A: The Noun-Adjective Phrase

Up until now we have worked with sentences such as:

هذا كتابٌ.

هذا الكتابُ جديدٌ.

كتابُ المدرسِ جديدٌ.


The sentences you have learned to deal with have grown a little in complexity. However, you have not yet studied how to modify a noun with an adjective. In this section of this lesson you will learn how to do so.

Contemplate the following sentences.


١.هذا كتابٌ جديدٌ.

٢. هذا الكتابُ الجديدُ عن التاريخ.

٣. كتابُ المدرسِ الجديدُ في المكتب.

٤. كتابُ المدرسِ الجديدِ في المكتب.

The first sentence means “This is a new book.” Here جديدٌ modifies كتابٌ. Note that both كتابٌ and جديدٌ are masculine, singular, indefinite, and are both in the nominative with nunation.

The second sentence means “This new book is about history.” In this sentence : الجديدُ modifies الكتابُ. Note that here the noun and the adjective are both masculine, singular, definite, and are both in the nominative case with no nunation. There is a message here somewhere. Now, we will replace كتاب in the two sentences with مقالة which means “article” as in a newspaper or academic article. The first two sentences will now become:

هذه مقالةٌ جديدةٌ.

, هذه المقالةُ الجديدةُ عن التاريخ.

In both sentences, هذا as been changed to هذه. I hope I do not have to explain this. Now, in both sentences you see that the adjective is now feminine and that all else remains the same with respect to agreement between the noun and the adjective. The message should be sinking in about now. Just in case, here are the rules of agreement between nouns and adjectives.

1. Agreement in gender.

2. Agreement in number (more will be said about this one in chapter 5.)

3. Agreement in definiteness or indefiniteness.

4. Agreement in case.

Never forget that a definite noun must be modified by an adjective which is also definite. Thus الكتابُ الجديدُ is a phrase “the new book” but الكتابُ جديدٌ is a sentence “The book is new.”

In our third model sentence above we have a definite idaafa followed by an adjective. Most of the time only one term of an idaafa will be modified by an adjective. Usually the term modified will be the last term, but not always. In our model sentence we know that الجديدُ modifies the first term of the idaafa because both words are in the nominative case. The sentence should be translated as “The teacher’s new book is in the office.”

If we changed the case of the adjective to the genitive we would be modifying the second term of the idaafa. This is what has happened in model sentence four. It should be translated as “The new teacher’s book (the book of the new teacher) is in the office.” However, since the case endings are not usually written, when you are reading a text you will have to decide which word is being modified on the basis of context. Usually, you will find that only the last term of an idaafa is modified. But this is not always the case. Sometimes number and gender can be clues. For example: مقالة المدرس الجديدة. Here we know that the first term of the idaafa is being modified because it and the adjective are feminine

On occasion you will even find that more than one term is modified. Look at the examples below

1. The new president of the American company

١. رئيسُ الشركةِ الامريكيةِ الجديدُ

2. The new student of the American university

٢. طالبُ الجامعةِ الامريكيةِ الجديدُ

3. The new student (f) of the American university

٣. طالبةُ الجامعةِ الامريكيةِ الجديدةُ

4. The student (f) of the new American university

٤. طالبةُ الجامعةِ الامريكيةِ الجديدةِ



When more than one term is modified, the last term is modified first and the first term is modified last. The idaafas in the examples above all have just two terms. The second term is modified in each case by the word الامريكية Then in examples one through three, جديد or جديدة modifies the first term. In idaafas one and two, we really don’t need the case endings because the gender tells us what is being modified. In idaafas three and four, the case determines what is modifying what. Again, these case endings are almost never written, so you’ll sometimes have to rely on context and common sense.

10 responses to “A: The Noun-Adjective Phrase”

  1. pass pass Avatar
    pass pass

    I think the third sentence is wrong and in fact reads “The new teacher’s book is in the book”.

    1. Jim Avatar

      مكتب does not mean “book.”

  2. أحلام Avatar

    Are you talking about “. كتابُ المدرسِ الجديدُ في امكتب”? Yes, it’s missing the ل that “المكتب” is supposed to have.

  3. Jim Avatar

    The word should be المكتب. In this on-line version the ل is missing.

  4. mattbussey Avatar

    It’s correct now. Thanks for the notifications.

  5. Nicolás Avatar

    ١. رئيسُ الشركةِ الامريكيةِ الجديدَ
    shouldnt end with ُ

  6. Jim Avatar


    رئيسُ الشركةِ الامريكيةِ الجديدُ is how it should be for the meaning intended and it is rendered that way in the hard-copy version of the book. I’ll try to make the change here on line.

  7. Student13 Avatar

    What about a detailed description of Case Agreement? How do adjectives change when case change occurs? I mean regular, diptotic, irregular and -in adjectives. And other if there are such.

  8. Mohammed Avatar

    The third and fourth sentences are exactly the same–there is no difference

  9. Pete Avatar

    ٣. كتابُ المدرسِ الجديدُ في المكتب In the proceeding example, could someone explain why the adjective الجديدُ and the noun it describes كتابُ don’t agree in definiteness (or indefiniteness). Is it something to do with the idaafa?

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