The vocative / النِداء

The Arabic vocative (النِداء)

The Arabic vocative particles serve as an invitation or a signal to warn the spoken-to to pay close attention and heed what the speaker is about to say. It can also be a way to target the speech and specify the addressee. As opposed to the English language, the vocative in Arabic is widely used. It is usually composed of two components:

  • the vocative article أداة النداء 
  • the summoned noun / the addressee المُنادى

The vocative article أداة النداء 

In Arabic, there are vocative particles that all mean ‘O(h)/Hey’, yet they don’t necessarily require a translation in many cases. The exclamation mark at the end of a noun or sentence is usually enough to express these words. Those particles are:

أَدَوات النِداء 
Vocative particles

Despite having a variety of particles, only three are regularly put into use. These include:

Followed by a noun with the definite article (الـ)Followed by a noun without the definite article (الـ)
For feminineFor masculineFor both genders
أَيَّتُها أَيُّها يا 

Particle يا

Usage of يا

We know the particle يا is used if no definite article (الـ) precedes the summoned noun (المُنادى). 

Particle يا is mainly used to call someone or something:

يا مُحَمَّدُ 
O Muḥammad!

 It can also be used:

  •  as a distress call (للاستغاثة )
O my people (help me)!يا قَوْمي
  • for lamentation (النَّدْبَةُ) 
{How regretful for the servants […]}
Qur’an [Ya-Sin : 30]
يَا حَسْرَةً عَلَى الْعِبَادِ […]} القُرْآن [يس : 30]}

Noun case of the summoned noun / إِعراب المنادى

Nominative case (مَرْفُوع) without nunation (تَنْوِين):

  • if one is addressing someone well determined
O teacher, I know the answerيا أُسْتاذُ أَعْرِفُ الجَوابَ
  • if the addressee is a proper name (without an annexation construction)
O Amina, where are you?يا أمينةُ أيْنَ أنتِ؟

Accusative noun case (مَنْصُوب):

  • if the person addressed is a vague entity
O leader, be fairيا زَعِيمًا كُنْ عادِلاً 
☝ The speaker here directs his words to all leaders in general and not one specifically targeted leader.
  • if it is completed by a complement (annexation):
O Prime Ministerيا رَئِيسَ الوُزَراءِ
O Abdelkarimيا عَبْدَ الكَرِيم

Note: A noun completed by the suffix pronoun ي sometimes sees its last syllable become lighter

يا رَبِّي ← يا ربِّ
O lord

The noun following the summoned noun المنادى

O this guardيا هذا الحارصُ
O you, the motherيا أَنْتِ الوالِدةُ
O honorable Sufyanيا سُفْيانُ الشَرِيفُ
  • If it is a substitute for the noun (بدل) or a noun separated by a conjunction (مَعْطُوف) or an adjective 1st term of annexation (نَعْت مُضاف) it follows the addressee  (مُنادى)
O Samir and Muhsinيا سَمِيرُ وَمُحْسِنُ
O beloved, the essence of my lifeيا حَبِيبةُ جَوْهَرُ حَياتي

Particles أَيّها / أَيّتُها

We know the vocative particles أَيُّها and أَيَّتُها are used for all numbers whenever the following noun takes the definite article الـ. 

The summoned noun follows the vocative particles أَيُّها and أَيَّتُها is in the nominative case. 

  • The vocative particles أَيُّها and أَيَّتُها may be used at the commencement of a speech for greater emphasis and impact: 
Dear citizensأَيُّها المواطِنونَ 
Ladies!أَيَّتُها السَيِّدات
  • They may be preceded by the shorter vocative particle يا to mark even more solemnity:
“O those who have believed” (widely used throughout the Quran)يا أَيُّها الذِينَ آمَنُوا

Note: To address God, next to the normal construction يا إلهي, we find the expression اللهُمَّ which means ‘O God’ without having recourse to a particle of the vocative. Widely used in the Quran.

يا إلهي = اللهُمَّ

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The vocative

Explore the vocative case in Arabic and its significance in direct address and social interactions.

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