The exception and the exclusivity / الاِسْتِثْناء والحَصْر

The exclusivity and the exception in Arabic (الحَصْر والاِسْتِثْناء)

To express the exclusivity and the exception in Arabic we resort to a few words all meaning  ‘except (for), excepting, with the exception of, apart from, excluding, barring’ which are:

عَدا / خَلا / حاشاغَيْر / سِوَىّإِلا
verbs and prepositions at the same timenounsparticle

Note: The particle إلا, and the accusative form of غَيْرُ may be followed by the subordinating conjunction أَنَّ ‘that’. The meaning then becomes ‘except that, nevertheless, but, however’:

He went to work but he was tiredذَهَبَ إِلى العَمَلِ إِِلا أَنَّهُ كانَ مُتْعَباً
He didn’t attend the meeting, however, he had apologized in advanceلَمْ يَحْضُرْ إِلى الاِجْتِماعِ، غَيْرَ أَنَّهُ قَدَّمَ اِعْتِذارَهُ مُسْبَقًا

The exception / الاِسْتِثْناء

An exceptive sentence contains the following four central elements: 

  • The predicate expresses the action or situation to which the exception refers
  • The first noun from which the exception is made (المُسْتَثْنى منه)
  • The exceptive particle (أداة الاستْثناء)
  • The second noun the excepted member (المُسْتَثْنى)

The exception with إلّا 

Among the different exceptive particles إِلا, is the most commonly used. In an exceptive sentence, it takes the following noun in any of the three cases as follows:

  • إلاّ in a positive sentence makes the following noun the accusative case (مَنْصوب)
My friends visited me except Karimزارَني أَصْدِقائِي إِلاّ كَرِيمًا
I love Kuwait except for its hot weatherأُحِبُّ الكُوِيتَ إِلاّ الطَقْسَهُ الحَارَّ 
  • In a negative sentence the noun that follows إلاّ is most often in the nominative case (مَرْفُوع) but can also be in the accusative (مَنْصوب)
Nothing new in the series except for the actors.لا جَدِيدٌ في المُسَلْسَلةِ إِلاّ المُمَثِلّونَ
She doesn’t hate anyone except her enemyلا تُكْرِهُ أَحَدًا إِلاّ عَدُوَّها

The exception with غَيْر and سِوى

The words غَيْر and سِوى are nouns. Both غَيْر and سِوى can replace إلاّ but they put the following noun in the genitive case essentially because they act as 1st term of annexation (مُضاف)

I don’t trust anyone but youلا أَثِقُ بِأَحَدٍ غَيْرِكَ
The device runs everywhere except in the mountainsيَجْرِي الجِهازُ فِي كُلِّ مَكانٍ سِوَى الجِبالِ

The exception with خَلا / عَدا / حاشا

  • خَلا / عَدا / حاشا can be prepositions (حروف جرّ) as well as verbs (أَفْعال) (without losing their meaning). If one considers them to be verbs the following noun will be read as a complement, in the accusative case (مَنْصوب). On the other hand if one thinks them to be prepositions (حروف جرّ) the following noun will be read in the genitive case (مَجْرور). The reader has the liberty to choose.
  • خلا / عدا / حاشا can also be preceded by the relative pronoun ما without changing their meaning, which gives:

ما خَلا / ما حاشا / ما عَدا

In that instance, they can only enact as verbs. The following noun is then considered to be a complement, subsequently in the accusative case (مَنْصوب). 

They like all kinds of fruits, except for bananasيُحِبُّونَ جَمِيعَ أَنْواعِ الفَواكِهِ ما عَدا المَوزَ
The party was very enjoyable, apart from this issueكانَ الحَفْلَ مُمْتِعاً جِدّاً ما عَدا هذه المُشْكِلَةِ
We cleaned the whole house except the bathroomنَظَّفْنا جَمِيعِ أَجْزاءِ المَنْزِلِ ما خَلا الحَمامَ

The exclusivity / الحَصْر

As opposed to the exceptive sentence that focuses on one or several elements being excluded from a larger group, the exclusive sentence focus on one or several particular elements excluding everything else. An exclusive sentence is always in the negative form and it contains the following three central elements: 

  • The predicate expresses the action or situation to which the exception refers
  • The exceptive particle (أداة الاستْثناء)
  • The second noun the excepted member (المُسْتَثْنى)

The exceptive sentence contains an additional pillar being the noun from which the exception is made (المُسْتَثْنى مِنْه), while this component is deleted from the exclusive sentence.

The exclusivity with إِلاّ 

The case of the noun that comes after إِلاّ depends on its position in the sentence and can be any of the three cases. Is it the subject? Then it should be in the nominative case (مَرْفُوع). Conversely, if it’s the object/complement it will be in the accusative (مَنْصُوب).

I only said the truth (litt. I didn’t say except the truth)لَمْ أَقُلْ إلاّ الحَقَّ
Only Rashida will rest (litt. won’t rest except Rashida)لَنْ يَسْتَرِيحَ إِلاّ رَشيدةُ

Note: If the noun from which the exception is made (المُسْتَثْنى مِنْه) isn’t mentioned while the excepted member (المُسْتَثْنى) is feminine, the verb will be conjugated in the masculine form anyways.


The exclusivity with  غَيْرُ and سِوى 

The particles غَيْرُ and سِوى  have the same value as in the exception.

He does not rely on anyone but Godلا يَتَوَكَّلُ على غَيْرِ اللّهِ
She only saw her own deathلَمْ تَرَ سِوى مَوْتِها

The exclusivity with  خلا / عدا / حاشا

Particles خلا / عدا / حاشا have all the same value as in the exception.

We sell nothing but fresh vegetablesلا نَبِيعُ عدا الخَضْرَواتِ الطازِجةِ
There was nothing left but the television in his houseلَمْ يَتَبَقَّ ما خلا التِلْفازَ في بِيْتِهِ
They only studied Arabic (litt. They didn’t study except Arabic)لَمْ يَدْرُسُوا ما عَدا العَرَبيّةَ

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Exception and exclusivity

The exception and the exclusivity

Discover the intricacies of Arabic language with our comprehensive guide to the Exception and Exclusivity. Learn how to use these linguistic concepts effectively and improve your Arabic language skills today.

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