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Proper Nouns Definitions

proper noun; name

A proper noun is one which is specifically coined or designated to refer to a particular entity. Names of people, names of places, names of concepts such as theories are all examples of proper nouns. This, in Arabic, is known as علم from the base letters ع، ل، م (to know) because the علم is the علامة (or sign) of an entity by which we refer to it.

All proper nouns are definite.

Secondary Notes

Many names are fully declinable (such as حسنٌ), others have restricted declension (such as فاطمةُ), and certain names are completely indeclinable (such as سيبويهِ). Further discussion on علم is actually quite irrelevant and most rules regarding this type of noun are self-evident.

Personal Pronouns

ضمير ج. ضمائر
personal pronoun
مضمر ج. ـات

A personal pronoun is a noun (اسم) which is used to refer to something that has already been mentioned in some form or another. The reference is either in the third person (“he”, “she”, “they”, “it”, etc), the second person (“you”, etc), or the first person (“I’, “we”, etc). For example:

جاءني زيد. وهو كان يبكي
Zaid came to me. And he was crying.


اعدلوا؛ هو أقرب للتقوى
Be just; it (i.e. being just) is nigh to piety.

The personal pronouns themselves are definite.

The Personal Pronouns in Arabic

Arabic theoretically has 6 sets of pronouns; there are separate sets for the three grammatical states, and in each state, the pronoun may be attached to its agent or it may be isolated from it – ergo 6 sets.



Attached nominative pronouns (مرفوع متصل) are those that are suffixed to verbs; these are the endings of the perfect, imperfect, and imperative verbs we learn in Arabic verb conjugation. If the verb is active, then the attached pronoun is nominative because it is the subject of the verb. If the verb is passive, the pronoun is nominative because it is the deputy subject. If the verb is one of the sisters of كان, then the pronoun is nominative because it is the subject of كان.

If, for some reason, it is not possible to attach a nominative pronoun to its agent, we must then resort to using the unattached version (مرفوع منفصل). This occurs when there is nothing to which we can attach the pronoun, as is the case when it is مبتدأ as in “هو قائم.” This may also occur when there is something to which we can attach it but attachment is not appropriate, as is the case when it follows the particle إلا as in “لم يقم إلا هو”. And there are a few other, more rare cases where this occurs.

Attached accusative pronouns (منصوب متصل) are those that are attached to verbs as their direct objects, as in “ضربته,” or those that are attached to the particles that resemble verbs as their subjects, as in “إنه”.

When it is not possible to attach an accusative pronoun to its agent, we then resort to unattached accusative pronouns (منصوب منفصل). This happens when, for example, the direct object of a verb is brought before the verb and thus can no longer be attached to it. An example of this is “إياك نعبد.” And there are a few other situations where this occurs.

Attached genitive pronouns (مجرور متصل) are those that are مضاف إليه and attached to their مضاف, as in “كتابه”, or those that are objects of a preposition to which they are attached, as in “منه” . As a corollary to this point, notice that any pronoun attached to a noun (an اسم) must be مجرور متصل; why?

In practice, there is no set of genitive unattached personal pronouns. When the need arises to use these, either the nominative or the accusative unattached versions are used.

مجرور متصل
منصوب منفصل
منصوب متصل
مرفوع منفصل
مرفوع متصل

verb suffixes
3rd person, masc. sing.
3rd person, masc. dual
3rd person, masc. pl.
3rd person, fem. sing.
3rd person, fem. dual
3rd person, fem. pl.
2nd person, masc. sing.
2nd person, masc. dual
2nd person, masc. pl.
2nd person, fem. sing.
2nd person, fem. dual
2nd person, fem. pl.
1st person, singular
1st person, non-singular

Things to Note

Notice that the attached pronouns are exactly the same for both the accusative and genitive states. We mention the two sets separately, yet we do not mention the unattached genitive pronouns separately (they are completely omitted). Take a moment to understand what is being said. Now, this is because the attached genitives always share their form with the attached accusatives, but the unattached genitives share their form with the unattached accusatives at times, and with the unattached nominatives at other times. Moreover, the need for unattached genitives is extraordinarily infrequent and it is not worth listing those pronouns separately.

Notice further that the unattached accusatives are simply the attached accusatives prefixed with the إيا placeholder. This makes it very easy to memorize the three columns to the left in the chart above.

Also notice that, for the second person pronouns, the unattached nominatives are the same as the other three tables save that the أن placeholder is prefixed to them and the letter ك is replaced with the letter ت. The endings, however, are exactly the same.

It is very crucial to refer back to the chart when taking note of these things.

Finally, it is important to note that in the nominative pronouns attached to verbs, certain conjugations do not actually have a suffix. Take, for example, فعل, where there is no suffix to the verb. Take, also, both the active and passive participles which, although they have subjects, their subjects are not always visible. This does not mean that the pronoun doesn’t exist; it merely means that it is concealed.


explicitly viewable
concealed within the verb

This phenomenon of pronoun hiding can occur in conjugations 1 & 4 for the perfect verb, in conjugations 1, 4, 7, 13, & 14 for the imperfect verb, in conjugation 1 of the imperatives, and in the active and passive participles.

Interesting Notes

Note 1: If clusters involving pronouns occur, the cluster will be reduced by giving the final letter on the pronoun a ضمة. For example: “همُ المتقون.”

Note 2: If the pronouns ـه, ـهما, ـهم, or ـهن are preceded by a يْ or a كسرة, the vowel on the ه will be a كسرة as opposed to the regular ضمة. Examples include “عليهِم”, “سَلْنيهِ”, “من جلابيبهِن”.

Note 3: If the nominative or genitive 1st person singular pronouns are preceded by an Aleph, as in "نعلاي" (my two sandals), the pronoun ي will be vowelled with a فتحة: "نعلايَ".

Note 4: If the pronoun ـي is appended to a verb, it will be preceded by a نون known as the نون الوقاية. The purpose of this نون is to prevent the verb from receiving a كسرة vowel that the ـي pronoun necessitates before it. One will say, for example, “سألنتمونيها.” This also occurs with certain particles such as in “ليتني”, “منّي”, and “عنّي”.

Note 5: The pronoun أنا has a silent Aleph at its end. The purpose of this Aleph is to show that, if this pronoun were to occur at the end of a sentence, وقف will not occur and the فتحة on the نون will be pronounced.

Note 6: Notice that the first person pronouns do not include a dual version. This is a consequence of the definition of duality in Arabic. Singularity means for there to be one of something, and plurality means for there to be three or more. Duality, on the other hand, means ‘for something to have with it another like it’. Hence the understanding behind كتابان, for example, is كتاب وكتاب (a book and a book). This works perfectly for “him and him” as well as “you and you”, but it does not apply for “me and I” since both refer to the same entity. Hence having a first person dual does not make sense.


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