The Particles أَنَّ , إِنَّ and أَنْ

This section is a bit long, but do not confuse length with difficulty. Read it carefully and then do the drills which follow.

These three words cause more than their fair share of trouble. The following explanation will try to avoid some of the pitfalls in other texts when they try to explain how these words are used. My explanation will be practical and not theoretical and it will cover all you need to know about these funny little words.

I will begin this discussion with إنَّ, which is the simplest of the three words. إنَّ has two major uses in this language. First, it is often used at the start of a sentence and has the meaning of “verily” or “indeed.” Often today we do not even translate the word. Often these sentences are equational sentences.

(Verily) the reporter is a jerk.

إنَّ المراسلَ مُغفَّلٌ

“Verily” is in parenthesis because it is not really necessary to translate. Sometimes it has the meaning of “indeed” but usually it too can be left out.

Now look at the noun المراسل, which follows إنَّ. The noun is in the accusative case. إنَّ is often followed by a noun which must be in the accusative case, or by a pronoun suffix. If the clause after إنَّ is an equational sentence, as is the case in the sentence above, the predicate will be in the nominative. Thus, مغفل is in the nominative case.

In an early chapter of this book, I told you that the subject of a sentence is usually in the nominative and that if it is not nominative it will be clear as to why. Here is such an example. As soon as you see إنَّ followed by a noun, that noun must be accusative.

إنَّ can also be followed by a pronoun suffix. Look at the sentence below.

You are a great student.

إنَّكَ طالبٌ عظيمٌ


Here again you have an equational sentence. This time the subject is the suffix كَ (which is understood to be accusative by Arab grammarians) followed by the predicate in the nominative case.

Sometimes you will see إنَّ followed by هناك , هنا , or a prepositional phrase. Look at the sentences below.

 1. There is a book on the table
 ١. إِنَّ هناك كتابا على الطاولة.
 2. There is a book on the table.
 ٢. إِنَّ على الطاولة كتاباً.



إِنَّ is used in such a way when the subject of the following clause is indefinite. The subject comes after هناكَ or the preposition, but it remains accusative as if it had come immediately after إِنَّ. The subject of the clause after إِنَّ is known as اسم إِنَّ (the noun of إِنَّ) and the predicate is called خبر إِنَّ (the predicate of إِنَّ). The اسم of إِنَّ is always accusative.

إِنَّ is never immediately followed by a verb. A noun or a pronoun suffix must come between it and a verb. You will see examples of this below.

إِنَّ is also used to mean “that” with the verb قال. For example:

The minister said that the questions of the reporter were ridiculous. قال الوزير إِنَّ اسئلةَ المراسل سخيفةٌ

إِنَّ is always used with قال to mean “that” as in “He said that such and such is the case.” In English we sometimes leave the word “that” out. We cannot do so in Arabic. إِنَّ must still be followed by a noun in the accusative or a pronoun suffix, or by a prepositional phrase or word such as هناك followed by an indefinite subject. In other words, إِنَّ works the same way with قال as it does when it is by itself and has the meaning of “verily” or “indeed.” Note that إِنَّ will be used with قال no matter what form the verb takes, even if the active participle of the verb is used. See the example below.

He stood up saying that Egypt is for the Egyptians. .قام قائلا إِنَّ مصرَ للمصريين

One last thing about إِنَّ . Sometimes, for matters of style, an author may wish to have a verb immediately follow إِنَّ . Since إِنَّ cannot be followed by a verb, as I said above, the author will insert what is called a “dummy pronoun” (ضمير الشأن) between إِنَّ and the verb. For example.

1.They said that the idols were smashed.

١. قالوا إنَّ الاصنام كُسِّرتْ.

2. They said that the idols were smashed.

٢. قالوا إنَّه كُسِّرَت الاصنام.

The first sentence contains the normal syntax. The second sentence means the same thing, but the verb has been placed after إِنَّ so a dummy pronoun must be attached to إِنَّ so that إِنَّ will not be followed immediately by a verb. The dummy pronoun is always هُ . The use of the changed syntax and the dummy pronoun is a matter of style only. The dummy pronoun is not translated.


Now a second-last thing about إِنَّ . When pronoun suffixes are attached to it for the first person singular and plural, there are to two possible renderings of each. For the first person singular they are إِنّي (pronounced “inni”) and إنَّني (pronounced “innani”). For the first person plural they are إنّا (pronounced “inna”) and إننا (pronounced “blahyech;” just kidding, it is pronounced “innana”). You may use any of these you wish. You will see and hear all of them.

The next word to be discussed is أَنَّ . أَنَّ also means “that” as a conjunction. It is used with verbs of cognition or which are used to state a fact. For example.

1. He mentioned that the Arabic language is beautiful.

١. ذكر أنَّ اللغة العربيةَ جميلةٌ.

2. I heard that the reporter is from Beirut.

٢. سمعتُ أَنَّ المراسلَ من بيروت.

Note that in both sentences أَنَّ is followed by a noun in the accusative. It can also be followed by a pronoun suffix. In other words, أَنَّ works the way إِنَّ does. However, إِنَّ is only used with the verb قال.

Students are often confused about what verbs can use أَنَّ . They are also often confused about the meaning of life. Here I can only deal with the former issue. Basically, any English verb which uses “that” and is then followed by a noun and a non-subjunctive verb has an Arabic counterpart that uses أَنَّ. “I heard that,” “I learned that,” “I believe that,” etc. Here are more examples.

1.The newspaper has learned that the president is traveling to Tunis.

١. عَلِمَت الجريدةُ أَنَّ الريسَ يسافر الى تونس.

2. Official sources have confirmed that the talks have been postponed.

٢. أكّدت مصادر رسمية أَنَّ المباحثات مُؤجَّلةٌ.

3. We know that they lied.

٣. نعرف أَنَّهم كذبوا.

4. He insisted that the film was good.

٤. أصرّ على أَنَّ الفيلم جيدٌ.


The English sentences above all use “that” as a conjunction. “That” is followed by a noun or a pronoun (just like the Arabic) and the noun or pronoun is followed by a verb in any tense or mood except the subjunctive.

Notice the last sentence has a verb which requires a preposition. When that is the case, the preposition is written and then أَنَّ is written after it. If the preposition has only one letter, it will be attached to أَنَّ. On some occasions, the preposition can be dropped without changing the meaning. For example اخبرني بأنهُ مسافر غدا and اخبرني أنهُ مسافر غدا both mean the same thing.

Like إِنَّ, أَنَّ has two spellings and pronunciations when the first person singular -and plural pronouns are attached. أَنّي and أَنّني (“anni” and annani”), are for the singular, while أنَا and أنّنا (‘anna’ and annana”), are for the plural.

The English and Arabic verbs are all verbs of cognition or relate to the statement of fact. So, if you are trying to produce Arabic, and you are not sure whether or not to use أَنَّ , think of the English. If it uses “that” as discussed above, then most likely the Arabic will use أَنَّ.

Now, when you are reading an Arabic text (something you should do every day), there is no excuse for not being able to spot أَنَّ . If it is used without قال and is followed by a pronoun suffix or a noun, then it must be أَنَّ. It cannot be the third word we are about to discuss, أَنْ , because that word is followed only by a verb and never by a pronoun or a noun.

Now we come to أَنْ. أَنْ also means “that”; it can also mean “to.” أَنْ is used with verbs which imply doubt, desire, fear, or some other emotion, or even commands which must be carried out. Students often desire a list of these verbs. However, the best way is to learn them is through exposure to the language. Below are some examples. Look at them closely.

1. He wants to study Arabic.

١. يريد أَنْ يدرس العربية.

2.They asked me to help them.

٢. طلبوا مني أَنْ أساعدَهم.

3.You (pl) were able to understand this lesson.

٣. تمكنتم من أَنْ تفهموا هذا الدرسَ.

4.We ordered him to fight in the path of God.

٤. أمرناه أَنْ يقاتلَ في سبيل الله.

5.We ordered that he fight in the path of God.

٥. أمرنا أَنْ يقاتلَ في سبيل الله.

6. The Mujahiduun demand that the foreign forces be withdrawn.

٦. يطالب المجاهدون بأنْ تُسحب القوات الاجنبية.






The Arabic verbs all fall into the categories mentioned above. They all deal with something that has an element of doubt or emotion. They all take أَنْ, which is always followed by a verb in the subjunctive. Notice that the verbs in each clause need not have the same subject.

Look at the third sentence. The first verb is تمكّن which is a Form V verb meaning “to be able.” This verb, like many other verbs, requires a preposition before its object. For this verb the preposition is مِنْ. So in order to use this verb to say that someone is or was able to do something, the preposition مِنْ must be included. Therefore أنْ is written after مِنْ Students often find the juxtaposition of a preposition and أنْ to be strange. However, any verb which has a preposition and requires أنْ will usually have the preposition written before أنْ . The sixth sentence is another example. Here the preposition بِ is attached to أنْ since the preposition consists of only one letter. With some verbs, the preposition can occasionally be dropped before أنْ as is the case with أَنَّ .

Now look at sentences four and five. In sentence five, the direct object, هُ, is omitted from the verb أمر. This is an alternative way of saying the same thing. It is very similar to what we sometimes do in English. So instead of saying that “We ordered him” to do something, we can say “We ordered that he do something.” Notice that “We ordered that he do something” has the verb “to do” in the subjunctive, just as the Arabic would.

If you are producing Arabic and do not now whether to use أنْ or أنَّ , ask yourself what would be the case in English. If your English sentence uses “that” as in “We discovered that the Emperor has no clothes,” then أنْ is called for in Arabic. If, on the other hand, the sentence calls for “to” as in “We wish to give the Emperor some clothes,” then أنْ will most likely be called for in Arabic. Additionally, if the English sentences requires “that” followed by the subjunctive as in “We demand that she take off the Emperor’s clothes,” then أنْ will once again be called for. The rules in this paragraph apply almost always. Seldom will this method ever fail you.

One final note about أنْ . أنْ and the subjunctive verb which follows it can always be replaced by the verbal noun of that verb. For example:

1. He intended to study Arabic.

١. نوى أَنْ يَدْرُسَ العربيةَ.

2. He intended to study Arabic.

١. نوى دراسةَ العربيةَ.


We can replace أَنْ يَدْرُسَ with the verbal noun of درس which is دراسةَ The verbal noun will be in the accusative case in this sentence because it is the object of the verb. The meaning will stay the same.


You should realize that this use of the verbal noun parallels the substitution of the verbal noun for the subjunctive used with لِ as was discussed in Chapter One of Part II. The difference is that both أَنْ and the subjunctive verb are replaced by the verbal noun. In constructions using لِ and the subjunctive verb, the verb is replaced by its verbal noun, but the لِ remains. To clarify and refresh your memory, look at the examples below.

1.He wants to go to Jordan.

١. يُريدُ أَنْ يذهبَ الى الاردن.

2.He wants to go to Jordan.

٢. يريد الذهابَ الى الاردن.

3.He wants to read a newspaper every day.

٣. يريد قراءة جريدةٍ كل يوم.

4.He studied the Quran in order to understand Islam.

٤. دَرَسَ القرآن ليَفْهَمَ الاسلامَ.

5.He studied the Quran to understand Islam.

٥. دَرَسَ القرآن لفَهْمِ الاسلامَ.

6. He studied the Quran to understand something about Islam

٦. دَرَسَ القرآن لفَهْمِ شيءٍ عن الاسلامَ.






Sentences one and two demonstrate again that the verbal noun replaces both أنْ and the subjunctive verb. Also, they show that the verbal noun is going to be definite when it replaces a verb, as was discussed in Chapter Two of Part II. Sentence three shows an exception to the verbal noun’s being made definite. Here it is used in an indefinite idaafa. This was also discussed in Chapter Two of Part II.

Sentences four, five, and six show لِ used with a subjunctive verb, and with the verbal noun of that verb. In sentence five, the verbal noun is definite (in this case because it is in a definite idaafa). In sentence six, the verbal noun is indefinite because it is being used in an indefinite idaafa. Again, this was discussed in detail in Chapter Two of Part II.

The rule should be clear now. When a verbal noun is written in place of the subjunctive verb, that verbal noun will usually be made definite. It will only be indefinite when there is a need to put it into an indefinite idaafa. In addition, do not forget that both أنْ and the verb are replaced by the verbal noun. However, in constructions using لِ plus a subjunctive verb, the subjunctive verb alone is replaced. The لِ remains.


Also note that sometimes this substitution can be done with أنَّ but not always. For example, أخبرني بأنه فقد كتابه can be changed to اخبرني بفقدانِه كتابَهُ However, sometimes this cannot be done. Usually the context will tell you this.

5 comments… add one
  • When must one add the particle “ب” to the particle “أنْ”, as you have done in this sentence?
    يطالب المجاهدون بأنْ تُسحب القوات الاجنبية.

  • Aziza,

    Sorry if this appears twice. The first time I got an error message when I posted the answer.

    The answer to your question is on this very page. Read the paragraph above that beings with “Look at the third sentence.”

  • This paragraph is a bit confusing-

    “If you are producing Arabic and do not now whether to use أنْ or أنَّ , ask yourself what would be the case in English. If your English sentence uses “that” as in “We discovered that the Emperor has no clothes,” then أنْ is called for in Arabic. If, on the other hand, the sentence calls for “to” as in “We wish to give the Emperor some clothes,” then أنْ will most likely be called for in Arabic.”

    Shouldn’t one be أنّ and the other أنْ?

    • Nazim. Yes. It is correct in the hard copy, but the re-keyed soft copy still has a fair number of typos. In the first case أنّ (with a shadda) is the one to use. In the second case أنْ should have the sukuun.

  • I couldn’t say more than Jazakumullahu kheyran for removing stars from my sight! Phew! I have studying Arabic online for the past 3 months and this has been the best place to clarify all my questions! Subhanallah! How did you know all these questions that you have demystified are the questions that were on my mind! (Smiles)

    Wallah, I dont know how i got to this page, it was mercy from Allah before I do my final exams! Jannatul firdaus Is What I ask Allah to grant you. ?Thank you thank you thank you A zillion time for this. Wallah i have no words! You are the best teacher that I have never met!


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