Arabic Language Blog

Arabic Demonstrative Pronouns Posted by on Oct 17, 2018 in Grammar, Vocabulary

Generally, demonstrative pronouns are words like ‘this’ and ‘that’. In Arabic, they are called ‘demonstrative nouns’ أَسْمَاءُ الإشَارَة. A demonstrative noun by itself is an ambiguous word until defined by a subsequent word. As regards gender, a demonstrative pronoun is either masculine or feminine. As for number, it is either singular, dual, or plural. As to reference, it refers to a noun that is close, a noun that is far, or a noun that is neither close nor far. This post explains all these aspects.

Masculine Demonstrative Nouns:

The basic masculine singular demonstrative noun in Arabic is ذا. The هـ which is added to it to form هَذَا ‘this’ is basically for attention drawing. هَذَا is commonly used in spoken and written form of Arabic, but ذَا is still used in some Arabic dialects. هَذَا is used to refer to a person, an animal, or an object that is near us, as in these examples:

هَذَا وَلَدٌ ذَكِي.  This is an intelligent boy

هَذَا الكِتَاب لِمُحَمَّد.  This book is for Mohammed

هَذَا كَلْبٌ ضَارٍ.  This is a wild dog.

To refer to a person, an animal, or an object that is fairly far from us, we use ذَاكَ. Here, كَ is added to the basic masculine singular demonstrative noun to indicate the distance (i.e. fairly far). If we want to refer to someone or something that is too far, we use ذَلِكَ. Here, لِكَ indicates that the distance is too far (and the alif of ذَا is dropped for repeated use of the word).

هّذَا الرَّجُلُ يَمَنِيٌ وَذَاكَ مِصْرِي.  This man is Yemeni, and that is Egyptian.

هَذَا كَتَابٌ وَذَاكَ دَفْتَرٌ.  This is a book, and that is notebook

هَذَا قِطٌّ وَذَاكَ كَلْبٌ.  This is a cat, and that is a dog.

هَذَا الرَّجُلُ طَبِيْبٌ وَذَاكَ مَهَنْدِس وَذَلِكَ مُحَامٍ.  This man is a physician, and that is an engineer, and that over there is a lawyer

هَذَا كِتَاب وذَاكَ دَفْتَر وذَلِكَ قَامُوس.   This is a book, and that is a notebook, and that over there is a dictionary.

هَذَا أَسَد وَذَاكَ كَلْب وَذَلِكَ قِظّ.  This is a lion, and that is a dog, and that over there is a cat.

From the above examples, it can be induced that هَذَا, ذَاكَ, and ذَلِكَ are the masculine singular demonstrative nouns. Their dual forms are هَذَان and ذَانِك in the nominative form. The accusative and genitive forms are هَذَيْن and ذِيْنِك. The demonstrative noun ذَلِكَ does not have a dual form, at least in Modern Standard Arabic usage. The normative forms appear in subject positions, while the accusative and genitive forms appear in object positions, as in these examples:

هَذَان الرَّجُلان مِنْ اليَمَنْ.  These two men are from Yemen

أَعْرفُ هَذَيْن الرَّجُلَيْن.  I know these two men

أَعْمَلُ مَعَ هَذَيْن الرَّجُلَيْن.  I work with these two men

ذَانِكَ الرَّجُلان طَبِيْبَان.  Those two men are physicians

أَعَمْلُ مَعَ ذَيْنِكَ الرَّجُلَيْن.  I work with those two men

قَتَلَت الشُّرْطَة ذَيْنِكَ المُجْرِمَيْن.  The police killed those two criminals

It is worth noting that ذَانِكَ and ذِيْنِكَ are infrequently used in Arabic, and they will probably disappear from Modern Standard Arabic usage.

In the plural there are two forms: هَؤُلاءِ and أوْلَئِكَ. The first is for people that are near us, and the other is for people far from us. Unlike the dual, the have the same forms regardless of their position in the sentence, as in these examples:

هَؤُلاءِ الطُّلْاب مِنَ الصَّيْن.  These students are from China

أُوْلَئِكَ الطُلْاب مِنَ اليَابَان.  Those students are from Japan

أَعْرِفُ هَؤُلاء المُهَنْدِسُون.  I know these engineers.

أَدْرِسُ مَعَ أُوْلَئِكَ الطُّلَّابُ.  I study with those students.

Feminine Demonstrative Nouns:

The basic feminine singular demonstrative noun in Arabic is ذِهِ. As with the masculine, the هـ which is added to it to form هَذِهِ ‘this’ is basically for attention drawing. هَذِهِ is commonly used in spoken and written form of Arabic, but ذِهِ  (or ذِه, with sukuun over ه) is still used in some Arabic dialects. هَذِهِ is used to refer to a person, an animal, or an object that is near us. The form of هَذِه remain the same regardless of its position in the sentence, as in these examples:

هَذِهِ الطَّالِبَة ذَكِيَّة.  This (female) student is smart

أَسْكُن فِي هَذِهِ العِمَارَة.  I live in this building

هَذِهِ دَجَاجَة.  This is chicken

أُحِبُّ هَذِهِ البِنْت.  I love this girl.

هَذِهِ مَدْرَسَة.  This is a school

هَذِهِ is used to refer to a person or a thing close to us. To refer to a person or a thing that is fairly far, تَيْك can be use. However, it is no longer used in Modern Standard Arabic. If we want to refer to a person or thing that is too far from us, we use تِلْكَ. تِلْكَ is still common in Modern Arabic use. Like هَذِهِ, the form of تِلْك does not change, as in these examples:

هَذِهِ مُدَرِّسَة وَتِلْكَ طَبِيْبَة.  This is a (female) teacher, and that is a (female) physician.

هَذِهِ دَجَاجَة وَتِلْكَ بَطَّة.  This is a chicken and that is a duck.

لا تَذْهَبْ إِلَى تِلْكَ المَدْرَسَة.  Do not go to that school.

سَأَرْكَبُ تَلْكَ الحَافِلَة.  I will take that bus.

The dual form of هَذِهِ  and تِلْكَ are هَاتَان and تَانِك in the nominative and هَاتَيْن and تَيْنِكَ in the accusative and genitive, as in these examples:

هَاتَان الطَّالِبَتَان صِيْنِيَّتَان وَتَانِكَ هِنْدِيَّتَان.  These two students are Chinese and those two are Indians.

رَقَصْتُ مَعَ تَيْنِكَ البِنْتَيْن.  I danced with those two girls.

هَلْ تَعْرِفُ تَيْنِكَ المُدَرِّسَتَيْن.  Do you know those two (female) teachers?

The plural form of the feminine demonstrative nouns is the same as that of the masculine: هَؤُلاءِ and أُوْلَئِكَ, as in these examples.

هَؤْلاء الطَّالِبَات صِيْنِيَّات وَأُوْلَئِكَ هِنْدِيَّات.  These (female) students are Chinese, and those are Indians.

أَعْرِفُ هَؤُلاءِ السَّيِّدَات.  I know these ladies.

لا تُغَازِلْ أُوْلَئِكَ البَنَات.  Do not flirt with those girls.

تَدْرِسُ هَنَاء مَعَ هَؤُلاءِ الطَّالِبَات.  Hannah studies with these (female) students.

Non-human Plural Demonstrative Nouns:

All plural non-human nouns, regardless of their gender, are referred to using هَذِهِ for things that are close, and تِلَكَ for things that are far, as in these examples:

هِذِهِ السَّيَّارَات جَدِيْدَة.  These cars are new

هَذِهِ الأَقْلَام غَالِيَة.  These pens are expensive

هَذِهِ كَرَاسِي.  These are chairs

تِلْكَ طَاوِلَات.  Those are desks

تِلْكَ الكِلاب أَلِيْفَة.  Those dogs are pets / domesticated

لا تُحَرِّكْ تِلْكَ الكَرَاسِي.  Do not move those chairs

Other Demonstrative Forms:

To refer to a place, the demonstrative nouns هُنَا, هُنَاكَ, and هُنَالِكَ are use. هُنَا for a near place, and هُنَاكَ and هُنَالِكَ are for a far place(s). The number of the noun that follows them does not affect their form, as in these examples:

هُنَا القَاهِرَة.  Here is Cairo.

هُنَا مَدْرَسَة وَهُنَاكَ مُسْتَشْفَى.  Here is a school, and there is a hospital.

هُنَا كُرْسِيَان وَهَنَالِكَ ثَلاثَةُ كَرَاسِي.  Here are two chairs, and there are three chairs.

هُنَا أَسْكُن وَهَنَاك أَدْرُس.  I live here, and I study there.

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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.


  1. Tajuddin:

    Thank you. A small query. I assume the number of persons or items does not affect the adjectives like in “these cars are new” or ” these pens are expensive”.

    • Ibnulyemen:

      @Tajuddin Good question. With persons, the adjective has to agree in number; e.g., هَذَان طَالِبَان مُمْتَأزَان and هَؤُلاءِ طُلابٌ مُمْتَازُون. with non-human nouns, the adjective remains singular; e.g., هَذِهِ كِلاب ضَارِيَة and هَذِهِ سَيَّارَات جَدِيْدَة. an upcoming post will be dedicated to noun-adjective agreement.