Adverbs of space (1) ظرف المكان Posted by on Jan 8, 2021 in Grammar, Prepositions

Salam سلام 🙂  We’re going to continue our series about adverbs الظُروف in Standard Arabic. Last month, two posts were dedicated to adverbs: the temporal adverb ظرف الزمان (Click here and here). Today (and in the next blog), we’re going to look at the other popular type of adverb, and that is: Spatial adverb ظرف المكان.

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To recap: an adverb الظرف 

is a word that often qualifies يُحَدِّد a verb فعلًا/ an action حدثًا ما or a noun phrase عبارة اسمية and adds information on يضيف معلومات عن the place المكان or the time الزمان in which an action occurs التي يحدث به الفعل

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We now move on to the second type of adverbs >>

2. Spatial adverbs:

ظرف المكان is directly related to the place المكان

  • A spatial adverb can be defined as يمكن تعريفه على أنه a word that refers to where an action takes/took place مكان حدوث الفعل



جلست القطة تحتَ الكرسي

The cat sat under the chair


Under تحت is a very common spatial adverb ظرف مكان and here it’s used as a reference to the place where the verb (sitting) happened, i.e.: (under the chair).

  • A spatial adverb can also refer to the location الموقع or the place المكان  where someone شخص ما or something شيء ما, a subject فاعل or an object مفعول به exists يوجد or doesn’t.



ِلا يوجد أحدٌ في المكتب

No one is in the office


In في is another common spatial adverb ظرف مكان and here it refers to the place where someone is or isn’t. Therefore, it negates تنفي  the existence of someone وجود شخص ما  in a specific place في مكان مُحدّد , that is the office.



ِأنا جالسٌ خلفَ الباب

I am sitting behind the door


The spatial adverb: behind خلف here comments on the place where the subject is, focusing on the the  temporary state of the subject (sitting), which is marked by the predicate جالسٌ < خبر  that gives information about the subject الفاعل > I أنا.

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 Popular spatial Adverbs:


Spatial adverbs can be divided into two groups:

1. A group that refers to directions. Below are some of the most common ones:






















Adverbs in this group tend to refer to a place that is less specific than that referred to in the second group (will follow below).



سأذهب يمينًا

I will go right


We know the direction to which the subject is headed to but not to the right of what, in particular.

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2. A group of adverbs that are often followed by a noun. Below are some of the most common ones:


Above/ up

Under/ down

In front of






Between/ in the middle of


next to

فوق / على

تحت / أسفل


خلف / وراء

في / داخل




بين / وسط
















These adverbs are usually used to refer to a specific place that is indicated by the noun that follows them.




رأيت محمدًا يقف فوقَ المقعدِ

I saw Mohammed standing on the desk

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See you soon, in the second part of this post 😉

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About the Author: Hanan

Hi, this is Hanan :) I'm an Arabic linguist. I completed my PhD in Linguistics - 2018. My PhD thesis was entitled Code-switching as an evaluative strategy: identity construction among Arabic-English bilinguals. I'm also a qualified public service translator & interpreter.


  1. Vincent Post:

    Very interesting – is there a benefit to describing these as adverbs and not prepositions?

    • Hanan:

      @Vincent Post Hi Vincent.

      I think adverbs الظروف أو الأحوال and prepositions حروف الجر (although might overlap sometimes) are two different concepts that qualify different parts of speech when it comes to Arabic. Adverbs in Arabic do not just comment on the way an action is happening (e.g. quickly) but also comments on the place and time of where or when it happened. Prepositions on the other hand, don’t usually qualify verbs; mainly preceding a noun to express a specific thought in relation that noun, as is the case of the preposition: كَـ that expresses the idea of simile: هذه القطة كالأسد. e.g. (This cat is like a lion).So, here “ka” is strictly a preposition and can’t be an adverb.

      Now, there are examples of prepositions that can also be adverbs (given that the last letter of the noun that follows it is maksoor مكسور. So, in the example: (I sat on the chair)> على “on” is adverb of place here. However, “On” is also classified as a preposition (a common example of overlap between adverbs and prepositions). Interestingly, على can’t be considered as adverb of place when the context is different (no reference to place0, e.g. when “على” is used abstractly/metaphorically to mean “about”> such as: I can’t comment on the subject matter – لا أستطيع أن أعلق على الموضوع. Here, على is a preposition and can’t be an adverb.

      I hope this answer your question. I’m sure you can find lots of information if you do a quick research about the topic.

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