السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته,
When we talked about نَعْت (description) in النَّعْت (The adjective) we mentioned definite and indefinite nouns a lot because we were trying to show how the نَعْت (description) and the مَنْعُوْت (what you are describing) have to match in being definite or indefinite.
To keep it straight, all nouns are either definite or indefinite. First the definite nouns:
The kinds of definite nouns
وَالْمَعْرِفَةُ خَمْسَةُ أشْياء: الِاسْمُ المُضْمَرُ نَحْوُ أَنَا وَأَنْتَ وَالِاسْمُ العَلَمُ نَحْوُ زَيْدٌ وَمَكَّةُ, وَالاسْمُ المُبْهَمُ نَحْوُ هّذا وَهَذِهِ وَهَؤُلاءِ وَالسْمُ الَّذِيْ فِيْهِ الأَلِفُ وَاللامُ نَحْوُ: الرَجُلُ وَالْغُلامُ, وَما أُضِيْفَ إلى وَاحِدٍ مِنْ هَذِهِ الأرْبَعَةِ
… and the definite noun is [one of] five things: The pronoun, like أنا (“I”) and أنْتَ (“you”), the proper noun, like زَيْدٌ (Zayd) and مَكَّةُ (Makkah), the vague pronoun, like هَذا (“this”), هَذِهِ (“this [f.]”) and هَؤُلاءِ (“these”), the noun that has ال in it, like الرَجُلُ (“the man”) and الْغُلامُ (“the boy”), and whatever is mudhaaf to one of these four.
The definite noun is a word that is used for a specific entity or entities, and there are five kinds of definite nouns (with the explanation to follow):
- The pronoun
- The proper name
- The demonstrative pronoun
- A noun that has ال added to the beginning of it
- Whatever has been added to one of these to make an Idhafah (the possessive phrase)
الاسْم المُضْمَر (The pronoun)
It’s a noun that’s used to refer to the first, second or third person. We already mentioned it here when we did the mubtada’ and khabar, so it should be familiar to you by now. It can come for the:
- 1st person
- أنا – “I”
- نَحْنُ – “we”
- 2nd person
- أنْتَ – “you”
- أنْتِ – “you (f.)”
- أَنْتُمَا – “you both”
- أَنْتُمْ – “you all”
- أَنْتُنَّ – “you all” for females
- 3rd person
- هُوَ – “he”
- هِيَ – “she”
- هُمَا – “they both”
- هُمْ – “they all”
- هُنَّ – “they all” for females
الاسْم العَلَم (The proper noun)
It’s a name used to identify a specific entity. You don’t need to bring something that refers to the 1st/2nd/3rd person (me/you/him, etc.) to identify who or what you mean.
It can be male like مُحَمَّدٌ (“Muhammad”) or female like فاطِمَةُ (“Fatimah”).
It can also be a specific place like مَكَّة (Makkah) or animal like القَصْواءُ (the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم’s camel)
الاسْم الْمُبْهَم (The demonstrative pronoun)
They are two kinds of demonstrative pronouns:
- اسْم الإشارَةِ (pointing pronoun) – indicates a specific entity by pointing at it, whether physically or by meaning. Imagine if you were pointing with your finger and you’ll get the idea. There is a special list of these a pronouns, including:
- هذا (“this”) – masculine singular
- ِهَذِه (“this”) – feminine singular
- هَذانِ (“these two”) – In the state of nasb, you will see it as هَذَيْنِ (just like how we switch from ا to ي for other duals)
- هَاتَانِ (“these two”) – feminine dual. In nasb, it’s هَاتَيْنِ
- هَؤُلاءِ (“all of these”) – plurals
- الاسْم المَوْصُوْل (relative pronoun) – indicates a specific entity using a sentence or a semi-sentence that comes after it and is called the صِلة (silah). This silah will have a pronoun in it that corresponds to the relative pronoun in number and gender. المَوْصُول literally means “connected”, which makes sense because you don’t know which entity is meant unless it’s connected to the sentence after it. There is also a special list of relative pronouns including:
- الَّذِيْ (“he who….”)
- الَّتِيْ (“she who…”)
- الَّذانِ (“they both who…”) – in nasb it’s الذَيْنِ
- الَّتانِ (“they both who…”) – in nasb it’s الَّتَيْنِ
- الَّذِيْنَ (“those who…”) – masculine plural
- الّلائِيْ (“those who…”) – feminine plural
A noun that has ال added to the beginning of it
An easy one. It’s any noun that has been made definite by adding ال to the beginning. For example:
- رَجُلٌ (“a man”) is indefinite because it doesn’t refer to any specific man. When you add ال to it you get الرَجُلُ (“the man”)
- الكِتابُ (“the book”)
- الْغُلامُ (“the boy”)
- الجَارِيَةُ (“the servant girl”)
If you remember, ال is one of the four indicators that a word is a noun, and this is why, because only nouns can be made definite by adding ال to them like this.
Whatever is mudhaaf to a definite noun
If a word is added to one of these definite nouns that we’ve just gone through, then it acquires it definiteness from the word it’s added to. The word غُلام is definite in all of these examples:
- غُلامُكَ (“your boy servant”) – added to the pronoun كَ (“you”)
- غُلامُ مُحَمَّدٍ(“the boy servant of Muhammad”) – added to a proper name
- غُلامُ هَذا الرَجُلِ (“the boy servant of this man”) – added to a pointing pronoun (هذا – “this”)
- غُلامُ الذِيْ زَارَنا أَمْسِ (“the boy servant of he who visited us yesterday”) – added to a relative pronoun (الَّذِي – “he who…”)
- The sentence زارَنا أَمْسِ (“He visited us yesterday”) has a verb زارَ (“visited”) with a built in doer “he”, which matches up with الَّذِيْ in number and gender
- غُلامُ الأُسْتاذِ (“the boy servant of the teacher”) – added to a noun that was made definite using ال
Tip: In an idhaafah (possessive phrase), the mudhaaf is definite or indefinite depending on whether the the mudhaaf ilayh is definite or indefinite
After the names of Allah, the order of these categories of definite nouns tells us the rank of their definiteness (pronouns, followed by proper names, then demonstrative pronouns, then nouns with ال, then what’s been added to a definite noun). The further down you go, the less precise you get.
The indefinite noun
وَالنَكِرَةُ كُلُّ اسْمٍ شَائِعٍ فِيْ جِنْسِهِ لا يَخْتَصُّ بِهِ وَاحِدٌ دُوْنَ آخَرٍ, وَتَقْرِيْبُهُ: كُلُّ ما صَلَحَ دُخُوْلُ الألِفِ وَالّلامِ عَلَيْهِ, نَحْوُ الرَجُلِ وَالْفَرَسِ
… and the indefinite is every ism that is common within its species, that does not specifically apply to one over the other and it’s approximate definition is: Everything that is valid for ال to come at the beginning of, like الرَجُلُ (“the man”) and الْفَرَسُ (“the horse”).
So, the indefinite noun is laid down, not to specify any one specific member in a species, but to apply to all members of that class or species. The word رَجَلٌ (“a man”) can applied to all adult males from the descendants of Adam عليه السلام, and the word امْرَأةٌ (“a woman”) can apply to all adult females from his descendants.
The sign of an indefinite noun is that it’s okay for ال to come and make it a definite noun. With the addition of ال, the word الرَجُلُ (“the man”) is used for a specific man who is known.
From the Quran
Highlighted below are definite nouns from (25:3-11):
- Attached pronouns هُ/هِ – هُمْ/هِمْ – كَ – ها – We will see more of these later
- Detached pronouns: هِيَ (“she” or “it” for feminine objects)
- Proper names: None on this page, but you will see the names of many people (e.g. the prophets عليهم السلام) and places (e.g. مَكَّة/بَكَّة) throughout the Quran
- Pointing pronouns: هَذا (“this”) and ذَلِكَ (“that”). I forgot to highlight هذا (whoops!)
- Relative pronouns: الّذِيْ – الَّذِيْنَ
- The highlighted مَنْ in the last row is acting as a relative pronoun. It’s not in the list I gave because مَا and مَنْ can be multiple things besides a relative pronoun.
- ال was added to make the word definite:
- الْأوَّلِيْنَ – السِرَّ – السَماواتِ – الْأرْضِ
- الرَسُوْلِ – الطَعامَ – الأسْواقِ – الظالِمُوْنَ – الأمْثالَ – الأنْهارُ – الساعَةِ
- Added to a definite noun: أنْفُس – أساطِيْر
- آخَرَوْنَ (“others”) – The only indefinite noun I found that doesn’t have tanwin on it is آخَرَوْنَ (“others”). It is a description for the word قَوْمٌ (“people”) and matches it in state (raf’), indefiniteness, gender (masculine) and number (plural).
- Other indefinite nouns on this page have a tanwin on them
Note: A word with a tanwin on it is a noun and is usually indefinite. Remember that proper names (like مُحَمَّدٌ) can end with tanwin.
- What is the اسم مُضُمَر (pronoun)?
- What is the أسْم عَلَم (proper name)?
- What is the اسْم الإشارة (pointing pronoun)?
- What is the اسْم مَوْصُوْل (relative pronoun)?
- Give an example of each of these 4
Until next time, السلام عليكم
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