Arabic parts of speech

En English, words are divided into parts of speech. Nouns, verbs, prepositions etcetera. Arabic has three parts of speech, and there are clear grammatical rules for each part. The three Arabic parts of speech are:

ism noun, adjective, name, pronoun

Ism literally means name in Arabic.

ﺍِﺳﻢ
ism
name

The Arabic part of speech ism consists of nouns, adjectives, names and pronouns. These words can have number (singular, dual, plural), gender (masculine and feminine) and case (nominative, accusative and genitive). Words that describe people, such as professions, often come in all numbers, genders and cases. But not all words.

Plural of ism is 'asmaa', and definite plural is al-'asmaa'. In Arabic grammar, you say that a word is min al-'asmaa' if it belongs to the part of speech ism.

Nouns can be adjectives and vice versa.

When I built this website, I chose to divide the words according to Swedish parts of speech. For example. I distinguished between nouns and adjectives. That was not a good idea. I discovered that many Arabic words can not be classified that easily.

An Arabic, a word can be both a noun and an adjective. If i write 'The beautiful song', the word beautiful functions as an adjective. If I write 'The Beautiful disappeared', the word beautiful functions as a noun. The same goes for English, still we say that beautiful is an adjective.

In Arabic syntax, we use the word na3t or Siffa to say that a word functions as an adjective. Both the words mean characteristic, which is suitable since adjectives are used to describe things.

ﺻِﻔَّﺔ
Siffa
attribute, characteristic

fi3l verb

The Arabic part of speech fi3l consists of all verbs. fi3l means action in Arabic. Very reasonable since verbs are actions with time aspect.

ﻓِﻌﻞ
fi3l
doing

All verbs have tense (past tense and present tense) och mode (indicative, subjunctive, jussive and imperative). Verbs also have active voice and passive voice. Verbs are conjugated depending on the doer (gender and number).

Plural of fi3l is 'af3aal, and definite plural is al-'af3aal. In Arabic grammar, you say that a word is min al-'af3aal.

Harf letters, prepositions, particles

All words that are neither fi3l nor ism belong to the Arabic part of speech Harf. For example, the letters in the Arabic alphabet belong here. Harf actually means letter in Arabic.

ﺣَﺮﻑ
Harf
letter

Here are some example of word that belong to the part of speech Harf: Prepositions. Vocative particles such as yaa och 'ayy. The particle 'anna that means to. The conjunctions wa and fa that mean and. The particles maa, laa, lam and lam that negate verbs. The word 'inna and her sisters.

Words within the part of speech Harf are not conjugated. They do not have number, gender, case, tense or mode. Often you will recognize a Harf from its length, those words often only consists of a letter or two.

Plural of Harf is Huruuf, and definite plural is al-Huruuf. In Arabic grammar, you say that a word is min al-Huruuf. Maybe you wonder why I write Harf with a big H? That is because the letter H should have emphatic pronunciation.

I have heard someone say that a Harf does not carry any meaning in itself. It is only in the context of other words that as Harf has any meaning. That is quite reasonable. A verb (fi3l) can make up an entire sentence. For example, katabtu means I wrote. A noun (ism) also carry a lot of meaning in itself. Words like 'rose' or 'red' says a lot. But a preposition like 'on' or a letter like 'f' does not really mean anything. The meaning occurs together with other words.

Prepositions

While prepositions have their own part of speech in English, they are a subclass of the part of speech Harf in Arabic. Preposition is Harfu l-jarr in Arabic. That can be translated to genitive letter.

preposition

Read more about Arabic prepositions

Translation of parts of speech

Arabic for part of speech is qismu l-kalaam. The plural form is 'aqsaamu l-kalaam. You will find that term if you open the English Wikipedia page for 'part of speech', and then change language to Arabic. qismu l-kalaam literally means section of speech, which is very near the English term 'part of speech'.

parts of speech

We have now learned that there are three parts of speech in Arabic. And we know that part of speech is qismu l-kalaam in Arabic. It can also be expressed like this: The speech is divided into three parts.

Speech is divided into three parts.