Basic Arabic Course - Lesson 2:

Arabic Grammar

This lesson is all about Arabic grammar. Don't be scared though - I'll explain everything in easy steps. Upon completion of the lesson you will be able to form simple Arabic sentences. First, let me give you a quick outline of the grammatical aspects of Arabic discussed here:


Let's go through these points in more detail.

The verb "to be" is not necessary to form a simple sentence.

In English, the verb "to be" is used to form simple sentences such as "The house is big". In Arabic, the verb "to be" is usually dropped when describing something in the present tense. So, our example sentence would become "The house big."

Let me show you some examples. Remember to start reading from the right:

 

كبير البيت

kabeer

al-bayt

big

the-house

The house is big.

 

ممتاز الأكل

mumtaaz

al-akl

big

the-house

The food is excellent.

 

صغيرة البنت

Sagheera

al-bint

small

the-girl

The girl is small (young).

Note that when describing past occurences, the verb "to be" is necessary:

 

كبيرا البيت كان

kabeeran

al-bayt

kaana

big

the-house

was

The house was big.

 

The word "kaana" is the past tense of the verb "to be".

 

Arabic has two grammatical genders.

In Arabic a word can be either masculine or feminine - just like in French. Feminine words are usually easy to spot, because most of them end in ـة ة (taa' marbooTa). Below are some examples:

 

Word Feminine Singular Masculine Singular
student طالبة
Taaliba
طالب
Taalib
friend صديقة
Sadeeqa
صديق
Sadeeq
moslem مسلمة
muslima
مسلم
muslim
ambassador سفيرة
safeera
سفير
safeer
dog كلبة
kalba
كلب
kalb

 

Arabic words are formed according to a root system.

Most Arabic words derive from a three or four letter root. This can best be explained using a concrete example.

The following words all derive from the same three root letters - كتب (k t b):

 

to write كتب
kataba
writer كاتب
kaatib
written مكتوب
maktoob
book كتاب
kitaab
writing كتابة
kitaaba
office مكتب
maktab
bookstore / library مكتبة
maktaba
dictation استكتاب
istiktaab

Once you've figured out how this system works, you will be able to construct a lot of words from the same root, saving you valuable time in memorizing voaculary. For now, simply try to recognize similarities between words and see if you can spot the three (or four) root letters.

Arabic verbs change according to the subject.

Another similarity Arabic has to French is that verbs change according to their subject. In English, verbal conjugations have been grately simplified over the last few centuries. All that remains now is the "s" added to verbs for "he", "she", "it". E.g. "I run", but "he runs". So, let's take a look at the verb "to write":

You will notice that Arabic has more personal pronouns than English. Specifically, Arabic has something called a "dual" that only applies to two persons. There is also a feminine and a masculine "they".

 

I write أكتب
aktub(u)
أنا
ana
you (sgl.) write (masculine) تكتب
taktub(u)
أنت
anta
you (sgl.) write (feminine) تكتبين
taktubeen(a)
أنت
anti
he writes يكتب
yaktub(u)
هو
huwa
she writes تكتب
taktub(u)
هي
hiya
you two write تكتبان
taktubaan(i)
أنتما
antuma
we write نكتب
naktub(u)
نحن
naHnu
you (pl.) write (masculine) تكتبون
taktuboon(a)
أنتم
antum
you (pl.) write (feminine) تكتبن
taktubna
أنتنّ
antunna
they write (masculine) يكتبون
yaktuboon(a)
هم
hum
they write (feminine) يكتبن
yaktubna
هنّ
hunna

1. Note that in Arabic it is not necessary to use the personal pronouns in front of the verbs. This is because the conjugated verb itself makes it clear who its subject is.

In the example below both sentences mean "I write a letter".

Arabic Verb "I write a letter"

ana aktub(u) risaalatan

aktub(u) risaalatan

"letter" is risaala (رسالة).

2. Note that some endings (e.g. the "a" at the end of taktuboon(a) ) are usually omitted in normal speech.

 

End of Lesson 2: Arabic Grammar

In the next lesson I'll introduce you to some essential vocabulary.