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Describing Possession in Arabic الإضافة Posted by on Aug 4, 2021 in Arabic Language, Grammar

In this post, let’s practice the الإضافة structure. This structure, where two or more nouns are put back to back, is known as إضافة which literally means “addition”. Nothing can come between two words in an إضافة so if you want to add an adjective, it must come right at the end and must have the definite article ال

Take a look at the following examples: 

مَكتَب المُدَرِّس  the office of the teacher/the teacher’s office

بَيت المُدير  the house of the manager/the manager’s house 

وزير الخارجية  the minister of foreign affairs

Adding an adjective to the end: 

مكتب المدرس الكبير  the big office of the teacher/the teacher’s big office

بيت المدير الفخم  the luxurious house of the manager/the manager’s luxurious house

وزير الخارجية السوري  the Syrian minister of foreign affairs

As you can see above, in English, we have two main ways of describing possession by either using the word “of” or the possessive “s”, for example, “the teacher’s office” or “the office of the teacher”. The most common way of describing possession in Arabic is closer to the second example in that the word for “office” would come first followed by the word for “teacher”. Both words are put together without the need for “of” as it is understood and the last word has the definite article ال

✨Here is a text with examples describing possession, can you find all six? 

Image provided by Yasmine K.

سلمى تَسْكُن في بيت أختها الصغير في مدينة لندن المُزْدَحِمة لأنها غير قادِرة على دَفع الإيجار لِشقتها الخاصة. لكن قبل أسبوعين حَصلت على عمل جديد في شركة كبيرة. مُدير الشَّرِكة قال لها أنها عامِلة جيدة وراتبها ستكون عالية. الآن سلمى تستطيع أن تستأجر شقة خاصة لها وتبدأ حياتها المِهَنية. الأمس ذَهَبَت سلمى إلى السوق لتشتري أثاث لشقتها الجديدة. تاجر محل الاثاث ساعدها في شراء كل احتياجاتها. شقة سلمى الجديدة أيضاً تحتاج إلى بعض النباتات المَنزلية، فَذَهَبَت إلى بيت والدتها لتطلب منها النصيحة لأن نباتاتها دائماً تعيش لفترات طويلة. بعد ذلك، عادت إلى الشقة لتبدأ بترتيب 

Salma lives at her sister’s small house in the bustling city of London because she is unable to pay the rent for her own apartment. But two weeks ago, she got a new job at a big company. The manager of the company told her that she was a good worker and her salary would be high. Now Salma can rent her own apartment and start her career. Yesterday, Salma went to the market to buy furniture for her new apartment. The furniture store dealer helped her buy all her needs. Salma’s new apartment also needs some house plants, so she went to her mother’s house to ask her for advice because her plants always live for a long time. After that, she went back to the apartment to start tidying up.

Answers: 

بيت أختها الصغير

مدينة لندن المُزْدَحِمة

مُدير الشَّرِكة

تاجر محل الأثاث

شقة سلمى الجديدة

بيت والدتها

I hope you enjoyed this simple exercise to help you practice الإضافة. Till next week, happy Arabic learning! 😊

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About the Author: yasmine

MarHaba! I am half Jordanian of Circassian descent and half American. I have a Master's in Second Language Teaching and I teach Arabic as a foreign language here in the US, both MSA and Levantine Arabic. I hope to help you become more familiar and interested in the Arabic language and culture.


Comments:

  1. Dirk:

    Hallo

    Is there a difference in translation between

    The house of her little sister
    And
    The little house of her sister
    ?

    • yasmine:

      @Dirk MarHaba Dirk,
      Yes, there is a difference in that the first translation refers to her sister being a little sister and the second translation refers to her sister’s house being little which is the correct translation for the Arabic text “بيت أختها الصغير”. If the Arabic text was “بيت أختها الصغيرة” than the first translation would be correct. Notice that بيت is masculine and أختها is feminine. The adjective الصغير here is masculine, therefore describing the house.
      I hope that helped answer your question. 🙂
      Shukran!

  2. Shams:

    I happened to serendipitously stumble upon your blog today as I was looking for a translation for Nizar Qabbani’s poem. From that blog post, I happened to check your more recent posts and now I am excited to binge read your entire blog as it is the perfect resource I have been in dire need of! Although I can speak Arabic conversationally (grown up in an Iraqi family), I want to try harder to improve my reading and writing skills, expand my vocabulary and refine my language overall. Thanks so much for your insights. Regards from Melbourne, Aus 🙂

    • yasmine:

      @Shams MarHaba Shams,
      I’m very glad you’re finding these posts helpful!
      I wish you the best of luck in your Arabic learning.
      Your comment is very encouraging and it made my day. 🙂
      Shukran!