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Negation (continued)

Present Tense Negative Sentences

laat(a) لاتَ

laat(a) is a classical, unimportant, negative particle that has very limited uses. Although it is a particle and not an incomplete verb, it works like lays(a) (requires an adverb in the accusative case following it); but there are limitations to how it is used:

  • It must be followed exclusively by a noun.

  • This noun must be a time word (like "day," "time," "hour," etc.).

  • The subject of the sentence must be omitted and only the adverb appears.


لاتَ سَاْعَةَ مَنْدَمٍ

laat(a) saa"a(ta) mandam(in)

 = is/exists not (the hour) (as) (the) hour (of) a regret

Translation: this is not a time to regret


The original complete form of this sentence would be the following (not used):

"لاتَ السَّاْعَةُ سَاْعَةَ مَنْدَمٍ"

laat(a) ('a)s-saa"a(tu) saa"a(ta) mandam(in)

 = is/exists not the hour (as) (the) hour (of) a regret

Translation: this is not a time to regret


Another example from the Koran:

وَلاتَ حِيْنَ مَنَاصٍ

wa-laat(a) heen(a) manaas(in)

 = and is/exists not (the time) (as) (the) time (of) an escape

Translation: this is not a time to escape

Explanation: this is not the right time to avoid punishment, you should have thought about it before


laa لا

The word for "no" in Arabic, laa is the official word used for negation of imperfective verbs in the present tense. In standard usage, it comes before the verb and not the subject of the sentence.

هُوَ لا يَعْرِفُ شَيْئًا

huw(a) laa ya"rif(u) shay'a(n)

 = he not knows a thing

Translation: HE doesn't know anything


لا يَعْرِفُ شَيْئًا

laa ya"rif(u) shay'a(n)

 = not (he) knows a thing

Translation: he doesn't know anything


إِنَّهُ لا يَعْرِفُ شَيْئًا

'inna-h(u) laa ya"rif(u) shay'a(n)

 = it is true that him not knows a thing

Translation: he doesn't know anything


لَقَدْ أَخْبَرْتُكَ أَنَّهُ لا يَعْرِفُ شَيْئًا

la-qad 'akhbartu-k(a) 'anna-h(u) laa ya"rif(u) shay'a(n)

 = (I) have told you that truthfully him not knows a thing

Translation: I told you he doesn't know anything


إِنْ ذَهَبَ لا يَجِدُ شَيْئًا هُنَاْكَ

'in thahab(a) laa yajid(u) shay'a(n) hunaak(a)

 = if (he) went not (he) finds a thing there

Translation: if he went, he wouldn't find anything there

The imperfective in the last example served as a subjunctive verb. We mentioned in the verb section that this is common in Arabic.


Do Not!

When laa comes before second person conjugations of imperfective verbs, it will mean a negative command.

لا تَسْأَلْ

laa tas'al

 = not (you) ask

Translation: don't ask!


لا تَضْحَكِيْ

laa tadhakee

 = not (you) laugh (sing. fem.)

Translation: don't laugh!


When laa is used in this way (to give a negative command), it becomes a jussive particle and the imperfective verb after it must be in the jussive mood.


Before Subjects

When laa precedes the subject instead of the verb, it will work either like lays(a) (i.e. it will require an adverb in the accusative case following it), or like 'inna (i.e the subject will be in the accusative case). However, the subject and the predicate must be indefinite when we use laa before the subject.

The first usage (like lays(a)) is a rather unusual way to use this particle in Arabic.


لا مَطَرٌ هَاْطِلاً

laa matar(un) haatila(n)

 = is/exists not a rain falling

Translation: no rain is falling

= it is not raining

OR: it is not rain which is falling


لا رَجُلٌ فِيْ الْبَيْتِ

laa rajul(un) fee ('a)l-bayt(i)

 = is/exists not a man in the house

Translation: there is no man in the house

OR: the man in the house is not a man


The second way of using laa before nouns (like 'inna) is much more common. laa  is usually used in this way to make a general statement. Whereas the previous way of using laa (like lays(a)) should be used when making a more specific statement.

لا أَحَدَ فِيْ الْبَيْتِ

laa 'ahad(a) fee ('a)l-bayt(i)

 = not a one (is) in the house

Translation: no one/nobody is in the house


لا رَجُلَ يَجْرُؤُ عَلَىْ الذَّهَاْبِ

laa rajul(a) yajru'(u) "alaa ('a)th-thahaab(i)

 = not a man dares on the going

Translation: no man dares to go


As a norm in the second case, the subject after laa will usually not be Noonated, although it will still be indefinite. As we have mentioned already, the subject and the predicate must be indefinite when using negative laa before the subject of a sentence.

In Arabic grammar, when laa works like 'inna it is called:

"negating of genus laa" لا النَّاْفِيَةُ لِلْجِنْسِ.


Neither ... nor ...

Laa  is used in Arabic to say "neither...nor..."


لا ... وَلا...

laa ... wa-laa ...

Neither ... nor ...


لا هَذَاْ وَلا ذَاْكَ

laa haathaa wa-laa thaak(a)

 = not this and not that

Translation: neither this nor that


لا رَأَيْتُ وَلا سَمِعْتُ

laa ra'ayt(u) wa-laa sami"t(u)

 = not (I) saw and not (I) heard

Translation: neither did I see nor did I hear


Prefixed laa-

In modern Arabic, laa can often be prefixed to create new words much as non-, un-, in-, dis-, im-. il-, and ir- are used in English words.


Inorganic laa-"udwiyy(un) لاعُضْوِيٌّ
Irresponsible laa-mas'ool(un) لامَسْؤُوْلٌ
Infinite laa-mutanaah(in) لامُتَنَاْهٍ


*The word rayru غَيْرُ = "other than" is often used in a similar way; however, that word forms a genitive construction with the noun following it and will not be prefixed to it.


Not organic

rayru "udwiyy(in)

غَيْرُ عُضْوِيٍّ

Not responsible

rayru mas'ool(in)

غَيْرُ مَسْؤُوْلٍ

Not finite

rayru mutanaah(in)

غَيْرُ مُتَنَاْهٍ



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