Definite versus indefinite article


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The definite and indefinite noun explained

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(1.18 min)

Recognize a/an in Arabic.

         What are definite and indefinite nouns?

1. Definite nouns use "the" in front of the noun.

The "the" allows us to refer to a specific noun.

e.g. The book is on the table.

A specific book on the table.

2. Indefinite nouns use "a/an" in front of the noun.

The "a/an" is for a general class of nouns.

e.g. A book is on the table.

Any book on the table.

Only nouns – unlike verbs – can be definite or indefinite.


In Arabic to make a noun definite place:

"The" = 1-1  اَلْ OR  اِل in front of the noun.

اَلْ (MSA/Classical)
=  al  =  the

اِل  (Egyptian Colloquial) = il = the

But for an indefinite noun there is no "a/an" in Arabic.

For MSA/Classical Arabic the article is pronounced al.

In Egyptian Spoken Arabic the article is pronounced il unless there is assimilation.

Examples of the definite and indefinite noun


   Masculine noun

a boy


Il walad

the boy


   Feminine noun


a girl



Il bint

the girl

   Plural noun






Il hoduum

the cloths





 #1 GAME: Egyptian Colloquial


  #2 GAME: MSA/Classical 



 #3 GAME: Arabic using English


#4 GAME: Bedroom - Egyptian Colloquial

Active recall: Independently name bedroom items in Arabic in both definite & indefinite form (for more advanced students).

Have the less advanced students circle and repeat the items in the above picture.


       #5 GAME: Bedroom - Egyptian Colloquial


#6 GAME: Bedroom - Arabic Using English



Keep on going! You're almost there.


 Skip (not really necessary):

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.

Whenever you hear a noun ending in an "un" sound it's indefinite.


To make life joyously complicated for MSA/Classical: Nunation can be nominative, accusative, and genitive.

In this lesson the focus is on the nominative.

But 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

But when is a word nominative, accusative, or genitive in case?
For now, just think of the nominative case
ُ or ٌ as the default form in Arabic.

Definite nouns have one damma 
Indefinite nouns have two dammas 

When the last letter of a noun has an un or u sound there is a  difference in meaning:

un= a/an (two dammas)
u= the (one damma)

Arabic is musical in sound because of the rhythmic case endings.

Pausal rule: Nunation is written but not heard for word lists.

Therefore, for the words listed above you did not hear nunation in the recordings (for boy, girl and cloths).

End of skip section.

    Discover more on a/an/the



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