A: The Little Words No One Ever Learns But Which Are Very Important

This section is intended for use as a reference and for occasional perusal. The number of words and phrases included below could easily be expanded considerably. As you read the language more you will come across many items similar to those below. Little words and phrases such as these are a key ingredient in developing fluency. Here is a list of the items discussed in this chapter.

1.  The Uses of ما

2.  لا

3.  قّبْلّ أنْ and بَعْدَ أَنْ

4.  بَيْدَ أَنْ

5.  لابُدَّ مِنْ

6.  حَيْثُ

7.  رَغْمَ

8.  سَواءً كانَ

9.  على أَنْ

10.  كَ And Its Uses

11.  كادَ

12.  كَم

13.  قَدْ

14.  لَم يَعُدْ

15.  ما لَبِثَ

16.  إلا

17.  مُنْذُ

18.  مَعَ أَنَّ

19.  أَمّا . . . فَ

20.  إِمّا

21.  الأمرُ ألَّذي

22. بغَضّ النَّظَر عن and بِ صَرْفِ النَّظَر عن

23. ئذٍ

24.  يَجبُ أَنْ

1.  The Uses of ما

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ما is a very commonly used word in MSA and has a multitude of meanings. Unless you are familiar with the variety of the meanings and uses of this word, you are apt to err in your comprehension from time to time. First, I will review the uses of ما you have already seen in this text. Then, I will take you through the word’s other meanings.

ما is used as a question word meaning “what” in equational sentences. You saw this in Part I of this text in sentences such as ما اسمك , ما هذا , etc.

On the other hand, ماذا is used as a question word in sentences using verbs such as ماذا شربتَ في المطعم.

You have also seen that ما can be used to negate the past tense. So you will see ما درستُ“I did not study.” ما is also used to negate the result clause of conditional sentences which use لو as in لو عرفتُ أنْ المراسل ابله لما تكلمت معه.

In Chapter Five of Part II, you saw that ما can be used as a relative pronoun when the antecedent is not mentioned. For example, the well-known novel by Ghassan Kanafani entitled ما تبقّى لكم uses ما in this way. The title of the book means “What You Have Left” (literally “What Remains To You”). How would you translate the following: علّم الانسانَ ما لم يَعْلَمْ ? See the Quran, Sura 96, v. 5.

Now we come to uses of ما which have not been covered in this text.

ما can be written after a noun to give the noun the meaning of “some” as in “some house” or “some person.” The former is بيتٌ ما the latter is شخصٌ ما . The noun will always be indefinite with nunation and can be in any case required by the sentence. See below..

 1. Some professor addressed us about the Middle East.
١. أستاذٌ ما خاطبنا عن الشرق الاوسط.
 2. I read that piece of news in some book.
٢. قرأتُ ذبك الخبر في كتابٍ ما.


So beware of ما coming right after a noun.

ما often combines with other little words to form idiomatic expressions. For example ما أنْ is used to mean “no sooner … than . . .”. Look at the sentence below.

 No sooner had Samiir sat down in his chair than the police entered and took him to prison.
ما أن جلس سمير على كرسيه حتى دخلت الشرطة واخذته الى السجن.


Notice that أَنْ is followed by a past tense verb and that the sentence is completed with a clause using حتى also followed by the past tense. If أنْ is followed by a subjunctive verb the phrase means “as soon as .” For example:

 As soon as the professor enters the class, he writes words of wisdom on the board.
ما أن يدخل الاستاذ الصف حتى يكتب كلمات الحكمة على اللوح.


ما can be followed by the word مِنْ with the meaning “there is no” or there is not.” For example:

 There is no language more beautiful than Arabic.
 ما من لغةٍ اجملُ من العربية.


ما من is often replaced by ليس هناك or لا يُوجَدُ , both of which mean the same thing.

The word ما is also used with من in a different way and with a very different meaning. Scrutinize the following example:

 What I have read of his books has benefited me a great deal.
 ما قرأتُه من كتبه افادني كثيرا.


In the Arabic sentence above, ما is being used as a relative pronoun just as we have seen before. The word مِنْ here means “with respect to” and is often used this way with ما. Usually when ما is used with مِنْ in this way you will find the pronoun suffix هُ (the عائد used with ما if you recall from Chapter Five of Part II) attached to the verb.ما can have the word مِنْ written before it but attached to it. The result is مِمّا .مِمّا means “which” and can refer to one or more things which are not specifically spelled out by the speaker or writer. Usually مِمّا has an entire sentence or clause as its antecedent, or one or more things from that sentence. For example:

 Indeed there are dangers which threaten the basis upon which the United Nations stands which imposes upon all those who believe in this organization to come together to defend it.
فإنّ هناك اخطارا تُهَدَّدُ الاساس الذي تقوم عليه الاممُ المتحدة مِمَّا يفرض على جميع الذين يُؤمِنونَ بهذه المنظمة . . . أنْ يجتمعوا الآن للدفاع عنها.


The sentence above is taken from Gamal Abd Al-Nasir’s address before the United Nations in 1960. I have given you a literal translation so that you can follow easily. In fact, this sentence has a lot of grammar in it. But the point I want you to see here is that مِمّا refers to the existence of اخطار and to the fact that these اخطار. are a threat to the United Nations. The verb يفرض has مِمّا as its subject. The verb is masculine singular because the word ما used as a relative pronoun is always considered to be masculine singular. مِمّا is referring to the entire clause which precedes it and not to any (one) particular word.

You will see مِمّا used a great deal, especially in editorials and opinion pieces. It just means “which.” By the way, do you understand the rest of the grammar (you can, of course, look up the words, but that is not important here) of the sentence taken from President Nasir’s speech? You have had all of the grammar that is in the sentence.

مِمّا can be replaced by the phrase الامرُ الذي, which has the same meaning and the same usage.

The phrase بما في ذلك occurs very often in newspaper Arabic. It means “including” and appears in sentences such as the following:

 We support the idea of holding an international conference which all the parties concerned with the issue will attend, including the Palestine Liberation Organization.
 نؤيد فكرة عقد مؤتمر دولي يحضره كل الاطراف المعنية بالقضية بما فيها منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية.


In the sentence above, the word ذلك is replaced with the pronoun suffix ها which refers to الاطراف Often, ذلك will be replaced with an appropriate pronoun suffix.

Another great combination using ما is ما لم which means “as long as not.” For example:

 You will never understand Arabic as long as you do not study every day.
 لن تفهَم اللغة العربية ما لم تدرس كل يوم.


Students seem to have trouble understanding ما لم even though it is in the Hans Wehr dictionary.

ما دام means “as long as.” The verb دام, يدوم means “to last.” When combined with ما we get “as long as” in sentences such as the following:

 He has enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I am alive. (Quran, 19:31)
 أوصاني بالصلاة والزكاة ما دُمْتُ حياً.


In the section on the conditional (Chapter Seven of Part II), I mentioned a few words to which ما is added which then work as conditional particles. For example مهما “whatever”, كلما “whenever” and “the more …,” and أينما “wherever.” Whenever you see such a word with ما attached, the ما will usually add “ever” to the word’s meaning. Usually, the fourth edition of Wehr will list this meaning under the meaning for the word to which ما is attached. The third edition does sometimes, but as not as much.

ما is often combined with an elative adjective which is used as if it were a verb. Such an elative turned verb is called in some texts a “verb of wonder” or an “adjectival verb.” Go into rapture over the sentences below.

 1. How noble this student is!
 ١. ما أكْرَمَ هذا الطالبَ.
 2. How beautiful Fairuz’s voice is!
 ٢. ما أجْمَلَ صوتَ فيروز.
 3. How stupid this correspondent is!
 ٣. ما اغبى هذه المراسلة.
 4. How noble they are!

 ٤. ما أكْرَمَهُم.


The adjective turned verb is always masculine singular and the noun after them is always accusative. You can create such a construction using the elative of just about any adjective for which there is an elative form.

There are other uses of ما. In my opinion, these are the main ones. The entry in Wehr under ما will give a few others, so if you see ما being used and you do not understand the sentence or the clause, check here and in Wehr and you should be able to figure out the meaning.

2.  لا

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لا means “no” and is used to answer a yes or no question. It is also used to negate the present tense. For example, لا تدرسُ اللغة العربيةَ, “You do not study Arabic.”

لا is used with the jussive to give negative commands. لا تدرسْ اللغة العربيةَ means “Do not study Arabic.” لا can also be used with سوف and the present tense to negate the future. سوف لا تدرس اللغة العربيةَ means “You will not study Arabic.”

لا is also used with nouns, as in the following: لا طالب في هذا الصف “There are no students in this classroom.” The noun after لا is singular, indefinite, and accusative. You no doubt have heard the expression لا إله إلا الله “There is no god but God.” This used of لا is called absolute negation.

Lately, لا has been put into compound form with various nouns, usually to produce a term for a concept, often with philosophical meaning. For example, لا شيء can just mean “nothing” or it can meaning “nothingness” as a concept. You will find a number of these sorts of terms under لا in Hans Wehr. (Although, Wehr uses لا شيئية for “nothingness.”) When used in this way, لا can itself be made definite as in اللاوعي. “the unconscious.” Usually students miss what is going on the first time they see such a construction.

You will also see لا used in a number of set phrases such as لا شَكْ (“no doubt”), لابُدَّ من (“inevitable, necessary”), and لا سيَّما (“especially”). Many of these phrases can be found in Wehr under the entry for لا.

3.  قَبْلَ أَنْ and بَعْدَ أَنْ

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بَعْدَ أَنْ can be followed either by a verb in the subjunctive or by a verb in the past tense. Note the difference in meaning between the two sentences below.

 1. After he learns Arabic, he will go to the Middle East.
 ١. بعد أنْ يتعلم العربية يذهبُ الى الشرق الاوسط.
 2. After learning (having learned) Arabic, he went to the Middle East.

٢. بعد أنْ تعلم العربية ذهب الى الشرقا الوسط.


When بعد أنْ is followed by the past tense, the meaning is usually “after having done” something. When followed by the subjunctive, it has present or future meaning.

قبلَ أنْ works a bit differently. It is always followed by the subjunctive. The meaning can be past or future depending on context. For example:

 1. He went to Cairo before studying (before he studied) Arabic.

 ١. ذهب الى القاهرة قبل أنْ يدرس العربية.

 2. He is going to Cairo before studying (before he studies) Arabic.

 ٢. يذهب الى القاهرة قبل أنْ يدرس العربية.


The key to the difference in meaning of the two Arabic sentences is the tense used in the first clause of each sentence. The verb after قبل أنْ must always be in the subjunctive.

Sometimes you will see ما used instead of أنْ for both قبل and بعد. However, the same rules will apply to both words when used with ما as are applied to them when they use أنْ .

4.  بَيْدَ أَنَّ

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بَيْدَ أَنَّ means “although” or “however” as in the sentence below.

 The parliament drew up the new constitution however the King has said that it is not practical.
 البرلمان أقرَّ الدستور الجديد بيدَ أنَ الملك أعلن انه غير عمليّ.

5.  لابُدَّ من

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The phrase literally means “There is no escape from (something).” It is normally translated as “inevitable” or by “must”. For example:

 1. Arabic must be studied.
 ١. لابدَّ من دراسة العربية.
 2.Appreciation of Fayruz’s talent is inevitable.
 ٢. تقدير موهبة “فيروز” شيءٌ لابدَ منه.


Sometimes لابد من is combined with أنْ and a verb following in the subjunctive to give the meaning of “it was inevitable that” or “he had to” as in:

 He had to complete all of his lessons.
 كان لابدَ من أنْ يُكْمِلَ كل دروسه.

6.  حَيْثُ

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The word حَيْثُ means “where” as a relative adverb.

 We traveled to Lebanon where we studied religious toleration, and then to the former Yugoslavia where we witnessed its application in a western environment.
 سافرنا الى لبنان حيثُ درسنا التسامح الديني وثُمَّ الى يوغوسلافيا السابقة حيثُ شاهدنا تطبيقه في جو غربي.


حيثُ is used in combination with the prepositions بِ and مِنْ and also with أَنَّ . These combinations affect the meaning and are quite common.بِحيثُ means “in such a manner that” or “so that.” Below is a typical example.

 The king tyrannized the people in such a manner that they rebelled against him.
 طغى الملك على الناس بحيث ثاروا عليه.


بِحيثُ is a very common combination, so be on the look out for it. Note that the dhamma on حيثُ remains even when it is preceded by a preposition.

منْ حيثُ means “with respect to” or “with regard to” in phrases such as من حيث دراسةُ العربية “with regard to the study of Arabic.”

,مِنْ حيثُ can also mean “from where” or “whence.”

حيثُ أنَّ means “because,” “since,” or “due to the fact that.” It can usually be replaced by لأنَّ.

 Due to the fact that the mayor of the city is an idiot, the city has become a laughingstock.
 حيثُ أنّ عُمدة المدينة ابله فقد اصبحت المدينة مسخرة.

7.  رَغْمَ

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رَغْمَ means “despite” and comes in various forms such as على الرغْم , بالرغْم من أنّ , بالرغم من ,برغم من and على الرغمِ من أنّ . All of these essentially mean the same thing. There are a couple of differences in usage which should be made clear by what is below.

 1. Despite the beauty of the Arabic language, some students say that it is hard.
١. رغْمَ (برغْمِ)(بالرغْمِ من) جمال اللغة العربية فبعض الطلاب يقولون إنها صعبة.
 2. Despite the fact that the Arabic language is beautiful, some students say that it is hard.
٢. رغْمَ (برغْمِ)(بالرغْمِ من) أنّ اللغة العربية جميلة فبعض الطلاب يقولون إنها صعبة.


Normally, when أنّ is used with these phrases, the phrases are translated as “despite the fact that” such and such is the case. When أنّ is not used the phrases are translated as “despite.” Whether or not أنّ is used affects the word choice and syntax of the Arabic sentence, just as would be the case in English. When أنّ is not used, we get a sentence which tells us “despite the something of something,” as in , رغم جمال اللغة “despite the beauty of the language.” When أنّ is used we get a sentence that tells us “despite the fact that something is something,” as in رغم أنّ اللغة العربية جميلة “despite the fact that the Arabic language is beautiful.”

The second clause of such sentences is usually preceded by فَ

8.  سَواءً كانَ

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This phrase means “whether … or.”

 The study of foreign languages is beneficial, whether in high school or in university.
 دراسة اللغات الاجنبية مفيدة سواءً كانت في المدرسة الثانوية ام في الجامعة.


When كان is used with سواء it can be translated as either past tense or present depending on the context ,since the verb is being used as if it were in a conditional sentence.

9.  على أنْ

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على أنْ means “on the condition that” or “provided that.”

 You will understand Arabic provided that you study every day.
 ستفهم اللغة العربية على أنْ تدرسَ كل يوم.


This little phrase occurs surprisingly often and is usually misunderstood by students. It is in the Hans Wehr under على

10.  كَ And Its Uses

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كَ means “like” or “as.” Often it can be used just as the noun مِثل , but it has other uses. كَ works as a preposition so any noun following it must be in the genitive.

 Studying here is like studying in any large university.
 الدراسة هنا كالدراسةِ في أي جامعة كبيرة.


كَ can also mean “as” in the sense of “in the capacity of.”

 As an expert on the Middle East, he was invited to talk to the president.
 كَخبيرٍ في الشرق الاوسط دُعِيَ ليتكلم مع الرئيس


كَ is often combined with ما means “as” in the sense of “likewise.” In can also mean “just as,” depending on the context.

 1. He talked about his love for Arabic and likewise mentioned his experiences in the Arab universities in which he studied.
١. تكلم عن حبه للعربية كما ذكر تجاربه في الجامعات العربية التي درس فيها.
 2. We read the Quran just as the ancients read it.
٢. نقرأ القرآن كما قرأه القدماء.


Notice that كما is always followed by a verb. If it is to be followed by a noun or pronoun, it must be followed by أن .

 We read the Quran just as the ancients read it.
 نقرأ القرآن كما أن القدماء قرأوه.


Finally, ك can be combined with أن with the meaning of “as if.”

 She sins as if she were an angel.
 تُغني كَأنَّها مَلَكٌ.


The usage of ك with أنَّ is very common.

11.  كادَ

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The hollow verb يكادُ , كادَ means “to be on the verge of something. Look at the sentence below.

 We almost went to the Gulf.
 كِدْنا نذهبُ الى الخليج.


Normally, كاد is used in the past tense with a following verb in the imperfect, as you see above. In such sentences . كاد is usually translated as “almost.” Sometimes أنْ is inserted between كاد and the imperfect verb. The imperfect verb will then be in the subjunctive. There is no change in meaning.

When negated in the past tense with ما, or in the jussive with لم , the meaning is something like “barely to have done something,” “almost not to have done something,” or “scarcely to have been able to do something.”

 I almost did not do it.
 ما كدتُ (لم أَكِدْ) أَفْعَلُه.


كاد is sometimes used in the imperfect tense as in the sentences below.

 She (or you) almost understands the subject.
 تكادُ تفهم الموضوع.
 She (or you) scarcely understands the subject.

لا تكاد تفهم الموضوع.


كاد is also used idiomatically when negated with ما or with ما كاد , لم and لم يَكَدْ mean “no sooner … than.” Examine the sentence below.

No sooner had the correspondent arrived in Kuwait, than Iraq launched an attack against her.
 ما كاد المراسل يصل الى الكويت حتى شن العراق هجومها عليها.


In the sentence above, ما كاد is followed by the subject and then by a verb in the imperfect indicative. The second clause is preceded by حتى which is then followed by a verb in the past tense. This is the usual arrangement. ما كاد can be replaced by لم يَكَدْ with no change in meaning. ما كاد can even be replaced by ما أَنْ with no change in meaning. However ما أنْ must be followed by a verb.

Do not confuse . يَكادُ , كاد with the verb يَكيدُ , كادَ which means “to deceive.”

12.  كَم

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The discussion below is an abridgment of the presentation presented in Wright, Volume II, pages 125-127.

كم is most often used with the meaning of “how much?” or “how many?”. It is followed by a singular noun in the accusative with nunation. For example, كم ساعة درست اليوم ؟ “How many hours did you study today?” If the noun is question is followed by a verb or an adjective, the verb will be singular and the adjective will be singular and accusative with nunation. For example, كم مندوبا عربيا حضر المؤتمر ؟ “How many Arab delegates attended the conference?”

The accusative used with كم in the examples above is considered to be a form of the accusative of specification, the تمييز (The accusative of specification is treated in Chapter 6 of Part II.) So the first question above really means “How long, with respect to hours, did you study today?” The second question is “How many, with respect to Arab delegates, attended the conference?”.

You will also see كم used in sentences such as the following: كم عُمْرُك ؟ and كم مُرَتَّبُكَ ؟ . The first question means “How old are you?” The second is “How much is your salary?” Here the noun following كم is in the nominative instead of the accusative. The accusative noun, called the مُمَيِّز , has been omitted from these sentences. Sentence one is short for كم سنة عمرُك؟. Sentence two is short for كم دولارا مرتبُك؟. In a similar vein, كم may be followed by a verb, as in كم قرأتَ؟ “How much did you read?”.

كم can also be used in an exclamatory way, as in “How many books I have read!”. When used this way, كم is often followed by مِنْ. For example: كم من كتابٍ قرأتُ. The مِن can be left out, but the noun after كم will remain genitive, as in كم كتابٍ قرأتُ. When , كم is used this way, the plural of the noun is sometimes used instead of the singular.

13.  قَدْ

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قد has two basic uses. The first is with a verb in the imperfect. When followed by an imperfect verb, قد means “may” or “might.”

 The teacher might kill his students if he discovers that they are not prepared for class.
 قد يقتل الاستاذ طلابه إذا اكتشف انهم ليسوا مستعدين للصف.


To negate such a sentence, insert لا between قد and the verb.

قد is also used with the perfect. When followed by a perfect tense verb, .s can mean “already,” “had,” or merely be an intensifier which is best left untranslated. Look at the sentence below.

 Mahmoud had (has) studied in Cairo.
 قد درس محمود في القاهرة.


In the above sentence, the translation depends on the context in which the sentence occurs. If we want to say that Mahmoud does not want to return to Cairo because he has studied there, we would say:

لا يريد محمود أنْ يرجع الى القاهرة لانه قد درس هناك.

But if we want to say that he did not want to return to Cairo because he had (already) studied there, we would change the verb in the first clause to the perfect tense (or use لم and the jussive).قد would then be translated as “had.”

لم يرد محمود أنْ يرجع الى القاهرة لانه قد درس هناك.


Often قد can start a sentence which has a direct connection to the preceding sentence. When this is the case, قد is usually preceded by فَ . For example:

Mahmoud did not want to return to Cairo. He had studied there before.
لم يرد محمود أنْ يرجع الى القاهرة. فقد درس هناك من قبل.


قد is also used in compound tenses after كان . This use of قد is mentioned in the section on كان in Chapter One of Part I.

14.  لم يَعُدْ

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The verb يعود , عاد “to return” is used idiomatically with the negative particle لم . to mean “no longer.” The combination لم يَعُدْ is usually followed by a verb in the imperfect. For example:

 1. He was surprised and could no longer say anything.
 ١. إندهش ولم يعد يستطيع ان يقول شيئا.
 2. She no longer went to school.
 ٢. لم تَعُدْ تذهبُ الى المدرسة.


This idiomatic usage occurs frequently in media Arabic – so look out for it.

15.  ما لَبِثَ

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The verb لَبِثَ means “to hesitate.” It is used idiomatically with ما and لم to mean “it was not long before.” The verb لَبِثَ is conjugated for the appropriate person. See the example below.

 Suzanne studied Arabic and it was not long before she spoke it fluently.
 درست سوزان اللغة العربية وما لَبِثَتْ (لم تَلْبَثْ) أنْ تكلمت بها بِطلاقةٍ.


In the Arabic sentence above, أنْ is followed by a verb in the past tense. أنْ can be replaced by حتى with no change in meaning.

16.  إلاّ

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إلاّ is a combination of لا and إنْ . It means “except” in sentences such as “I understand everything about Arabic except the grammar, vocabulary, and syntax..” Normally إلا is used in a negative sentence. Study the example below.

 No one reads this paper except for young people.
 لا يقرأ احدٌ هذه الجريدة إلا الشبابُ.


Look at the case on the word الشبابُ The word is in the nominative, since it would have been the subject of the verb if not for the construction using إلا. In a negative sentence, the word after إلا takes whatever case it would have had otherwise. Here is another example:

 1. I did not desire anything except the study of Arabic.
 ١. لم ارغب في شيءٍ إلا دراسة العربية.
 2. I did not desire (anything) except the study of Arabic.
 ٢. لم ارغب إلا في دراسة العربية.


The two sentences above are different versions of the same thing. The object of the preposition في is in the genitive case. Therefore, دراسة is genitive when coming after إلا in the first sentence, because في is implied again in the sentence after إلا and because without إلا (and شيء) in the sentence, دراسة would be the object of the preposition. في (Some texts will tell you that you have the option of making the noun after إلا accusative in sentences such as the one above irrespective of what case the word would be in otherwise. You will see this variation occasionally.)

When إلا is used in positive sentences, the word after إلا (the thing being excepted) is put into the accusative. For example:

 Everyone reads this paper except young people.
 يقرأ كلُ الناس هذه الجريدة إلا الشباب.


إلا إذا means “unless” and is followed by a verb in the past tense.

 You will not understand Arabic unless you study a great deal.
 سوف لا تتقن اللغة العربية إلا إذا درستَ كثيرا.


17.  مُنْذُ

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مُنْذُ is a contraction of مِنْ and ذو . It is usually translated as “since” or “ago.” When followed by a noun, the noun is in the genitive case.

 1. He studied Arabic a year ago.
 ١. درس العربية منذ سنةٍ.
 2. I have not read my Arabic book since Thursday and I have forgotten everything.
 ٢. لم أقرأ كتابي منذ يوم الخميس وقد نسيت كل شيء


منذ can also be used with the meaning of “for” as in “for a certain period of time.”

 I know that he has been studying Arabic for six years and he does not know the difference between an alif and a minaret.
 أعرف انه يدرس العربية منذ ست سنوات ولا يعرف “الألِف” من المئذنة.


منذ is often followed by a past tense verb and has the meaning of “since.”

 Samiir has loved Arabic since he heard recitation of the Quran for the first time.
 يحب سمير العربية منذ سَمِعَ تلاوة القرآن لاول مرة.


In classical Arabic منذ is often shortened to . مُذْ Occasionally you will see مُذْ in Modern Standard Arabic, but not often.

18.  مع أنَّ

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مع أنَّ means “although” and is used virtually synonymously with رَغْمَ أنَّ and its variations. The second clause is preceded by ف

 Although Arabic is the most beautiful language in the world, some students think it is very difficult.
 مع أنَّ اللغة العربية اجمل لغة في العالم فيعتقد بعض الطلاب أنها صعبة جدا.



19.  أمّا . . . فَ

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The فَ • • • أمّا construction is very common in newspaper Arabic. This type of construction is also called a “topic – comment” construction for reasons which will become clear presently. Frolic with the following example.

 As for the Arabic language, it is considered the most beautiful language in the world.
 أما اللغةُ العربيةُ فَتُعْتَبَرُ اجمل لغةٍ في العالم.


أمّا does not affect the case of the noun which follows. In Modern Standard Arabic that noun will be nominative. The فّ is usually left untranslated.

It is also common for both أما and فَ to be dropped. For example:

 This man we consider as a wager of corruption on Earth.
 هذا الرجل نعتبرهُ مُفسدا في الارض.


20.  إِمّا

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(not to be confused with أمّا), is used for “either … or” constructions in Arabic. It can be followed by a verb in the indicative, or it can be followed by a noun in the nominative. إمّا can also be followed by أنْ plus a verb in the subjunctive, or by أنَّ plus a noun in the accusative. None of these variations will affect the meaning. The second clause is preceded وإمّا or أَوْ . Look at the sentences below.

 1. Either you study Arabic every day,or you will forget everything.
 ١. إمّا تدرسُ اللغة العربية كل يوم وإما (أو) تنسى كل شيء.
 2. Either you study Arabic every day, or you will forget everything.
 ٢. إمّا أنْ تدرسَ العربية كل يوم وإمّا أنْ (أوْ أنْ) تنسى كل شيء.


Both sentences mean the same thing. The second clause in each sentence can be rendered in two different ways, as you can see by the words I have put in parenthesis. In the second sentence, أوْ أنْ is in parenthesis. Sometimes the أنْ will be dropped, leaving just أوْ .

إما can also be used with أنَّ as indicated above. See the sentence below.

 Either the reporter is lying or he is crazy.
 إما أنَّ الراسلَ يكذب وإما أنَّه (او أنَه) مجنون.


The word أنَّ will not disappear from the second clause, unlike أنْ, which sometimes does when used with أَوْ .

21.  الأمرُ الذي

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الامر الذي means “which” when referring to a preceding clause.

هذا القرار ينطوي على خطر الامر الذي يجعل البحث عن حل للقضية واجبا


This phrase is used much the way مِمّا is.

22.  بغَضّ النَّظَر عن and بِ صَرْفِ النَّظَر عن   

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Both of these phrases mean “irrespective of’ or “regardless of.” They are very common in editorials and opinion pieces.

 Irrespective of the importance of Islam in uniting the Arabs, there are other bonds which unite them.
 بصرف النظر عن اهمية الاسلام في توحيد العرب فهناك روابط اخرى تجمع بينهم.


 ئذٍ  .23

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ئذٍ is a suffix attached to words pertaining to time such as ساعة , يوم and وقت . When such a word is attached to ئذٍ, the word is put into the accusative. The meaning is “at that (time).” For example:

 I remember the announcement of the assassination of President John Kennedy. I was in the library of my primary school on that day.
 أتذكر إعلان اغتيال الرئيس جون كندي. كنت يومَئذٍ في مكتبة مدرستي الابتدائية.


24.  يَجبُ أَنْ

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The phrase يجب أنْ is invariably in the masculine singular. It means literally “It is necessary that” but is usually translated by “must.” يجب أنْ is followed by a verb in the subjunctive conjugated for the appropriate person. يجب أنْ أذهبَ means “I must go.”

The phrase is negated with ألاّ which is a combination of أنْ and لا. “I must not go” is يجب ألاّ أذهبَ

If لا is placed before يجب as in لا يجبُ ان تذهبَ. the meaning should be “it is not necessary that you go” (“You do not have to go”). However, sometimes this use of لا is intended to mean “You must not go.” Good luck.

With كان in the masculine singular, يجب أنْ is placed in the past tense. “I had to go” is كان يجب انْ اذهبَ If كان is negated with لم or ما the meaning is “did not have to” do something. لم يكن يجب أن تذهبَ means “You did not have to go.”. However كان يجب ألا تذهبَ means “It was necessary that you not go.” In other words “You should not have gone.”

The preposition على is often used with يجب Look at the following sentence.

 The student must go to school.
 يجب على الطالبة انْ تذهبَ الى المدرسة.


Often على has a pronoun suffix attached to it instead of a noun following in the genitive. “You must go to school” is يجب عليك انْ تذهبَ الى المدرسة

على can even be used without يجب but يجب will be understood. “You must go to school” can be rendered عليك انْ تذهبَ الى المدرسة

As you may know, أنْ and the following subjunctive verb can always be replaced by the verbal noun of that verb. (See the section on أنْ in Chapter Four of Part II.) Therefore, “you must go to school” can be rendered by either يجب عليك الذهابُ الى المدرسة or just by عليك الذهابُ الى المدرسة. . Note that the verbal noun is in the nominative case. It is considered to be the subject of the sentence.



10 responses to “A: The Little Words No One Ever Learns But Which Are Very Important”

  1. Redha Avatar

    Dear author, this is an amazing blog! and I sincerely appreciate your efforts in putting your work for us! Thanks, helped me a lot!

    1. Jim Avatar

      The gentleman who put this blog together deserves the utmost praise. Sorry for our delay in getting back to you.

  2. maryam dar Avatar

    very informative and explanations give clear idea…. jazzak Allah Khairan Kasira

  3. Hayat Avatar

    Simply it is amazing book.. It helps me as an Arab teacher for Arabic Language as second language. This book is teaching me how to explain Arabic grammar for American students the that they can comprehend. Thank you very much for the excellent efforts that I see in this book

  4. Byron Avatar

    Fantastic help and very well-organized, thanks!

    I was hoping to see words like إذ, ذات, هذاك, and ذو on this page; I’ve never seen a good explanation of them. Any recommendations on resources for understanding these little bastards haha?

    1. Khaled Mohamed Avatar

      “bastards” lmao. =P

  5. Khadeeja Avatar

    This website is the coolest!!!! Jazakallahu Khair!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. Ahmad Fouad Avatar
    Ahmad Fouad

    Excellent job. Thank you so much. My question is on the uses of ما . You mentioned that it negates the past tense. It also negates the present, which Koran has quite a few examples. One well-known is at the beginning of Sura al-Najm .. ما ينطق عن الهوى … I was wondering what would be the difference in negating the present with ما instead of لا ? Thank you again.

  7. Islam newspaper Avatar

    Praise is to Allah for the responsiveness, the motivation of this post. May Allah continue to sanctify you in the use of the pen and in other activities.

  8. Faizan khan Avatar

    Masha Allah
    Your work is very simple but is very good.
    Thank you so much for providing books and other things through you

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