبُ الْإِشَارِيُّ

Also, known as pointing construction. The demonstrative phrase is used to demonstrate far and near nouns and pronouns. English equivalents are this, that, they, etc

The Prepositional Phrase
اَلْمُرَكْبُ الْجَارِيُّ

The prepositional construction or prepositional phrase is:

Arabic sentence

Arabic sentences are of two types.

  1. Nominal sentences are verbless sentences.
  2. Verbal sentences have verbs.

Nominal sentence
الْجُمْلَةُ الِْاسْمِيَّةُ

The name اِسْمِيَّةٌ is derived from اِسْمٌ (noun). The English verb "to be" has no Arabic counterpart, so a sentence that has the verb "to be" when translated into English, is verbless in Arabic.

The book is new.

اَلْكِتَابُ جَدِيْدٌ.

The elephant is big.

اَلْفِيْلُ كَبِيْرٌ.

Verbal sentence
الْجُمْلَةُ الْفِعْلِيَّةُ

The name فِعْلِيَّةٌ is derived from فِعْلٌ (verb). Verbal sentences are normal sentences, like in any other language with verbs. The verb is normally placed at the beginning of the sentence in Arabic but there are other possibilities, which we will discuss in the coming grammar lessons.

The child is playing in the garden.

يَلْعَبُ الطِّفْلُ فِي الْحَدِيْقَةِ.

The teacher came.

جَاءَ الْمُعَلِّمُ.

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