Elementary Arabic Syntax 1

(MABĀDĪ AL-‛ARABĪYYAH)
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A study of syntax of the Arabic language volume 1. Translated by Hamid Hussein Waqar.

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A Completer Sentence

1. Can a sentence be made up of only one word?
One word is insufficient to express one's intended meaning. One must use two or more words to convey a complete sentence.

2. What is an example of a complete sentence?
An example of a complete sentence is: العِلمُ نافعٌ (knowledge is beneficial.)

3. What does a sentence consist of?
A sentence is made up of single words which are divided into three categories: verbs, nouns and prepositions.

4. Does every sentence have a verb, noun and preposition?
A sentence is not conditional on always having a verb, noun and preposition. Instead it can be made up of:
• Two nouns: اللهُ عادلٌ (Allah is just.)

• A verb and a noun: اِنطَفا سِراجٌ (A lamp died out.)

Syntax

5. What does syntax teach us?
Syntax teaches us the different cases of words when they are found in different combinations.

6. Is every word alike in the way it changes due to different combinations?
There are two types of words that are put into combinations:
• Indeclinable: the end of the word does not change.

• Declinable: the end of the word changes.

7. What must one do to speak correctly, according to the principles of syntax?
One must know the declinable and indeclinable words in order for his speech to be correct. He must also know the different cases of declinable words in order to stay away from mistakes.

8. Is there a rule which teaches us what the last syllable of a indeclinable word should be?
There is no rule which teaches us what the last syllable of a indeclinable word should be, instead we must refer to dictionaries.

9. Is there a rule which teaches us what the last syllable of a declinable word should be?
There are rules that teach us what the last syllable of a declinable word should be.

10. What different cases can a declinable word have?
The different cases of declinable words are as follows:
• For verbs: nominative, subjunctive and jussive

• For nouns: nominative, accusative and genitive

11. How can we understand which case should be used?
If we want to correct our mistakes in speech we must know when a verb is nominative, subjunctive or jussive and we must know when a noun is nominative, accusative or genitive.

Subjunctive Cases of a Verb

12. When is a verb put into the subjunctive case?
A verb is put into the subjunctive case if it follows one of the four following prepositions:

ﺃن لن ﺇذن کی

For example:
1) ﺃریدُ ﺃن ﺃتعلّمَ النَحو (I want to learn syntax.)

2) لَن یَجودَ البَخیلُ (A miser will not be generous.)

3) ﺇذَن نُنزلَکَ فی دارِنا (In that case, we will let you stay in our house.)

4) ﺃدرُس کَی تَحفَظَ (Study so that you preserve.)

Jussive Cases of a Verb

13. When is a verb put into the jussive case?
A verb is put into the jussive case when it is preceded by one of the following prepositions:

لَم لَمّا لامُ الﺃمر لاالناهیَة ﺇن ﺇذما مَن ما مَهما ﺃیّ کَیفَما متیَ ﺃینما ﺃیّان ﺃنّی حَیثما

14. How many kinds of jussive prepositions are there?
There are two types of jussive prepositions:
• Four of them put one verb into the jussive case:

    1) لَم for example: لَم یَذهَب ﺃحَدٌ (Nobody came.)

    2) لَمّا for example: تَعَلّمَ القراءةَ وَ لَمّا یَکتُب (He learned to read and has not written yet.)

    3) لامُ الﺃمر for example: لِتَطِب نَفسُک (You must become happy, yourself.)

    4) لا النّاهیَة for example: لا تَیاس مِن رَحمَةِ الله (Don't loose hope in Allah's mercy)

• Twelve of them put two verbs after them into the jussive case. The first verb is the conditional verb and the second verb is its answer.

    1) ﺇن for example: ﺇن تَکسَل تَخسَر (If you become lazy you will suffer a loss.)

    2) ﺇذما for example: ﺇذما تَتَعَلّم تَتَقَدَم (Whenever you learn you will advance.)

    3) مَن for example: مَن یَطلُب یَجِد (Whoever seeks finds.)

    4) مَا for example: ما تَتَعَلّم فی الصّغَرِ یَنفَعکَ فی الکِبَر (Whatever you learn in youth will benefit you in old age.)

    5) مَهما for example: مَهما تَامُر بِالخیرِ ﺃفعَلهُ (Whenever you order me to do good I will do it.)

    6) ﺃی for example: ﺃیّاً تُکرِم ﺃکرِم (Whoever you respect I respect.)

    7) کَیفَما for example: کَیفَما تَتَوَجّهُ تُصادِف خَیراً (Whenever you go you will pass by well.)

    8) مَتی for example: مَتی یَصلُح بِاطنُک یَصلُح ظاهِرُک (Whenever your inner-self becomes fixed your outer-appearance will become fixed.)

    9) ﺃینَما for example: ﺃینَما تَذهَب تَنجَح (Wherever you go you will be saved.)

    10) ﺃیّان for example: ﺃیّان تَسالنی ﺃجِبکَ (Whenever you ask me I will answer you.)

    11) ﺃنّی for example: ﺃنّی یَذهَب صاحِب العِلمِ یُکرَم (Wherever a scholar goes he will be respected.)

    12) حَیثَما for example: حَیثَما تَسقُط تَثبُت (Wherever you fall you will stay.)

Nominative Cases of a Verb

15. When is a verb put into the nominative case?
A verb is put into the nominative case if it is not preceded by a subjunctive or jussive preposition. For example: یَنزِلُ المَطَرُ (The rain is falling.)

16. Are vowel signs present at the end of a weak verb?
If the last letter of weak verb is an alif, the dummah is erased in the nominative case and the fathah is erased in the subjunctive case. But, if the last letter of the weak verb is either a wāw or a yā', the dummah is erased in the nominative case because of the difficulty of pronouncing it.

Nominative Cases of a Noun

17. In how many different cases is a noun put into the nominative case?
A noun is put into the nominative case in six different cases:
• First: if it is an actor

• Second: if it is a subject of the predicate

• Third and fourth: If it is a inchoative or predicate

• Fifth: If it is an inchoative of the verb kāna or one of its sisters

• Sixth: If it is a predicate of inna or one of its sisters

Actor

18. What is an actor?
An actor is a noun that is preceded by a verb and denotes the person who carried out that verb. For example: لَعِبَ الصّغِیرُ (The child played). Here, child is the actor because it came after the verb and denotes who played.

19. Does the verb remain in the same form if the actor is feminine?
If the actor is feminine the verb is placed into the feminine form by adding a ' to the end of a preterite tense verb or a tā' at the beginning of an aorist tense verb. For example:
سافَرَت مَریَم و تُسافِرُ سَلمی (Maryam traveled and Salma is traveling.)

20. Does the verb remain in the same form or is it put into the plural form if the actor is in the dual or plural form?
The verb remains in the single form even if the actor is in the dual or plural form.

Subject of the Predicate

21. What is a subject of the predicate?
A subject of the predicate is a noun that takes the place of the actor in a sentence after the actor is erased. For example: سُرِقَت ساعةٌ (A watch was stolen.)

22. What is the difference between an actor and a subject of the predicate in terms of meaning?
An actor is the one who performs the action where the subject of the predicate is the one that the verb was performed on. When we say that Joseph stole a watch, Joseph is the actor because he is the one who stole. But, if it is unknown who stole the watch or we do not want to mention his name, we say: A watch was stolen. Here we erased the actor from the sentence and placed the thing that received the action 'watch' in its place. We also put the verb into the passive tense.

23. What state is the verb in when there is a subject of the predicate?
The verb should be placed into the feminine state if the subject of the predicate is feminine. The verb should remain in the singular state if the subject of the predicate is in the dual or plural form.

24. What is a sentence that has a verb and an actor or a subject of the predicate called?
A sentence consisting of a verb and an actor or subject of the predicate is called a verbal sentence. For example: نَزَلَ المَطَر (The rain fell.)

Incohatives and Predicates

25. What is a inchoative and what is a predicate?
A inchoative and a predicate are nouns that make up a complete sentence. For example:
المومنُونَ صادِقُونَ (The believers are truthful.)

26. How many kinds of predicates are there?
There are three kinds of predicates:
• Single word: الصّمتُ زینٌ (Silence is beautiful.)

• Sentence (both nominal and verbal)

• Prepositional phrase (which is either comprised of an adverb of time or place or a word preceded by a jar preposition (which will be explained later): الحیّةُ تَحتَ العُشب (The snake is in the grass.)

27. What is a sentence comprised of a inchoative and a predicate called?
A sentence comprised of a inchoative and a predicate is called a nominative sentence.

Incohative of a Verb Kana or One of its sisters and the Predicate of the Preposition Inna or One of its Sisters

28. What is kana?
Kana is a verb that is placed before an inchoative and a predicate and puts the inchoative in the nominative case and puts the predicate in the accusative case. For example: کانَ البَردُ قارساً (The cold weather was severe.)

29. What is inna?
Inna is a preposition that is placed before an inchoative and a predicate and puts the inchoative in accusative case and the predicate in the nominative case. For example: ﺇنّ البَردَ قارسٌ (Verily, the cold weather is severe.)

30. Are there other verbs that perform the same action as kana?
There are twelve verbs that perform the same action as kana and are called kana's sisters. They are:

اصبَحَ اضحیَ ظَلّ باتَ امسیَ مازالَ مابَرَحَ ماانفَکّ مافَتِیَ مادامَ صارَ لَیسَ

31. Are there other prepositions that perform the same action as inna?
There are five prepositions that perform the same action as inna and are called inna's sisters. They are:

ﺃنّ کأنّّ لکنّ لَیتَ لَعَلّ

Accusative Cases of a Noun

32. How many different cases are there where a noun is put into the accusative case?
A noun is put into the accusative case in eleven different places:
• If it is an objective compliment

• If it is a congnate

• If it is an adverbal qualification of purpose

• If it is an adverbal qualification of time or place

• If it is a ma' accusative

• If it is an exceptive

• If it is an hāl accusative

• If it is an specificative

• If it is a vocative

• If it is a predicate of the verb kana

• If it is an inchoative of the preposition inna

Objective Compliments and Cognates

33. What is an objective compliment?
An objective compliment is a noun that receives the action of a verb, but does not change the structure of the verb. For example: بَرَی التلمیذُ قلَماً (The student sharpened a pencil.) In this sentence, pencil is the objective compliment because it received the verb to sharpen and does not affect the structure of the verb. Of course, if an objective compliment affects the structure of the verb it is a predicate and must be put in the nominative case.

34. What is a congnate?
A congnate is a noun that is mentioned after the verb:
• for emphasis: قَتَلَ الحارسُ اللّصّ قتلاً (The watchman murdered the thief a murder.)

• for explanation: ﺇصبِر صبراً جمیلاً (Be patient, a beautiful patience.)

• for numeration: دَقّتِ الساعةُ دَقّتَینِ (The watch ticked two ticks.)

Adverbal Qualifications and Adverbal Qualifications of Time and Place

35. What is an adverbal qualification of purpose?
An adverbal qualification of purpose is a noun mentioned after the verb to express the purpose of the verb. For example: وَقَفَ الجُندُ ﺇجلالاً للامیر (The army stopped, honoring the commander.) In this sentence the word honoring is the adverbal qualification of purpose because it is expressing the reason why the army stopped.

36. What are the signs of an adverbal qualification of purpose?
The sign of an adverbal qualification of purpose is that it should be the answer to the question why after the verb. For example: زُیّنَتِ المدینةُ ﺇکراماً للحاکمِ (The city was beautified to respect the governor.)

37. What is an adverbal qualification of time and place?
An adverbal qualification of time and place is a adverb of time or place or noun mentioned to express the time of the verb or where it took place. For example: حَضَرتُ صباحاً ﺃمام المُعلّم (I was present in the morning in front of the teacher.)

38. Are all of the nouns that denote time or place able to put into the accusative case because of their being adverbs?
Every noun that denotes time is able to be put into the accusative case because of their being adverbs. For example: سافَرتُ شهراً و یوماً و ساعةً (I travelled a month and a day and an hour.) But, not all nouns that denote a place are able to be put into the accusative case, only words that are not clear are able to be put into the accusative case, for example directions or distances.

Ma’ Accusative and the Exceptive After Ila

39. What is a ma' accusative?
A ma' accusative is a noun preceded by a wāw that has the meaning of with mentioned to describe what the action was performed with. For example: اِذهَب و الشّارعَ الجَدیدَ (Go on the new road.)

40. What is an exceptive after ila?
An exceptive after ila is a noun mentioned after the preposition ila which has a different ruling than what was mentioned before ila. For example: خَرَجَ التلامذةُ المَدرَسَةِ ﺇلا خالداً (The students left the school, except Khālid.) Here Khālid is the exceptive because it is mentioned after ila and is not part of the rule 'leave' which is related to the students.

41. When is it obligatory to put the exceptive after ila into the accusative state?
It is obligatory to put the exceptive after ila into the accusative state if the phrase before it is complete and positive, for example: یعیشُ الناسُ براحة إلا الکسلانَ (People live in comfort, except lazy people.) Here it is obligatory to put lazy people into the accusative case because the phrase before the ila is complete and positive.

The Hāl Accusative

42. What is a hāl accusative?
A hāl accusative is a noun mentioned to describe the state of the actor or the objective compliment when the action took place. For example: جَاءَ القائدُ ظافراً (The leader came in a state of victory.) or شَربتُ الماءَ صافیاً (I drank water while it was pure.)

43. What are the signs of a hāl accusative?
The sign of a hāl accusative is that it is the answer to the question how. For example, how did the leader come? - In a state of victory. Or, how was the water that you drank? - Clear. This first example describes the state of the actor and the second example describes the state of the objective compliment.

44. How many types of hāl accusatives are there?
There are two types of hāl accusatives.
• Single: جَاءَ القائد ظافرا

• Sentence: اُطلُب العِلمَ و أنتَ فَتیً (Seek knowledge while you are young.)

Specificative

35. What is a specificative?
A specificative is a noun mentioned to explain what is meant by the noun mentioned before it because of its obscurity. For example: اشتَرَیتُ رطلاً زیتاً (I bought an amount1 of oil.) If one only said: “I bought an amount,” the listener would not know what was meant. He could have bought an amount of soap, oil or anything else. But, when he mentions the word oil, the word amount becomes clear and in this sentence oil is an specificative.

  • 1. A specified weight, in English around 450 grams.

Vocative

46. What is a vocative?
A vocative is the intended result of saying 'I call…'

47. How many forms of vocatives are there?
There are two forms of vocatives:
• One that is in the possessive form and accusative case: for example یا عبد الله (Ay, ‛Abd Allah or Allah's servant) or a common noun that is not specified: for example یا غافلاً تَنَبّهُ (Ay heedless one! Pay attention.)

• One that is indeclinable on whatever would put it in the nominative case and is either a proper noun or a common noun that is specified. For example: یا خالدُ (Ay, Khalid) or یا رجُلُ (Ay, man).

A Predicate of the Verb Kana of an Inchoative of the Preposition Inna

48. What do you know about the predicate of the verb kana or its sisters and the inchoative of the preposition inna and its sisters?
The predicate of the verb kana and its sisters as well as the inchoative of the preposition inna and its sisters has been explained in the section of nominative nouns.1

  • 1. Refer to questions 28-31

Genitive Cases of a Noun

49. How many genitive cases of a noun are there?
A noun is put into the genitive case in two cases:
• If it comes after a preposition.

• If it is a word after a prefixed noun.

50. How many prepositions are there?
There are eleven prepositions:

مِن إلی عَن عَلَی في رُبّ الباءُ الکافُ اللامُ واوالقَسَم و تاءُالقَسَم

For example: ذَهَبتُ مِنَ البیتِ إلی المدینَةِ (I went from the house to the city.)

51. What is the compliment to a prefixed noun?
The word before a prefixed noun is a compliment to a prefixed noun. For example: خادِمُ الامیر (the general's maid)

52. What is the ruling of a prefixed noun?
If the prefixed noun has nunation it must be erased. For example سورُ المدینَةِ (the city's wall) takes the place of سورٌ المدینَةِ. If the prefixed noun is in the dual form or the masculine sound plural form, the nūn must be erased. For example: یدا الرّجُلِ (the man's two hands) takes the place of یدانِ الرّجُلِ.

Hiding the Vowel Signs of a Declinable Noun

53. How many declinable nouns hide their vowel signs?
There are three types of declinable nouns that hide their vowel signs:
• A compliment to a prefixed yā' personal pronoun.

• Nouns whose last letter is an alif maqsūrah (ی).

• Nouns whose last letter is a ya' preceded by a kasrah.

54. Which declinable nouns hide all of their vowel signs?
All of the vowels are hidden:
• if the noun is a compliment to a prefixed yā' personal pronoun because it would be difficult to pronounce the vowel. For example: إنّ مَذهني إکرامي لضَیفي (Verily, my creed makes me respect my guest. )

• if the noun's last letter is an alif maqsūrah because an alif cannot take a vowel. For example:

إنّ الهُدی هُدی اللهِ (Verily guidance is Allah's guidance.)

55. Which declinable nouns hide the dummah and kasrah?
The dummah and kasrah are hidden in nouns whose last letter is a ya' preceded by a kasrah because of it being difficult to pronounce. For example: حَکَمَ القاضِي عَلَی الجَانِي (The judge sentenced the criminal.)

Adjectives and Conjunctives

56. What is an adjective?
An adjective is a word that is mentioned after the word it is describing. For example:
یُحَبّ التلمیذُ المجتَهِدُ (A striving student is loved.)

57. What are the conditions of an adjective?
The conditions for an adjective are that it follows the word that it is describing in:
• In its being a definite or indefinite noun.

• In its being masculine or feminine.

• In its being singular, dual or plural.

58. What is a conjunction?
A conjunction is a preposition connecting two phrases that follow each other in vowel signs. The prepositions used as conjunctions are:

الواو الفاء ثُمّ أو أم لکن لا بَل

For example: کَسَرتُ القَلَمَ و الدَواةَ (I broke the pen and ink holder.)

Corroboratives and Substitutes

59. What is a corroborative?
A corroborative is a word that emphasizes another word and is used to take away any doubts about the emphasized word being used figuratively. The words used to emphasize are:

نَفسٌ و عینٌ و کلٌّ و جمیعٌ

For example: زَارَني الأمیر نَفسُهُ (The commander visited me, himself.)
Or: سارَ الجیشُ کلّهُ (The army marched, all of it.)
The word 'himself' was used to emphasize the commander and to take away any doubt that the person coming to visit is the commander himself, not his servant or messenger.
The phrase 'all of it' was used to emphasize the army and used to take away any doubt that the whole army was meant not part of it.

60. What is a substitute?
A substitute is a word that follows what it is substituting, either all of it, part of it or something that resembles it.
For example: أخوک إبراهیمُ صدیقُنا (Your brother, Abraham, is our friend.)
Or: قرأتُ الکتابَ نصفَهُ (I read the book, half of it.)

The Vowel Signs of Words and Sentences

61. Does the end of an indeclinable word change if it is placed in different parts of a sentence?
Every indeclinable word that is placed in a certain part of a sentence is given the declinable state that it would have had if it was a declinable word, but this state does not change the word at all.
For example: أنا ذاهبٌ (I am a leaver.)
Or: إنّکَ صادقٌ (Verily, you are truthful.)
Or: إن صَدَقَ القَصدُ حَسُنَ العَمَلُ (If the intention is truthful the deed will be good.)