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Adjective Agreement in Arabic Posted by on Oct 18, 2018 in Grammar, morphology, Vocabulary

An adjective is word that describes a noun. In Arabic it is called صِفَة (or نَعْت). It follows the noun, and it must agree with it in definiteness (i.e. نَكِرَة or مَعْرِفَة), number (i.e. مُفْرَد, مُثَنَّى, or جَمْع), gender (i.e. مُذَكَّر or مُؤَنَّث), and case (i.e. مَرْفُوع, مَنْصُوب, or مَجْرُور). This post is about the rules of agreement between nouns and adjectives in Arabic.

Definiteness Agreement:

A noun in Arabic can be indefinite نَكِرَة or definite مَعْرِفَة. The نَكِرَة is changed to مَعْرِفَة in three ways: 1) adding ال to it, 2) adding it to a definite noun, and 3) attaching a pronoun to it.

النَّكِرَة
المَعْرِفَة
  ال نَكِرَة + مَعْرِفَة نَكِرَة + ضَمِيْر مُتَّصِل
كِتَاب الكِتَاب كِتَاب الطَالِب كِتَابُهُ
صَدِيق الصَّدِيق صَدِيْق مُحَمَّد صَدِيقِي
جَامِعَة الجَامِعَة جَامِعَة صَنْعَاء جَامِعَتُنَا
مُدِيْر المُدِيْر مُدِيْر الشَّرِكَة مُدِيْرُكُم

When an adjective is added to describe a noun / a noun phrase, it must agree with it in definiteness. That is, the indefinite noun is followed by an indefinite adjective, and the definite noun is follow by a definite adjective.

اِسْم نَكِرَة + صِفَة نَكِرَة
اِسْم مَعْرِفَة + صِفَة مَعْرِفَة
كِتَاب جَدِيْد الكِتَاب الجَدِيْد كِتَاب الطَالِب الجَدِيْد كِتَابُهُ الجَدِيْد
صَدِيق يَابَانِي الصَّدِيق اليَابَانِي صَدِيْق مُحَمَّد اليَابَانِي صَدِيقِي اليَابَانِي
جَامِعَة مَشْهُورَة الجَامِعَة المَشْهُورَة جَامِعَة هَارفُرد المَشْهُورَة جَامِعَتُنَا المَشْهُورَة
مُدِيْر فَاهِم المُدِيْر الفَاهِم مُدِيْر الشَّرِكَة الفَاهِم مُدِيْرُكُم الفَاهِم

Not that if the adjective after the nouns or the noun phrases is نَكِرَة, it is no longer an adjective. Instead, it is a noun functioning as خَبَر forming a nominal sentence.

Nominal Sentence جُمْلَة اِسْمِيَّة Subject / topic مُبْتَدَأ Predicate خَبَر
الكِتَاب جَدِيْد. الكِتَاب جَدِيْد
مُدِيْر الشَّرِكَة فَاهِم. مُدِيْر الشَّرِكَة فَاهِم
جَامِعَتُنَا مِشْهُورَة. جَامِعُتُنا مَشْهُورَة

Number Agreement:

When an adjective is added to a noun, it must agree with it in number. That is, if the noun is singular, the adjective must be singular; if it is dual, the adjective must be dual; and if it plural, the adjective must be plural.

اِسْم نَكِرَة
اِسْم نَكِرَة + صِفَة نَكِرَة
 
مُفْرَد
مُثَنَّى
جِمْع
كِتَاب كِتَاب جَدِيْد كِتَابَان جَدِيْدان كُتُب جَدِيْدَة
رَجُل رَجُل أَلَمَانِي رَجُلان أَلْمَانِيَّان رِجَال أَلْمَانِيُّون / أَلْمَان
بِنْت

 

بِنْت جَمِيْلَة

 

بِنْتَان جَمِيْلَتَان

 

بَنَات جَمِيْلات

 

اِسْم مَعْرِفَة
اِسْم مَعْرِفَة + صِفَة مَعْرِفَة
الكِتَاب الكِتَاب الجَدِيْد الكِتَابَان الجَدِيْدَان الكُتُب الجَدِيْدَة
الرَّجُل الرَّجُل الأَلْمَانِي الرَّجُلَان الأَلْمَانِيَّان الرِّجَال الألْمَانِيُّون / الأَلْمَان
البِنْت البِنْت الجَمِيْلَة البِنْتَان الجَمِيْلَتَان البَنَات الجَمِيْلات

Note that with non-human plural nouns, the adjective is always feminine singular. This rule is similar to that of the demonstrative noun explained in the previous post.

Gender Agreement:

If the noun to which an adjective is added is masculine, the form of this adjective must be masculine; if the nouns is feminine, the adjective must also be feminine.

اِسْم مُذَكَّر
اِسْم مُذَكَّر + صِفَة (مُذَكَّر)
اِسْم مُؤَنَّث
اِسْم مُؤَنَّث + صِفَة (مُؤَنَّثَة)
أُسْتَاذ أُسْتَاذ مُمْتَاز أُسْتَاذَة أُسْتَاذَة مُمْتَازَة
البَيْت البَيْت الكَبِيْر الشَّقَّة الشَّقَّة كَبِيْرَة
طِفْل طِفْل نَشِيْط طِفْلَة طِفْلَة نَشِيْطَة
الكَلْب الكَلْب الضَّارِي الكَلْبَة الكَلْبَة الضَّارِيَة

Case Agreement:

Case is called عَلاَمَة الإِعْرَاب ‘word final diacritical mark / parsing mark’ in Arabic. There are three basic parsing marks فَتْحَة, ضَمَّة, and كَسْرَة. When the noun or the adjective is assigned ضَمَّة, it is called مَرْفُوْع ‘nominative’. If assigned فَتْحَة, it is called مَنْصُوب ‘accusative’. If assigned كَسْرَة, it is called مَجْرُور ‘genitive.’

The secondary parsing marks are ان, وَن, يْنِ, and يْنَ. The ان is for masculine and feminine dual, and the وَن is for sound masculine plural. Both mark the nominative case. The يْنِ with kasrah below the nuun is for dual, and the يْنَ with fatHah over the nuun is for the sound masculine plural. They mark the accusative and genitive cases.

Case assignment is determined by the position of the word in the sentence or by certain particles that precede the noun.

اِسْم مُفْرَد + صِفَة مُفْرَدَة
unmarked noun
مَرْفُوع
مَنْصُوب
مَجْرُور
كِتَاب جَدِيْد كِتَابٌ جَدِيْدٌ كِتَابًا جَدِيْدًا كِتَابٍ جَدِيْدٍ
بِنْت جَمِيْلَة بِنْتٌ جَمِيْلَةٌ بِنْتًا جَمِيْلَةً بِنْتٍ جَمِيْلَةٍ
مَهْنِدس مُمْتَاز مُهْندِسٌ مُمْتَازٌ مُهْنْدِسًا مُمْتَازًا مُهَنْدِسٍ مُمْتَازٍ
مُسْلِم مُلْتَزِم مُسْلِمٌ مُلْتَزِمٌ مُسْلِمًا مُلْتَزِمًا مُسْلِمٍ مُلْتَزِمٍ

 

اِسْم مُثَنَّى + صِفَة مُثَنَّى
unmarked noun
مَرْفُوع
مَنْصُوب
مَجْرُور
كِتَابَان جَدِيْدَان كِتَابَان جَدِيْدَانِ كِتَابَيْنِ جَدِيْدَيْنِ كِتَابَيْنِ جَدِيْدَيْنِ
بِنْتَان جَمِيْلَتَان بِنْتَان جَمِيْلَتَانِ بِنْتَيْنِ جَمِيْلَتَيْنِ بِنْتَيْنِ جَمِيْلَتَيْنِ
مُهْنْدِسَان مُمْتَازَان مُهْنْدِسَانِ مُمْتَازَانِ مُهَنْدِسَيْنِ مُمْتَازَيْنِ مُهَنْدِسَيْنِ مُمْتَازَيْنِ
مُسْلِمَان مُلْتَزِمَان مُسْلِمَانِ مُمْتَازَانِ مُسْلِمَيْنِ مُمْتَازَيْنِ مُسْلِمَيْنِ مُمْتَازَيْنِ

 

اِسْم جَمْع + صِفَة جَمْع
unmarked noun
مَرْفُوع
مَنْصُوب
مَجْرُور
كُتُب (جَدِيْدَة) كُتُبٌ جَدِيْدَةُ كُتُبًا جِدِيْدَةً كُتُبٍ جَدِيْدَةٍ
بَنَات جَمِيْلَات بَنَاتٌ جَمِيْلاتٌ بَنَاتٍ جَمِيْلاتٍ بَنَاتٍ جَمِيْلاتٍ
مُهَنْدِسُون مُمْتَازُون مُهَنْدِسُونَ مُمْتَازُونَ مُهَنْدِسِيْنَ مُمْتَازِيْنَ مُهَنْدِسِيْنَ مُمْتَازِيْنَ
مُسْلِمُون مُلْتَزِمُون مُسْلِمُونَ مُلْتَزِمُونَ مُسْلِمِيْنَ مُمْتَازِيْنَ مُسْلِمِيْنَ مُمْتَازِيْنَ

Example sentences that include the afore-mentioned agreements. Adjectives are highlighted in orange.

(1) قَرَأتُ كِتَابًا جَدِيْدًا. هَذَا الكِتَابُ الجَدِيْدُ عِنْ سَيَّدٍةٍ يَمَنِيِّةٍ كَان عِنْدَها وَلَدَانِ صَغِيْرَانِ. قَتَلَتْ السَّعُوْدِيَّة الوَلَدَيْنِ الصَّغِيْرَيْنِ فِي قَصْفٍ جَوِيٍ.

(2) هَذِهِ طَبِيْبٌ مُمْتَازٌ، يَعْمَلُ فِيْ عِيَادَةٍ كَبِيْرَةٍ. العِيَادَةُ فِي العَمَارَةِ الجَدِيْدَةِ الَّتِي أَمَامَ السُّوْقِ المَرْكَزِي. فِي العِيَادَةِ أَطِبَاءٌ مَشْهُورُون وطَبِيْبَاتٌ مُمْتَازَاتٌ.

(3) أَعْرِفُ مُهَنْدِسِيْنَ مَاهِرِيْنَ يَعْمَلُونَ فَي ذلِكَ المَصْنَعِ القَدِيْمِ. المُهَنْدِسُون المَاهِرُون يَعْمَلُون في الصَّبَاح.

(4) شَرِبْتُ حَلِيْبًا سَاخِنًا، ثُمَ نُمْتُ نَوْمًا عَمِيْقًا. الحَلِيْبُ السَّاخِنُ يُسَاعِدُ عَلَى النَّوْم.

I encourage you to read the post again paying close attention to each example, then test your understanding here. Also, I just created a new Facebook page, please like and follow to learn more and get alerts of new posts, tests, and alike.

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About the Author:Ibnulyemen اِبْنُ اليَمَن

Marhaban! I am from Yemen. I am a language teacher. I teach English and Arabic. In this blog, I will be leading you through Arabic language learning in a sequential fashion. I will focus on Modern Standard Arabic. To learn more, you can also visit my website Ibnulyemen Arabic or my facebook page.


Comments:

  1. J:

    The explanation for gender agreement is misleading and to a non native speaker, incorrect. All non human plurals are treated as feminine singular. But it says here adjectives agree in gender and plurality with their noun. By this logic, books is masculine and plural; therefore the adjective should be masculine and plural, what would be the plural masculine of jideed? Jideedeen? Jideedoon?

    None of these of course! The explanation should have instead reminded people about the single and feminine grammar of nonhuman plurals in Arabic.

    This will confuse a lot of people who are not yet familiar with this and really should be corrected.

    • Ibnulyemen اِبْنُ اليَمَن:

      @J Mon ami Monsieur J, maybe you missed the reference to an earlier post, which explained the agreement of non-human plural with demonstratives (and by the same token adjectives). please read the post again and you will see the explanation.


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