Arabic Language Blog

Some constructions involving nouns Posted by on Nov 2, 2010 in Grammar

In this post, I bring together some constructions that are based on nouns or that involve nouns in them. These can be confusing to new learners of Arabic. The reviewd constructions are nominal sentence (الجملة الاسمية), nouns and adjectives (الاسم والصفة) and idaafa constructions (الإضافة).

The Nominal Sentence:

A nominal sentence begins with a noun or a pronoun, and it is called the subject of the sentence. The second part of the sentence is called the predicate, and it can include different constructions, e.g. nouns, adjectives, verbs or prepositional phrases, e.g.


محمد طبيب.

“Mohammed is a doctor.”

الدرس صعب.

“The lesson is difficult.”

الولد يلعب.

“The boy is playing.”

الطالب مع زملائه.

“The student is with his colleagues.”

Nouns and Adjectives:

Nouns come before adjectives in Arabic, and they both have to agree with each other in number, gender, definiteness, case, etc.

الدرس الصعب

“The difficult lesson”

درس صعب

“A difficult lesson”

الطلاب اللبنانيون

“The Lebanese students” (pl.)

طالبات لبنانيات

“Lebanese students” (f. pl.)



Idaafa is a construction that involves two or more nouns. The first one has to indefinite, and the last one is usually definite, but it can be indefinite as well in some cases, e.g.

 جامعة القاهرة

“Cairo University”

درس القراءة

“The reading lesson”

ابن عم الطالب

“The student’s cousin”

غرفة نوم

“A bed room”

I hope these examples have provided good illustration of the 3 different constructions that are based on nouns!

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  1. Scheich Josef:

    مرحبا يا عزيزة

    The first noun in an idaafa construction (الإضافة).of two or more nouns has neither a definite article nor an indefinite declension. Thus it is neither in a definite state nor an indefinite state, but in a third state, the construction state.

    If the first noun has an adjective, then the adjective has a definite article if the last noun
    in the construction is definite. An adjective of the first noun has no definite article if the last noun in the construction is indefinite. Thus one could consider the first noun in the construct state to be definite in the first case and indefinite in the second case.

    Looking at the meaning of a noun in the construct state:
    “The student’s cousin” = The cousin of the student
    “A bed room” = The room of a bed
    the first noun is always a definite noun.

    Therefore I disagree with your assertion:
    “The first one has to indefinite, …”

    مع السلامة


    • aziza:

      @Scheich Josef Ahlan Josef,
      Thank you very much for your addition which I appreciate very much. In fact, I have been concerned with the form rather than the meaning in this posting, as I was trying to answer the question of one of the readers about which words are definite and indefinite in certain constructions involving nouns. I think that your addition is valuable and clarifies further points to the readers.
      Many thanks and salaam,

  2. lina:

    Dear aziza I am interested in compound nouns in arabic. Can you help?