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Nahw – The Anatomy of a Sentence – Part 1

March 17, 2007

In this post I will give a few examples from القصص ﺍﻟﻨﹽﺒﻴﹽﻦ (Qasas-un-Nabiyyeen – Stories of the Prophets) which is the text which we are reading at the Toronto Shariah Program. The purpose here is to see how some of the grammatical terms which we have learned so far fit into an Arabic sentence. This will help in identifying the correct terms and how they can be properly used while constructing longer Arabic sentences. We will also learn a few new grammatical states and will fit each of them in the table which we built in the previous Nahw post.

كانﹶ في قريةﹴ رجُلﹲ ﻣﺸﻬﹹﻮﺭﹲ جِدّاﹰ : (In a town there was a very famous man) Note the order of Noun, Adjective, and Adverb here. In English we put Adverb + Adjective + Noun (very + famous + man); in Arabic this order is reversed (man + famous + very). جِدّاﹰ is the adverb here, called the normal adverb or مفعول مطلق and it goes into نَصَب , therefore you see the two fathas at the end. In addition to this قريةﹴ is in جر since it is preceded by a preposition, في . Also noticeرجُلﹲ ﻣﺸﻬﹹﻮﺭﹲ : they have a صفة، موصوف relationship and thus the following rules apply to them, as explained in this post:

  1. Definiteness: no ال in front of either
  2. Plurality: both are singular
  3. Gender: both are masculine
  4. Grammatical state: both are in رفع (double dhamma at the end). Why they are in رفع is because رجُلﹲ is the إسم of كان and ﻣﺸﻬﹹﻮﺭﹲ has to agree with it in grammatical state because of the صفة، موصوف relationship. One important thing to note here is that there is no rule which says that the word immediately following كانﹶ is it’s subject. We have already stated in a previous post that no such rule of sequence exists in Arabic and in this sentence we see that رجُلﹲ is not the word which immediately follows كان

کَانَ اسمُ ﻫٰﺬﺍ الرّجُلِ آزَرَ : (The name of this man was Aazar) Let’s take آزَرَ first: it is in نَصَب as can be seen by the fatha at the end. This is because آزَرَ is the خبر of کَانَ therefore it goes into نَصَب . Also, note the one dhamma on اسمُ which means that it is in the state of رفع . This is because it is إسم of كان so it goes in the state of رفع . Also, الرّجُلِ is the مضاف إليه of اسمُ therefore it goes into جر as our Grammatical State Table shows. (Note: the final kasra may not show properly on the web page)

و کانَ فی ﻫٰﺬﺍ ﺍﻟﺒﻴﺖﹺ اصنامﹲ (And in this house there were idols): اصنامﹲ is the إسم of كان so it is in the state of رفع , thus the double dhamma at the end. The whole phrase فی ﻫٰﺬﺍ ﺍﻟﺒﻴﺖِ is termed to be in place of نَصَب . This is necessary since this whole phrase, rather than just a single word, is the خبر of كانﹶ . However,ﺍﻟﺒﻴﺖﹺ itself is in جر because of فی , a preposition. This concept of being in a grammatical state is important since most of the time it is a whole phrase which will need to take up a specific grammatical state rather than a single word. Because we cannot put dhamma, fatha, or kasra on the entire phrase therefore we consider the whole phrase into that specific grammatical state. This will become more clear, Insha Allah, when I give more examples involving complex sentences.
و کانَ آزَرُ ﻳﻌﺒﹹﺪﹸ الاَصنَامَ ( And Aazar would worship these idols): The combination ofكانﹶ and المُضارع verb (ﻳﻌﺒﹹﺪﹸ in this case) gives the meaning of would. In other terms, this combination depicts the past continuous tense and is used whenever the idea of a general habit or an action occurring over and over again is to be conveyed. Notice the fatha at the end of الاَصنَامَ : it is the مفعول به of ﻳﻌﺒﹹﺪﹸ thus it goes into نَصَب.

I hope that these simple examples would be an easy primer to the application of the concept of Grammatical States in Arabic Language. Insha Allah, I will soon post more example with more complex sentences.

  1. That’s a good effort but it’s difficult

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  1. Nahw - The Anatomy of a Sentence - Part 2 « Internals

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