Arabic has two sets of demonstratives, also known as “أسْماء الإشارة,” which are similar to the English ones this/these and that/those. The demonstrative phrase in Arabic consists of distinctly masculine and feminine cases for each set in the singular and dual forms. However, for plural forms, there is no distinction between genders.
Demonstratives are not subject to noun cases except within the dual form where they differ by nominative or accusative-genitive case distinctions.
|Distance (that)||Proximity (this)|
Acc. & Gen.
Ways of use
The demonstrative can be used:
- As an adjective / بَدَل
- As a pronoun / ضمِير
The demonstrative as an adjective
The demonstrative acts as a demonstrative adjective when it is put in apposition (بَدَل) before the noun defined by the article. This is not an annexation: the demonstrative has no influence on the case of the noun that follows but agrees with it in gender (except in the plural) and number.
|This library is big||هَذِهِ المَكْتَبةُ كَبِيرةٌ|
|That woman is old||تِلْكَ المَرْأَةُ عَجوزٌ|
When a demonstrative is used to qualify the first term of annexation, it must be positioned after the entire phrase (after the 2nd term) similarly to other regular adjectives. In this case, we’ll only use the demonstrative of proximity.
|This museum gallery is filthy||رُواقُ المَتْحَفِ هَذه وَسِخةٌ|
|This ring from the princess is beautiful||خاتِمُ الأَمِيرةِ هَذِا جَميلٌ|
Note: The demonstrative may come before the last term of an annexation, which is the only exception to the general rule that nothing separates two terms in an annexation.
The gallery of this museum is filthy رُواقُ هَذا المَتْحَفِ وَسِخةٌ This princess’s ring is beautiful خاتِمُ هَذِه الأَمِيرةِ جَميلٌ
The demonstrative as a pronoun
In this case, we’ll find three different types of structures depending on the definiteness of the predicate/information (الخبر):
- When the predicate/information (الخبر) is indefinite (نَكِرة) the sentence adopts the classical construction as follows:
Subject المُبْتَدأ (the demonstrative) + Predicate الخَبَر (an indefinite noun)
|These (two) are two books||هَذانِ كِتابانِ|
|Those (two) are two roses||تانِكَ وَرْدَتانِ|
- When the predicate/information (الخبر) in question is made definite by the article ال , a third-person detached pronoun (ضَمير مُنْفَصِل) must be inserted between the subject (المُبْتَدأ) and the predicate/information to act as an indicator of being – ‘is’ or ‘are.’
Subject/المُبْتَدأ (demonstrative) + Detached pronoun/ضَمير مُنْفَصِل + Predicate/الخَبَر (indefinite noun)
|This is the book||هَذا هُوَ الكِتاب|
|Those are the victorious||هَؤُلاءِ هُمُ المُفْلِحونَ|
- When the predicate/information (الخبر) in question is made definite by an annexation إِضافة we have the choice to keep a regular structure subject + predicate or to add a third-person detached pronoun in between.
|This is the owner of the café||هذا صاحِبُ المَقْهى|
|This is the life of the peasants||تلكَ هِيَ حَياةُ الفَلاّحينَ|
Note: Used in isolation, the demonstrative can be the exact equivalent of a 3rd person pronoun
من هذه ؟ Who’s this/who is she?
The demonstrative phrase
Learn about the demonstrative phrase in Arabic and how it is used to point to specific people, things, or ideas. Improve your understanding of Arabic grammar and syntax with our comprehensive guide.
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