The relative pronoun and the relative clause / الاِسْم المَوْصُول وصِلة المَوْصُول

The relative pronouns in Arabic (الأسْماء المَوْصُولة)

Relative pronouns / اِسم المَوْصُول

Relative pronouns in Arabic mean who, which, that. Despite the difference in number and gender, they all have the same meaning.

Specific relative pronouns / الأسماء الموصولة الخاصة

Specific relative pronouns agree in gender and number (and noun case in dual) with their antecedent which would be a definite noun. They are 9 in total.

الجَمْع
Plural
المُثَنّى
Dual
المُفْرَد
Singular
الأسماء الموصولة الخاصة
Specific relative pronouns

الذِين
اللّذانِ
الذِي
مَرْفوع
Nominative


المُذَكَّر
Masculine
اللّذَيْنِمَنْصوب ومَجْرور
Accusative and genitive

اللَواتِي / اللاّئِي
اللّتانِ
التِي
مَرْفوع
Nominative

المُؤَنَّث
Feminine
اللّتَيْنِمَنْصوب ومَجْرور
Accusative and genitive

Note: The dual forms and feminine plural forms are represented by an additional ل, despite having no impact on pronunciation.

Note 2: Arabic relative pronouns must agree in gender and number with the noun they modify, except for nouns not endowed with reason which will always be considered feminine singular in Arabic.

Generic relative pronouns / الأسماء الموصولة العامة المشتركة

Generic relative pronouns are used for reduced relative clauses used without antecedent. They are 3 in total all meaning.

ماأيّ / أَيّةمَنْ
which/what (for things)which (for people and things)who (for people)

Note: Both relative particles ما and مَنْ are indeclinable except أيّ which can adopt the feminine form اَيّة and different noun cases, which technically doesn’t make it a particle (حَرْف).

Note 2: These relative particles can often be preceded by a preposition

Relative clauses 

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Definite relative clauses

They provide essential information about the noun they modify. A definite relative clause is an adjectival phrase (جُمْلة نَعْتِيّة) that can be verbal or nominal. In principle, a definite relative clause is constituted around 3 elements:

  • The antecedent which is a definite noun must always precede a relative pronoun. 
  • The specific relative pronoun (الاسم المَوْصُول الخاص) is only used if the antecedent is defined. This pronoun must match the gender and number of its antecedent as well as the noun case for dual pronouns. 
  • The returner (العائِد) is a unique pronoun in the Arabic language. This reminder pronoun links together both relative and main sentences in the agreement of number and gender with its antecedent. It can be seamlessly integrated into verbs (as subject or complement) as well as nouns and prepositions if need be. The presence of this connecting element is essential to ensure clarity between clauses, like an invisible bridge.
The boy who’s playing in the street is my friendالوَلَدُ الذي يَلْعَبُ في الشارِعِ صَدِيقي
The two girls that I saw at the market are beautifulالبِنْتان اللتانِ رَأَيْتُهما في السُوقِ جَميلتانِ
I spoke with the men who participated in the warتَحَدَّثْتُ مَعَ الرِِّجالِ الذِينَ شارَكُوا فِي الحَرْبِ
👀 Here, the returner is denoted in blue.

Indefinite relative clauses

They provide essential information about the noun they modify. An indefinite relative clause is an adjectival phrase (جُمْلة نَعْتِيّة) that can be verbal or nominal. In principle, an indefinite relative clause is constituted around 2 elements:

  • The antecedent is an indefinite noun.
  • The returner (العائِد) is a unique pronoun in the Arabic language. This reminder pronoun links together both relative and main sentences in the agreement of number and gender with its antecedent. It can be seamlessly integrated into verbs (as subject or complement) as well as nouns and prepositions if need be. The presence of this connecting element is essential to ensure clarity between clauses, especially when the antecedent is indefinite and there is no relative pronoun. It acts like an invisible bridge.
I traveled with a young man who doesn’t live hereسافَرْتُ مَعَ شابٍّ لا يَسْكُنُ هُنا
I met people who talk a lotاِلْتَقَيْتُ بِناسٍ يَتَحَدّثُون كَثِيرًا 

Reduced relative clauses

A reduced relative clause can be verbal or nominal. In principle, a reduced relative clause is a shortened version of the relative clauses and the relative pronoun is omitted. It is constituted of 2 elements:

  • The generic relative pronouns (الأسماء الموصولة العامة المشتركة) which are مَن، ما، أي or even الذي to fill in the gap with pronominal value.
  • The returner (العائِد) is a unique pronoun in the Arabic language. This reminder pronoun links together both relative and main sentences in the agreement of number and gender with its antecedent. It can be seamlessly integrated into verbs (as subject or complement) as well as nouns and prepositions if need be. The presence of this connecting element is essential to ensure clarity between clauses, like an invisible bridge.
He addresses those attending the lessonيُخاطِبُ مَنْ يَحْضُرُ الدَرْسَ
You ask the money from those who stole from youتَطْلُبُون المالَ مِمَّن سَرِقَ مِنْكُم
He forgot what he did [do]نَسِيَ ما فَعَلهُ
He doesn’t know which one of them is the bestلا يَعْرِفُ أَيَّهُم أَفْضَلُ

Note: مِمَّن here is the pronoun مَنْ preceded by preposition مِنْ

(مِنْ + مَنْ = مِمَّنْ)

The relative pronoun and the relative clause

Learn how to use the relative pronoun and form relative clauses in Arabic with clear examples and explanations. Improve your understanding of Arabic grammar today!

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