Lesson 42 – الدَّرْسُ الثَّاني والأرْبَعونَ

Interrogative Words (2 of 3) – أدَوَات الاسْتِفْهام (٢ من ٣)

The interrogative noun: كَمْ /Kam/

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  • Kam is indeclinable with a sukūn case-ending (sukūn on last letter).
  • Kam is used to ask about the number and quantity. This is different from its use in English, as “how many” is used to ask about a number while “how much” is used to ask about quantity. In Arabic, we ask about number and quantity using the same word “kam”.
  • The noun following it determines whether we are asking about a number or quantity. Try to notice this from the following examples:







I have five books.

مَعِي خَمْسَةُ كُتُبٍ.

/maξī khamsatu kutub-in./

How many book do you have?

كَمْ كِتَابًا مَعَكَ؟

/kam kitāban maξak-a?/

There are four rooms in my flat.

فِي شَقَّتِي أَرْبَعُ غُرَفٍ.

/fī shaqqatī arbaξatu ghuraf-in./

How many rooms are there in your flat?

كَمْ غُرْفَةً فِي شَقَّتِكَ؟

/kam ghurfatan fī shaqqatik-a?/

There are ten shirts in my clothes closet.

فِي خِزَانَةِ مَلابِسِي عَشْرَةُ قمْصَانٍ.

/fī khizānati malābisī ashratu qumŝân-in./

How many shirts in your clothes closet?

كَمْ قَمِيصًا فِي خِزَانَةِ مَلابِسِكَ؟

/kam qamiŝan fī khizānati malābisik-a?/

The price of the bag is thirty pounds/it costs thirty pounds

ثَمَنُ الحَقِيبَةِ ثَلاثُونَ جُنَيْهًا.

/thamanu al-haqībati thalāthūna ĵunayhan/

How much does the bag cost?

كَمْ ثَمَنُ الحَقِيبَةِ؟

/kam thamanu al-haqība-ti?/

I am twenty-five years old.

عُمْرِي خَمْسَةٌ وَعِشْرُونَ عَامًا.

/ξumrī khamsatun wa-ξishrūna ξāman./

How old are you?

كَمْ عُمْرُكَ؟

/kam ξumruk-a?/

I have received much.

أَخَذْتُ كَثِيرا جِدًّا.

/akhadhtu kathīran ĵiddan./

How much care have you received from your mother?

كَمْ أَخَذْتَ مِن حَنَانِ أُمِّكَ؟

/kam akhadhta min hanāni ummik-a?/

  • From the examples above, you will notice the following:
    • In some examples, “kam” asks about a number, which is clear from following noun which should be countable such as "كِتَاب، غُرْفَة، قَمِيص".
    • In other examples, kam is used to ask about a quantity, and this is also clear from the following noun which should always be uncountable such as “حَنَان”.
    • In the last three examples, “kam” asks about the quantity. The names indicating this are  "ثَمَن، عُمْر، حَنَان".
    • In this latter case when “kam” is used to ask about the quantity, the noun following it becomes in the nominative case with a đammah, not Fatħah, vowel-ending as in the following two examples:




How old are you?

Kam ξumru-ka?

كَمْ عُمْرُكَ؟

How much is your book?

Kam thamanu kitābaik-a?

كَمْ ثَمَنُ كِتَابِكَ؟

  • On the other hand when we ask about a number the noun after “kam” always has a Fatħah vowel-ending, sometimes with a tanwīn, as in the following:




How many books?

Kam kitāban

كَمْ كِتَابًا؟

How many rooms?

Kam ghurfatan

كَمْ غُرْفَةً؟

How many shirts?

Kam qamīŝan

كَمْ قَمِيصًا؟

  • It is also possible that it does not have a tanwīn with the final vowel-ending in case it is annexed to another noun, as in the following examples:




How many science books do you have?

/kam kitāba ξulūmin maξak-a?/

كَمْ كِتَابَ عُلُومٍ مَعَكَ؟

How many science students are there with you in the class?

/kam ŧâliba ξulūmin maξak-a fī al-faŝl-i?/

كَمْ طَالِبَ عُلُومٍ فِي الفَصْلِ؟

  • Kam can also be used for exclamation about a large number, and in this case the noun following Kam is to be signed with Kasrah or preceded by the preposition Min, as follows:



Oh, how many dollars we spent!!

ياه!! كَمْ دُولارٍ أَنْفَقْنَا!!


Oh, how many villages I visited!!

كَمْ مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ زُرْتُهَا!!

  • It is  also convenient to mention here that Kam is commonly used after preposition (bi) to ask about price as follows:

how much is this?

بِكَمْ هَذَا؟

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