The story of I`rab

What is I`rab?

In lesson 25 of our free online Arabic language course, we have learnt the declinable and the indeclinable words in Arabic language. Here, we will discuss the concept of I'rab.

Why does the harakah at the end of the word often change? How about Marfou`, Mansoub, and Majrour?

What do these terms mean, and how do they affect Arabic grammar?

Perhaps the most illustrative example occurs with the most popular name in the world, Mohammed:

Mohammed came.

جاء مُحمّدٌ

I saw Mohammed.

رأيت مُحمّدًا

I went to Mohammed.

ذَهبْت إلى مُحمّدٍ

But how could this be?

How could a name take on different diacritics and endings?

All of these are common questions that come up when one begins to study Arabic rules. Although it may seem complicated, I’rab is actually a consistent set of rules, which makes learning the language an easier task. By using I’rab, we can describe the status of the word in a sentence with a diacritic, or a symbol, which indicates its rank. Simply put—I’rab allows us to easily identify the subject and direct object of the sentence.

If someone were to ask you where you live, you would most likely give your detailed address. You might also describe your area, give your street name, your house number, and any other significant markers that would allow them to easily identify your house.

I’rab works in a similar fashion. When someone asks for the rank of a word, or its status in a sentence, the best way would be to identify the “doer”. What would be the best way to describe the “doer”? By describing the significant markers that make the “doer” unique. In turn, just like the house example, the “doer” could be pinpointed by the Raf’ and the Dammah, both tell-tale characteristics of the subject.

Therefore, when we want to apply Ira`b to a particular word, we start with its function and location; then we determine the appropriate sign it should take. When the status of a word changes, the location also changes. In turn, the signs depend on whether the word is a “doer” or a subject, an object, or an adjective.

Thus, the four cases of the Arabic language: Raf`, Nasb, Jar, and Jazm are the streets where the words live. For example, the doer “ الفاعل ” lives on a street called Raf`, and while it cannot change its street, the sign may change to a Dammah or Alif. The object, “ المفعول ” lives on a street called Nasb, which is determined by the symbol of a Fatha, an Alif, or any other sign.

This is the story of I`rab. I hope now you can tell the status of the words and recognize the signs.





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