Arabic rules in grammar are not as difficult if you follow the rules carefully. Unlike English, Arabic does not have too many roots from which the language has formed. English, for example, has words from Latin, Greek and even French roots. The same cannot be said about Arabic. This makes rules easy to understand. There are barely any exceptions to the general rules. So let us find out all there is to know about idaafa phrases and the idaafa construction in Arabic.

Idaafa, called الإضافة in Arabic, has no particular equivalence in English. It is a structure made of two nouns. This construction includes an indefinite and a definite noun. But there is a condition, the first noun is indefinite, and the second is a definite noun. Idaafa construction in Arabic is called annexation in English.

For example:

مكتب الرجل pronounced /maktab arrajol/ means “the office of the man”

Notice that the word مكتب was translated to “the office”, even though it is indefinite. This is because second noun, which is already a definite noun with the definite article ال /al/, has taken ownership of the first noun, turning it into a definite noun. Idaafa is like an addition of one thing on another, where one noun is “of” another noun, hence “the office of the man.”

This is not the only case where Idaafa is present. It also happens when both nouns are indefinite. This can be seen through the following example:

مكتب رجل /maktab rajol/ meaning a man’s office

Another case where idaafa happens is when a possessive pronoun is placed as a suffix on a noun. For example: the word مكتبه /mataboh/ meaning his office or مكتبها /maktaboha/ meaning her office. Basically you can choose any possessive pronoun of your choice depending on who you want this office to belong to. Maybe you want to go check our pronoun list?  

Can you place anything between the first and second noun in these idaafa phrases? Yes, you can. If you are a demonstrative pronoun that is, such as the following example:

مكتب هذا الرجل /matab hatha arrajol/ meaning this man’s office

The construction does not stop there; it also applies to a more complex situation called complex idaafa. However, the first two nouns would be indefinite, while the last one is the only one allowed to be definite. This can be seen in the following example:

مكتب رجل الأعمال pronounced /maktab rajjol al a’mal/ meaning the business man’s office

The rules with definite/indefinite idaafa are simple as long as you recognize the above-mentioned rules and follow them to the T.

Now that you recognize what the idaafa construction is, it is simple to see who owns what. We can easily turn one idaafa phrase into definite as per the following examples:

كتب الولدkotob al waladThe boy’s books
كتب ولدkotob waladA boy’s books
كتب هذا الولدkotob hatha al waladThis boy’s books
كتبهkutubuhHis books

Can idaafa construction in Arabic get any simpler?

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