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Lesson 6c: iDaafa Phrases

Lesson 6, Part A:
  • Intro
  • Dialogue
Lesson 6, Part B:
  • Possessive Pronouns
Lesson 6, Part C:
iDaafa Phrases
  1. Read about the iDaafa
  2. Take the iDaafa Comprehension Quiz.
We just learned how to show possession using pronouns, like sayyaratii "my car" or kitaabuhaa "her book. But what if, instead of just using "her", we wanted to say the person's name? How would you say, for example, Sara's book?

In order to show possession using nouns, like Sara's or the doctor's, Arabic uses a construction called iDaafa or iDaafa Phrase. iDaafa, which literally means 'addition', involves combining or 'adding' two or more nouns together to show a possessive relationship. This relationship can be one of actual ownership or it can express a more general association.

Word Order:
The first noun is always the thing that's possessed, for example, car. The second noun is the possessor, in this case, Sara. So basically, the formula for forming an iDaafa is:


iDaafa phrases are extremely common and are used to express a variety of relationships between two or more things which can be translated differently into English. It could have a clear-cut meaning of possession, like "Sara's car", or a more abstract one, such as "the tea cup ." To summarize, an iDaafa could express:

1. The possessive 's: The student's homework
واجب الطلاب
2. Posessive phrases with 'of': The son of the doctor
إبن الطبيب
3. Noun+noun phrases: The car door
باب السيارة

Another way to think of iDaafa
One helpful way to remember when and how to use an iDaafa is to try to use the word "of" to connect the words, like we saw in sample sentence two above. Notice that all of these sentences can be reworded using "of". "The girl's bag" could also be translated as "the bag of the girl", and "the car door" could be rephrased to say "the door of the car". This phrasing with "of" is also helpful in remembering the correct word order in Arabic, as the possessed (door) comes before the possessor (car), just like in an Arabic iDaafa. So if you get stuck and you aren't sure how to form the iDaafa, it may help to put what you want to express into an "of" phrase in English.

Let's take a look at some examples before we go over some important rules to remember.

شَنطَة نور

shanTat nuur
إبن الأُستاذ

ibn al-ustaadh
Nour's bag.
The bag of Nour.
The teacher's son.
The son of the teacher.

كُتُب البَنات

kutub al-banaat
كُرة الطُلّاب

kurat aT-Tullaab
The girls' books.
The books of the girls.
The students' ball.
The ball of the students.

There are a few important things to remember about iDaafa constructions:

1. First noun always indefinite
The first noun (the thing that's possessed) is always indefinite. In other words, it can never begin with the definite article 'al'.

Incorrect: Not an iDaafa
الابن صديقي

Incorrect: Not an iDaafa
ابني صديقي

My friend's son or
The son of my friend.
ابن صديقي

In the examples above, the first sentence is not an iDaafa because it starts with the article 'al' and we know that the first word in an iDaafa must be indefinite. Instead, this sentence is an X=Y sentence, which would literally mean something like, "The son is my friend" and the second sentence would mean, "My son is my friend". We have talked a little about these kinds of sentences in lesson 4 and will learn more about how they are used in lesson 10. So for now, focus on the iDaafa!

2. Last noun determines definiteness
The last noun determines the definiteness of the iDaafa. If the last word is definite (it has the article "al", a possessive pronoun or is a proper noun like Sara or Nour) then the meaning is definite. If the last word is indefinite, then the meaning is indefinite.

The girl's bag شَنطة البنت
Nour's bag شَنطة نور
A girl's bag شَنطة بنت

Grammar Note: iDaafa phrases are always grammatically definite. This means that for grammatical purposes both the phrase "a book of a teacher" and "the book of the teacher" are considered definite. You will need to keep this in mind later on so that you can make sure the rest of the sentence agrees with the definiteness of the iDaafa.

3. taa' marbuuTa
If the first word ends in taa' marbuuTa, the taa' marbuuTa is pronounced as -at.This is important. Remember that in most cases the taa' marbuuTa is just pronounced 'a'. Here it is serving as notice that this is an iDaada phrase.

The teacher's car. /
The car of the teacher.
sayarat al-ustadh
سيارة الأستاذ

Table tennis
(Literally, table ball)
kurat a-TTaawila
كرة الطاولة

4. iDaafa length
iDaafa usually consist of two nouns but you can also have iDaafa of 3 or more nouns:

The teacher's son's bicycle.
The bicycle of the son of the teacher.
darraajat ibn al-ustadh
درّاجة إبنالأستاذ