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Subject-Verb Agreement in Arabic Posted by on Nov 7, 2009 in Arabic Language

In this post, I explain an important yet simple rule related to subject-verb agreement in Arabic. When the verb follows the subject, it must agree with it in number and gender, e.g.

الطلاب يدرسون في الجامعة.

“Students (masc.) study at university.”

الطالبان يدرسان في الجامعة.

“Students (dual, masc.) study at university.”

الطالبات يدرسن في الجامعة.

“Students (fem.) study at university.”

الطالبتان تدرسان في الجامعة.

“Students (dual, fem.) study at university.”

However, if the verb comes before the subject, it only agrees with the subject in gender and it remains singular, e.g.

يدرس الطلاب في الجامعة.

“Students (masc.) study at university.”

يدرس الطالبان في الجامعة.

“Students (dual, masc.) study at university.”

تدرسالطالبات في الجامعة.

“Students (fem.) study at university.”

In sum, when the subject comes after the verb, it agrees with it in both gender and number; however, when it comes before it, it agrees with it in gender, but remains singular at all times. This rule is not affected by the tense of the sentence, i.e. it applies to any verb and subject regardless of the tense. Can you start the following sentences with the verb bearing this rule in mind?

الأولاد لعبوا الكرة في النادي.

البنات لعبن الكرة في النادي.

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