Definite versus indefinite article
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- The definite and indefinite noun explained
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Recognize a/an in Arabic.
Indefinite nouns in English have an "a/an" in front of the noun. The "a/an" allows us to refer to a general class of nouns.
e.g. A book is on the table. (Book is indefinite)
Only nouns – unlike verbs – can be definite or indefinite.
In Arabic to make a noun definite place:
"The" = 1-1
اِل (Egyptian Colloquial/Spoken) = “il” = the
But for an indefinite noun there is no "a/an" in Arabic. Nothing is placed before the noun
For MSA/Classical Arabic the article is pronounced "al" and in Egyptian Colloquial/Spoken Arabic the article is pronounced "il" unless there is assimilation.
Note (Only read if interested in MSA/Classical):
In MSA/Classical nunation appears at the end of indefinite nouns and adjectives in the form of TWO dammas ٌ . Nunation gives nouns and adjectives a unique "un" sound to the ending.
So whenever you hear a noun ending in an "un" sound, guess what? It's indefinite.
To make life joyously complicated for MSA/Classical: Nunation can be nominative, accusative, and genitive in form carrying two dammas, two fathas, or two kasras.
In this lesson the focus is on the nominative. But still, for future reference...
Nominative nunation = two dammas ٌ sounding like un صَبيٌ
Accusative nunation = two fathas ً sounding like an صَبيً
Genitive nunation = two kasras ٍ sounding like in صَبيٍ
Oh, my. You say, kinda get nunation -- "it makes words end in a "un" sound when indefinite" -- but how do I know if a word is nominative, accusative, or genitive in case??
You will learn that as you go along.
For now, just think of the nominative case ُ or ٌ as the default form in Arabic.
If the noun is definite it carries one damma ُ
If the noun is indefinite it carries two dammas ٌ
Why two dammas?
Imagine the indefinite noun as deficient (or lacking) for not having an "a/an" in front of it. Therefore, it is compensated by two dammas instead of just one -- to tell us it is indefinite.
How does this effect the "sound ending" of the word? Well, you hear at the end of the noun:
un= a/an = two damma
u= the = one damma
Arabic is a musical language -- think of case endings similar to musical notes.
Beware: Nunation is written but not heard for word lists (Referred to as "pausal").
Therefore, for the words listed below you will not hear nunation in the recordings.
- Examples of the definite and indefinite noun
Example for masc.
a boy (masc. noun)
2 Il walad
Example for fem.
a girl (fem. noun)
4 Il bint
Example for plural
cloths (plural noun)
6 Il hoduum
Got it? Pretty simple, right?
Of course the real challenge is memorizing your nouns. While making a noun definite or indefinite is easy.
Keep on going! You're almost there.
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