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Nahw – Attached Pronouns: their Grammatical States

April 11, 2007

A pronoun is a substitute of for a noun. Thus, you can say This is Zaid’s book or you can say This is his book, the his being the pronoun. Similarly, you can say I gave the book to Zaid and Amr as well as I gave the book to them, the them being the pronoun here.

In Arabic we can have two forms of a pronoun: attached and detached. An example of each is:

ﻫﹹﻮﹶ ﻃﹷﺎﻟﹻﺐﹲ
He is a student (detached pronoun)

ابنهُ ﻣﹹﺠﺘﻬﹻﺪﹲ
His son is hardworking (attached pronoun)

In this post I will show, Insha Allah, how we can determine the grammatical state of attached pronouns.

There are a total of 14 attached pronouns, same number as the verb conjugations. However, the attached pronouns for 3rd person dual masculine and dual feminine, as well as those for 2nd person dual masculine and dual feminine, are the same. Thus, we are left with 14 – 2 = 12 attached pronouns to deal with. The table below shows the listings for attached pronouns:

3rd Person Masculine Singular ﻩﹸ
3rd Person Masculine dual ﻫﹹﻤﺎ
3rd Person Masculine Plural ﻫﹹﻢ
3rd Person Feminine Singular ﻫﺎ
3rd Person Feminine dual ﻫﹹﻤﺎ
3rd Person Feminine Plural ﻫﹹﻦﱠ
2nd Person Masculine Singular کَ
2nd Person Masculine Dual کُما
2nd Person Masculine Plural کُم
2nd Person Feminine Singular کِ
2nd Person Feminine Dual کُما
2nd Person Feminine Plural کُنَّ
1st Person Masculine/Feminine Singular نی
1st Person Masculine/Feminine Dual/Plural نا

One point to note about 1st Person Masculine/Feminine Singular: The نی ending is only attached to verbs. For اسم and حرف (preposition) the ending is a simple ی . I will, Insha Allah, provide an explanation for this shortly.

Grammatical States of attached pronouns:

Why do we need to determine grammatical states for attached pronouns? The answer to this question is that these attached pronouns lack endings. For example, we can sayﺯﹶﻳﺪﹲ and right away know that this is a case of رفع because of the dhamma at the end. However, the attached pronouns cannot have dhamma, fatha,or kasra as their endings: کُما will always be کُما and نا will always be نا , for example. We cannot stick a dhamma, fatha, or kasra at their end to reflect grammatical states. Yet, we know that attached pronouns do possess grammatical states, an example of which is ﺿﹷﺮﹶﺑﹿﺘﹹﻬﹹﻢ which means I hit them. Clearly, I, the pronoun, is the subject here and them is the object and thus has to have grammatical states in Arabic. Other examples of the same pronoun in the three grammatical states would be:

  1. ضَربنا (zarab’na): we hit. Here نا is in رفع since it is the subject of hitting
  2. ضَرَبَنا (zarabana): he hit us. Here نا is in نصب since it is the object of hitting
  3. ﺁﻟﹻﻬٰﺘﹻﻨﺎ (aalihatina): our gods. Here نا is in جر since it is مضاف ﺍﹺﻟﹷﻴﻪ .

Rule for determining Grammatical States of attached pronouns

The pronoun will either be attached to a verb or a non-verb. If it is attached to a verb then it will either be from the endings we learned in صرف or it won’t. If it is, then رفع on the basis of either فاعل or نائب فاعل (deputy doer). If it isn’t, then نَصَب on the basis of مفعول به

If it is attached to an اسم then its Grammatical State would be جر on the basis of مضاف ﺍﹺﻟﹷﻴﻪ.

If it is attached to حرف then it could be attached to either a preposition or one of the إنََََََََََََََ sisters. If it is attached to a preposition then جر because of being the object of that preposition. If it is attached to one of the إنََََََََََََََ sisters then its Grammatical State would be نَصَب on the basis of إسمُ إنَََََ

These rules are depicted diagrammatically in the following chart (click to enlarge):

Grammatical States of attached pronouns


Pronoun attached to a verb:

Attached pronoun with the صرف table ending: ضَرَبنا (zarab’na: we hit). Here نا is فاعل because it is the doer of hitting. This is conjugation number 13 from the صرف table.

Attached pronoun with ending not from the صرف table: ﻳﹷﺬﹾﻛﹹﺮﹸﻫﹹﻢ( mentioning them). Here ﻫﹹﻢ is in نصب because it is the مفعول به of mentioning.The catch here is that the صرف tables only talks about we and not about them; in other words, we do not have a conjugation in the صرف tables which translates to anything relating to them. Thus, this is an example where we have a pronoun attached to a verb-ending which cannot be found in the صرف tables.

Pronoun attached to a non-verb:

  • Attached to an اسم: e.g. کِتابُکُم (your book). This is a possessive phrase so the attached pronoun is in the state of جر
  • Attached to a حرف : This can have two instances:
    • Attached to a preposition: e.g. فيه (in it), ﻣﹻﻨﻬﹹﻢ( for them). Here the attached pronoun is in the state of جر because in and it are the objects of their respective prepositions
    • Attached to an إنََََََََََََََ sister: e.g. ﺍﹺﻧﳲﻜﹹﻢ (you are). Here you is إسمُ إنَََََ , thus it is in the state of نصب

Note on the use of the نی ending in the 13th conjugation:

In Arabic if we want to say my book, we will say کِتابی ; however, if we want to say I hit, we will say ضَرَبَنی. Notice the extra ن which is used when a verb is used with an attached pronoun in the 13th conjugation. Recall that اسم can experience grammatical states in Arabic because of governing agents. For verbs, however, only the مضارع verb experiences grammatical state and that only of جزم : it cannot take the state of رفع or نصب or جر . Yet, the 13th conjugation dictates that the verb takes a kasra, since this conjugation ends in a ی . It is to protect the verb from taking the kasra (and thus undergoing جر, which it cannot) that an extra ن is inserted. This extra ن does not have a meaning of its own; it is simply used as a means of protecting the verb from undergoing a grammatical state which a verb is not allowed to take.

  1. salman permalink


    Excellent blog mashaAllah… keep it up! 🙂

    But you left out: “…and you don’t have to think about it!” 😛


  2. Ha Ha Ha 🙂
    You know what, Salman? I am finding myself more and more using the same terms in everyday language which Mufti Yousuf does:
    Does that make sense? Do you remember > business? and things like that.

    May Allah bless him manifold and may Allah give us the ability to take advantage of the knowledge being imparted.Ameen!

  3. was an article I liked. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Halima permalink

    SubhanAllah! So so glad to have stumbled across this fantastic website! Very tricky topics explained in a clear and concise manner.

    May The Almighty reward you for your efforts. Ameen

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