Arabic sentence structure: nominal and verbal sentences

Posted on 29. Jan, 2009 by in Grammar

Arabic has 2 types of sentences: nominal and verbal.

Nominal sentences begin with a noun or a pronoun, while verbal sentences begin with a verb.

Nominal sentences have 2 parts: a subject (مبتدأ) and a predicate (خبر). When the nominal sentence is about being, i.e. if the verb of the sentence is ‘to be’ in English, this verb is not given in Arabic. Instead, it is implied and understood from the context. This can be confusing to some learners who speak European languages and are used to having a verb in each sentence. Consider the first 3 examples below where verb to be is not given in the Arabic sentence.

 

The subject of the nominal sentence is a noun or a pronoun, while the predicate can be a noun, adjective, preposition and noun, or verb. In the following examples the subject is underlined:

 

هذه مقالة ممتازة.

“This is an excellent article.”

 

والدها لبناني.

“Her father is Lebanese.”

 

نحن من مصر.

“We are in Egypt.”

 

الولد يلعب.

“The boy plays.”

 

The subject of a nominal sentence is usually definite, yet an indefinite subject is allowed in some types of sentences that express existence or possession, and in this case the subject comes after the predicate. In the following examples the subject is underlined: 

 

هناك أولاد في الحديقة.

“There are kids in the park.”

 

 

لي أخ.

“I have a brother”

 

 

عندي سيارة.

“I have a car.”

 

Verbal sentences begin with a verb, and they have at least a verb (فعل) and a subject (فاعل). The subject can be indicated by the conjugation of the verb, and not written separately, for example:

 

أعمل.

“I work.”

 

درسنا.

“We studied.”

 

 يعمل جدّي في التجارة.

My grandfather works in trade.

 

Some people prefer verbal sentences to nominal sentences whenever a verb needs to be used in the sentence, however, this is not necessarily the case and the choice of which word to use at the beginning of a sentence depends on what you want the focus of the sentence to be:

يعمل جدّي في التجارة.

 

جدّي يعمل في التجارة.

10 Responses to “Arabic sentence structure: nominal and verbal sentences”

  1. usman 19 April 2009 at 5:07 am #

    good reading!

  2. Anas 9 June 2009 at 7:44 pm #

    Example three should read: we are from Egypt, and example four should read: the boy is playing.
    Thank you for this wonderful article.

  3. Deeter 11 December 2009 at 2:47 pm #

    Ya azizi, can you do a post on knowing when something is nominative, accusative, genitive so you can know kasra, dhamma or fatha?

  4. Aziza 14 December 2009 at 9:02 am #

    Ahlan Deeter,
    I have already written on this topic, but I will write another short post to refresh.
    Salaam,
    Aziza

  5. tabassum 23 August 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    im new to learn the arabic language plz help to learn a grammer nd im unable to understand verbal nouns nd perfectense

  6. aziza 4 September 2010 at 12:04 am #

    Thank you very much Tabassum,
    I will explain these again soon. Please also check old posts about the same topics.
    Aziza

  7. Shaun 5 September 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi Aziza
    Thank you so much for this post.
    So now how do we analyze each of these sentences? I mean (I’irab).
    For example the sentrence (الولد يلعب
    is الولد
    fai’l Marfou bi dhamma? and يلعب is Fi’l mudhari? and so on.

    how would I anlayze the other sentences you provided?

    thanks

    shaun

  8. aziza 12 September 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    Hi Shaun,
    yes, you analyzed the first word correctly.
    الولدُ: فاعل مرفوع ةبالضمة
    يلعبُ: فعل مضارع مرفوع بالضمة

  9. Sibgatallah Nigeria 14 June 2012 at 1:15 am #

    salam Alayk/a.. Thank you so much for analysis. I want you to do me a favour , How do i write Arabic lesson note for all the topics that has to do with elementary Arabic for primary schook.. Shokran

  10. ANMB 23 April 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    as salaamu ‘alaikum,

    When reading the Arabic sentences that are without tashkeel/vowel marks and/or pronunciation via audio soundclips and/or transliteration, it is difficult to know how to properly pronounce the words, and to better understand the grammatical function of each word based on the case ending (even if not pronounced as in pausing or stopping on a word). Would you please include the tashkeel, audio clips, and transliteration for us? These details are especially important because most students learning Arabic are not immersed in the language and listening to it on a daily basis.

    Thank you.


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