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This is a grammatical construction that is very typical of Arabic, and is perhaps the soul of the sound of an Arabic sentence moreso than any other feature. It expresses a basic genitive relationship, possession, or even a name sometimes. The iDaafa can almost always be translated as "the ___ of ____."

Basically, the iDaafa consists of two or more nouns strung together in a particular pattern, forming a relationship between the words, usually of possession or belonging. This includes what we think of in English as the pronoun "of," as well as the genitive ending "'s." It also includes certain phrases that are compound words in English. So, for example:

  • maktab al-ustaadh (lit. 'office the-teacher')...The teacher's office
  • waalid al-bint (lit. 'father the-girl')...The girl's father
  • sayaarat ar-rajul (lit. 'car the-man')...The man's car
  • shughl al-bayt (lit. 'work the-house')...housework
(notice that the final 't' of the taa' marbuuTa is pronounced at the end of feminine words, such as sayaara(t))

An important thing to remember is that only the final word, the possessor, can take any defininte marker, and in fact it must. Definite markers include ال (al-, the word for 'the,' basically), possessive suffixes, and proper names. The first word or words can not be definite, even if they come out definite in English translation. Examples:

  • cusratu waalidii (lit. 'family father-my')...My father's family
  • kilbu Sadiiquhu (lit. 'dog friend-his)...his friend's dog
  • jaamicatu nyuuyuurk (lit. 'university New-York')...The University of New York
  • madiinatu baghdaad (lit. 'city Baghdad')...The city of Baghdad
  • ukhtu muHammad (lit. 'sister Muhammad')...Muhammad's sister
  • Sadiiqu ibnu cammatii (lit. friend son aunt(paternal)-my)...My cousin's friend
(as before, the taa' marbuuTa is fully pronounced, but also, when the following word in an iDaafa is anything but al-, a Damma is pronounced, which is a short 'u,' which will sound natural anyway, since it seems to help make the words sound more fluid. When followed by al-, the Damma is assimilated and not present, or at least not usually audibly.)

It's pretty easy and sometimes necessary to make very complicated iDaafa constructions in Arabic. Consider the following, and have fun:

  • Sadiiqatu ibnu khaalu Sadiiqii tuHib zawjatu ibnu khaaluka. (lit. friend son uncle(maternal) friend-my (fem)likes wife son uncle(maternal)-your(masc.))...My friend's cousin's (girl)friend likes your cousin's wife.

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