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The Object of Vocation Definitions

vocation; summoning
the object of a vocation

Vocation is the act of summoning an entity, as in “Hey, Zaid” or “O God.” The object of vocation, the thing being summoned, is always definite because, in order to summon an entity, that entity must be well defined. In the examples, ‘Zaid’ and ‘God’ are definite. Notice that the object of vocation may already be definite; however, if it is not, it will become definite. There are instances, granted, where one may call out at random as in “يا رجلا، خذ يبدي” (O someone, help! Grab my hand.) In such cases, the object of vocation will not be definite.

How to Use Vocation in Arabic

The particles used to summon are divided based on whether the entity being summoned is distant or near. And they are as follows.

يا، أيْ، آ، هيا

The most commonly used particle of vocation, by far, is يا. Many a time these particles are omitted when it is clear that the speaker is calling out. And this happens quite frequently.

The grammatical state of the object of vocation is of some interest. Basically speaking, if the object is a single word, it is given the reflection of the nominative case but is considered indeclinable, and it does not received nunation (تنوين). If, on the other hand, the object is not a single word, or it is random vocation – as in “O someone, grab my hand!” – then it will be accusative and it will receive nunation. Some examples follow.

يا هامانُ
يا رجلان
يا مصلون
يا ذا القرنين
يا طالعا جبلا
يا مسلمي مصر
يا رجلا! خذ بيدي

A final point to note is that if the object of vocation is prefixed with the definite article, Al, the vocative particle يا will not precede it directly. Instead, the particle أيها or أيتها will interfere; the former when the object is masculine, and the latter when it is feminine. Some examples follow.

يا أيها الذين آمنوا
يا أيتها النفس المطمئنة
أيها المسلمون

Notice that أيها and أيتها are required even if the vocative particle يا is omitted, as, as mentioned, is often the case. Moreover, the word الله in particular, although prefixed with Al, does not require this particle. A few examples of evoking Allah have been given below, with the most popular forms at the top.

يا أَلله
يا الله

Secondary Notes

There is far more that can said about vocation. However, it is of limited importance.


One of the purposes of the genitival phrase, as discussed in an introductory fashion in Arabic Phrases and elaborated upon in Genitival States, is to express possession for one thing of another. In إضافة معنوية, the possessed entity (the مضاف) inherits its level of definiteness from the possessor (the مضاف إليه).

In the following example, since the مضاف إليه is indefinite, the مضاف is also indefinite.

أبو ولد
a boy’s father

Although the word ابو is indefinite, it is, however, somewhat specific. The idea is that this is the father of a boy, and not a father of a girl. Put differently, although indefinite, أبو ولد is at least slightly more specific than just أب.

And in the following example, because the مضاف إليه is definite by means of Al, the مضاف is also definite and its level of definiteness is inherited. So it is as if it, too, is definite by means of Al.

أبو الولد
the boy’s father


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