Genitive

Genitive is one of the three Arabic cases. One can say that genitive is the ownership case, because it it used in ownership constructions. Genitive is also used after prepositions.

Words that have genitive case end in i in definite form and in in indefinite form. As an example, we can look at the Arabic word for house. Without case endings, it is pronounced bayt.

ﺑَﻴﺖ
bayt
house

The Arabic word for house in definite form genitive is pronounced al-bayti.

اَلبَيتِ
albayti
the house (genitive)

The prefix al in the beginning of the word is written اَل and indicates definite form. The vowel i in the end of the word is written as a line below the final letter of the word and indicates genitive case.

ِ

The Arabic word for house in indefinite form genitive is pronounced baytin.

بَيتٍ
baytin
the house (genitive)

The ending in in the end if the word is written as two lines below the final letter of the word and indicates genitive case and indefinite form.

ٍ

Now that we can recognize case genitive, we will learn how it is used in Arabic.

Genitive after prepositions

Genitive is used after Arabic prepositions. One of the Arabic preposition is fii that means in. As an example, we can form the sentence I am in the house.

I am home.

The sentence is pronounced anaa fii l-bayti. 'anaa = I, fii = in, al-bayt = the house. The preposition fii turns the word after into genitive case: al-bayti. Note that it literally says I in house. The sentence can be translated to both I am in the house and I am home.

Let's take another example. This time, we will use the Arabic preposition 'ilaa that means to.

He turned into stone.

The sentence He turned into stone is pronounced taHawwala 'ilaa l-Hajari in Arabic. taHawwala = he changed, 'ilaa = to, al-Hajar = the stone. The preposition 'ilaa give the word that follows it genitive case: al-Hajari.

Genitive shows ownership

This is how we can say the rooms of the house in Arabic:

the rooms in the house

The Arabic word ghuraf means rooms. We already know that the Arabic word al-bayt means the house. If we combine the words to ghurafu l-bayti we will have the meaning the rooms of the house, which also can be translated to the rooms in the house. Note that the Arabic word for the house, al-bayti, has genitive case.

This type of phrase can be called idafa construction, or just idafa. We can also call it ownership construction or genitive construction if we want.

Let's make a sentence of our idafa.

The rooms in the houses are clean.

The sentence The rooms in the houses are clean is pronounced ghurafu l-bayti naZiifatun in Arabic. ghuraf = room, al-bayt = the house, naZiif = clean. Note that the Arabic word for the house, al-bayti, has genitive case.

Let's create a new Arabic idafa: bedroom.

bedroom

The Arabic word ghurfa means room. The Arabic word nawm means sleep. If we combine the words into ghurafu nawmin, we will have the meaning room of sleep. In other words: bedroom. Note that the Arabic word for sleep, nawmin, has genitive case.

If we want to say the bedroom instead of bedroom, we just adjust our idafa a little. We change the last word from indefinite form to definite form.

the bedroom

We know that ghurfa means room and that an-nawmi means the sleep. When we combine the words to ghurfatu n-nawmi, we will get the meaning room of the sleep. In other words: the bedroom. Note that the Arabic word for the sleep, an-nawmi, has genitive case.

Let's extend our idafa to the bedroom furniture.

the bedroom furniture1

The Arabic word 'athaath means furniture. And we know very well by now that ghurfa means room and that an-nawmi means the sleep. When we combine the words to 'athaathu ghurfati n-nawmi, we have the meaning furniture of room of the sleep. In other words: the bedroom furniture. Note that the Arabic word for the sleep, an-nawmi, has genitive case. Note also that the Arabic word for room, ghurfati, ends in i and thereby has genitive case.

Details - ownership

This ownership construction that we have looked at is called 'iDaafa in Arabic. That literally means addition. For simplicity, I will call it idafa.

ﺇِﺿَﺎﻓَﺔ
'iDaafa
addition

An idafa has two parts. The first part is called muDaafun which means added. This part can have any case, depending on the idafa's function in the sentence.

ﻣُﻀَﺎﻑ
muDaaf
added

The second part is called muDaafun 'ilay-hi. muDaaf = added, 'ilaa = to, hi = it/him. This second part always has genitive case.

second part of an idafa construction

This second part can consist of one or many words. In the idafa construction the bedroom furniture, that we have looked at, the second part consists of two words: ghurfati that means room and an-nawmi that means the sleep. All words in the second part of an idafa should have genitive case, but only the last word can have the prefix al.

Genitive after time and place

We have learned that the second part of idafa constructions should have genitive case. In Arabic, adverbs of time and adverbs of place form idafa with the words that follow them. Therefore, words that follow adverbs of time and adverbs of place should have genitive case.

As an example, we can look at the Arabic adverb of time ba3d that means after.

ﺑَﻌﺪَ
ba3da
after

We can combine ba3da with the word Zuhr that means midday.

afternoon

We now have the idafa ba3da Z-Zuhri that literally means after midday, which is better translated to afternoon in English. Note that the word for midday, aZ-Zuhri, should have genitive case since it is the second part of the idafa.

We can use our idafa to form a complete sentence.

I drink tea in the afternoon.

The sentence I drink tea in the afternoon is pronounced 'ashrabu sh-shaaya ba3da Z-Zuhri in Arabic. 'ashrabu = I drink, ash-shaay = the tea, ba3da = after, aZ-Zuhr = midday. The word for midday, aZ-Zuhri, still has genitive case since it is the second part of the idafa.

Now let's look at an adverb of place. I will choose 'amaama that means in front of.

ﺃَﻣَﺎﻡَ
'amaama
before, in front of, opposite

The adverb of place 'amaama can be combined with our well known word al-bayt that means the house.

in front of the house

We now have the idafa 'amaama l-bayti that means in front of the house. Note that the house, al-bayti, should have genitive case since it is the second part of the idafa.

We can use this idafa as well to form a complete sentence.

I stand in front of the house.

The sentence I stand in front of the house is pronounced 'aqifu 'amaama albayti in Arabic. 'aqifu = I stand, 'amaama = in front of, al-bayt = the house. The house, al-bayti, still has genitive case since it is the second part of the idafa.

Details - time and place

What we call adverb of time in English, corresponds to what is called Zarfu z-zamaani in Arabic. Zarf = adverb/adverbial, az-zamaan = the time. Note that Zarfu z-aamaan is an idafa where that second part, az-zamaan, that means the time, should have genitive case.

adverb of time

What we call adverb of place in English, corresponds to what is called Zarfu l-makaani in Arabic. Zarf = adverb/adverbial, al-makaan = the place. Note that Zarfu l-makaan is an idafa where the second part, al-makaani, that means the place, should have genitive case.

adverb of place

I have said that Zarfu z-zamaani corresponds to adverb of time and Zarfu l-makaani corresponds to adverb of place. However, phenomena in Arabic grammar are rarely exactly equal to phenomena in English grammar.

Zarfu z-zamaan and Zarfu l-makaan belongs to the Arabic part of speech ism. You might have noticed that they have accusative case in the sentences. Both ba3da and 'amaama ends with a. That is because they are object for time and place.

One can also get the idea that ba3da (after) and 'amaama (in front of) are prepositions. That is at least what I thought in the beginning of my Arabic studies. However, that is not the case. Only eight and a half words belongs to the Arabic prepositions. On the other hand, words after both prepositions and adverbs of time and place have genitive case. So the grammatical case is correct no matter how one thinks.

Genitive after numbers 3 to 10

The numbers three to ten form idafa constructions with the noun that follows them.

three cities

Three cities is an idafa in Arabic that is pronounced thalaathu mudunin. thalaath = three, mudun = cities. The Arabic word for cities, mudunin, is the second part of the idafa and therefore has genitive case.

seven books

Seven books is an idafa in Arabic that is pronounced sab3atu kutubin. sab3 = seven, kutub = books. The Arabic word for books, kutubin, is the second part of the idafa and therefore has genitive case.

Note that the gender of the number should be the opposite of the gender of the noun. The Arabic word for city is feminine while thalaath is masculine. The Arabic word for book is masculine while sab3a is feminine.

Genitive after even hundreds

Nouns that follow even hundreds should have genitive case.

one hundred cities
one hundred books

Note that the gender of hundred, mi'a, always is feminine. Note also that the noun is in singular form.

Nouns after thousands and millions follow the same rules. That goes for all nouns that follow a number evenly divisible with a hundred.

a thousand books

Genitive - pulled in Arabic

The Arabic word for genitive is jarr. That literally means pulling.

ﺟَﺮّ
jarr
genitive, pulling

One can image that the vowel kasra, that is pronounced i, and indicates genitive case, has a pronunciation that pulls. The vowel kasra is written as a line below the letter, as if the line is about to pull the letter down.

In Arabic, we also use the word majruur that functions as an adjective. That literally means pulled. If a word has genitive case, we say that the word is majruur.

ﻣَﺠﺮُﻭﺭ
majruur
genitive, pulled

Signs of genitive

Now we will become experts in recognizing words in genitive case. First I will introduce the Arabic term 3alaamatu jarrin that means sign of genitive. It is the vowel or letter in the end of the word that indicates that a word has genitive case.

sign of genitive

Arabic has two signs of genitive: The vowel kasra and the letter ya. Let's look at them and see how they are used.

The vowel kasra is the common sign of genitive

We have alredy learned the most common sign of genitive: the vowel kasra. The ending i is used for definite form genitive and the ending in is used for indefinite form genitive. That is true for singular words and broken plural.

We have already seen examples using the Arabic word for house. Now we will look at another word. The Arabic word for door is pronounced baab without case endings.

ﺑَﺎﺏ
baab
door

Since door is singular, the vowel kasra is the sign of genitive. The word ends in i in definite form and in in indefinite form.

اَلبَابِ
albaabi
the door (genitive)
بَابٍ
baabin
a door (genitive)

The Arabic word for doors (i.e. plural of door) is pronounced 'abwaab without case endings. That is broken plural.

أَبوَاب
'abwaab
doors

Since it is broken plural, the vowel kasra is the sign of genitive. The word ends in i in definite form and in in indefinite form.

اَلأَبوَابِ
al'abwaabi
the doors (genitive)
أَبوَابٍ
'abwaabin
doors (genitive)

Regular plural feminine

Words in regular plural feminine ends in aat. For example many photographers that are all women is muSawwiraat in Arabic.

مُصَوِّرَات
muSawwiraat
many pffotographers (f)

Also for regular plural feminine, kasra is the sign of genitive. The ending is i in definite form and in in indefinite form.

اَلمُصَوِّرَاتِ
almuSawwiraati
the photographers (f) (genitive)
مُصَوِّرَاتٍ
muSawwiraatin
photographers (f) (genitive)

Something special with regular plural feminine is that the case ending in accusative is the same as the case ending in genitive.

Ya is the sign of genitive of many men

Words in regular plural masculine ends in iina in genitive. Regular plural masculine is used for groups of people where at least one of them is a man. For example, many photographers that are men is muSawwiriina in genitive.

اَلمُصَوِّرِينَ
almuSawwiriina
the photographers (m) (genitive)
مُصَوِّرِينَ
muSawwiriina
photographers (m) (genitive)

As mentioned, regular plural masculine has the ending iina in genitive. It is the Arabic letter ya that indicates genitive case. The letter is pronounced as a long ii when it follows the vowel kasra. The ending iina is also used for regular plural masculine accusative.

Ya is the sign of genitive in dual

When there is two of something, we can use dual. Masculine dual ends in ayni in genitive. For example two photographers that are men.

اَلمُصَوِّرَينِ
almuSawwirayni
the two photographers (m) (genitive)
مُصَوِّرَينِ
muSawwirayni
two photographers (m) (genitive)

Feminine dual ends in atayni in genitive. For example two photographers that are women.

اَلمُصَوِّرَتَينِ
almuSawwiratayni
the two photographers (f) (genitive)
مُصَوِّرَتَينِ
muSawwiratayni
two photographers (f) (genitive)

Thus, words in masculine dual end in ayni in genitive case and words in feminine dual end in atayni in genitive case. The Arabic letter ya shows that it is genitive case. Accusative and genitive has the same endings in dual as well.

The letter ya is, as we have seen, sign of genitive for both regular plural masculine (iina) and for dual (ayni and atayni). Note that the letter ya is pronounced as a long i when it is preceded by the vowel i. Otherwise, it is pronounced as y.

Conclusion

These words have genitive case:

The following endings indicate that a word has accusative case: