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Noun Phrases in Arabic – 5 grammar topics in 10 minutes

Noun phrases as subject and object in Arabic
Noun phrases as subject and object in Arabic

Learning noun phrases in Arabic (or in any language) is a crucial part of building a sentence. A noun is a word that refers to an object, person, or concept. Therefore, a noun phrase is a structure that is based on a noun. In this lesson, we will learn how to build and use noun phrases in Arabic, together with 5 grammar topics that we will go through in the next 10 minutes. You can listen to all examples marked with an audio icon on the interactive lesson.

Suppose that you have the noun “book”, there are different ways of using a noun phrase with it. For example, you can say “a book”, “the book”, or “this book”. Also, you can combine it with an adjective, such as “a new book” or “the old book”. In terms of possession, you can use a possessive pronoun such as “my book/his book”. In addition, it can be part of a genitive expression, such as “The teacher’s book”, “the law book”, or “the book of grammar”.

What is common among all these structures? They can all be used in similar contexts and in similar grammatical roles. For example, you can say “I saw a book” or “I saw this new book” as an object of the sentence. Also, you can use it as the subject of a sentence “The new book fell on the floor” or “the teacher’s book fell on the floor”.

The bottom line is that: noun phrases in Arabic are essential parts of the sentence. However, understanding and using them usually spans different grammar topics. Such topics include: definite and indefinite nouns, adjectives, demonstratives, possessives and genitive expressions. Luckily, we cover all of these topics in our course “Basic Arabic Grammar” on Udemy.

Learn and practice building Noun Phrases in Arabic

For now, let’s start practicing how to build simple noun phrases in Arabic. Here are the examples for the five types of structures, corresponding to different grammar topics.

Examples for noun phrases in Arabic – for the word kitaab = book

Notice that there are five types of noun phrases we are using here. The first is single noun, whether indefinite or definite (preceded by al- ال). Then we have noun phrases combining nouns and adjectives. In this case, it is important to also notice that if the noun is definite (i.e. has al- prefix), the adjective has to have al- prefix as well. Then, we have noun phrases with demonstratives (e.g. this), and in this case the noun has to be definite, and consequently the adjective, if any.

The next type is noun phrases with possessive pronouns (e.g. my/his), where the word itself has to be indefinite (without al- prefix), but grammatically it becomes definite by adding the possessive pronoun/suffix. The last type is for genitive expressions, indicating that something belongs to something or someone. In this case, the noun for the thing that belongs is indefinite, while the other noun is definite.

Study these examples well. Do you see the patterns? Also, open the link to the interactive lesson and listen to the audio for each example. Try to repeat what you hear. This way, you will start to develop your listening and speaking skills. To further enhance your grammar skills, you will need to practice. In the following image, you will see empty templates, where we removed the noun “book” and its equivalent from the examples. Now it is your turn to try new words. Use the words indicated above, as much as you can, to build new noun phrases.

Noun Phrase templates – use them to build simple phrases in Arabic

What about feminine words?

As you may know, nouns in Arabic have gender: either male or female. In the examples above, noun phrases were based on the noun “book”, and other nouns of male gender in the exercises. Does it make a difference if we use a word of feminine gender? Yes it does. First, for a feminine word, the adjective has to be also feminine. In many cases, we do this by adding taa2 marbootah (this letter: ة ـة , a letter that sounds as “h” at the end of the word).

Noun phrases for a feminine word “fikrah = idea”

Now you get the idea. The only prominent difference involves words ending with taa2 marbooTah. If such words have a possessive suffix, this taa2 marbooTah becomes a normal taa2, in both writing and pronunciation. However, in case of genitive, where the word for the thing that belongs is followed by a word for what it belongs to; and in this case, the taa2 marbooTah is still written, but its pronunciation becomes a regular taa2.

Now also do your practice by filling the templates with other feminine words.

Practice building noun phrases with feminine words

Going further

It is important to know that Arabic grammar is highly complex. There are different complexities when learning Modern Standard Arabic and when learning dialects, so it is important to learn the differences. There are so many topics which are interrelated and can be tackled on different levels of sophistication. That’s why the focus of our lessons is to go as simple as possible. You don’t need to study dozens of other topics just to learn the topic at hand. Just understand it well, practice it as much as you can, and then it will give you a useful piece of the puzzle, and a useful tool to help you navigate the complexity of the language. Good luck and keep learning! Please leave any questions you have in the comments or on our social media.

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Lesson 10 – Question Words in Arabic

Let’s learn about question words in Arabic. In this lesson, we will discuss interrogative sentences in Arabic. Mainly, we will introduce the main question words and the corresponding structure.

Arabic Question Words Example

In this video, let’s learn about question words in Arabic.

Question Words Lesson on Youtube

Question Words أدَوات الاسْتِفْهَام

How many?
…? Yes/No

Yes/No Questions

The word “hal” is a word we use for forming Yes/No questions in MSA.
In classical Arabic, sometimes the letter alif is used before the verb in a similar way:
Did you want to eat?
a-tureed an ta’akol?
أتريد أن تأكل؟

For asking Yes/No Questions
هَل نِمْتَ جَيِّداً؟
hal nimta jayyidan?
Did you sleep well?
هَل أنْت مِصْرِيّ؟
hal anta misreyy?
Are you Egyptian?
هَل تُرِيد أَنْ تَأكُل؟
hal tureed an ta’kol?
Do you want to eat?
هَل وَصَلَ الضُّيُوف؟
hal wasala ad-duyoof?
Did the guests arrive?

Where = ayna = أينَ

أيْنَ الحَقِيبَة؟
ayna al-haqeebah?
Where is the bag?
أيْنَ المُدِير؟
ayna al-mudeer?
Where is the manager?
أيْنَ تَسْكُن؟
ayna taskun?
Where do you live?
أيْنَ أَنْت؟
ayna ant?
Where are you?

Who = man = مَن

مَن هُوَ؟
man huwa?
Who is he?
مَن قَالَ لَكَ هَذَا؟
man qaala laka haadhaa?
Who told you so?
مَن هُوَ مُؤَلِّف الكِتَاب؟
man huwa mu’allif al-kitaab?
Who is the author of the book?
مَن هُوَ مُخْتَرِع الهَاتِف؟
man huwa mukhtare’ al-haatif?
Who is the inventor of the phone?

When = mataa = متى

مَتَى وَصَلْتُم؟
mataa wasaltum?
When did you (pl-m) arrive?
مَتَى حَدَث هَذَا؟
mataa hadatha haadhaa?
When did this happen?
مَتَى سَافَرُوا؟
mataa saafaroo?
When did they travel?
مَتَى وُلِدْت؟
mataa wulidt?
When were you born?

What = maa = ما

مَا مَعْنَى هَذِهِ الكَلِمَة؟
maa ma’naa haadhihi al-kalimah?
What is the meaning of this word?
مَا هِيَ عَاصِمَة فَرَنْسَا؟
maa hiya ‘aasimat faransaa?
What is the capital of France?
مَا هِيَ المُشْكِلَة؟
maa hiya al-mushkilah?
What is the problem?
مَا هَذَا؟
maa haadhaa?
What is this?

How = kayfa = كَيفَ

كَيْفَ عَرَفْت؟
kayfa ‘araft?
How did you know?
كَيْفَ نُصْلِح الهَاتِف؟
kayfa nuslih al-haatif?
How do we fix the phone?
كَيْفَ يُمْكِن أَنْ أُسَاعِدَك؟
kayfa yumkin an usaa’idak?
How can I help you?
كَيْفَ حَالُك؟
kayfa haaluk?
How are you?
(Literally: How is your condition)

How much/many = kam = كَم

كَم عُمْرُك؟
kam ‘umruk?
How old are you?
(Literally: how much is your age)
كَم شَخْصَاً قَابَلْت؟
kam shakhsan qaabalt?
How many people did you meet?
كَم تُرِيد؟
kam tureed?
How much do you want?
كَم تَكَلَّفَت الرِّحْلَة؟
kam takallafat ar-rihlah?
How much did the trip cost?

What = maadhaa = ماذا

مَاذَا حَدَث؟
maadhaa hadath?
What happened?
مَاذَا قُلْت؟
maadhaa qult?
What did you say?
مَاذَا تُرِيد؟
maadhaa tureed?
What do you want?
مَاذَا فَعَلُوا؟
maadhaa fa’aloo?
What did they do?

Why = limaadhaa = لِمَاذا

لِمَاذا تَبْكِي؟
limaadhaa tabkee?
Why are you crying?
لِمَاذا وَقَعَت الحَادِثَة؟
limaadhaa waqa’at al-haadithah?
Why did the accident happen?
لِمَاذا فَعَلْتَ ذَلِك؟
limaadhaa fa’alta dhaalik?
Why did you do so?
لِمَاذا تَأَخَّرْوا؟
limaadhaa ta’akhkharoo?
Why are they late?

Other Question Words in Arabic

There are other question words that will be covered in later lessons.

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Lesson 9 – Prepositions in Arabic حروف الجر

In this lesson, we will talk about prepositions in Modern Standard Arabic.

In Modern Standard Arabic, prepositions are very important. Therefore, in this lesson, we will introduce Arabic prepositions with examples. In fact, prepositions can be best understood in context. For example, the preposition ” min مِن” usually means “from”, but it can have different meanings. For instance, the famous expression “min fadlik مِن فَضلِك” means simply “please”.

Let’s start by introducing a list of widely used Arabic prepositions. Then, we will go deeper into each preposition. In addition, we will contrast the use of different prepositions. In the beginning, these are the most widely used Arabic prepositions:

مِنْ، إلَى، عَنْ، عَلَى، فِي، بـ ، لـ ، كـ

Arabic Prepositions – Google Slides

In these slides, we will see more explanation for these prepositions.

Arabic prepositions – example phrases and sentences

مِنْ الَبَيْت
min al-bayt
From home
إِلَى الَمَطَار
ilaa al-mataar
To the airport
عَلَى الأَرْض
‘alaa al-ard
On the floor/on earth
فِي الحَدِيقَة
fee al-hadeeqah
In the garden
عَنْ المُشكِلَة
‘an al-mushkilah
About the problem
With the pen
مَعَ صَدِيقِي
ma’a sadeeqy
with my friend
For your (pl) safety

The preposition “min مِن”

مِنْ أَيْنَ أَنْت؟
min ayna ant?
Where are you (m) from?
أَنَا مِنْ الهِنْد 🇮🇳
ana min al-hind
I am from India
نَحْنُ مِنْ نَيْجيريا 🇳🇬
nahnu min Nigeria
We are from Nigeria
مِنْ أَيْنَ أَنْتُم؟
min ayna antum?
Where are you (pl) from?

Arabic Expressions with “min مِن”

Expressions with “min مِن”
مِنْ فَضْلِك
min fadlik
مِنْ البِدَايَة
min al-bidaayah
From the beginning

The preposition “ilaa إلى”

إلَى أَيْنَ تُسَافِر فِي الصَّيْف؟ 🏖
ilaa ayna tusaafir fee as-sayf?
Where do you (m) travel in summer?
أنَا أُسَافِر إلَى لُبْنَان 🇱🇧
ana usaafir ilaa lubnaan
I travel to Lebanon

إلَى اللِّقَاء
ilaa al-liqaa’
مِنَ الألِف إلَى اليَاء
min al-alif ilaa al-yaa’
From A to Z
إلَى النِّهَايَة
ilaa an-nihaayah
To (till) the end
Expressions with “ilaa إلى”

The preposition “‘alaa عَلى”

عَلَى المَائِدَة
‘alaa al-maa’idah
On the table
The preposition “ ‘alaa عَلَى” can simply mean “on”
عَلَى الكُرْسِي
‘alaa al-kursee
On the chair

عَلَى الأَقَلّ
alaa’ al-aqall
At least
عَلَى أَيْ حَال
alaa’ ayy haal
Expressions with “‘alaa عَلَى”

فِي المَغْرِب 🇲🇦
fee al-maghrib
In Morocco
فِي مِصْر 🇪🇬
fee misr
In Egypt
The preposition “fee فِي” is used as the English prepositions “in/at”

في أكتوبر *
fee October
In October
في الصَّيف
fee as-sayf
In summer
The preposition “fee فِي” can also be used with time

  • Note that month names differ between Arab countries

with (person)
أنَا أَعِيش مَعَ أُسْرَتِي
ana a’eesh ma’a usratee
I live with my family
سَافَرْتُ مَعَ أصْدِقَائِي
saafartu ma’a asdiqaa’ee
I travelled with my friends

مَعَ السَّلامَة
ma’a as-salaamah
Literally: with safety
مَعَ تَحِيَّاتِي
ma’a tahiyyaatee
Best regards
Literally: with my greetings
Expressions with “ma’a مَعَ”
with (person)

قَرَأتُ كِتَابَاً عَنْ العُلُوم
qara’tu kitaaban ‘an al-’uloom
I read (past) a book about science
تَكَلَّمَ المُدِير عَنْ المُشْكِلَة
takallama al-mudeer ‘an al-mushkilah
The manager spoke about the problem

When the preposition “le- لـ” comes before “al- الـ”,
it becomes “lel- للـ”
البيت 🏠
The house
لـ البيت ← للبيت
To the house

For information
Expressions with “le- لـ”

When the preposition “be- بـ” comes before “al- الـ” , it is pronounced as “bel-” instead of “be- al-”
The book
بـ الكتاب ← بالكتاب
With the book

The preposition “be- بـ” can be used to make adverbs

The preposition “be- بـ” can be used to make adverbs
أَنْتَ تَتَكَلَّم بِسُرْعَة
anta tatakallam be-sor’ah
You (m) speak fast
مِن فَضْلك تَكَلَّم بِبُطْء
min fadlik takallam be-bot’
please speak slowly

The preposition “fee في”

أيْنَ الكَلْب؟
ayna al-kalb?
Where is the dog?

الكَلْب فِي السَّيَّارَة
al-kalb fee as-sayyaarah
The dog is in the car

الكَلْب عَلَى السَّيَّارَة
al-kalb ‘alaa as-sayaarah
The dog is on the car

The prepositions “ma’a مع” is for people, while “be- بـ” is for objects

أنَا ألْعَب مَعَ أصْدِقَائِي
ana al’aab ma’a asdiqaa’ee
I am playing with my friends
أنَا ألْعَب بِالكُرَة
ana al’aab be-l-kurah
I am playing with the ball

The prepositions “ilaa إلى” and “le- لـ” can sometimes be used interchangeably

أَنَا أذْهَب إِلَى المَكْتَب
ana adh-hab ilaa al-maktab
I am going to the office
أَنَا أذْهَب للمَكْتَب
ana adh-hab lel-maktab
I am going to the office
What is the preposition “to” in Arabic: إلى لـ

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Lesson 8 – Arabic Tanween التنوين

Arabic tanween is quite important in Modern Standard Arabic. You might have noticed that some important words in Arabic end with an “n” sound, although there is no actual letter noon ن at the end. For example, you can see this in words (shukran – thanks – شكرا) and (ahlan – hello – أهلا). This is because of tanween.

Tanween is a group of diacritics that come at the end of the word, to give the sound of noon /n/. It mainly exists for grammatical reasons.

It occurs at the end of undefined nouns and adjectives. It is combined with fat-hah, kasrah or dammah, which we explained in diacritics lesson #2. When combined with fat-hah, an alif is added before it.
Now you should be able to understand and sound out almost all Arabic diacritics, and start to understand the grammatical significance for them.

What’s the function of the tanween? What’s the difference between the three versions?

Arabic Tanween التنوين
tanween in Arabic, as applied to the word “lion=asad أسد”

The main function of tanween is to mark the grammatical case of indefinite words. The -un version ـٌ is for words in subject position, or by default. The -an version ـً is for the direct objects, and the -in version is for words after prepositions.

Therefore, tanween is quite important for both Arabic grammar and pronunciation.

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Lesson 7 – Demonstratives in Arabic أسماء الإشارة

In this lesson we will introduce demonstratives in Modern Standard Arabic. Demonstratives are words such as “this”, “that”, “these”, “those” in English. Specifically, we will learn the different demonstratives, and how to build simple phrases and sentences with them.

The main demonstratives in Modern Standard Arabic are the following:

هَذَا  haadhaa = This (masculine)

هَذِهِ haadhihi = This (feminine)

هَذَان haadhaan= These (2- masculine)

هَذَان haadhaan = These (2- masculine)

هَؤُلَاء haa-olaa’ = These (plural)

ذَلِكَ  dhaalika = That (masculine) – far

تِلْكَ  tilk = That (feminine) – far

أُولَئِكَ  ulaa-ika = Those – far
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Lesson 6 – Arabic Sun and Moon Letters الحروف الشمسية والقمرية

Our lesson today is about Arabic sun and moon letters, which are important for pronouncing and understanding Arabic words. In Lesson # 3, we have seen how to use the article al- before words to make them definite, such as “the” in English. However, since al- becomes part of the word, its pronunciation sometimes changes according to the first letter of the word.

This pronunciation can change by removing the “L” sound from al-, and doubling the sound of the next letter, using shaddah, which we learned in Lesson # 2. 

Example: al-nahr (the river) >> an-nahr

When does this happen? It happens when the first letter of the word belongs to a group of letters called al-huroof ash-shamseyyah (sun letters). However, if the first letter is from the other group (al-huroof al-qamareyyah), al- is pronounced normally.

In this lesson, we will see which letters are sun letters and which are moon letters, and we will show an example sentence for a word beginning with each letter, together with al- .

Arabic Sun & Moon Letters
List of sun and moon letters in Arabic

A phrase for memorizing moon letters:

ابغ حجك وخف عقيمه

(roughly meaning “pursue your pilgrimage, and be concerned about it being futile”)

Any letter among these is a moon letter:

alif أ

baa’ ب

ghayn غ

haa’ ح

jeem ج

kaaf ك

waaw و

khaa’ خ

Faa’ ف

‘ayn ع

qaaf ق

yaa’ ي

meem م

haa’ ه

The rest are sun letters

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Lesson 4 – Arabic Personal Pronouns

Learning Arabic personal pronouns is an important step in learning Arabic grammar. In Modern Standard Arabic, personal pronouns are along three axes: person, number, and gender. In this regard, Person means either first person (such as “I” and “we” in English), second person (e.g. “you”), and third-person (he/she/it/they). On the other hand, “number” means either singular or plural, while gender means male or female.

First Person Pronouns (Singular (I): anaa أنا – Plural (we): nahnu نحن)

In Arabic, there are two first-person pronouns, similar to English.

Second Person Singular Pronouns (you) (Male: anta َأنت- Female: anti أنتِ )

Second Person Dual Pronouns (you) (antuma أنتُما)

Second Person Plural Pronouns (you/y’all) (Male: antum أنتُم – antunna أنتُنَّ)

Third Person Singular Prounoun (Male (he): huwa هُوَ – Female (she): hiya هِيَ)

Third Person Dual Pronouns (they) (humaa هُما)

Third Person Plural Pronouns (they) (Male: hum هُم – Female: hunna هُنَّ)

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Lesson 5 – Possessive Pronouns in Modern Standard Arabic

Possessive Pronouns in Arabic are not separate words but are added to the end of nouns. They follow the same distribution of person, number, and gender as personal pronouns that we learned last week. Today we will learn possessive pronouns with examples.

Possessive Pronouns in Arabic (ضمائر الملكية)
Possessive Pronouns in Arabic

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Lesson 3 – Arabic Prefixes and Suffixes

One important challenge in reading Arabic is to identify prefixes and suffixes. We are referring here to letters or groups of letters that attach to the beginning or the end of a word to give additional meaning. In linguistics, these letters can sometimes be referred to as “clitics”, which are words that cannot be used separately, but have to depend on another word. An example for this in English is (‘s), that is used to indicate possession as in “the teacher’s dog”, but you cannot have it separately. In Arabic, we have a number of these.


We can divide prefixes into the following categories:

  • Prefix “al- الـ” , which is the definite article in Arabic. It turns an indefinite nouns and adjectives into definite
  • Prefix “wa- و” , which is a coordinating conjunction (equivalent to the word “and”), but is attached to the second word. It can be used in the beginning of the sentence
  • Prefix “fa- فـَ”, which is also a coordinating conjunction, but it implies order. It can be also used in the beginning of the sentence to meaning something like “so/therefore”
  • Prefix “le- لـِ”, which is a preposition that means “to”, and can take different meanings if it is used with different verbs
  • Prefix “be- بـِ”, which is also a preposition that means “with”, and can also have different meanings when used with different verbs
  • Prefix “ka- كـَ”, which means “as/like/such as”, and it is more commonly used in classical Arabic than Modern Standard Arabic
  • Prefix “sa- سـَ”, which means “will”, and is used with present tense verbs to indicate the future.

We will cover here the first three, since prepositions are covered in the lesson about prepositions, and the ka- prefix isn’t frequently used. The sa- prefix will be covered in the verbs lesson.


In Arabic, we use the following suffixes”

  • Suffix “-ah”, indicating the female version of nouns and adjectives.
  • Possessive pronouns: These are attached to the end of words to indicate possession (e.g. my/your/his .. etc). These are covered in the lesson about possessives.
  • Object pronouns: These are attached to the end of verbs to indicate a pronoun in object position (e.g. me/him/them .. etc).

The common factor among all of prefixes and suffixes in Arabic is that there is no space between them and the word. So it is important to learn them early on while starting to read Arabic words. There are other grammatical items that attach to words, such as object pronouns and possessive pronouns, but we will cover them in later lessons.

The Arabic prefix al- ال – definite article

It is important to observe that a noun in Arabic by default is indefinite, unless it is a proper noun. This means that there is no indefinite article in Arabic similar to “a/an” in English. Therefore, there is only the definite article “al-” is used, for both nouns and adjectives.

The prefix alif-laam al- ال represents the definite article in Arabic. It is attached before nouns and adjectives
If an adjective describes a definite word, al- is added before both of them

The Arabic prefix wa- و

The prefix wa- is the quivalent to “and” in English.

The letter waaw (wa-) is attached at the beginning of the word to mean “and”

The Arabic suffix -ah ة (the letter taa’ marbootah)

The letter taa’ marbootah can be added to words and adjectives to indicate a feminine form
Taa’ marbootah is commonly used with adjectives to create the feminine equivalent

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