Possessive Pronouns

Arabic uses pronoun suffixes as another way to indicate possession. In English we say “my house,” “his house,” etc., to indicate that something belongs to someone. In Arabic the same thing is done but the possessive pronouns are suffixed to the noun instead of written as independent words before the noun. Below is a chart of the possessive pronoun suffixes along with their corresponding independent pronouns.

Independent Pronoun

Possessive Pronoun





















When we attach pronoun suffixes to nouns, we are indicating who possesses the nouns and we are also making the nouns definite. For example, “his book” in Arabic is a combination of كتابٌ and the suffix هُ When we combine them we get كتابُهُ Notice that the case ending of the noun is now without nunation. That is because the word is now definite. When a word has a pronoun suffix attached to it, it will show its case but it will not have nunation. Thus “your book” (masc.) is كتابُكَ and “their book” (masc.) is كتابُهُم

All of these suffixes begin with a consonant except the suffix for انا which consists of the letter ي acting as a vowel. So if we wish to say “my book” we add ي to كتابٌ and get كتابي (pronounced “kitaabi”). This word will not be inflected for case because the ي is acting here as a vowel and we cannot have a vowel following the vowel of a case ending. If we did we would have كتابُي pronounced “kitaabui” which sounds funny and we do not wish to sound funny when we speak Arabic. So know that any noun to which the pronoun suffix ي is attached will not ever be inflected for case. Do not confuse the pronoun suffix ي with the nisba suffix يّ. The nisba suffix will always be inflected for case.

When we add a pronoun suffix to a word which ends in a ة, the ة is written and pronounced as a regular ت. For example “your article” is مقالتكَ and is pronounced “magaalatuka”. The case ending is written between the ت and the suffix. Of course, “my article” مقالتي (“maqaalati) will not be inflected for case for the reasons outlined in the above paragraph.

Since words with possessive pronouns are definite, any adjectives which modify them must have a definite article. For example, “your new teacher” is مدرسُكَ الجديدُ

The suffixes هُ, هُم and هُنَّ undergo a vowel change whenever they are preceded by a ي or by a kasra.

For example, “in his office” is في مكتبهِ The dhamma of the suffix هُ has been changed to a kasra due to the kasra on the ب (The kasra on the ب is there since مكتب is genitive because of في). In fact, as you will learn later, we can attach في itself to هُ and that yields فيهِ.

The same thing happens to هُنّ َ and هُم . For example في مكتبِهِم and في مكتبِهِن

You have now seen the three ways in which a word in Arabic is made definite. The first is the definite article. The second is by being in a definite idaafa. The third is by attaching a pronoun suffix.
Any adjectives modifying a definite noun must be definite and are made definite with, and only with, the definite article.

In Part C of the last chapter, I mentioned that Arab grammarians consider the possessive pronouns to be in an idaafa relationship with the noun to which they are attached. For example مكتبُهُم is an idaafa. The first term is مكتب and the second term of the idaafa is the pronoun suffix هم. Because the possessive pronouns are considered definite, they define the noun to which they are attached. It is quite common for an idaafa with two, three, four or more terms to end with a pronoun suffix. The entire idaafa will be definite. For example مكتبُ مديرِ شركتِكم “the office of the director of your company”. The word شركة is definite because of the suffix كم. Since شركة is definite, the entire idaafa is definite – just as if the word شركة , had been defined by having the definite article attached مكتبُ مديرِ الشركةِ – “the office of the director of your company”.

6 comments… add one
  • Hello, you called the suffixes “possessive pronouns” saying that the suffixes are attached to nouns. Are these the same as “possessive adjectives” ? Are both the same wirh two names ? If different – what is the difference ? Regards, David

    • I’m not a grammarian or the author of this book and so I honestly wasn’t sure what the answer to your question was until I Googled both terms. Now I know that in English a possessive pronoun is “mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs”. So this section on possessive pronouns would more correctly be labeled as possessive adjectives, because it actually is referring to “my, your, her, his, our, etc. I think the closest equivalent to possessive pronouns would actually be the preposition “ل” meaning “belonging to” when used with the possessive pronouns. For example “هذا الكتاب لي ” means “This book belongs to me” but it could just as easily be translated as “This book is mine”. Those are my thoughts on your question. I hope this helps.
      Person Pronoun Adjective
      1st singular mine my
      2nd yours your
      3rd (female) hers her
      3rd (male) his his
      3rd (neutral) its its
      1st plural ours our
      3rd plural theirs their

    • David – Very good question. In Arabic they are possessive pronouns and the Arabic term for them describes them that way – الضمائر الملكية. As the book says their use is another example of an idaafa which is usually two (or more) nouns strung together to indicate possession. Normally they will be translated or interpreted into English using English possessive adjectives and if the book is ever reissued that would be a nice note to make. This is a very typical example of how languages from different language families use different structures to convey similar meanings.

  • Linda,

    Very good question. Your Arabic teachers will be impressed if you can do this correctly.

    My two books is كتابايَ if in the nominative case. The nuun is dropped and the yaa is added with a fatha.

    If the word is genitive or accusative, then it is كتابَيَّ with a shadda and a fatha over the yaa.

  • Hi, I’m coming in a year later with a question.

    In English and French, we use the possessive pronouns can replace the noun to which they refer when the context is clear:

    “You brought your book but I forgot mine”

    It seems that in arabic, the tendency would be to just repeat the noun with the appropriate suffixes (apologies for grammatical mistakes)

    إنت جبلت كتابك لكن أنا نسيت كتابي

    Or is there another way to do this that I haven’t notice?

    Thanks so much. This site is a very useful resource.


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