لِ has another meaning in addition to “to.” It is used to mean “to belong to.” Normally, when we want to say the Arabic equivalent of “to have” in English, لِ and a pronoun suffix will be used. For example, “I have a car” becomes in Arabic لي سيارة. The Arabic sentence literally means “To me is a car.” The Arabic sentence is an equational sentence سيارة is the subject of the sentence. لِ and its pronoun suffix function as the predicate. This is a different construction and uses different syntax than English does, so Americans tend to get the cases confused in sentences using لِ. Just remember that the item owned is the subject of the sentence.
If the item owned is indefinite then لِ and the suffix appear first in the sentence. Thus sentences such as “We have a house” or “He has a dog” have the opposite syntax of English. Look at the sentences below.
|1. He has a house in Cairo||
١. لَهُ بيتٌ في القاهرة.
|2. We have a new car.||
٢. لنا سيارةٌ جديدةٌ.
|3. You have many universities in your country.||
٣. لكم جامعاتٌ كثيرةٌ في بلدِكم.
If the item which is possessed is definite then it appears first in the sentence and is followed by لِ and the pronoun or the person or thing which possesses the object. See below.
|1. This house belongs to him||
١. هذا البيتُ لَهُ.
|2. This exploding car belongs to us.||
٢. هذه السيارة السفةُ لَنا.
|3. This office belongs to Samir.||
٣. هذا المكتبُ لِسمير.
|4. The new office belongs to the director.||
٤. المكتبُ الجديدُ لِلْمديرِ.
Sentences 1 and 2 should be clear. They reflect the change in syntax when the subject is made definite. Sentence 3 reminds you that when لِ is attached to anything but a pronoun, its vowel will always be a kasra. Sentence 4 is to show you what happens when لِ is combined with a word which has the definite article. Whenever لِ is attached to the definite article, the alif of the definite article is omitted so you will have two ل’s in a row. They will be separated by the kasra which comes with لِ.