. 9
( 23)


This is a widely used expression to denote a non-specific but significant number.
Unlike other quantifiers, it is an indefinite noun followed by a preposition, so the
noun that follows is the object of the preposition min ˜of.™

Üô©dG ÚHôŸGh IòJÉ°SC™G øe OóY I’YO
da¬wat-u ¬adad-in min-a l-√asaatidhat-i wa-l-murabbiina l-¬arab-i
the invitation of a number of Arab professors and educators

.øjôµ˜ŸGh ÚãMÉ‘dG øe OóY ´ÉªàL™G ô°†M
HaDar-a l-ijtimaa¬-a ¬adad-un min-a l-baaHithiina wa-l-mufakkiriina.
A number of researchers and intellectuals attended the conference.

2.7 kathiir-un min øe ’ãc and al-kathiir-u min øe ’ãµdG ˜many™
To indicate a large but indefinite number, these phrases are used.

.¢SɦdG øe ’ãc ôcòàj
ya-tadhakkar-u kathiir-un min-a l-naas-i.
Many (˜of the™) people remember.

.¤Éjó«àdG øe ’ãµdGh ¢Uô˜dG øe ’ãµdG ɦeÉeCG
√amaam-a-naa l-kathiir-u min-a l-furaS-i wa-l-kathiir-u min-a l-taHaddiyaat-i.
Before us are many opportunities and many challenges.
234 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

3 Expressions of “more,” “most,” and “majority”
Arabic uses several expressions to convey concepts of “more,” “most of ,” or “the
majority of.”

3.1 “More”
When discussing the concept of “more,” there are two sides to it: a quality can be
greater in intensity, which is expressed by the comparative (or “elative”) form of
the adjective (e.g., more important, more famous); this is discussed in Chapter 10,
sections 4.2.1“4.2.3.
However, there is also another use of “more” to mean “more of something,” “a
greater quantity/amount of something” where the “more” expression is followed by
a noun or noun phrase. In contemporary Arabic the phrase al-maziid min øe ójµŸG
(literally ˜the increase of™) is often used to express this concept of “more of.”

á«YGQµdG »°VGQC™G øe ójµª∏d
li-l-maziid-i min-a l-√araadii l-ziraa√iyyat-i
for more agricultural lands

¤ÉYÉ£¤dG „«ªL ˜ ¤GRÉ‚E™G øe ójµŸG ≥«¤«àd
li-taHqiiq-i l-maziid-i min-a l-√ injaazaat-i fii jamii¬-i l-qiTaa¬aat-i
to realize more production in all sectors

.‘’¦‘∏d «G’eC™G øe ójµŸG Ëó¤àH ¤ó¡©J
ta¬ahhad-at bi-taqdiim-i l-maziid-i min-a l-√amwaal-i li-l-bunuuk-i.
It pledged support for more money for banks.

3.2 ˜Most of™: mu¬Zam º¶©e and √akthar ÌcCG

3.2.1 mu¬Zam
The expression ˜most of™ is often accomplished with the word mu¬Zam as the first
term of an √iDaafa:

.óYɤŸG º¶©e ≈∏Y π°üM
á«Hô©dG ¤GQɘ°ùdG º¶©e
mu¬Zam-u l-sifaaraat -i ¬arabiyyat-i HaSal-a ¬alaa mu¬Zam-i l-maqaa¬id-i.
most of the Arab embassies It obtained most of the seats.

ÜÉàµdG øe ÊÉãdG º°ù¤dG º¶©e ˜
fii mu¬Zam-i l-qism-i l-thaanii min-a l-kitaab-i
in most of the second part of the book

3.2.2 √akthar ÌcCG ˜more; most™
The elative adjective √akthar ˜more; most™ may also be used to express ˜most™ as
first term of an √iDaafa. The following noun is definite, may be singular or plural,
and is in the genitive case.
Noun specifiers and quantifiers 235

âb’dG ÌcCG Ú¦WG’ŸG ÌcCG ¢SɦdG ÌcCG
√akthar-u l-waqt-i √akthar-u l-muwaaTin-iina √akthar-u l-naas-i
most of the time most of the citizens most people

3.3 Expression of “majority”
The Arabic superlative adjective √aghlab, the derived noun √aghlabiyya, or the
active participle ghaalib are all used to express the concept of “majority.”

.ÉNQD’e ¢ù«d º¡‘∏ZCG
√aghlab-u-hum lays-a mu√arrix-an.
The majority of them are not historians.

4 Scope of quanti¬er agreement
The scope of agreement or concord refers to agreement patterns that apply to
“quantified construct states.”2 Agreement or concord is normally shown through
adjectives and/or verbs.
Patterns of agreement with quantified construct states can vary in MSA and the
phenomenon has been studied by both Parkinson and LeTourneau. As LeTourneau
remarks (1995, 30), “a verb may agree in number and gender with either the quan-
tifier (invariantly masculine singular) or with its complement.”
Parkinson™s findings (as paraphrased by LeTourneau 1995, 31) reveal that “cer-
tain grammatical features on the second term in the QCS [quantified construct
state] license only one agreement option. Thus, if the second term to kull is either
an indefinite feminine singular or a definite plural, the verb must agree with the
second term (logical agreement, in traditional terms); if ba¬D has a pronominal
suffix and the verb follows, agreement with the quantifier (grammatical agree-
ment) is mandatory (Parkinson 1975, 66).”

4.1 Agreement with quanti¬er
In conformity with the above-stated rule, the agreement is with the quantifier
when it has a pronoun suffix (such as ba¬D or √aghlab).

.ÉNQD’e ¢ù«d º¡‘∏ZCG
√aghlab-u-hum lays-a mu√arrix-an.
The majority of them are not historians (˜is not a historian™).

4.2 Agreement with speci¬ed noun
The agreement may be with the noun that is the second term of the √iDaafa. This
occurs especially with adjectives that immediately follow the noun.

2 LeTourneau, 1995, 30. In this article, “Internal and external agreement in quantified construct
states,” LeTourneau provides detailed analysis on this topic. See also Parkinson 1975 on the agree-
ment of ba¬D and kull.
236 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

ó∏‘dG ˜ º«¤e »H ôY πc º¡J
ta-humm-u kull-a ¬arabiyy-in muqiim-in fii l-balad-i
it concerns every Arab residing in the country

.áH’∏£ŸG ≥FÉK’dG πc ¿’∏ª«j
Üô©dG Ú˜¤ãŸG ¢†©H
ba¬D-u l-muthaqqaf-iina l-¬arab-i ya-Hmil-uuna kull-a l-wathaa√iq-i l-maTluubat-i.
some of the Arab cultured elite They are carrying all the requested

.ᦵ‡ ¤™ÉªàM™G πc âdòH »àqdG ¤™hÉ™G πc
kull-u l-iHtimaalaat-i mumkinat-un. kull-u l-muHaawalaat-i llatii budhil-at
All probabilities are possible. all the attempts that were made

4.3 Ambiguous agreement
Sometimes the agreement is ambiguous, as in the following example.

.•hô°T π°†aCG ´µà¦j ¿CG «hÉ«j ±ôW πc
kull-u Taraf-in yu-Haawil-u √an ya-ntazi¬-a √afDal-a shuruuT-in.
Every party tries to obtain the best conditions.

4.4 Mixing of number agreement
In the following sentences using ba¬D, the adjective following the plural noun is plu-
ral, but the verb is third person masculine singular, in agreement with the quantifier.

. . .¿CG ó¤à©j Ú«µjôeC™G Oɤ¦dG ¢†©H
ba¬D-u l-nuqqaad-i l-√amriikiyy-iina ya-¬taqid-u √anna. . . .
some American critics believe (˜believes™) that . . .

In practice, the verb may optionally agree with the second term of the construct

. . .¿CG ¿hó¤à©j Ú«µjôeC™G Oɤ¦dG ¢†©H
ba¬D-u l-nuqqaad-i l-√amriikiyy-iina ya-¬taqid-uuna √anna. . . .
some American critics believe (m. pl.) that . . .

5 Non-quantitative speci¬ers

5.1 Expression of identity or re¬‚exivity

5.1.1 nafs ¢ù˜f ˜same; self™
To express the concept of “the same” Arabic uses the word nafs (pl. √anfus
nufuus), either as the first term of an √iDaafa, or in apposition with the modified
As my colleague Amin Bonnah states, the usage here depends on “a mix of grammar, style, logic,
and meaning” (personal communication).
Noun specifiers and quantifiers 237

noun. Note that this word has several meanings: ˜self,™ ˜same,™ ˜spirit soul,™ and
˜breath.™ See also its use as an appositive specifier in chapter 8, section 2.3. IN √iDaafa
.«G’¦ŸG ¢ù˜f ≈∏Y É¡©«ªL πª©J
ta-¬mal-u jamii¬-u-haa ¬alaa nafs-i l-minwaal-i.
They all work the same way. IN APPOSITION

.É¡°ù˜f IQÉ‘©dG OOôj
yu-raddid-u l-¬ibaarat-a nafs-a-haa.
He repeats the same expression.

5.1.2 dhaatiyy q»JGP ˜self™4
In certain expressions the term dhaatiyy is used to delineate the concept of self,

q»JGòdG ó¤¦dG
al-naqd-u l-dhaatiyy-u

5.2 Expression of ˜any; whichever™ √ayy/ √ayya áqjCG / ¦CG + noun
The noun √ayy is used as the first term of an √iDaafa to express the concept of “any”
or “whichever.” If the noun following √ayy ¦CG is feminine, √ayy may shift to √ayya
áqjCG , but this does not always happen. The noun following √ayy is indefinite and in
the genitive case. It is normally singular, but is sometimes plural.

5.2.1 Masculine form of √ayy + noun √ayy + MASCULINE SINGULAR NOUN

πNóJ ¦CG ¿’°VQÉ©j .A»°T ¦CG πªY ≈∏Y IQó¤dG q¦ód
yu-¬aariD-uuna √ayy-a tadaxxul-in laday-ya l-qudrat-u ¬alaa ¬amal-i √ayy-i shay√-in.
they oppose any intervention I have the ability to do anything.

ôNBG –©°T ¦CG πãe É‘j ô¤J ¿Éµe ¦CG øe
mithl-a ayy-i sha√¬b-in √aaxar-a min √ayy-i makaan-in taqriib-an
like any other people from almost any place

For more on the pronoun dhaat and its usage, see Chapter 12, section 4.
238 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic √ayy + FEMININE SINGULAR NOUN:
ádhO q¦C™ ádhɬ q¦C™
li-√ayy-i dawlat-in li-√ayy-i muHaawalat-in
for any state for any attempt

.áª∏c q¦CG ≈¦©e øY «CÉ°SG
i’µ°T q¦CG ádÉM ˜
fii Haalat-i √ayy-i shakwaa is√al√an ma¬naa √ayy-i kalimat-in.
in case of any complaint Ask about the meaning of any word.

5.2.2 Feminine √ayya + noun
When the noun being specified is feminine, the feminine form, √ayya ájCG may be
É«fódG Aɪ∏Y ôHÉcC™ áªFÉb ájCG ˜
fii √ayyat-i qaa√imat-in li-√akaabir-i ¬ulamaa√-i l-dunyaa
on any list of the greatest scholars in the world

.πcÉ°»e ájCG Ghó©j ød
lan ya-jid-uu √ayyat-a mashaakil-a
They will not find any problems.

5.2.3 √ayy as independent noun
The noun √ayy may be used independently to mean ˜anything,™ ˜whatever,™ or ˜any-
one.™ When used with a dual noun, it indicates ˜either one of™; it is normally indef-
inite and takes nunation.

É¡f’d ¿Éc kÉqjCG Ú«°TôŸG øe w¦CG
√ayy-an kaan-a lawn-u-haa √ayy-un min-a l-murashshaH-ayni
whatever its color is either one of the (two) candidates √ayy WITH NEGATIVE AS ˜NONE™: With a negative verb, √ayy carries the sense
of ˜none™:

.É¡¦e ¦GC „£à°ùj „
lam ya-staTi¬ √ayy-un min-haa.
None of them could.
Adjectives: function and form

This chapter is in two parts. The first part deals with function: adjectives in con-
text and issues such as agreement, word order, and inflection, including inflec-
tion for comparative and superlative. The second part focuses on the derivational
morphology or word structure of adjectives.

Part one: Function

1 Attributive adjectives
An attributive adjective is part of a noun phrase and follows the noun directly,
agreeing with it in gender, number, case, and definiteness:

ôªMC™G ô«‘dG áq«Hô©dG á«e’¤dG
al-baHr-u l-√aHmar-u al-qawmiyyat-u l-¬arabiyyat-u
the Red Sea Arab nationalism

Üô©dG ¿’q«°VÉjôdG –«°üÿG «“¡dG
al-riyaaDiyy-uuna l-¬arab-u al-hilaal-u l-xaSiib-u
Arab athletes the Fertile Crescent

π¡°S R’a q»°SÉ«°S QhO ˜
fawz-un sahl-un fii dawr-in siyaasiyy-in
an easy win in a political role

1.1 Attributive adjective modifying noun + pronoun suf¬x
A noun with a pronoun suffix is considered definite; therefore, an adjective that
modifies that noun carries the definite article, in addition to agreeing in gender,
case, and number with the noun:

áq«©«‘£dG É¡JÉ„«H ˜ áq«aɤãdG o¬àj’g
fii bii√aat-i-haa l-Tabii¬iyyat-i huwiyyat-u-hu l-thaqaafiyyat-u
in their natural environments its cultural identity

240 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

Úq«∏™G º¡««°Tôe ºYód q»Hô©dG Éfôµa ïjQÉJ ˜
li-da¬m-i murashshaH-ii-him-i l-maHalliyy-iina fii taariix-i fikr-i-naa l-¬arabiyy-i
to support their local candidates in the history of our Arab thought

2 Predicate adjectives
A predicate adjective is used in an equational (verbless) sentence to provide
information about the subject of the sentence, thus completing the clause. In
an Arabic equational sentence, there is usually no overt copula, or present
tense form of the verb “to be,” linking the subject and predicate. When acting
as a predicate, the adjective agrees with the noun or pronoun subject in gender
and number. It is usually in the nominative case. However, it does not normally
take the definite article because it is predicating a quality or attribute to the

.’ah OÉ°ü—G
al-HiSaad-u wafiir-un.
The harvest is abundant (˜is an abundant one™).

.á∏j’W áªFɤdG .ôªMCG RôµdG
al-qaa√imat-u Tawiilat-un. al-karaz-u √aHmar-u.
The list is long (˜is a long one™). Cherries are red.

.á˜jôX á°ü¤dG .áq«cP »g
al-qiSSat-u Zariifat-un. hiya dhakiyyat-un.
The story is charming. She is intelligent.

.áX’¶¬ ÉfCG .‚dP øY ¿hó«©H ø«f
√anaa maHZuuZat-un. naHnu ba¬iid-uuna ¬an dhaalika.
I am fortunate. We are far from that.

3 Adjectives as substantives
Adjectives may serve as substantives or noun substitutes, just as they sometimes
do in English:

.ójó·G „e §∏à®j Ëó¤dG å«M
Hayth-u l-qadiim-u ya-xtaliT-u ma¬-a l-jadiid-i.
Where the old mixes with the new.

.´QG’°»dG ¤EG Qɨ°üdGh QÉ‘µdG «µf
nazal-a l-kibaar-u wa-l-Sighaar-u √ilaa l-shawaari¬-i.
The adults and children (˜the big and the little™) descended into the streets.
Adjectives: function and form 241

øj’ãµdG ¤EG á‘°ù¦dÉH .áq«q°†˜dG «Éf
bi-l-nisbat-i √ilaa l-kathiir-iina naal-a l-fiDDiyyat-a.
according to many He won (˜obtained™) the silver [medal].

ÚãMÉ‘dG øe ¿’∏«∏b ÚdhD’°ùŸG QÉ‘c ´ÉªàLG
qaliil-uuna min-a l-baaHith-iina ijtimaa¬-u kibaar-i l-mas√uul-iina
few of the researchers the meeting of senior officials

4 Arabic adjective in¬‚ection
Adjectives in Arabic inflect for four morphological categories: gender, number,
case, and definiteness. Many of them also inflect for a fifth category: degree (com-
parative and superlative).
As far as the first four categories are concerned, adjectives mirror the inflec-
tional categories of the nouns that they modify, that is, they agree or are in con-
cord with those nouns. In most cases the agreement or concord is direct or
“strict,” meaning that the adjective reflects exactly the categories of the noun.1
As noted above, Arabic adjectives normally follow the nouns they modify.

4.1 In¬‚ectional categories: gender, number, case, de¬niteness
Much like nouns, Arabic adjectives have a base form, which is the singular mas-
culine, and an inflected (marked) form for the feminine, usually marked by taa√
marbuuTa. They also inflect for dual, and for plural. In the plural, they take broken
or sound plural forms, or both.
In terms of case inflection, adjectives fall into the same declensions as nouns,
depending on their morphological form (their lexical root and pattern structure).

4.1.1 Masculine singular adjectives
Masculine singular adjectives modify masculine singular nouns.

ºFÉZ ¢ù¤W –°SɦŸG âb’dG ˜
Taqs-un ghaa√im-un fii l-waqt-i l-munaasib-i
cloudy weather at the proper time

«OÉ‘àŸG „¦GÎM™G q„¦É©dG ¢»à˜ŸG
al-iHtiraam-u l-mutabaadal-u al-mufattish-u l-¬aamm-u
mutual respect the inspector general

Adjectives in general are refered to in morphological theory as “targets” rather than “controlers.”
That is, they are targets of the agreement requirements of nouns. As Carstairs-McCarthy (1994,
769) states: “Adjectives are gender targets, i.e., they must agree with nouns in gender as well as
number and case.”
242 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

§q°S’àŸG ¢†«HC™G ô«‘dG
al-baHr-u l-√abyaD-u l-mutawassiT-u
the Mediterranean Sea (˜the middle white sea™)

q»‘¦LC™Gh q»Hô©dG »°SÉe’∏HódG ‚∏°ùdG
al-silk-u l-dibluumaasiyy-u l-¬arabiyy-u wa-l-√ajnabiyy-u
the Arab and foreign diplomatic corps

4.1.2 Masculine dual adjectives
Masculine dual adjectives modify masculine dual nouns.

øj’‘c øjóq∏› ˜ Úq«Hô©dG øjó∏‘dG ÚH
fii mujallad-ayni kabiir-ayni bayn-a l-balad-ayni l-¬arabiyy-ayni
in two large volumes between the two Arab countries

4.1.3 Masculine plural adjectives
Masculine plural adjectives modify masculine plural nouns only if the nouns
refer to human beings.

¿’jô°üŸG ‚«dɪŸG ¿’q«ª°SQ QGqhR
al-mamaaliik-u l-miSriyy-uuna zuwwaar-un rasmiyy-uuna
the Egyptian Mamelukes official visitors

¿’«£˜f AGÈN Úq«fÉf’«dG Úfɦ˜dG øe
xubraraa√-u nifTiyy-uuna min-a l-fannaan-iina l-yuunaaniyy-iina
oil experts from the Greek artists

¿hôNB™G ¢ShôdG AGôeC™G OóL ¢UÉ®°TCG á©°ùJ
tis¬at-u √ashxaas-in judud-in2
al-√umaraa√-u l-ruus-u l-√aaxar-uuna
the other Russian princes nine new persons

4.1.4 Feminine singular adjectives
The feminine singular adjective is used to modify feminine singular nouns and
also for nonhuman plural nouns. The use of the feminine singular to modify
nonhuman plural nouns is referred to as “deflected” agreement rather than
“strict” agreement.

Note that when numerals are used for counting over ten, the counted noun is grammatically sin-
gular and any agreeing adjective is also singular, although the meaning is plural. For example:

kGójóL kÉ°Só¦¡e ¿hô°»Y
¬ishruuna muhandis-an jadiid-an
twenty new engineers
Adjectives: function and form 243 WITH FEMININE SINGULAR NOUNS:
áÁó¤dG ájɵ—G áq«fÉ› á««°üf
al-Hikaayat-u l-qadiimat-u naSiiHat-un majjaaniyyat-un
the old story free advice

áeOɤdG IôŸG áªcÉ—G á«e’¤dG á«e“°SE™G á¡‘·G
al-marrat-a l-qaadimat-a al-jabhat-u l-√islaamiyyat-u l-qawmiyyat-u
the next time
Nonhuman plural nouns require feminine singular agreement.3 Case and defi-
niteness are in strict agreement.

Ió«qàŸG ·C™G Ió«qàŸG ¤Éj™’dG
al-√umam-u l-muttaHidat-u al-wilaayaat-u l-muttahidat-u
the United Nations the United States

áq«dqhCG èFÉàf áq«°ù«FQ QɵaCG §“K
talaath-u √afkaar-in ra√iisiyyat-in
nataa√ij-u √awwaliyyat-un
preliminary results three main ideas

áq«««°ùŸG ó«dɤàdG á«∏°ùŸG ¤G’¤dG
al-taqaaliid-u l-masiiHiyyat-u al-quwwaat-u l-musallaHat-u
the Christian traditions the armed forces

4.1.5 Feminine dual adjectives
Feminine dual nouns are modified by feminine dual adjectives.

¿ÉJ’‘c ¿Éফ˜°S Úà«°VÉŸG ÚরùdG «“N
safiinat-aani kabiirat-aani xilaal-a l-sanat-ayni l-maaDiyat-ayni
two big ships during the last two years

¿ÉjôNC™G ¿Éà¦jóŸG ¿É«ª¶©dG ¿ÉàdhódG
al-madiinat-aani l-√uxray-aani al-dawlat-aani l-¬uZmaay-aani
the other two cities the two super powers (˜states™)

4.1.6 Feminine plural adjectives
Feminine plural adjectives modify feminine plural nouns only if the nouns refer
to human beings:

See the article by Belnap and Shabeneh 1992 for discussion of the history and nature of deflected
agreement in Arabic.
244 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

¤É«HôY AÉ°ùf ¤Éq¦°ùe ¤Gó«°S øe
min sayyidaat-in musinnaat-in
nisaa√ -un¬arabiyyaat-un
Arab women from old ladies

¤É‘©©ŸG AÉ°ù¦dG øe ø°ùdG ˜ ¤Éeó¤àŸG AÉ°ù¦dG
min-a l-nisaa√-i l-mu¬jibaat-i al-nisaa√-u l-mutaqaddimaat-u fii l-sinn-i
from the admiring women women of advanced age (˜women advanced in age™)

«ÉÛG Gòg ˜ ¤“eÉ©dG ¤ÉjÉà˜dG
al-fataayaat-u l-¬aamilaat-u fii haadhaa l-majaal-i
the young women working in this field

4.1.7 Non-gendered adjectives
There are a limited number of adjectives in MSA that do not inflect for gender.
They remain in the masculine singular base form.4 THE ADJECTIVE xaam ˜RAW™:
„¦ÉN IOÉe „¦ÉÿG qOG’ŸG
maaddat-un xaam-un al-mawaadd-u l-xaam-u
raw material the raw materials THE ADJECTIVE maHD ˜PURE™ (WITH EXCEPTIONS):5
¢†¬ áq«HôY á¨d
lughat-un ¬arabiyyat-un maHD-un

imra√at-un Haamil-un
a pregnant woman

4.2 Adjective in¬‚ection for comparative and superlative (ism al-tafDiil π«°†˜àdG º°SG)
The comparative and superlative forms of adjectives in Arabic are sometimes
referred to together in grammatical descriptions of Arabic as “elative” forms

For an interesting discussion of discrepancies in gender agreement in the Qur™ân, see Gaballa
Wehr (1979, 1050) describes the adjective maHD as “invariable for gender and number,” but I found
it at least once in the feminine, in Hasan (1987, III:1) in his description of the types of √iDaafa as
maHDat-un wa-ghayr-u maHDat-in ˜pure and non-pure.™
Adjectives: function and form 245

because they signify a more intense degree of the quality described by the adjec-
tive.6 The Arabic term ism al-tafDiil signifies that these are terms of preference, pre-
eminence, or preferment. In this text, the more standard terms “comparative”
and “superlative” are used to refer to these forms of adjectives.
Just as English has sequences such as large, larger, largest, or nice, nicer, nicest, to
indicate increasing degrees of intensity, Arabic has equivalent sequences consist-
ing of base form, comparative, and superlative forms.

4.2.1 Comparative adjective: √af¬al π©aCG
Arabic adjectives derived from Form I triliteral roots inflect form the compara-
tive through a pattern shift. No matter what the original or base pattern of the
adjective, the comparative pattern shifts to √aCCaC (√af¬al π©aCG), and it is dip-
tote. That is, it does not take nunation or kasra in its indefinite form.7 Note also
that the initial hamza of this pattern is hamzat al-qaT¬, that is, it does not elide.
’¨°U ô¨°UCG ó«©H ó©HCG
Saghiir ba¬iid
√aSghar √ab¬ad
small smaller far farther

’ãc ÌcCG ø°ùM ø°ùMCG
kathiir Hasan
√akthar √aHsan
many more good better

’‘c ÈcCG π«¤K π¤KCG
kabiir thaqiil
√akbar √athqal
big bigger heavy heavier Comparative adjectives from hollow roots, where the
middle radical is either waaw or yaa√, behave as though the waaw or yaa√ is a
regular consonant:

πj’W «’WCG ó«L O«LCG
Tawiil jayyid
√aTwal √ajwad
tall; long taller; longer good better

See, for example, Abboud and McCarus 1983, part 1:340“45. Also Blachère and Gaudefroy-
Demombynes 1975, 97 “L™©latif est un aspet de l™adjectif qui en exprime une valeur sup©rieure,
complète, en une nuance souvent d©licate à exprimer en fran§ais.”
For more on the diptote declension see Chapter 7, section
246 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

–«W –«WCG A≈q«n°S CG’°SCG
Tayyib sayyi√
√aTyab √aswa√
good better bad worse Comparative adjectives from assimilated roots,
where the initial root consonant is waaw or yaa√, keep that consonant:

„°SGh „°ShCG í°VGh í°VhCG ≥«Kh ≥KhCG
waasi¬ waaDiH wathiiq
√awsa¬ √awDaH √awthaq
wide wider clear clearer firm firmer Comparative adjectives from geminate roots (where
the second and third root consonants are the same) have a variant comparative
form due to a rule which prevents a short vowel from occurring between two
identical consonants. Thus instead of √af ¬al, the form is √afall qπaCG, and the two
identical consonants are together, spelled with a shadda:

π«∏b qπbCG q„¦Ég qºgCG
qaliil haamm
√aqall √ahamm
little; few less; fewer important more important

ójóL qóLCG qQÉM qôMCG
jadiid Haarr
√ajadd √aHarr
new newer hot hotter Comparative adjectives from defective roots have the
form √af ¬aa ≈©aCG. The final root consonant (whether waaw or yaa√) becomes √alif

m«ÉY ≈∏YCG »¦Z ≈¦ZCG ¦’b i’bCG
ghaniyy qawiyy
¬aalin √a¬laa √aghnaa √aqwaa
high higher rich richer strong stronger

’∏M ≈∏MCG »cP ≈cPCG
Hilw dhakiyy
√aHlaa √adhkaa
sweet sweeter smart smarter

4.2.2 In¬‚ection and use of comparative
Note that the Arabic comparative adjective does not show difference in gender. In
fact, comparative adjectives do not inflect for gender or number or definiteness.
They inflect only for case. When comparing two things and contrasting them, the
preposition min is used the way ˜than™ is used in English.
Adjectives: function and form 247 The comparative
adjective falls into the diptote category and therefore shows only two different
case markers in the indefinite form: Damma and fatHa.

ø°ùMCG √aHsan ˜better™



.ÉgôªY øe ô¨°UCG hó‘J
ta-bduu √aSghar-a min ¬umr-i-haa.
She appears younger than her age.

áq«ª∏Y á°SGQO á„e ¢ùªN øe ÌcCG
√akthar-u min xams-i mi√at-i diraasat-in ¬ilmiyyat-in
more than 500 scientific studies

áahô©ŸG ´G’fC™G ∞°üf øe ÌcCG
√akthar-u min niSf-i l-√anwaa¬-i l-ma¬ruufat-i
more than half the known species

¬¤‘°S ɇ qºgCG
√ahamm-u mimmaa sabaq-a-hu
more important than what preceded it

.¬«dEG êÉà«f ɇ πbCG Gòg
haadhaa √aqall-u mimmaa na-Htaaj-u √ilay-hi.
This is less than we need.

.ó¡°»e á„e „‘°S øe ÌcCG º°†J
ta-Dumm-u √akthar-a min sab¬-i mi√at-i mashhad-in.
It contains more than 700 scenes. Sometimes the comparative is used without
reference to what it is compared to, so there is no need for the preposition min:
248 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

Saar-at ta√xudh-u dawr-an √akbar-a.
She started to take a greater role.

–MQCGh „°ShCG ≥aCG ¤EG
√ilaa √ufuq-in √awsa¬-a wa-√arHab-a
to a wider and more spacious horizon

ɪ¡¦«H ≥KhCG áb“Y ¤EG ¦OD’«°S.
sa-yu-√addii √ilaa ¬alaaqat-in √awthaq-a bayn-a-humaa.
It will lead to a firmer relationship between the two of them. An adjective may occasionally have the
comparative form, although its meaning is not comparative. In this case, it
inflects for number, gender, and definiteness, as well as case:

m. sg. f. sg. m. pl.

±’LCG AÉa’L ±’L
jawfaa√ juuf

≥ªMCG AɤªM ≥ªM   ≈¤ªM   ≈bɪM
silly, stupid
Hamqaa√ Humuq Hamqaa Hamaaqaa

.AɤªM Iôµa hó‘J ±’LCG ¢ù«c
ta-bduu fikrat-an Hamqaa√-a. kiis-un √ajwaf-u
It seems [like] a silly idea. an empty bag

(1) ˜Other™: √aaxar ôNBG and √uxraa iôNCG
A special form of adjective is the word for ˜other.™ It has a unique inflec-
tional paradigm that combines comparative and superlative patterns, but
does not have comparative or superlative meaning. It inflects for number,
gender, case, and definiteness.

m. sg. f. sg. m. pl. f. pl.

other; another
√aaxar √uxraa √aaxar-uuna √uxray-aat

ôNBÉH hCG πµ°»H ôNBG –©°T ¦CG πãe
mithl-a √ayy-i sha¬b-in ™aaxar-a
bi-shakl-in √aw bi-√aaxar-a
one way or another like any other people
Adjectives: function and form 249

iôNCG á¡L øe .áfɪ°V ¿hôNBG √Èà©j
min jihat-in √uxraa ya-¬tabir-u-hu √aaxar-uuna Damaanat-an.
from another perspective; Others consider it an assurance.
on the other hand

iôNCG Iôe ¿ÉjôNC™G ¿Éà¦jóŸG ÉeCG
√ammaa l-madiinat-aani l-√uxray-aani
marrat-an √uxraa
another time; one more time as for the other two cities

4.2.3 The periphrastic or phrasal comparative
Certain qualities, attributes, or descriptors do not fit into the pattern-change par-
adigm for comparative and superlative meanings. For example, nisba adjectives
and the active and passive participles functioning as adjectives from the derived
verb forms (II“X) have extra consonants or vowels as part of their essential word
structure, so they cannot shift into the √af ¬al pattern without losing some of their
identity and meaning. Moreover, certain colors are already of the √af ¬al pattern,
so how does one express a quality such as “blacker,” or “whiter”?
Arabic handles this using a strategy similar to using “more” in English. Inten-
sity words such as “more” plus the adjective are used, or words such as “stronger”
plus a color word in order to form a descriptive comparative phrase.
The most common intensifying words used for forming the periphrastic com-
parative are:

ÌcCG qó°TCG qπbCG
√akthar √ashadd √aqall
more stronger less
This intensifying word is then joined with a noun in the indefinite accusative
case, a structure called tamyiiz or ˜accusative of specification.™8
.Üô©dG „e kɘWÉ©J ÌcCG ¿Éc
kaan-a √akthar-a ta¬aaTuf-an ma¬a l-¬arab-i.
He was more favorably disposed toward the Arabs.

.∞b’ª∏d kɪgɘJ ÌcCG ¬∏©©j ¿CG øµÁ
yu-mkin-u -√an ya-j¬al-a-hu √akthar-a tafaahum-an li-l-mawqif-i.
It might make him more understanding of the situation.
.‚¦e áq«dhD’°ùe ÌcCG »g
¬¦e ád’¡°S πbCG
√aqall-u suhuulat-an min-hu hiya √akthar-u mas√uuliyyat-an min-ka.
less easy than it (˜less in easiness™) She is more responsible than you.

See Chapter 11, section 6 for more on the tamyiiz construction.
250 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

áq«d’ª°T ÌcCGh „°ShCG „¦“°S
salaam-un √awsa¬-u wa-√akthar-u shumuuliyyat-an
a wider and more inclusive peace

áqjOɪàYG ÌcCGh IAɘc ÌcCG ‘ô¬
muHarrik-un √akthar-u kafaa√at-an wa-√akthar-u ¬timaadiyyat-an
a more capable and more dependable motor

.Ú°ùM øe AÉgO ÌcCG ’g .áq«qªgCG ÌcCG ¿’µJ ób
huwa √akthar-u dahaa√-an min Husayn-in. qad ta-kuun-u √akthar-a √ahammiyyat-an.
He is more shrewd than Hussein. They might be of more importance.

.áMɪ°S πbCGh áq«fGhóY ÌcCG ¿Éc
kaan-a √akthar-a¬udwaaniyyat-an wa-√aqall-a samaaHat-an.
It was more aggressive and less permissive.

4.2.4 The superlative
The form of the Arabic superlative adjective, which indicates the highest degree
of comparison, resembles the comparative form √af ¬al π©aCG. There are differences,
however. The superlative form is always definite, defined by the definite article, a
pronoun suffix, or by being the first term of an √iDaafa. Moreover, it has a femi-
nine form as well: fu¬laa ≈∏r©oa. Because the feminine form ends with √alif
maqSuura, it does not inflect for case.

Examples: Masculine Feminine

ôn‘rcnC™G iôr‘oµdG
biggest; oldest;
greatest al-√akbar al-kubraa

ôn¨r°UnC™G iôr¨o°üdG
al-√aSghar al-Sughraa

ºn¶rYnC™G ≈ªr¶o©dG
al-√a¬Zam al-¬uZmaa

≈∏rYnC™G É«r∏o©dG
supreme al-√a¬laa al-¬ulyaa

In some instances a dual form or plural form of the superlative may be used.
The plural form of the masculine superlative is either the sound masculine plural
√af¬al-uuna, or CaCaaCiC ( fa¬aalil πpdÉ©na), a diptote plural pattern. The plural of the
feminine superlative is CuCCayaat ( fu¬layaat ¤É«n∏r©oa).
Adjectives: function and form 251

Ú«ª¶©dG ÚàdhódG ˜
fii l-dawlat-ayni l-¬uZmay-ayni
in the two super powers

É«fódG Aɪ∏Y ôHÉcC™ áªFÉb ájCG ˜
fii √ayyat-i qaa√imat-in li-√akaabir-i ¬ulamaa√-i l-dunyaa
on any list of the greatest scholars in the world Superlative adjectives may
follow a noun directly, may be used as the first term of an √iDaafa with a noun, or
may have a pronoun suffix. In certain expressions, they occur alone, with the
definite article.

(1) Following a definite noun: The superlative adjective may, like the ordi-
nary adjective, follow the noun. In that case, it agrees with the noun in
gender, number, definiteness, and case:
≈ª¶©dG I’¤dG ≈∏YC™G ¢ù∏ÛG
al-quwwat-u l-¬uZmaa al-majlis-u l-√a¬laa
the greatest power/ the super power the supreme council
ÈcC™G ÜódG RôHC™G §ó—G
al-dibb-u l√akbar-u al-Hadath-u l-√abraz-u
Ursa Major (constellation) ˜the the most prominent event
greatest bear™

i’°ü¤dG á«qªgC™G ¤GP –©°UC™G «GD’°ùdG
dhaat-u l-√ahammiyyat-i l-quSwaa al-su√aal-u l-√aS¬ab-u
of utmost importance the hardest question
iȵdG ¤É¦«K“ãdG áeRCG ó©H
ba¬d-a √azmat-i l-thalaathiinaat-i l-kubraa
after the major crisis of the thirties

(1.1) Fixed expressions with the superlative: Sometimes, especially in set
phrases, Arabic uses a superlative expression where English would use an
ordinary adjective:
≈fOC™G ¥ô°»dG §°ShC™G ¥ô°»dG
al-sharq-u l-√adnaa al-sharq-u l-√awsaT-u
the Near (˜nearest™) East the Middle (˜middlest™) East

≈£°S’dG ¿hô¤dG iȵdG Üô—G
al-quruun-u l-wusTaa al-Harb-u l-kubraa
the Middle (˜middlest™) Ages the Great (˜greatest™) War (WWI)
252 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

á«H’¦·Gh ≈£°S’dG ɵjôeCG iȵdG «hódG
√amriikaa l-wusTaa wa-l-januubiyyat-u al-duwal-u l-kubraa
Central (˜most central™) and South the Great (˜greatest™) Powers

ÈcC™G Q󦵰SE™G iô¨°üdG É«°SBG
al-iskandar al-√akbar-u √aasiyaa l-Sughraa
Alexander the Great (˜the greatest™) Asia Minor (˜the smallest™)

(2) As the first term of an √iDaafa with a singular, indefinite noun: The
superlative adjective is often used as the first term of an √iDaafa with a sin-
gular, indefinite noun as the second term. In this structure, the adjective
does not inflect for gender; it remains masculine singular no matter what
the gender of the noun.

„É©dG ˜ ᵪ°S ô¨°UCG
m øµ‡ πµ°T π°†aCG ˜
√aSghar-u samakat-in fii l-¬aalam-i fii √afDal-i shakl-in mumkin-in
the smallest fish in the world in the best way possible

.Gó¦c ˜ QÉ£e ÈcCG ’g ô°üb „¦óbCG IQÉjµd
huwa √akbar-u maTaar-in fii kanadaa. li-ziyaarat-i √aqdam-i qaSr-in
It is the biggest airport in Canada. to visit the oldest castle

«Éª°»dGô«H πMÉ°S ≈°übCG ˜
ôjó¤J ó©HCG ≈∏Y
¬alaa √ab¬ad-i taqdiir-in fii √aqSaa saaHil-i baHr-i l-shimaal-i
at the furthest estimate on the farthest shore of the
North Sea

.k»HôY –Y™ π°†aCG –¤d ≈∏Y π°üM i’à°ùe ≈fOCG
√adnaa mustawan
HaSal-a ¬alaa laqab-i √afDal-u
laa¬ib-in ¬arabiyy-in. the lowest level
He obtained the title of ˜best
Arab player.™

(3) As first term of an √iDaafa with a plural noun: When a superlative adjec-
tive is used as the first term of an √iDaafa with a plural noun, the noun is
normally definite, but may not always be. Normally the superlative adjec-
tive is in the masculine form, although the feminine may also occur.

¦É‘°U ¤G’¦°S πªLCG „É©dG ˜ Ú‘Y™ i’bCG
√ajmal-u sanawaat-i Sibaaya √aqwaa laa¬ib-iina ¬i l-¬aalam-i
the most beautiful years of my the strongest players in the
childhood world
Adjectives: function and form 253

á°ü∏±G á«‘∏¤dG ¦RÉ©àdG qôMCÉH ¿óŸG qºgCG øe „HQCG ˜
bi-√aHarr-i l-ta¬aazii l-qalbiyyat-i fii √arba¬-in min √ahamm-i
with warmest, heartfelt, in four of the most
sincere condolences important cities

¤Écô°»dG iÈc ‘GΰTÉH ¿óe „HQCG qºgCG ˜
bi-shtiraak-i kubraa l-sharikaat-i fii √ahamm-i √arba¬-i mudun-in
with the participation of the in the four most important
biggest companies cities

(4) With pronoun suffix: A superlative adjective may occur with a pronoun

.Úª∏°ùŸG øjôLÉ¡ŸG øe º¡‘∏ZCÉa
fa-√aghlab-u-hum min-a l-muhaajir-iina l-muslim-iina.
Most of them are Muslim emigrants.

.ÉNQD’e ¢ù«d º¡‘∏ZCG
√aghlab-u-hum lays-a mu√arrix-an.
The majority of them are not historians.

(5) With indefinite pronoun maa and following clause: The superlative
adjective may be the first term of an √iDaafa whose second term is a phrase
starting with an indefinite pronoun.

ôeC™G ˜ Ée ô£NCG ôeC™G Gòg ˜ Ée ÜôZCG
√axTar-u maa fii l-√amr-i √aghrab-u maa fii haadhaa l-√amr-i
the most dangerous [thing] in the the strangest [thing] in this affair

(6) With definite article by itself: In certain expressions, the superlative
adjective occurs alone, with the definite article.

πbC™G ≈∏Y ¢UÉ®°TCG á°ùªN qπbC™G ≈∏Y Iµ«Lh IΘd
xamsat-u √ashxaaS-in ¬alaa l-√aqall-i li-fatrat-in wajiizat-in ¬alaa l-√aqall-i
five people at least for a brief period at least

5 The adjective √iDaafa, the “false” √iDaafa
(√iDaafa ghayr Haqiiqiyya ᫤«¤M ’Z áaÉ°VEG )
The “adjective” √iDaafa is a particular use of the adjective as the first term of an √iDaafa
or annexation structure. The adjective may take the definite article if it modifies a
definite noun. Since this type of construct violates the general rules (by allowing the
first term of the √iDaafa to take a definite article), it is called “unreal” or “false.”
254 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

This kind of phrase is used to describe a distinctive quality of an item, equivalent
to hyphenated expressions in English such as fair-haired, long-legged, many-sided.
In this kind of √iDaafa, the adjective agrees with the noun it modifies in case,
number, and gender. The second term of the adjective √iDaafa is a definite noun in
the genitive case and refers to a particular property of the modified noun.9

5.1 De¬nite agreement
Here the adjective takes the definite article, agreeing with the noun it modifies.

P’˜¦dG á©°SG’dG á«fÉŸÈdG ᦩ∏dG
al-lajnat-u l-barlamaaniyyat-u l-waasi¬at-u l-nafuudh-i
the widely influential parliamentary committee (˜wide of influence™)
’µ˜àdG ≥«ª©dG ±’°ù∏«˜dG Gòg
haadha l-faylusuuf-u l-¬amiiq-u l-tafkiir-i
this profound (˜deep of thought™) philosopher

5.2 Inde¬nite agreement
Here the adjective √iDaafa modifies an indefinite noun. The adjective does not
therefore take a definite article but does not take nunation, either, because it is
the first term of an √iDaafa.
᫪gC™G á¨dÉH ±hôX ˜ ÜÉ°üYC™G OQÉH ¦µ«∏µfEG
fii Zuruuf-in baalighat-i l-√ahammiyyat-i √inkliiziyy-un baarid-u l-√a¬Saab-i
in circumstances of extreme a cold-blooded (˜cold-nerved™)
importance Englishman

º©—G §°S’àe Qób IQGô—G ᣰS’àe QÉf ≈∏Y
qidr-un mutawassiT-u l-Hajm-i ¬alaa naar-in mutawassiTat-i l-Haraarat-i
a medium-sized pot on a medium-hot fire

5.3 Adjective √iDaafa as predicate
When acting as a predicate adjective in an equational sentence, the adjective in
the adjective ™iDaafa lacks the definite article. For example:
.π°UC™G ¦ó¦d’g ’g
huwa huulandiyy-u l-√aSl-i.
He is of Dutch origin.

Part two: Adjective derivation: the structure of Arabic adjectives
Arabic adjectives are structured in two ways: through derivation from a lexical
root by means of the root-and-pattern system, or by means of attaching the nisba

For further discussion and examples of the adjective √iDaafa, see Chapter 8, section 1.9.2.
Adjectives: function and form 255

suffix -iyy (m.) or -iyya (f.) to create an adjective from another word (usually a noun).
Very rarely, an adjective will exist on its own, without relation to a lexical root.
In traditional Arabic grammar, adjectives and nouns both fall under the syn-
tactic category, ism ˜noun.™ The particular designations for the nomen adjectivum
(Wright 1967, I:105) in Arabic include al-waSf, ∞°U’dG, al-Sifa ᘰüdG, and al-na¬t
⩦dG, referring to qualities, attributes, and epithets.10 These types of words func-
tion in ways that very closely parallel what would be termed “adjectives” in
English, and many pedagogical texts refer to them simply as adjectives.
Active and passive participles may function either as adjectives or as nouns.
When they function as adjectives, they follow the same inflectional and syntactic
rules as adjectives, agreeing with the noun they modify in case, gender, number,
and definiteness.

1 Derivation patterns from Form I triliteral roots
These adjective forms are based on particular morphological patterns derived
from the base form of the verb, Form I. In some cases, an identical pattern may be
used for nouns as well.11 Some of the more commonly occurring adjectival pat-
terns include the following.12 Whereas the masculine plural patterns vary widely,
the feminine plural, when used, is usually the sound feminine plural.

1.1 The CaCiiC or fa¬iil π«©a pattern
This is one of the most common adjective patterns. The plural forms, used only for
human beings, may be several, including sometimes both sound plurals and bro-
ken plurals. The masculine plural applies to human males and to mixed groups of
males and females. The much more predictable feminine plural forms (ending in
/-aat/) apply to groups of female human beings. Some of the more frequently
occurring adjectives are as follows:

m. sg. m. pl.

ó«©H ¿hó«©H AGó©H OÉ©H
far, distant
ba¬iid ba¬iid-uuna bu¬adaa√ bi¬aad

’‘c ¿h’‘c QÉ‘c
large, big
kabiir kabiir-uuna kibaar

Beeston states: “One cannot establish for Arabic a word class of adjectives, syntactic considerations
being the only identificatory criterion of an adjective” (1970, 44).
For example, from the fa¬iil pattern come nouns such as waziir ˜minister,™ jaliid ˜ice,™ and safiir
Wright 1967, I:131“40 gives an extensive description of these adjective patterns and uses. He refers to
them all as “verbal adjectives,” since he considers them derived from Form I verbs. However, I prefer to
reserve the term “verbal adjectives” for active and passive particles, rather than adjectives in general.
256 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

m. sg. m. pl.

’¨°U Qɨ°U AGô¨°U
Saghiir Sighaar Sugharaa√

∞«£d ±É£d Aɘ£d
nice; pleasant
laTiif liTaaf luTafaa√

º«¶Y „¦É¶Y Aɪ¶Y ºFɶY
¬aZiim ¬iZaam ¬uZamaa√ ¬aZaa√im

Ëôc „¦Gôc
kariim kiraam

’¤a AGô¤a
faqiir fuqaraa√

∞«©°V Aɘ©°V ᘩ°V ±É©°V
Da¬iif Du¬afaa√ Da¬afa Di¬aaf

π«∏b ¿’∏«∏b πF“b A“bCG «“b
little; few
qaliil qaliil-uuna qalaa√il √aqillaa qilaal

ójóL OóL
jadiid judud

1.1.1 With passive meaning
When derived from a transitive verb root, the fa¬iil pattern may carry the same
meaning as a passive participle.

m. sg. m. pl.

íjôL ≈MôL
jariiH (PP: majruuH) jarHaa

π«àb ≈∏àb
qatiil (PP: maqtuul) qatlaa

1.2 The CaCCiC or fa¬¬il πu©na pattern
Adjectives of this pattern, if applied to human beings, usually use the sound plu-
rals. This pattern appears frequently with hollow roots.
A≈q«°nS óq«L ºq«b –q«W
sayyi√ jayyid qayyim Tayyib
bad good valuable okay; fine
Adjectives: function and form 257

1.3 The CaCiC or fa¬il πp©na pattern
Adjectives of this pattern also, if applied to human beings, usually use the sound
„°»L –©J ï°Sh ø°»N ô£Y ¿ôe
jashi¬ ta¬ib wasix xashin marin
greedy tired dirty coarse fragrant flexible
„°»L »°SÉ«°S áfôe á°SÉ«°S
siyaasiyy-un jashi¬-un siyaasat-un marinat-un
a greedy politician a flexible policy

1.4 The CaCC / CuCC or fa¬l / fu¬l πr©na/πr©oa pattern

m. sg. m. pl.

º®°V „¦É®°V
hefty, huge
Daxm Dixaam

Hurr Haraa√ir √aHraar

Not usually used to refer to humans:
qºL π¡°S –∏°U
jamm sahl Sulb
plentiful easy hard, firm

1.5 The CaCaC or fa¬al πn©na pattern

m. sg. m. pl.

ø°ùM ¿É°ùM
Hasan Hisaan

§°Sh •É°ShCG
middle, medial
wasaT √awsaaT

1.6 The CaCCaan or fa¬laan ¿“r©na pattern
This pattern is for the most part, diptote in the masculine singular.13 It can have
rather complex plural and feminine patterns, although none of these occurred in

The MECAS grammar (1965, 44) states for instance, that kaslaan is diptote, but it is not noted as
such in Wehr (1979, 969), although Wehr notes za¬laan, ghaDbaan, and ¬aTshaan as diptote. Wright
(1967, I:133) gives both alternatives; Haywood and Nahmad (1962, 86) state that this pattern is
“without nunation”; and Cowan (1964, 40) puts it in the diptote declension.
258 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

the data gathered for this book. Cowan states (1964, 40) “In Modern Arabic the pat-
tern fa¬laan-u usually takes the sound endings in the feminine and the plural.”

m. sg. f. sg. m. pl.

¿É°ù©f áfÉ°ù©f ¿’fÉ°ù©f
na¬saan na¬saana na¬saan-uuna

¿É‘©J áfÉ‘©J ¿’fÉ‘©J
ta¬baan ta¬baana ta¬baan-uuna

¿“°ùc áf“°ùc ¤É°ùc ≈∏°ùc
kaslaan kaslaana kasaalaa kaslaa

¿“YR áf“YR ¿’f“YR
za¬laan za¬laana za¬laan-uuna

¿É‘°†Z ≈‘°†Z ÜÉ°†Z ≈HÉ°†Z
ghaDbaan ghaDbaa ghiDaab ghaDaabaa

¿ ÉY’L ≈Y’L ´É«L
jaw¬aan jaw¬aa jiyaa¬

¿É°»£Y ≈°»£Y ¢TÉ£Y ≈°»£Y
¬aTshaan ¬aTshaa ¬iTaash ¬aTshaa

1.7 The CaCCaaC or fa¬¬aal «Éq©na pattern
This pattern denotes intensity of a quality and takes sound plurals:

«Éq©a ÜGqòL ¿Éq› «ÉqMQ
fa¬¬aal jadhdhaab majjaan raHHaal
effective attractive free of charge roving, roaming

2 Quadriliteral root adjective patterns
The CaCCuuC or fa¬luul pattern from quadriliteral roots:

3 Participles functioning as adjectives
Active and passive participles are verbal adjectives, that is, descriptive terms
derived from a particular Form (I“X) of a verbal root. The active participle
Adjectives: function and form 259

describes the doer of an action and the passive participle describes the entity that
receives the action, or has the action done to it. They therefore describe or refer to
entities involved in an activity, either as noun modifiers (adjectives) or as sub-
stantives (nouns) themselves. Here we are dealing with them as adjectives.14

3.1 Active participles as adjectives
Active participles as adjectives describe the doer of an action. In context, they
agree with the modified noun in gender, number, definiteness, and case. When
used as adjectives modifying nouns referring to human beings in the plural, the
sound feminine or the sound masculine plural is used.15

ôFGR q„¦Ég m«ÉY
zaa√ir haamm ¬aal-in
visiting important high

ôqµ‘e πKɇ Ühɦe
mukabbir mumaathil munaawib
magnifying similar on duty

¢ùª°»e ô£‡ qπ‡
mushmis mumTir mumill
sunny rainy boring
ôqa’àe ôqNCÉàe ójGµàe
mutawaffir muta√axxir mutazaayid
abundant late increasing

óYɤàe «µ©¦e ¢»ªµ¦e
mutaqaa¬id mun¬azil munkamish
retired isolated introverted;

∞∏ଂ „¦Î¬ qôªà°ùe
muxtalif muHtarim mustamirr
different respectful continuous
Quad. Quad.
π««à°ùe qô¡˜µe qø„ª£e
mustaHiil mukfahirr muTma√inn
impossible dusky, gloomy calm, serene

See also Wright 1967, I:143“45.
Form I participles may take a broken or sound plural, but usually the sound plural is used when the
participle functions as an adjective. Derived participles from the Forms II“X take sound plurals.
260 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic


Form I:
áeOɤdG IqôŸG ‹É©dG –K’dG
al-marrat-a l-qaadimat-a al-wathab-u l-¬aalii
the next time the high jump

áqbÉ°T ᦡe ≥HÉ°ùdG OÉ°üàb™G ôjRh
mihnat-un shaaqqat-un waziir-u l-iqtiSaad-i l-saabiq-u
a demanding profession the former Minister of the Economy
Form IV:
á°»©¦ŸG ºFÉ°ù¦dG áaô°»ŸG ᦩ∏dG
al-nasaa√ im-u l-mun¬ishat-u al-lajnat-u l-mushrifat-u
the refreshing breezes the supervisory committee

Form V: Form X:
áeqó¤àe ¢ShQO Iôjóà°ùe áMÉ°S
duruus-un mutaqaddimat-un saaHat-un mustadiirat-un
advanced lessons a circular courtyard

3.2 Passive participles as adjectives
These participles usually take sound plurals when referring to human beings.

±hô©e ‘hÈe ó¤©e
ma¬ruuf mabruuk mu¬aqqad
known blessed complicated

Q’°üe π°†˜e «hGóàe
muSawwar mufaDDal mutadaawal
illustrated preferred; favorite prevailing
èeóe OGôe –®à¦e
mudmaj muraad muntaxab
compacted desired elected

qπଠOQ’à°ùe QÉ©à°ùe
muHtall mustawrad musta¬aar
occupied imported borrowed
Quad. Quad.
ín£ôn˜oe ¢»µQµe
mufarTaH muzarkash
flattened embellished
Adjectives: function and form 261


Form II:
øNóŸG ¿’ª∏°ùdG á∏°†˜ŸG ‚©bG’Ã
al-salmuun-u l-mudaxxan-u bi-mawaaqi¬-i-ka l-mufaDDalat-i
smoked salmon in your favorite places

Form IV: Form VIII:
èeóe ¢Uôb á∏à™G »°VGQC™G
qurS-un mudmaj-un al-√araaDii l-muHtallat-u
compact disk the occupied lands

Form X:
IQÉ©à°ùe Aɪ°SCG
√asmaa√-un musta¬aarat-un
pseudonyms (˜borrowed names™)

4 Derivation through suf¬xation: relative adjectives (al-nisba á‘°ù¦dG)
Converting a noun, participle, or even an adjective into a relative adjective
through suffixation of the derivational morpheme -iyy (feminine -iyya) is an
important derivational process in MSA and is actively used to coin new terms. The
words used as stems for the nisba suffix can be Arabic or foreign, singular or plu-
ral. For the most part, their plurals are sound, except where noted.

4.1 Nisba from a singular noun
»®jQÉJ »Y’‘°SCG »HÉ©jEG ‹ÉM
taariix-iyy Haal-iyy
√usbuu¬-iyy √iijaab-iyy
historical weekly positive; affirmative current

»FµL »e“°SEG »°ùª°T ¦µcôe
juz√-iyy shams-iyy markaz-iyy
partial Islamic solar central

»‘gP ¦ôKCÉJ »H’¦L
dhahab-iyy ta√aththur-iyy januub-iyy
golden impressionist southern

»H’¦·G –£¤dG q»FµL πM
al-quTb-u l-januub-iyy-u Hall-un juz√-iyy-un
the south pole a partial solution
262 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

q»e“°SE™G „É©dG áq«¤«‘£àdGh áqjô¶¦dG „¦’∏©dG
al-¬aalam-u l-√islaam-iyy-u al-¬uluum-u l-naZariyyat-u wa-l-taTbiiqiyyat-u
the Islamic world theoretical and applied sciences
q¦µcôŸG –ൟG »YGHW¦™G ø˜dG
al-maktab-u l-markaz-iyy-u al-fann-u l-inTibaa¬-iyy-u
the central office impressionist art

4.1.1 taa√ marbuuTa deletion
If the base noun ends in taa√ marbuuTa, the taa√ marbuuTa is deleted before suffix-
ing the nisba ending:

political q»°SÉ«°S
siyaas-iyy (from siyaasa, á°SÉ«°S ˜politics, policy™)

artificial q»Yɦ°U
Sinaa¬-iyy (from Sinaa¬a áYɦ°U ˜craft; industry™)

cultural q˜É¤K
thaqaaf-iyy (from thaqaafa áaɤK ˜culture™)

4.1.2 waaw insertion
If the noun ends in a suffix consisting of √alif, or √alif-hamza, the hamza may be
deleted and a waaw may be inserted as a buffer:

desert; desert-like q¦hGô«°U
SaHraa-w-iyy (from SaHraa√ AGô«°U ˜desert™ root: s-H-r)
q¦hGô«°U ±É¦e
munaax-un SaHraaw-iyy-un
a desert climate
semantic q¦’¦©e
ma¬na-w-iyy (from ma¬nan k≈¦©e ˜meaning™ root: ¬-n-y)

4.1.3 Root hamza retention
If the hamza is part of the lexical root, it cannot be deleted. Thus,

equatorial q»FG’à°SG
istiwaa√-iyy (from istiwaa√ AG’à°SG ˜equator™ root: s-w-√)

final q»FÉ¡f
nihaa√-iyy (from nihaa√ AÉ¡f ˜end™ root: n-h-y)
Adjectives: function and form 263

4.1.4 Stem reduction
Sometimes the form of the base noun is reduced:

ecclesiastical, church-related q»°ù¦c
kanas-iyy (from kaniisa á°ù«¦c ˜church™)

civic, civil Êóe
madan-iyy (from madiina á¦jóe ˜city™)

ÊóŸG ¿G’£dG
al-Tayaraan-u l-madan-iyy-u
civil aviation

4.2 Nisba from a plural noun
A plural form of the noun may occasionally be used as the stem for the nisba suf-
fix. This is especially true if the singular ends in taa√ marbuuTa:

tax-related q»‘FGô°V international ‹hO
Daraa√ib-iyy (singular Dariiba á‘jô°V) duwal-iyy (singular dawla ádhO)

journalistic q»˜«°U women™s q»FÉ°ùf , q¦’°ùf
SuHuf-iyy (singular SaHiifa ᘫ«°U) nisaa√-iyy/nisaw-iyy (singular √imra-a ICGôeEG )

documentary q»¤FÉKh legal q»b’¤M
wathaa√ iq-iyy (singular wathiiqa ᤫKh) Huquuq-iyy (singular Haqq ≥M)
q»¤FÉKh º∏«a ˜ áq«˜«°U áq«MÉààaG ˜
fii fiilm-in wathaa√iq-iyy-in fii ftitaaHiyyat-in SuHufiyyat-in
in a documentary film in a newspaper editorial

áqj’°ù¦dG ¤É°SGQódG áq«JÉe’∏©e ᵑ°T
al-diraasaat-u l-nisawiyyat-u shabkat-un ma¬luumaatiyyat-un
women™s studies information network

4.3 Nisba from a participle or adjective
q»Y’°S’e q‹qhCG
comprehensive preliminary

A variant on the nisba adjective based on the stem «qhCG √awwal ˜first™ is the additional form
áqj’dqhCG IQhô°V
√awwalawiyya, with an inserted /-aw/ between the stem and the nisba suffix, as in
Daruurat-un √awwalawiyyat-un ˜a primary necessity.™
264 A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic

4.4 Nisba from place names
A place name is usually stripped down to its barest, simplest stem form before the


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