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The Definite Article


In English, the indefinite articles are “a” and “an,” and the definite article is “the.”

In Arabic, there is no indefinite article like the English one, but there is instead a declension that indicates "indefiniteness," this is called "Nunation" الْتَّنْوِيْنُ . In order to be able to talk about this declension, we will need to talk first about case inflection . So we will leave the indefinite declension for later, and talk now about the definite article.

There is one definite article that does not change in whatever case.

This article is:


The Definite Article

أَدَاْةُ الْتَّعْرِيْفِ






Nouns in the Definite State

(Status Determinatus)

The male teacher



The female teacher



The two male teachers



The two female teachers



The 2< male teachers



The 2< female teachers



*The letters colored in pink are changeable with different grammatical cases. This will be covered again later.

The 'al will be always joined to the noun after it, and they will form a single word that is in the definite state.


Pronunciation of the Definite Article

The definite article 'al- is composed of two letters, the first one of which is a consonant hamza(t) ' . However, this hamza(t) is of the type that is called the "hamza(t) of connection" هَمْزَةُ الوَصْلِ . Connection hamza(t) is pronounced only when it is the first sound that comes out of the mouth (i.e. when you begin speaking by pronouncing that hamza(t)).

The other type of hamza(t) at the beginning of a word is the "hamza(t) of disconnection" هَمْزَةُ القَطْعِ, that hamza(t) is always pronounced. Differentiating between the two types is easy when you can see the word, depending on the presence or not of this sign: ء over or under the ا .



Solar and Lunar laam

We now know that the hamza(t) as a first letter of a word can be omitted in speech if it was a connecting hamza(t). The following rule is a special one for the second letter of the definite article, the laam l . This rule will apply only to the laam of the definite article but to any other laam. This specific laam can also be omitted in speech depending on the letter that follows it.


The laam which will be omitted is called the "solar laam" اللاَّمُ الشَّمْسِيَّةُ . The laam which will not be omitted is called the "lunar laam" اللاَّمُ القَمَرِيَّةُ .


The solar laam is the laam of any 'al- that is followed by one of the following letters:

ت ، ث ، د ، ذ ، ر ، ز ، س ، ش ، ص ، ض ، ط ، ظ ، ن ، ل


The lunar laam is the laam of any 'al- that is followed by one of the following letters:

أ ، ب ، ج ، ح ، خ ، ع ، غ ، ف ، ق ، ك ، ل ، م ، هـ ، و ، ي


The solar laam will be omitted in speech and replaced by a shadda(t) on the following letter (i.e. the following letter will be doubled).




Solar 'al-

The sun (fem.) 'al-shams » 'ash-shams اَلْشَّمْس
The man (masc.) 'al-rajul » 'ar-rajul اَلْرَّجُل
The night (masc.) 'al-layl » 'al-layl اَلْلَّيْل


I will try to always color the letter replacing the solar laam in this color. It should be noted that the shadda(t) (doubling of letter, or heavy stress) never appears on the first letter of any word unless it was preceded by a solar 'al- (i.e. solar laam).

The lunar laam will be left without any change in pronunciation.



Lunar 'al-

The moon (masc.) 'al-qamar الْقَمَر
The woman (fem.) 'al-mar'a(t) الْمَرْأَة
The evening (masc.) 'al-masaa'< الْمَسَاْء



Solar 'al-

Lunar 'al-


ت ، ث ، د ، ذ ، ر ، ز، س ، ش ، ص ، ض ، ط، ظ ، ن ، ل


أ ، ب ، ج ، ح ، خ ، ع، غ ، ف ، ق ، ك ، ل ، م، هـ ، و ، ي

The laam is changed to the following letter

'al-x → 'ax-x

The laam is kept intact

'al-x → 'al-x



Special Writing Considerations for 'al-

The connecting hamza(t) is not omitted in writing, except in the following two cases:

1. la- +'al-

When the emphatic particle la- = "certainly, indeed" precedes a word beginning with the definite article 'al-, the hamza(t) of the 'al- will be deleted in writing as well as in pronunciation.

لَـ + الْقَمَر = لَلْقَمَر

la- + 'al-qamar = la-l-qamar

certainly + the moon = certainly the moon

لَـ + اَلْشَّمْس = لَلْشَّمْس

la- + 'ash-shams = la-sh-shams

certainly + the sun = certainly the sun


2. li- +'al-

When the preposition li- = "for, to, in order to" precedes a word beginning with the definite article 'al-, the hamza(t) of the 'al- will be deleted in writing as well as in pronunciation.

لِـ + الْقَمَر = لِلْقَمَر

li- + 'al-qamar = li-l-qamar

for/to + the moon = for/to the moon

لِـ + اَلْشَّمْس = لِلْشَّمْس

li- + 'ash-shams = li-sh-shams

for/to + the sun = for/to the sun



Definite Nouns in Arabic

The definite nouns الْمَعْرِفَةُ  in Arabic are:

All of these things will be covered later on this site.



Etymology Note

It appears that 'al- was originally hal- in ancient Arabia. Arabs often changed the letter h هـ  to '  أ , we are going to see other examples of this transition on this site.

Knowing that Arabs omitted the l of 'al- or hal- before certain letters, it is not surprising that classical Hebrew used ha- as a definite article, with the doubling of the following letter, just like in Arabic. They simply carried the trend further ahead and stopped pronouncing the l completely.




the sun



Exercise 1

Can you make the following nouns in the definite state?


Court (fem.)


Largest (fem. sing. adj.)


Death (masc.)


Sad (masc. plu. adj.)


Happy (fem. plu. adj.)


Papers (fem.)






The court (fem.)


The largest (fem. sing. adj.)


The death (masc.)


The sad (masc. plu. adj.)


The happy (fem. plu. adj.)


The papers (fem.)




Exercise 2

Can you tell which of the following are solar or lunar 'al-'s?


The class (masc.)


The house (masc.)


The country(side) (masc.)


The light (masc.)


The sky (fem.)


The neighbor (fem.)





















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