Chapter 3 Grammar
Case endings in Arabic are the markings (حركات Harakat) at the end of words to indicate the function of that word in the sentence. For example, indicating whether a word is a subject, a verb, an adverb, predicate, an object, etc. Case endings require a wide understanding of Arabic grammar and can be difficult, but if learned correctly, they will help you to write eloquently and break down any sentence(1).
The problem that arises when learning case endings, is that they are usually not written and aren’t used in conversational language. However, they are used within the Qur’an, children’s books, and you will hear them spoken on the news. In a way, they exemplify a more formal version of MSA (modern standard Arabic).
There are three different case markings in Arabic (وَ وِ وُ) which are pronounced like short vowels of و، ا، ي, they have indefinite and definite variants, and each case marker corresponds to one of the following present tense Arabic cases: nominative (مرفوع), genitive (مجرور), and accusative (منصوب). Below are the definite and indefinite case markings.
Definite: وَ وِ وُ
Indefinite: وً وٍ وٌ
Here are some examples of case markings being used on definite vs. indefinite words:
- If a word in the indefinite منصوب case does not end in a taa marbuuTa ( ة) or hamza (ء), it will add an Alif to carry the tanween FatHa ( اً ).
I will discuss what each case is (nominative (مرفوع), genitive (مجرور), and accusative (منصوب)) below.
Nominative case – المرفوع
This case is marked by a Domma or a small و above the word. This case is used to indicate the subject of a verbal sentence, the actions of the subject, the predicate, and the vocative (VSO). Rember that this is all in the present tense, past tense has its own markings that do not change based on the case. In the section below, you will find an example for every instance the nominative case is used.
- Subject (مُبتدأ):
- The subject of the sentence takes a domma to indicate that it is the subject. The subject can be part of the verb or on its own
١) يأ كلُ المنصف
He eats the munsuf
٢) الولدُ يأكل المنصف
The boy eats the munsuf
2. Verb فاعل:
- The verb takes a domma to indicate it is the action of the subject
- If the subject is definite, then the verb is definite, and vise versa.
١) الأستاذُ يكتبُ الامتحان
The professor is writing the test
٢) أستاذٌ يكتبٌ الامتحان
A professor is writing the test
3. Predicate خبر
- The case markings on the predicate must be in the same case (nominative, genitive, or accusative) as the subject. But, one can be defined and the other undefined depending on the meaning of the sentence. It should be noted that there are exceptions to this rule, as will be outlined later, but this is the general rule.
١) الحديقةُ كبيرةٌ
The garden is big
٢) الحديقةُ الكبيرةُ
The large garden
4. Vocative (addressing someone directly) التداء
أيها السيداتُ والسادةُ
Ladies and gentlemen(1)
5. اسم كان: a noun after Kana takes the nominative case-marking:
١) كان الولدُ متعباً
The boy was tired
* ١) كان المهندسون مشغولين
The engineers were busy
- With talking about plural living things, the ون at the end of the word indicates the nominative case marking as well as the plurality of the word. Put more simply, there is no need to put a domma above engineers because the ون already indicates the domma (nominative) case marking.
Additionally, like the other case markings, there are certain words that always end with Domma, no matter their position in the sentence(1).
Accusative case – المنصوب
This case is marked by a fatHa or a dash above the word making a short “a” sound. This case is used to indicate the object of a transitive verb, a word after أن و أنّ, a predicate after كان, and المفعولات. المفعولات are adverbs used in different circumstances such as describing time, when there is no preposition present, describing the manner or meaning of an action, and the condition of the action. I will discuss the different types of المفعولات in this chapter, but for now, it is more important to focus the accusative case being used for the object of the sentence and coming after أن، أنّ، كان.
- The object: مفعول به:
- The object which is receiving the action of the verb takes a fatHa
- If an indefinite word does not end in a taa marbuuTa (ة) or hamza (ء), it will add an alif to carry the tanween fatHa(اً). This can be seen in the second example.
١) فتح الطالبُ البابَ
The student opened the door
٢) فتح الطالبُ باباً
The student opened a door
2. The predicate after kan خبر كان:
١) كان الجوُ لطيفاً
the weather was nice
٢) كان الولدُ متعباً
The boy was tired
Usually, the adjective/predicate takes on the same case markings as the subject (as outlined in المرفوع). However, when the predicate comes after كان, then it takes the المنصوب case markings. Once again, if the undefined predicate does not end in taa marbuuTa or hamza, then it takes on an alif (ا ) as a “seat” for the tanween FatHa case marking.
3. If the predicate after Kan is referring to a plural noun, then the predicate takes the ين ending:
١) كان المهندسون مشغولين
The engineers were busy
The plural ending ين represents for the plural version of the accusative case marking, so do not add a fatha above ين.
Genitive case – المجرور
This case is marked by a kasra (وِ) which is placed below the word and makes the short vowel sound for ي. This case is used to indicate words that come after a preposition, an adverb, and the second word in an iDafa (ايضافة).
- The object of a preposition
- The object after a proposition always takes the genitive case-marking
- prepositions include but are not limited to ( في، من، الى، على، ب، لِ، امام، خلف…)
١) جلسَ الرجلُ على المكتبِ
The man sat on the chair
٢) رأيتُ كلباً امام البيتِ
I saw a dog in front of the house
٣)لا يوجد حمام في المطعمِ
There is not a bathroom in the restaurant
2. After an adverb
١) تحتَ نورِ القمرِ
bellow the moon’s light
٢) قبلَ أيامٍ
a few days ago
3. The second word in an ايضافة
- An Idafa is a sequence of two nouns
١) جلسنا في حديقة البيتِ
We sat in the house’s garden
٢) كتبتُ رسالةً الى رئيس الجامعةِ
I wrote a less to the university president
4. Plurals after a preposition
١) تكلمت مع المهندسين
I talked with the engineers
The same as in the منصوب case, the ين indicates the plural case marking for the genitive case. Since ين can indicate the plural case marking for both the genitive and accusative case, you can tell the difference between the two based on what proceeds the word in the sentence. If there is a preposition before the word, then the case marking means it is genitive.
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فَوْق ( over / above
قَريب ( near
بَعِيد ( far
داخل ( in / inside / into
خَارِج (out of / outside / off
بَين ( between
أسفل ( down
أعلى ( up
عَبْر ( across
قُدّام ) in front of / opposite
خَلف or وَراء ( behind
مُقَابِل (against / opposite
مُعَاكِس ( opposite
يَمِين ( right
يَسَار ( left
شَمَال ( north
To make a noun dual, you add the appropriate suffix depending on its case marking:
مجرور/منصوب: ينَ او ينِ
If the noun is part of an إيضافة, omit the “ن” when making the noun dual:
ولدان البيت —–> ولدا البيت
فعل : verb
When making verbs into the dual, the structure depends on what tense the word is in:
الماضي (past tense):
For the past tense, use the suffix associate with the dual patterns in the wazin charts.
The dual patterns are انتما, (masculine)هما, and هما (feminine). Using the word نقل، this is how it would be conjugated into past tense dual:
هما (f)—–> نقلتا
المضارع المرفوع (present tense nominative):
For the present tense nominative case, add the suffix ان
المضارع المجرور (present tense genitive):
For the present tense genitive case, add the suffix ا ( aka drop the ن from the nominative case).
الامر (commands) :
When making a command to two people, add the prefix أ and the suffix ا. However, it should be noted that command patterns do change depending on the Wazin, so always refer back to the Wazin charts.
Ism makan (اسم مكان)
Ism Makan is a noun that indicates the place of doing a certain action. One example would be that the word (مدرسة) which means “school” can be broken down into the verb (درس) which means “study” because school is a place where we study(2). This concept follows one of two patterns (مفعل) and (مفعلة). Most verbs are able to be put into these patterns and result in an Ism makan or a place noun. However, it should be noted that not all verbs can be used in this form. This is concept is useful to learn and remember because it can help you guess the meanings of unknown nouns if you know the root verb. Below are some examples of اسم مكان.
This table is from the Blogs Transpaarents Arabic Noun of Place page and was posted by Aziza on Jul 27, 2009(2)
This grammar lesson was made using information from Arabic learning resource websites. For more information please see the links below: