We’ve looked at the three types of words that exist in Arabic. Now we’re going to look at how to tell which kind a word is. For each type there are certain signs that tell you immediately that a word is that type.
First, we’re going to look at the signs that tell us that a word is an اسم. There are some new words here, but don’t be alarmed because we’ll break it down for you.
فَالاسْمُ يُعْرَفُ: بَالْخَفْضِ وَالتَّنْوِيْنِ وَدَخُوْلِ الأَلِفِ وَالََلامِ وَحُرُوْفِ الْخَفْضِ
The ism is recognized by خَفْض, tanwin, the entrance of ا and ل, the particles of خَفْض.
- The word is in the grammatical state of خَفْض
- The word has a تَنوِين (tanwin) at the end
- The word has ال at the beginning
- A particle that causes a word to be in the grammatical state of خفض comes before it
Let’s look at each one of these further.
The grammatical state of خَفْض
Okay, what does “grammatical state” mean?!? This concept is one of the defining features of the Arabic language, because it allows us to show a word’s role in a sentence simply by changing its ending. This discussion comes in a later segment, but for now just know that “grammatical state” means that Arabic words can change their endings for various reasons.
One of these states is called خَفض (khafdh), which means “to become low”. That makes sense because if a word is in this state it usually has كَسرَة (which is written below the letter) at the end of it. Specifically, khafdh refers to the kasrah that caused by a grammatical influence.
Note: This state is also called جَرّ (jarr). Khafdh and jarr are the exact same thing
Two easy examples for you:
- مَرَرْتُ بِبَكرٍ (“I passed by Bakr”)
- هَذا كِتابُ عَمرٍو (“This is Amr’s book”)
The words بكرٍ and عَمرٍو both have kasrah at the end, so you know right away that they are both اسم’s.
The تَنْوِيْن (“Nunnation”)
Some call these “double vowels” (i.e. 2 fathah‘s, 2 kasrah‘s, 2 dhammah‘s). It’s really a silent ن that’s added to the end of the word, but instead of writing it out, we show it by simply doubling the last vowel. Orientalists call it “nunnation” because that’s exactly what it is: adding a ن to the word. The word كِتابٌ sounds exactly the same as كِتابُنْ.
All of the following words have a تَنوِين at the end, so you know they’re all اسْم’s.
- مُحَمَّدٍ (Muhammad)
- كِتابٍ (book)
- إيهٍ (Well!)
- صَهٍ (Hush!)
- مُسلِماتٍ (Muslim women)
- فاطِماتٍ (Fatimah’s)
- حِينَئِذٍ (at that time)
- ساعَتَئِذٍ (on that day)
ال at the beginning of the word
Finally an easy one! If you see ال at the beginning of a word, you can be pretty sure it’s an اسم . All of these words are اسم’s because of ال at their beginning
- الرَجُلُ (the man)
- الغُلامُ (the young boy)
- الفَرسُ (the horse)
- الكِتابُ (the book)
- البَيتُ (the house)
- المَدرَسَةُ (the school)
Note: You’ll never see a double vowel and ال in the same word, like الكِتابٌ. It’s just bad taste and an easy way to get your teacher to demonstrate exactly how fast and how viciously he can chuck a pen at you. Don’t do this!
A particle that causes خَفض
Earlier we said that words can change endings due to different reason, and khafdh (or jarr) is one of the states a word can end up in because of that. There are some حَرف’s that force the word after them into this state. In fact, that is one of the main reasons that a word would be in jarr.
An example to consider:
ذَهَبْتُ مِن البَيتِ إلى المَدْرَسَةِ
I went from the house to the school.
The words مِن and إلى are two of these special حرف’s. Even if البيتِ and المدرسةِ didn’t have kasrah at the end or ال at the beginning, you’d still know that they are اسم’s, just because of the special particles before them. Going forward we’ll call these special particles as حُرُوفُ الجرِّ (the حرف’s that cause jarr).
Here’s a list for a quick idea (more on the meanings later إن شاء الله):
At this point, if you flip open to a random page in the Quran, you’d probably be able to spot a whole bunch of اسم’s using the signs we just covered. Let me show you what I mean from the last page of Surah 32:
All of the highlighted words have at least one of the 4 signs we just covered, but I’ll leave that for you to work out.
Up next: A list of these special particles and some of the meanings they’re used for.
- What are the signs of the اسْم?
- What does خَفْض mean?
- What does تَنْوِين mean?
Find the اسم’s that are in the following sentences, along with how you know that it is an اسم.
- بِسمِ اللهِ الرَحمنِ الرَحِيم
- الحَمدُ للهِ رَبِّ العالَمِينَ
- إنَّ الصَلاةَ تَنْهى عَنِ الفَحْشاءِ وَالمُنكَرِ
- وَالعَصرِ إنّ الإنْسانَ لَفِي خُسرٍ
- وَإلهُكُم إلهٌ واحِدٌ
- الرَحْمنُ فَاسألْ بِهِ خَبِيرًا
- قُل إنَّ صَلاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحيايَ وَمَماتِي لِلهِ رَبِّ العالَمِينَ, لا شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَبِذَلِكَ أمِرتُ وَأنا أوَّلُ المُؤمِنِينَ