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Genitive Construction

 

An

An English sentence is "the door of the house." Another way to say the same thing is "the house's door" or "the house-door."

This is the genitive construction, which expresses a relationship of possession between the two parts of the construction. In formal Arabic, there is not a possessive preposition like "of" or any other possessive particles. The only way to say that sentence will be by virtue of the "construct state" of nouns and the genitive case.

Look at the examples:

Meaning Phrase
The door of a house baab(u) manzil(in) بَاْبُ مَنْزِلٍ
door a house
The door of the house baab(u) ('a)l-manzil(i) بَاْبُ الْمَنْزِلِ
door the house
The window of a house naafitha(tu) manzil(in) نَاْفِذَةُ مَنْزِلٍ
window a house
The window of the house naafitha(tu) ('a)l-manzil(i) نَاْفِذَةُ الْمَنْزِلِ
window the house

Every one of those phrases was a genitive construction. Two things can be noted about those constructions:

  • The first noun in each construction did not have neither a definite article nor an indefinite declension.

  • The second nouns were in the genitive case instead of the regular nominative case.

These two notes are the components of any genitive construction in Arabic. The fact that the first noun did not have a definite article attached (i.e. was not in the definite state) nor did it have an indefinite declension attached (i.e. was not in the indefinite state) leaves us in front of a new state for nouns in Arabic. This is what is called the "construct state" of nouns, or the state of "addition" الإِضَاْفَةُ in Arabic terminology.

The construct state exists in many Semitic languages. Whereas this state can mean considerable changes to the noun structure in languages such as Hebrew and Syriac, in Arabic there is not really that much. Just no definite article before, nor noonation at the end of nouns. The noonation must be removed here even from the dual and masculine plural endings if the noun had either of them.

 

Meaning of the Construct State

When a noun is in the construct state, it will not have neither a definite nor an indefinite marker. However, it will be always a definite noun, even if there were no definite article attached. Think of it as if there were a hidden definite article before the noun. The definiteness of the construct state is so strict that even the final noon ن of the dual and the masculine plural endings will be removed in this state, and this is the only case in Arabic where this happens to those two.

The second point is that changing a noun to the construct state will always implant a hidden possessive "of" after the noun. This is the main point of the construct state anyway.

So a noun in the construct state will be like this:

(THE) NOUN (OF)

 

States of Nouns in the Nominative Case ('ar-raf")

 

Status Absolutus

(Indefinite State)

Status Determinatus

(Definite State)

Status Constructus

(Construct State)

S

I

N

G

U

L

A

R

مُعَلِّمٌ

الْمُعَلِّمُ

مُعَلِّمُ

mu"allimun

'al-mu"allimu

mu"allimu

a male teacher

the male teacher

(the) male teacher (of)

مُعَلِّمَةٌ

الْمُعَلِّمَةُ

مُعَلِّمَةُ

mu"allimatun

'al-mu"allimatu

mu"allimatu

a female teacher

the female teacher

(the) female teacher (of)

D

U

A

L

مُعَلِّمَاْنِ

الْمُعَلِّمَاْنِ

مُعَلِّمَاْ

mu"allimaani

'al-mu"allimaani

mu"allimaa

two male teachers

the two male teachers

(the) two male teachers (of)

مُعَلِّمَتَاْنِ

الْمُعَلِّمَتَاْنِ

مُعَلِّمَتَاْ

mu"allimataani

'al-mu"allimataani

mu"allimataa

two female teachers

the two female teachers

(the) two female teachers (of)

P

L

U

R

A

L

مُعَلِّمُوْنَ

الْمُعَلِّمُوْنَ

مُعَلِّمُوْا

mu"allimoona

'al-mu"allimoona

mu"allimoo

2< male teachers

the 2< male teachers

(the) 2< male teachers (of)

مُعَلِّمَاْتٌ

الْمُعَلِّمَاْتُ

مُعَلِّمَاْتُ

mu"allimaatun

'al-mu"allimaatu

mu"allimaatu

2< female teachers

the 2< female teachers

(the) 2< female teachers (of)

 

States of Nouns in the Accusative Case ('an-nasb)

 

Status Absolutus

(Indefinite State)

Status Determinatus

(Definite State)

Status Constructus

(Construct State)

S

I

N

G

U

L

A

R

مُعَلِّمًا

الْمُعَلِّمَ

مُعَلِّمَ

mu"alliman

'al-mu"allima

mu"allima

a male teacher

the male teacher

(the) male teacher (of)

مُعَلِّمَةً

الْمُعَلِّمَةَ

مُعَلِّمَةَ

mu"allimatan

'al-mu"allimata

mu"allimata

a female teacher

the female teacher

(the) female teacher (of)

D

U

A

L

مُعَلِّمَيْنِ

الْمُعَلِّمَيْنِ

مُعَلِّمَيْ

mu"allimayni

'al-mu"allimayni

mu"allimay

two male teachers

the two male teachers

(the) two male teachers (of)

مُعَلِّمَتَيْنِ

الْمُعَلِّمَتَيْنِ

مُعَلِّمَتَيْ

mu"allimatayni

'al-mu"allimatayni

mu"allimatay

two female teachers

the two female teachers

(the) two female teachers (of)

P

L

U

R

A

L

مُعَلِّمِيْنَ

الْمُعَلِّمِيْنَ

مُعَلِّمِيْ

mu"allimeena

'al-mu"allimeena

mu"allimee

2< male teachers

the 2< male teachers

(the) 2< male teachers (of)

مُعَلِّمَاْتٍ

الْمُعَلِّمَاْتِ

مُعَلِّمَاْتِ

mu"allimaatin

'al-mu"allimaati

mu"allimaati

2< female teachers

the 2< female teachers

(the) 2< female teachers (of)

 

States of Nouns in the Genitive Case ('al-jarr)

 

Status Absolutus

(Indefinite State)

Status Determinatus

(Definite State)

Status Constructus

(Construct State)

S

I

N

G

U

L

A

R

مُعَلِّمٍ

الْمُعَلِّمِ

مُعَلِّمِ

mu"allimin

'al-mu"allimi

mu"allimi

a male teacher

the male teacher

(the) male teacher (of)

مُعَلِّمَةٍ

الْمُعَلِّمَةِ

مُعَلِّمَةِ

mu"allimatin

'al-mu"allimati

mu"allimati

a female teacher

the female teacher

(the) female teacher (of)

D

U

A

L

مُعَلِّمَيْنِ

الْمُعَلِّمَيْنِ

مُعَلِّمَيْ

mu"allimayni

'al-mu"allimayni

mu"allimay

two male teachers

the two male teachers

(the) two male teachers (of)

مُعَلِّمَتَيْنِ

الْمُعَلِّمَتَيْنِ

مُعَلِّمَتَيْ

mu"allimatayni

'al-mu"allimatayni

mu"allimatay

two female teachers

the two female teachers

(the) two female teachers (of)

P

L

U

R

A

L

مُعَلِّمِيْنَ

الْمُعَلِّمِيْنَ

مُعَلِّمِيْ

mu"allimeena

'al-mu"allimeena

mu"allimee

2< male teachers

the 2< male teachers

(the) 2< male teachers (of)

مُعَلِّمَاْتٍ

الْمُعَلِّمَاْتِ

مُعَلِّمَاْتِ

mu"allimaatin

'al-mu"allimaati

mu"allimaati

2< female teachers

the 2< female teachers

(the) 2< female teachers (of)

*Note: the declension of  irregular plurals is identical to singular nouns.

 

The Second Part of the Genitive Construction

The part of the sentence before the hidden "of" is the first part of the genitive construction. It can be a noun in the construct state or it can be a phrase, e.g. "the first two pages of the book." The 1st part of a genitive construction is called in Arabic "the added" الْمُضَاْفُ.

The second part of the genitive construction is the part coming after "of." This part is called in Arabic "the added to" الْمُضَاْفُ إِلَيْهِ.

The second part of the genitive construction must be always in the genitive case, or  'al-jarr case in Arabic. This is why they called it a genitive case anyway. The 2nd part of the construction will not be in the construct state nor it will have anything to do with it. It will be either in the definite or the indefinite state just as usual.

 

Examples on genitive constructions:

 

Two male teachers

(1st part)

mu"allimaan(i)

مُعَلِّمَاْنِ

A class

(2nd part)

saff(un)

صَفٌّ

The two male teachers of a class

mu"allimaa saff(in)

مُعَلِّمَاْ صَفٍّ

 

The two female teachers

(1st part)

'al-mu"allimataan(i)

الْمُعَلِّمَتَاْنِ

A class

(2nd part)

saff(un)

صَفٌّ

The two female teachers of a class

mu"allimataa saff(in)

مُعَلِّمَتَاْ صَفٍّ

 

The teachers

(1st part)

'al-mu"allimoon(a)

المُعَلِّمُوْنَ

The class

(2nd part)

'as-saff(u)

الْصَّفُ

The teachers of the class

mu"allimoo  ('a)s-saff(i)

مُعَلِّمُوْا الْصَفِّ

The 'alif after the waaw in مُعَلِّمُوْا is a silent.

 

Female teachers

(1st part)

mu"allimaat(un)

مُعَلِّمَاْتٌ

The class

(2nd part)

'as-saff(u)

الْصَّفُ

The female teachers of the class

mu"allimaat(u) ('a)s-saff(i)

مُعَلِّمَاْتُ الْصَفِّ

 

More examples in which the first part is in other cases ('an-nasb & 'al-jarr):

 

(I saw) the two male teachers of the class

mu"allimay ('a)s-saff(i)

مُعَلِّمَيْ الْصَفِّ

(I saw) the two female teachers of the class

mu"allimatay ('a)s-saff(i)

مُعَلِّمَتَيْ الْصَفِّ

(I saw) the (male) teachers of the class

mu"allimee ('a)s-saff(i)

مُعَلِّمِيْ الْصَفِّ

 

 

Examples on proper nouns:

Meaning Literal Translation Genitive Construction
Ali's book kitaab(u) "aliyy(in)

كِتَاْبُ عَلِيٍّ

 (the) book (of) Ali
Airport of Damascus mataar(u) dimashq(a)

مَطَاْرُ دِمَشْقَ

(the) airport (of) Damascus

دِمَشْق is a "forbidden to noonation" الْمَمْنُوْعُ مِنَ الْصَّرْفِ word, so it has an irregular case sign in the genitive case (-a) in addition to never taking noonation.

Proper names are always definite and don't take 'al- before them. However, we mentioned before that first names of people and some other proper nouns take tanween even though they are definite.

 

Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns such as "my" and "your" do not exist in Arabic; nor do exist ones such as "mine" and "yours." To say in Arabic that something is yours, you would use the genitive construction described above and say "(the) thing (of) me." To say "your book and his book" you would say "(the) book (of) you and (the) book (of) him."

This will be shown later in the section about object pronouns.

 

"A" Thing of a Thing

A final issue about the genitive construction is how we translate the following sentence to Arabic:

A door of a house

We know that it is impossible in Arabic for the first part of a genitive construction to be indefinite. Thus, this kind of sentences is usually translated in Arabic to:

بَاْبُ مَنْزِلٍ

baab(u) manzil(in)

(The) door (of) a house

 

There is not really that much of a difference between the two. However, if you were insisting on having the first part indefinite, there is one trick that could be used, which is to use a preposition other than the hidden "of" of the genitive construction. Usually that would be the particle li- لِـ = "for/to."

بَاْبٌ لِمَنْزِلٍ

baab(un) li-manzil(in)

A door for a house

This is not a genitive construction. The word after li- is in the ablative case, which is the same in Arabic as the genitive case ('al-jarr).

 

 

Exercise

 

Jamal's friend

The door key

Freedom fighters

 

Can you translate those phrases to Arabic by using the following Arabic words?

 

A friend (sing. masc.)

صَدِيْقٌ

Jamal (male name)

جَمَاْلٌ

The key (sing. masc.)

الْمِفْتَاْحُ

The door (masc.)

الْبَاْبُ

The fighters (plu. masc.)

الْمُقَاْتِلُوْنَ

A freedom (sing. fem.)

حُرِّيَةٌ

 

Answers

 

Jamal's friend

صَدِيْقُ جَمَاْلٍ

The door key

مِفْتَاْحُ الْبَاْبِ

Freedom fighters

مُقَاْتِلُوْا الْحُرِّيَةِ

 

 

 

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