The concept of إضافة (Idhafah) – the “possessive phrase”
Let’s talk about something called idhafah, which means to “add something to something else”. One of the unique features of Arabic grammar is that you can make a possessive relationship between two nouns simply by adding them together.
For example, the phrase كتابُ زَيدٍ means “the book of Zayd”. All we had to do was take the word for “book” (كتاب) and add it to “Zayd” (زَيد), and just like that we have “the book of Zayd”.
Idhafah is often translated as a “possessive phrase”, which is okay for now. Just be aware that an Idhaafah can represent possession and more, which we will find out as we progress in our studies إن شاء الله.
The first word of the fragment is called the مُضاف (Mudhaaf – “the word that was added”). The second word is called the ِمُضاف إلَيْه (Mudhaaf ilayh – “What was added to”). We can call them M and MI, for short.
Two key rules for possessive phrases:
- If the M has a tanwin (or a ن that substitutes for it), that tanwin or ن will drop off
- The MI will be in the state of jarr, meaning that it will have kasrah or one of its substitutes at the ending.
- It’s not a hard requirement, but the overwhelming majority of the time the mudhaaf won’t have ال at the beginning.
The meaning would be “the [M] of [MI]”, or “[MI]’s [M]” . In the example كِتابُ زَيْدٍ, the word زَيد is the MI and has كسرة on it. The word كِتاب is the M, and has lost its tanwin. The words together mean “Zayd’s book”. So at the end you just have a simple formula: