Arabic – Using demonstratives and forming sentences



Using demonstratives and
forming sentences
A demonstrative is the part of speech that you use to indicate or specify a
noun that you’re referring to. Common demonstratives in English are the
words “this” and “that.” In English, most demonstratives are gender-neutral,
meaning that they can refer to nouns that are both feminine and masculine.
In Arabic, however, some demonstratives are gender-neutral whereas others
are gender-specific.
How do you know whether a demonstrative is gender-neutral or genderspecific?
Here’s the short answer: If a demonstrative refers to a number of
objects (such as “those” or “these”), it’s gender-neutral and may be used for
both masculine and feminine objects. If, on the other hand, you’re using a singular
demonstrative (“this” or “that”), it must be in agreement with the
gender of the object being singled out.
Following are demonstratives in the singular format:
 haadhaa (hah-zah; this) (M)
 haadhihi (hah-zee-hee; this) (F)
 dhaalika (zah-lee-kah; that) (M)
 tilka (teel-kah; that) (F)

Here are the plural demonstratives, which are gender-neutral:
 haa’ulaa’i (hah-oo-lah-ee; these)
 ‘ulaa’ika (oo-lah-ee-kah; those)
You can combine demonstratives with both definite and indefinite nouns and
adjectives. For example, to say “this boy,” add the definite noun al-walad
(boy) to the demonstrative haadhaa (this; M); because demonstratives
always come before the nouns they identify, the resulting phrase is haadhaa
al-walad. Here are more examples of this construct:
 haadhihi al-bint (hah-zee-hee al-bee-net; this girl)
 ‘ulaa’ika al-banaat (oo-lah-ee-kah al-bah-nat; those girls)
 haa’ulaa’i al-‘awlaad (hah-oo-lah-ee al-aw-lad; these boys)
 tilka al-‘ustaadha (teel-kah al-oos-tah-zah; that professor) (F)
 dhaalika al-kitaab (zah-lee-kah al-kee-tab; that book)
When you use a demonstrative, which is, in essence, a definite article, the
meaning of the phrase changes depending on whether the object is defined
or undefined. When a demonstrative is followed by a defined noun, you get a
definite clause, as in the examples in the preceding list. However, when you
attach an indefinite noun to a demonstrative, the result is an “is/are” sentence.
For instance, if you add the demonstrative haadhaa to the indefinite
subject noun walad, you get haadhaa walad (hah-zah wah-lad; This is a boy).
Using the examples from the preceding list, I show you what happens when
you drop the definite article from the subject noun in a demonstrative clause:
 haadhihi bint. (hah-zee-hee bee-net; This is a girl.)
 ‘ulaa’ika banaat. (oo-lah-ee-kah bah-nat; Those are girls.)
 haa’ulaa’i ‘awlaad. (hah-oo-lah-ee aw-lad; These are boys.)
 tilka ‘ustaadha. (teel-kah oos-tah-zah; That is a professor.) (F)
 dhaalika kitaab. (zah-lee-kah kee-tab; That is a book.)
When you combine a demonstrative clause with a definite subject noun and
an indefinite adjective, the resulting phrase is a more descriptive “is/are”
 haadhihi al-bint jamiila. (hah-zee-hee al-bee-net jah-mee-lah; This girl is
 ‘ulaa’ika al-banaat Tawiilaat. (oo-lah-ee-kah al-bah-nat tah-wee-lat; Those
girls are tall.)
 tilka al-madrasa kabiira. (teel-kah al-mad-rah-sah kah-bee-rah; That
school is big.)

Conversely, when you combine a demonstrative clause with a definite subject
noun and a definite adjective, you get a regular demonstrative phrase:
 haadhaa ar-rajul al-jamiil (hah-zah ah-rah-jool al-jah-meel; that handsome
 dhaalika al-kitaab al-‘ajiib (zah-lee-kah al-kee-tab al-ah-jeeb; that amazing
 tilka al-madiina aS-Saghiira (teel-kah al-mah-dee-nah ah-sah-gee-rah; that
small city)