In arabic nouns can have 3 possible case endings. Meaning they can end with either a dumma (nominative case), fat-ha (accusative case) or kasra(genitive case) (or ون and ين in the case of sound masculine plurals). Important note: I have stopped transliterating the arabic words in the article and future articles, partly because it is more work but more importantly you should be literate by now and if not then you need to sit down and get comfortable with the arabic alphabet. I’ll always include the vowel signs as that is crucial and helpful.
Nominative: When the noun is the subject of the sentence (i.e. the one carrying out the action).
Genitive: When the noun comes after a preposition and when possession is denoted.
Accusative: When the noun is being acted on. Or when the nominative and genitive case can’t be used.
Let’s use an example in Arabic to help illustrate this:
أَطْعَمَ الرَّجُلُ الْقِطَّ
The man fed the cat.
The man is the subject and is doing the action and therefore is in the nominative case so the arabic word ends with a dumma. The cat is the object and has the action done to it, so it ends with a fat-ha.
ذَهَبَ الوَلَدُ إلى الْمَدَرَسَةِ
The boy went to the school.
Here the boy is the subject and ends with dumma. The school is the object of the boy’s action but it ends with a kasra because it comes directly after the preposition “to”, so is written in the genitive case.
Because the declension of the nouns indicates the relationship of the words to each other, word order is not important in arabic. Let’s rearrange our first example to illustrate this: أَطْعَمَ الْقِطَّ الرَّجُلُ
This sentence still reads as “The man fed the cat” as indicated by their declensions rather than the word order.
Not every word will decline with a dumma in the nominative, a fat-ha in the accusative and a kasra in the genitive. The form of the case ending (declension) changes depending what the last letter is. There are 5 types of decelnsion forms. It’s easier to learn with examples. All meanings of the words are given in the vocabulary list at the end of the of this lesson.
These are words that end with ة.
Words like قَرْيَةٌ are “fully inflected” meaning that in each case there is a different ending. There are also words which are partially inflected meaning that in different cases can have the same ending. For Type 1 this applies to proper nouns such as city names.
So in both the accusative and genitive case مَكَّةَ has the same fat-ha ending. Another point is that because these are proper nouns, they are definite in meaning even without the اَلْ. So adjectives following proper nouns should be definite also.
This includes most nouns and adjectives but there are two special points with this type:
1) An alif is added to the end of the word in the accusative case.
رَجُلًا = a man
2)Some words are fully inflected when definite, but partially inflected (same forms for accusative and genitive) when indefinite.
These are words that end with -in (double kasra) for the indefinite nominative (remember that normally the ending would -un, double dumma). Most of these words have و or ي as the last radical in their roots.
Note the different endings of the accusative compared with the nominative or genitive (which are the same):
This consists of words that end with ا ً(-an) or ى ً(-an). They don’t change for case, but lose tanwīn when definite.
|nom., acc., gen.||عَصَاً||الْعَصَا|
|nom., acc., gen.||قُرَىً||الْقُرَى|
Finally these are words that end with ا َand ى َ(-ā). These type of words don’t change for case whether indefinite or definite.
|nom., acc., gen.||بُشْرَى||الْبُشْرَى|
|nom., acc., gen.||دُنْيَا||الدُّنْيَا|
Summary of points
This article focused on the declension of singular nouns and the declension of plural nouns will be covered in a future article InshaaAllah.
In Arabic the relationship of the nouns to each other in a sentence (the doer of an action and the one receiving the action) is determined by the vowel that the noun ends (rather than word order as in English) in which could be dumma (in the case of a doer of the action aka the nominative case), fat-ha (in the case of the one receiving the action aka the accusative case) or kasra (if preceded by a preposition or is the second word of an idaafa aka the genitive case). In the indefinite forms these vowels would be doubled as tanwīn.
And of course not every noun can be declined in all 3 cases. There are fully-declinable words, partially declinable, only fully-declinable when definite, and non-declinable words whatever the situation. These essentially just have to be memorised and of course the types are the general patterns to ease that memorisation.
|جَارِيَةٌ||جَوَارٍ||ship, young woman|
Translate the following questions to English. The numbers in square brackets is where the phrase occurs in the Quran.
1) أَنَا نَذِيرٌ [29:50]
2) أَنْتَ الْعَزِيزُ [5:118]
3) ُهُوَ اللَّطِيف [67:14]
4) هِيَ بَيْضَاءُ [7:108]
5) هُوَ أَبْيَضُ
6) أَنْتُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ [2:132]
7) جَنَّةٌ عَالِيَةٌ [69:22]
8) أَنْتُمُ ٱلْفُقَرَاءُ [35:15]
9) هُمْ مُسْلِمُونَ [27:81]
10) نَحْنُ فِتْنَةٌ [2:102]
If you need to learn about arabic pronouns first then go here to get a quick lesson on them.^^
Do you want a really good comprehensive arabic grammar book to self-study with? Then I recommend getting the New Arabic Grammar of the Written Language from Amazon because it is simple, has great exercises and includes over 4000 words of the Arabic language!